A new generation is born in Thokoza town

DSince 2012, Rubis Mécénat has supported the practice of photography as a means of release through its Spirit and Joy program in the heart of Thokoza, south-east of Johannesburg. Through this program, around 100 young people from the township have benefited from photography classes and have committed to capturing various aspects of their lives in Thokoza. “Archives created in this way are valuable resources documenting the current life of a settlement. They constitute one of the most important photographic evidences of the realities of the South African township through the eyes of a new generation,” rejoices the mentor of the project, French director and photographer Cyprien Clément-Delmas. The program has also funded scholarships for 50 of its students to continue their photography studies at the university of their choice, including the Market Photo Workshop in Johannesburg.

READ ALSOPhoto: Why has Africa not (yet) had its last say?

Immerse yourself in the work of emerging young talent

10 on this occasione anniversary, Rubis Mécénat publishes a beautiful book Spirit and Joy Photography Project – 10 years, presents the work of twelve young photographers from this program and immerses us in the atmosphere of Thokoza. Each brings their own personal vision of this settlement and its inhabitants through their writings. The book opens with the work of Sibusiso Bheka, assistant to the Of Soul and Joy project, represented by Afronova gallery since 2020.

Photographs from his series, taken at night or in the evening, often with lonely characters wandering aimlessly, emit a melancholy poetry.

Litha Kanda focuses on life in the Phola Park neighborhood of Tokoza in her Traces series. “These people are still waiting for decent housing,” he recalls, referring to Nelson Mandela’s 1994 “A Better Life for All” campaign slogan.

Lindokuhle Sobekwa put his cell in another district, Daleside. The white neighborhood where his mother worked. Lindokuhle, who has been an associate member of the Magnum agency since 2019, explains: “It took me a lot of energy and patience to gain people’s trust, to open up their homes and lives to me.”

What additional options do we have in his “Sobona Senzeni” series? Katiso documents the changes in the Mabuza neighbourhood. If Covid has worsened economic conditions and fed unemployment, “these conditions have also helped promote local, sustainable and hands-on businesses for the community,” he said.

For his part, Fuwe Molefe is looking for answers, “Dikarabo” in Soto. Although not religious, he finds them in churches. In the early 1990s, a political struggle between the ANC (African National Congress) and the IFP (Inkata Freedom Party) engulfed the town of Thokoza, killing more than a thousand people. “The church was the only safe building on our street,” he recalls.

Thandile Zwelibanzi explains that her work is inspired by the murder of George Floyd and the sentence “I can’t breathe anymore” and the idea of ​​struggling to write your own story. He chose a silver photographic work that allowed him to take time and “breathe”. “This project is an invitation to change and build a united South African society,” emphasizes Thandile.

For her part, Siphiwe Vilakazi chooses through portraiture to question skin issues and albinism in particular.

READ ALSOPhotography – Zanele Muholi or the art of metamorphosis

A visual exploration of intimacy

Other photographers explore the intimate, such as Tshepiso Mazibuko, who presents her work as “a dissection of her childhood,” and Lunathi Mnghumba, who explores her past through self-portraits. “I create a mask, I dress as a woman, I take photos,” summarizes Lunathi. He realized that he was doing it to remember his mother. A painful memory.

Darker, Thembinkosi Hlatshwayo’s Slaguish II series depicts butchery in Afrikaner, the violence he experienced in the pub where he grew up. “Telling and retelling my stories is a way of constantly renewing myself,” says Thembinkosi. He was one of the artists chosen for the 13the Publication of the 2022 Bamako Meetings.

A book and exhibition to crown ten years of exploration

Directed by South African photographer Jabulani Dhlamini since 2015, this Spirit and Joy program documents the settlement of Thokoza, established in the 1950s. They are trying to speak in this project, “said Jabulani Dhlamini. The latter also presents a series in this book that empathetically reflects the joys, fears, dreams of Thokoza residents.

This book is an opportunity to present the outstanding work of young photographers following this program, which allows us to reveal young photographers today who are living from their experience and building international careers. Their works are exhibited in many festivals and fairs. From January 21 to February 24, Spirit and Joy is holding a group exhibition titled Uhambo (Journey in Xhosa) at Umhlabathi Gallery in Johannesburg, still celebrating its 10th anniversary.

READ ALSOArts Africa: ask for the program!

* Photo book – “Spirit and Joy Photography Project – 10 years” – Rubis Mécénat Edition. Text by John Fleetwood, Published November 2022.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *