Category: Alumni Success Stories

Verona Banda is an Umuzi alumni, a freelance Art Director and self-taught Photographer. She’s also the founder and host of a project called ‘Play Again, Live Again’ a playful reminder of outdoor games enjoyed by children in and around South African townships.

Verona Banda - The Help

One of Verona’s series which she recently created was nominated for a #COM. The Umuzi Creative of the Month #COM is a deliberate attempt to celebrate creatives within our community. We hope with each nomination and with each win, current recruits and our alumni are inspired to create and exhibit their best work!

The Behance published series titled ‘The Help’ is a celebration and appreciation of women who leave their own homes to go and take care of other families. One out of every five women in South Africa is a domestic worker and are predominantly found in middle class households – they’re often black or colored women.

Domestic helpers perform a variety of services for families who’ve employed them. They usually provide care for children and housekeeping which includes cleaning and household maintenance. Theirs is a selfless and demanding full time job, even though most times it is very undervalued and undermined. Many of them are live in domestics who spend most of their lives raising other people’s children.

Verona’s work seeks to summon attention and to humanize domestic workers not just as helpers but as partakers who play indispensable roles in society. They are entrusted with the responsibility of being caregivers who have a nurturing spirit, always offering a set of hands whenever traditional parents need them.

A lot of families can testify that having a domestic worker has brought them closer and helped them build a stronger bond, relieving them of pressures and needs that have well been taken care of by their helper.

We are super proud of Verona and her exemplary attempt to dignify this profession. You’ve done a great job. Enjoy your prize!

To check out the rest of her series, CLICK HERE.

The Johannesburg CBD is cramped with people who come from all over the continent; they arrive in the City of Gold with aspirations of creating better lives for themselves. They leave their hometowns or home countries with very little, hoping that their journey into the unknown yields superior opportunities.For many of these off-comers, a trip that might have started with anticipation and weighty conviction usually ends with homelessness and extreme poverty, forcing them to survive under really devastating conditions. Many of them end up living in the cheapest and sometimes the most harmful buildings in the city. These sometimes range from debilitating or illegally occupied and hijacked buildings.  These are the same buildings that some residents have recently been forced to move away from when the city decided to revamp, leaving the poor battling for housing.When photographer and storyteller, Tshepiso Mabula, heard about the evictions, she says she rushed to Doorfontein hoping to capture the evictions with her camera. Tshepiso’s visit ended up documenting what’s become a riveting photo essay that followed both those who were forced to move and the people hired to make it happen.The 25-year-old writer and photographer self-identifies as someone who captures the dignity of ordinary people, far removed from the glamorous or ideal atmospheres of high-profile photography.Tshepiso is a visual observer of Bantu living as well as a storyteller who believes that her calling is to produce work that promotes equity and social unity, seeking to correct the injustices that exist in our everyday culture. To her social justice means being able to embrace our similarities as a people while working towards creating a society where all can live freely without prejudice.‘This essay looks at the relationships people create with the spaces they inhabit using the recent evictions of residents in Johannesburg buildings.This essay looks at how people from the same socio-economic spectrum were pitted against each other in a single day, how one group moved from evicting people who are as poor as them to playing soccer in the street and cordoning off the building, and how the other was left homeless and hopeless after being evicted from the homes they created.The purpose of this essay is to highlight the housing problem in Johannesburg inner city and how it affects the relationships that people build among each other.’ – Tshepiso  

She also points out that her passion to tell this type of story through her work was inspired by the fact that ‘As a child of a working-class family from the rural Eastern Cape, I know all too well how it feels to have to recreate a home, far away from home.’Tshepiso’s photo series scored her not only a nomination but also a big win in our #COM. Creative of the Month is a bi-monthly competition that is meant to celebrate creatives within our community. We hope with each nomination and with each win, current recruits and our alumni are always inspired to create and exhibit their best work!

Congratulations Tshepiso hope you enjoy your prize!

To see the rest of the photo essay, visit her Behance website here:

If there ever was a way to bow out of Youth Month with a bang, landing a feature on Mail & Guardian’s Young 200 Leaders list would be a great attempt and that is exactly what photographer and Umuzi multimedia recruit, Tshepiso Mabula has done.

A Design Indaba Emerging Young Creative 2017 member, Tshepiso Mabula is a Soweto based photographer born in the Lephalale district of Limpopo.

An encounter with renowned photographer Santu Mofokeng’s book Bloemhof, during a family visit in 2012, ignited her passion and intrigue for photography and there has been no stopping her ever since.

After completing her course at the Market Photo Workshop in documentary and photojournalism, Tshepiso joined the Umuzi Academy in 2016. She later went on to participate in Intercambiador ACART artist residency programme in Madrid Spain, where she produced and exhibited a body of work as part of a group exhibition at the Quinta del Sordo.

Reflecting the times and spaces she occupies in various bodies of work such as Makoti Kapa Lefetwa and her ongoing series Four Room, Seven Colours, Tshepiso captures ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances while concurrently commenting on societal ills and challenging various forms of systematic oppression such as patriarchy.

From all of us at Umuzi, wishing you more prosperity and light as you continue to use your voice and photography as a tool for advocacy and resistance.

To follow Tshepiso and keep up with her latest work follow her on:


Instagram: tshepisomabula and kasinomics_ 101


I call Madrid the home of PDA (Public display of affection), because the first thing I noticed when I arrived there was that people were never too shy to express their love for one another.  Everywhere I went I saw people holding hands, kissing passionately or just sharing subtle moments while they loved each other loudly. Puerta de Toledo, Calle General Rodriguez and Plaza de Mayor quickly replaced Noord, Bree and Jeppestown. As a temporary citizen, they became my common spaces and I spent hours observing people living their lives.

It was here that I witnessed young fathers taking care, and nurturing their children effortlessly, where I experienced an environment with a little less violence; I experienced people living life and not surviving it. The city buzz, loud street vendors and crowded streets were replaced by Christmas lights, people walking dogs and cyclists. It was a huge contrast being in a city where the Vrr Phaa did not entice pedestrians and where every building had a cross on its roof top. I spent most days walking on Calle General Rodriguez which was the street between the apartment where I lived and the studio where I worked, a street with no more than 5 or 6 people of colour who all felt the need to give a slight wave or a salute as if to say ‘Aluta Continua mntase’.

My time in Madrid was the first time I really felt alone, the first time I had no choice but to be an adult and be strong. On my first day I found out that there were few people who cared for the English language and that my inability to speak Spanish would result in my total alienation from most conversations, while I recovered from that I had to deal with the fact that I would have to survive two months with no atchar or vinegar on my chips. Before I left I did not think about the culture shocks I would experience while I was there and I did not imagine that they would cause extreme anxiety on some days.  What hit me hardest was adjusting to living in a country that was also a former colonizer because after all I had come from a former colony, and the contrasts were obvious. The first was the many monuments that still hailed people like Christopher Columbus as pioneer navigators who discovered unknown lands, leaving out the fact that those lands had people, natives occupying them. I was often struck by the somewhat ignorant attitude that the locals had towards the historical effects of European colonialism, I found myself often being corrected when I used the term ‘we were colonised’ instead of saying ‘we were conquered’ which was the more acceptable term. I spent most days comparing the differences between where I had come from, a former colony and where I was, a former coloniser.

I lived near the Rio del Manzanares River which is right across the home stadium for Atletico Madrid, the view from my room seemed too good to be true, magical sunrises and mesmerising sunsets. The energy from the stadium during matches was electric, though often times I felt like it lacked ‘that thing,’ perhaps due to the lack of vuvuzela sounds.

The studio was spacious and easy to work in despite the cold; it quickly became one of my favourite spaces because I could get lost in the work while I was there. Taking pictures was the most liberating thing I did while I was there…because it was the only thing that was familiar to me. It was the only exercise that did not require much conversation and it became my relief, I set up a makeshift studio in the space that was provided to me, I got the other artists from the studio to pose as models for my shoots and just like that work was underway. Everyday my main focus on most days was to get to the studio and get work done.


The idea that working class people in the Spanish context are considered to be at a lower class even if they can afford to ride on hover boards and buy soccer stadium tickets any day of the week to support the working man’s team, Atletico Madrid, took me a while to grasp. Because where I had come from, working class meant living on an income of less than R2500 a month and being thankful if you can get to eat meat for more than once in a single month.  I was often conflicted because even though I was told that the barrio I lived in was made up of predominantly working class citizens, it still had some aspects of a middle class neighbourhood in the South African context, I felt more like I was living in the Hyde Park of Madrid, with its self-conscious citizens who went on jogs twice every day, fur coat madams who dressed to kill for a walk  to the local store and dogs and their masters taking strolls through the Rio del Manzanares park on an average weekday.

Being a temporary citizen in a foreign city helped me grow more in two months than I could have in my whole life. I learnt that language though sacred, can also become a form of oppression in some instances, I learnt that even though people look different, even though we speak different languages at some point our different experiences shape how we see the world and how we interact with other people. As an artists I learnt that you will not always have what you need to produce a good body of work but at all times you must do what you can with what you have, I learnt how to passionately produce a body of work in a short amount of time whilst also curating and installing an exhibition in an unknown and unfamiliar space. More importantly I learnt that the world is not always willing to learn about our continent and the beauty and wealth it holds, thus as African creatives it’s important for us never to filter our voices to suite the world and that our stories are just as important and that they need to be told by us, now more than ever, and I can only hope that I will continue to produce from Africa, to the world.

By Tshepisoka Mabula

Blessed with an abundance of talent in the form of videographers, graphic designers, photographers and writers Umuzi Academy is a creative hub where the standard for excellence is nothing but hot sh!t and to applaud and encourage our recruits for their work, Umuzi launched the Creative of the Month (#COM) competition.

Open to past and current Umuzi Academy recruits, submissions for the first Creative of the Month competition streamed in fast. Ranging from cityscapes, to powerful social commentary and even some humorous videos, the inaugural submissions made it very clear that deciding on a winner would not be an easy task.

Following an intense judging session, two winners were selected, Lungile Mofokeng and Lutendo Malatji. Lungile (or “Steez” as he is affectionately known to the Umuzi familia) reigns as this month’s Alumni winner for his community project Bicycle Stokvel, whilst Lutendo Malatji won the Current Recruit title for his photographic, fashion project Skapadiya.


Bicycle Stokvel






Till next time…hot shi!t k’phela.

To find out more about Bicyle Stokvel visit their Facebook page:

To find out more about Skapadiya, vist Lutendo’s Behance:


In a lovely, friendly atmosphere combined with an air of excitement and anticipation, I watched the alumni trickle in. The mood was palpable, watching them reconnect with the young’ns they’d left behind, while reluctantly acknowledging the newbies. I sat in a secluded corner, observing the different generations of Umuzi interact.

Welcome to The Honey.


The Honey, according to me, is a love story about the ultimate ekasi experience and the big and small nuances that make it special. It features Gavini (Kgomotso Tleane) and his honey, Honey (Rendani Nemakhavhani). Consisting of 4 chapters it tells different stories and is inspired by the South African series, Yizo Yizo.Shot by Kgomotso and Bantu, the chapters first show Honey; however as the story unfolds Gavini pops up to add a little masculinity and gangster flair to the story.


Really good advice from these two amazing creatives is “ use what you can find… What you’ve known and experiences throughout your life.” I noticed a great chemistry between Rendani and Kgomotso which also comes across in the imagery.


Random meets and ideas are the real birth of how The Honey came about and like Rendani says, “ We just stuck together.” And from there they’ve had an abundance of opportunities, not only to showcase their work but also to reach other creatives and the layman. And their success shows, recently they were approached by J&B to be the face of the launch of J&B Honey.


In closing, the creators of The Honey believe in creating content that is relatable. “Keep creating work and shit will come your way… When people aren’t seeing your light, don’t wait for them to highlight you”; “You are your own blesser”.

They are working on a new project so look out for that.

Written by Asithandile Mbalu

Photos by Thapelo Motsumi


You’d swear Kgomotso ‘Neto’ Tleane was born under a lucky star because he keeps finding favour in all that he does. The young photographer keeps on winning and we’ve never been prouder of our former recruit


This time, a striking image he took during the epic #FeesMustFall movement last year has been featured on billboards all around South Africa. After being approached by VIP Magazine, he then got to work with The Odd Number (an advertising agency in Sandton), where his and four other photographers powerful images were selected for a campaign call #2X.

#2X aims to make ‘X’ the political symbol used during voting, a more powerful representation of the youth’s will and engagement.

The billboard photo series are officially live and are now being used to encourage the youth to vote. Talk about not just doing amazing work but impactful work as well, that sets out to make a positive difference.

“I took those shots after the student march on my way to UJ from Wits,” he stated, elaborating on how he actually had to find the random people in the shot and get their approval. It wasn’t an easy task, but he kept on trying and boy was it worth it.


Well done Kgomotso, keep on shining your light unto the world and keep on being an example of young, gifted and talented African creatives.

Written by Janet Mazibuko

raps play list

Umuzi recruit and SA Hip Hop Headz Magazine founder Rapelang Sibande brings us some iconic hip hop heat this Friday. The creative struggle is something Rapelang is passionately dealing with and these artists definitely touch on their own struggles through these songs. So consider this turn up playlist your official #FlashbackFriday, keeping you motivated through your own struggle as we enter the weekend.

Kanye West – Good life

Mos Def – Travellin Man

Eminem – Lose yourself

Kanye West – Champion

B.O.B. ft. Lupe Fiasco – Past My Shades


Written by: Zuleka Pukwana

Photographer: Zwelizwe Ndlovu

Poster Design: Rapelang Sibande


image(1)Our Photography manager Thapelo Motsumi “Thaps” waves  the Umuzi flag up high.

Thaps  is currently in London with other young photographers sponsored by the  Wembley to Soweto Foundation where they are exhibiting their work. This exhibition takes place at The Hospital Club Gallery and celebrates his collection of photographs from the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

While in London, Thaps also had the opportunity to take snaps of his of his idol – Actor, Idris Elba, and was featured in the The Guardian UK online.

imageHere’s the news coverage of  Thaps talking about his exhibition and how photography transformed his life.

Our enthusiastic Umuzi Academy recruits are at their one month internships at various advertising and media agencies across Johannesburg. If your thought they’d be nervous well think again…  Here’s what our recruits got up to on their first day: