Pieter Hugo, The Honourable Justice Unity Dow, 2005_ISANG Collection

- Pieter Hugo is a portrait and documentary photographer whose work often focuses primarily on African communities. In this case, Hugo photographed Unity Dow, a Botswana judge, as part of The Judges series. As the first female judge to be appointed to Botswana’s high court, Dow is a pioneer in her home country, paving the way for other women fighting for equality and justice. Her decade-long tenure at the high court was exemplified by the landmark 2006 case where Botswana’s Bushmen took the government to court over the right to live and hunt in the central Kalahari game reserve. Dow is a now a partner in her own law firm and a prominent activist championing women’s rights. In this outsized photographic portrait, Dow is dressed in full judicial regalia complete with horse-hair wig, lace kerchief, robes and white gloves. She looks out impassively and is shown looking rather androgynous, embodying the concept of justice and authority. Dow evokes Lady Justice, an allegorical personification of the moral force in judicial systems. Lady Justice represents objectivity and impartiality, in that justice is or should be meted out objectively, without fear or favour, regardless of money, wealth, fame, power or identity.  Interestingly and ironically, especially in post-colonial times, Dow’s judicial robes and wig recalls the colonial tradition inherited together with the British judicial institution. The judges in many former British colonies still wear these ‘traditional’ costumes and this has featured as part of a much larger debate about the dismantling and modernising of colonial institutions.