Category: Umuzi Agency

Presenting an introductory workshop to isiBheqe soHlamvu at Umuzi, Pule kaJanolintshi, an artist and linguist, projects an image of what appears to be an “upside-down” map of Africa onto the wall. Someone in the audience quickly remarks that the map is facing the wrong way.  “You mean, the right way round… We’re in the South why can’t we be at the top? Whether the map is the right or the wrong way around depends on your orientation”, Pule pushes back. Decolonisation in practice, Ditema tsa Dinoko, challenges us to recondition and develop ways of understanding beyond conventional Western practices. Much like the disputed map, isiBheqe is an exercise in reimagining and reconstructing.

Developed over the past three years by a team of linguists and designers, isiBheqe soHlamvu, also known as Ditema tsa Dinoko, is a syllabic writing system, meaning the symbols are expressed as syllables as opposed to individual sounds like alphabetic letters. The system is informed by indigenous Southern African symbolic design traditions, considering Sesotho, isiNdebele and isiNguni symbols, like the beading artform ibheqe.

IsiBheqe soHlamvu makes use of triangular forms prevalent in these traditions that can create patterns as a means of communication. And while isiBheqe is a writing system the triangular symbols aren’t like conventional alphabets but, like music, representations of sound. Also known as a featural writing system, isiBheqe symbols are informed by articulation – the use of physical organs such as your lips, tongue and jaw when pronouncing the syllables of words – the way words sound.

The first featural writing system of the 21st century (featural writing systems, such as Korean Hangeul, date back to the 15th century), the developers of isiBheqe hope to encourage the use of the writing system through their website isibheqe.org which boasts an isiBheqe keyboard, and eventually have isiBheqe recognized by the Unicode Consortium.

Bringing isiBheqe to life, Umuzi in collaboration with Afropunk, an influential community of young people of all backgrounds speaking through music, art, film, lifestyle sports, fashion, and photography, present Ringa, an exhibition exploring  the concept of language in Southern Africa as a complex singularity, rather than languages as separate entities.

On 5 October, as part of the Braamfontein’s First Thursday programme, a group of Umuzi young artists, partnering with Sandile Radebe and Pule kaJanolintshi, will use Isibheqe, an indigenous writing system for Southern African languages, as a medium to convey an everyday, pan-lingual experience.

As summer rolls into Jozi we are back at 70 Juta Street for our 5th First Thursday collaboration RINGA! Exhibition of Taal.

Umuzi are excited to be partnering with Afropunk, Sandile Radebe and Pule kaJanolintshi to offer up a thought-provoking exploration of language in Southern Africa as a complex singularity a river system in dynamic flow full of all the varied styles of speech around us, and their graphic representation in different systems of writing, not just the Roman alphabet that we learn at school, but the writing systems that are indigenous to this continent.

Language as a fundamental part of experience is actually a special kind of natural code we use in conveying thoughts between us, whether it be with the voice (spoken languages) or with the body (signed languages).  We further encode the code of language graphically through writing, which is nothing but a cultural technology that transports words across space and time. Speech, sign and writing are as much markers of identity as they are ways of expressing our beliefs, desires and history. They are the inqolobane where we store culture, through which we often unconsciously reflect and share collective memory.

This exhibition, mounted by young South African artists of Umuzi Academy, explores these relationships between the visual and oral of language in this region of the world.

It features artworks that speak to both official and non-official everyday language, from Is’Camtho and Tsotsitaal to IsiMpondro and Tshivenḓa, incorporating various writing systems, such as isiBheqe Sohlamvu (Ditema tsa Dinoko), Adinkra symbols of West Africa, the Mandombe script of Congo, the Zẖȝ n Mdw-Nṯr of ancient Egypt, or the Jawi ajami for writing Afrikaans in Arabic characters.

Ringa! brings language to the fore in a way you’ve never seen it before. So be sure to make your way to 70 Juta Street this First Thursday as we exhibit unusual reflections on taal in sound and image.

Plan of the Exhibition

We invite you to enter umuzi wethu, the walls of which extend onto the pavement of Juta Street, eGoli. On the ground you will see isibheqe characters spelling out U-MU-ZI. Inside the main spaces there an ‘oceans’ which represent the groups of structural similarity in language of this region of the continent. On two walls you will see the works of Umuzi Recruits, sharing thoughts on what language means in this country, and on the facing walls, a ‘topographical map’ depicting a river system, flowing between planes of elevation. These rivers are Language. Zwakala ublom’ emlanjeni nathi, o jaje Ringas van die plek ya rona, ma-Afrika.

A River of Language…

Mulambo wa Luambo. Umfula Wolimi. Noka ya Leleme.  Mulabho Whelilimi. Gowab di Kai! Garib. Nambu wa Ririmi. Xoaki se G!ari. Rivier van Taal

An installation on both sides of the conjoining wall that simultaneously acts as part of the isibheqe character spelling the ZI of umuzi on the floor of the space depicts language as a flowing river, made up of ways of speaking. The water is speech, as it runs it says:

khuluma, bua, thetha, bolela, vulavula, amba. But it also says: bhobha, tekela, ndrondroza, tshefula, ngangaza, yeyeza, apa, bola, and bolabola; and it even says !hoa, khom, ǂxoa, ||ãla, and tana.

These are words we use to describe how we talk. Styles of speech connected to each other in specific ways, ordered logically here in a kind of topographical map. It is a dynamic flow of language forms around the country: three kinds of river systems that run from the three sources in three mountains of linguistic heritage called: Ntu, Khoe & !Ui-Taa. They pool into lakes that are natural collections of language in a cultural context forming a specific linguistic variety with its particular features.

But they also are forced into dams, that are man-made artificially formed varieties the standardised dictionary languages that are used as official languages…

We usually only think in terms of dams. We freeze language in the walls of dictionaries. Let us begin to flow from them and hear the different sounds of the water as it runs.

CLICK HERE TO RSVP ON FACEBOOK.

Ringa!

Emerging Voices 2: A photographer's notebook

We caught up with Thapelo Motsumi, Head of Photography at Umuzi to find out what his thought of the journey across some of the most sparse and under resourced areas in the country.

Emerging Voices 2: A photographer's notebook

What did you think the big difference between the provinces were?

“The love that we were shown by the different communities and how willing the people wanted to be part of the project in the rural community, also the level on skills across was key different. We would move from one farming community to a miming community and the knowledge of how people there do things and believes would differ.”

What were some difficult moments you faced?

“The language barrier was a big factor, trying to communicate to a group of people that sometimes really don’t know what you are talking about, yet they showed so much interest in taking pictures”




Did you come across any scary moments?
“In the Northern Cape, we had actually seen a black mamba snake at one of the places that we were sleeping in, we had to sleep in the car for a while but that was fun and nerve-wrecking at the same time.” 
What was your overall experience?
The spirit Ubuntu in each community we visited was just mind-blowing and to see how people of rural communities think and use the little resource to better their whole surroundings and the lives of other individuals.
 
Emerging Voices 2: A photographer's notebook


I have to say that I really enjoyed working for the project, personally, this was one of my best projects I have been involved in throughout 2014 (excluding the World Cup). It has shown me that South Africans have so much respect and are very welcoming. I always thought Jozi is the only place to be, but people outside of Gauteng are making the most of what their communities give to them and the using the resources to their best advantage. 

Well, in the end photography is the light and people are always willing to be enlightened and experience the beauty of capturing something that is meaningful for them or the next person. 
Emerging Voices 2: A photographer's notebook
Emerging Voices 2: A photographer's notebook

Thanking the Center for Education Policy Development (CEDP), the Department of Higher Education and the Women on Farms Project, Human Rights Education Center of Southern Africa, Isibaya, BUA Mining and the Benchmark foundation, and Nikamandla Woman,you guys made me feel part of a very loving family. 

 
See you soon.
Thaps

Words: Thapelo Motsumi
Images: CEPD participants and Thapelo Motsumi
Edited: Tebogo Mathodlana and Andrew Levy

Emerging Voices 2 : Umuzi Agency's 2014 journey with the CEPD
 
Earlier this year Umuzi agency had the honor to collaborate on a journey across rural communities in South Africa with the Center for Education Policy Development (CEPD) The aim of the project was to conduct research for a project called Emerging Voices 2. The initiative was focusing on conditions of education and level of experience in specific rural communities. The research consisted of two parts namely Photography Lab and Story gathering.
Photography Lab: Photography workshops conducted in the communities aiming to empower locals with the basic skills of photography and documenting each community’s background.
 
Story Gathering: This process involves conducting interviews with different community members to gather important insights into their life, specifically relating to issues regarding the standard of education.

Emerging Voices 2 : Umuzi Agency's 2014 journey with the CEPD

 

Head of Photography, Thapelo Mostumi spoke of all the experiences from 2014 and accounts to the impact of every single workshop conducted, the meaning of the initiative and the impact it had on individuals he met along the journey. All the photography was taken by members of the communities.
 Oshoek, Mpumalanga (April)
Emerging Voices 2 : Umuzi Agency's 2014 journey with the CEPD

 

The first visit took place in April at a community near the border of South Africa and Swaziland called Oshoek Mpumalanga. We worked a with Human Rights Education Centre of Southern Africa which is led by women that believe in making a difference in their communities especially empowering  other women to fight domestic violence.
Emerging Voices 2 : Umuzi Agency's 2014 journey with the CEPD

Oshoek is a community that depicts the harsh realities of South Africa, education based projects did not exist in the community. This was visible in the participants’ outlook on the world. The community has issues and most of the elders in the community were seriously concerned with their kids not having jobs and or not equipped with enough skills to get any form employment. 

 
Emerging Voices 2 : Umuzi Agency's 2014 journey with the CEPD
Emerging Voices 2 : Umuzi Agency's 2014 journey with the CEPD
Emerging Voices 2 : Umuzi Agency's 2014 journey with the CEPD
Emerging Voices 2 : Umuzi Agency's 2014 journey with the CEPD
De Doorns, Western Cape (July)
Emerging Voices 2 : Umuzi Agency's 2014 journey with the CEPD
 
The second visit took place in July in one of Western Cape’s farming communities, De Doorns. This farming community was known for the infamous protests that took place in November 2013. However, De Doorns is the fastest developing farming community in the Western Cape. It is a vibrant and caring community, where the spirit of Ubuntu abounds, in spite of cultural differences. It was this diversity of the community that fascinated us the most, because it works!
 
Emerging Voices 2 : Umuzi Agency's 2014 journey with the CEPD
 
Unlike other communities where we have worked in the past months, De Doorns has most necessary basic and essential services like running water, roads and standard housing. It is a small community that has a lot to offer as most of its people work in the farms or have worked before. There is thus a common culture, where work is a priority for existence and a means to improve one’s life.
Further, there seem to be more women standing up for themselves and getting involved in the cultivation activities in the community. We have included a series of portraits that represent the women working on the farms. Some are former seasonal farm workers, who have worked in the local farm industry for decades and others are wives of permanent seasonal farm workers. Most of these women are activists in their communities and are currently fighting for the rights of seasonal women farm workers.
Emerging Voices 2 : Umuzi Agency's 2014 journey with the CEPD
Emerging Voices 2 : Umuzi Agency's 2014 journey with the CEPD
Ixopo, KwaZulu Natal (June)
Emerging Voices 2 : Umuzi Agency's 2014 journey with the CEPD
 
Our third Emerging Voice 2 project visit was in Ixopo, a traditional Zulu community in the province of Kwa-Zulu Natal, embraced with a rich traditional culture. One would think that the South African education system must have invested money in post schooling education to equip its own people enabling them to develop the wealth of their community, but Ixopo community does not even have any adult school in the community.
Most of our participants were from an older group and were mainly women that looked after the orphans in the community. The pictures that came out from the workshop lab were beautiful and were based on their daily lives. We were so fortunate to be invited to a traditional ceremony named Umemulo.  (When Zulu women reach the age of 21, their parents arrange a coming of age ceremony them, an indication that the girl is grown up and is ready to accept a boyfriend and get married)
Emerging Voices 2 : Umuzi Agency's 2014 journey with the CEPD
Emerging Voices 2 : Umuzi Agency's 2014 journey with the CEPD
Ngobozana, Eastern Cape (August)
Emerging Voices 2 : Umuzi Agency's 2014 journey with the CEPD
 
Ngobozana is a small village in Lusikiski,Eastern Cape, which is blessed with agricultural resource was our fourth visit in the Emerging Voice 2 project in August and we were hosted by an organization called Isibaya, an organization that work with developing farmers in rural communities across South Africa.
 
The surprising element was that our participants in this case were cooperating and they shared a common vision in which is to develop their community to become a better place, a place where farming can be done without using any chemicals to grow their crops.
 
Emerging Voices 2 : Umuzi Agency's 2014 journey with the CEPD
 
During our photography lab workshop, a unique sense of imagery came through photographs. It also showed off how the Isibaya project has contributed to a community that once felt like they never existed in the Eastern Cape. Most of the women showcased their businesses in their images (the body cleansing soaps and the fresh produce from their gardens)
The one issue that was affecting the community was the high rate of criminal activities, especially the fear that has been instilled on the elders around their safety when they have to collect their monthly pension grants
Emerging Voices 2 : Umuzi Agency's 2014 journey with the CEPD
Emerging Voices 2 : Umuzi Agency's 2014 journey with the CEPD
 
Rustenburg , North West( September)
Emerging Voices 2 : Umuzi Agency's 2014 journey with the CEPD
 
Rustenburg popularly known as Rasti Dusty, is a community that is filled with lots of mine workers from different countries which was a true reflection an African continent.
 
We worked closely with the host organization BUA Mining, which is in partnership with the Benchmark foundation.  All the participants came from Kroondal, an informal settlement in Ikemeng, and trust me, the energy level from both older and young people where very high in the community hall, they were so eager to be trained as photographers.
Emerging Voices 2 : Umuzi Agency's 2014 journey with the CEPD


Kroondal informal settlement participants shared their community stories with us and this came out in one of our themes.   We documented community strengths and one would think a community that lacks basic resource would respond negative towards their own community, but we were wrong. One of the older women participating, Mama Jane, who is a church leader in the community showed show great enthusiasm and this carried on to the rest of the group.

Emerging Voices 2 : Umuzi Agency's 2014 journey with the CEPD
Kopano, Northern Cape (November)
Emerging Voices 2 : Umuzi Agency's 2014 journey with the CEPD
 
Kopano is a very small community in the Northern Cape that has about 20 to 25 house but bares a very crucial knowledge about the history of South African Bushmen. The Khomani San is a community that we worked with for our final visit in November. Here, the locals make a living by making traditional beads and this is one of the skills they learn from their great parents because they use to move around a lot to gather food.
Emerging Voices 2 : Umuzi Agency's 2014 journey with the CEPD
 
Emerging Voices 2 : Umuzi Agency's 2014 journey with the CEPD
 
The hosting organization, Nikamandla Woman, basically have a corporation of women farmers that run their own livestock in the Kalahari. All the participants came from Kopano Village and they were all highly skilled in making crafts. Their images came out beautiful as they showed cased the strength of their community and how people in a small community learn from one other through unity. One of the biggest issues that came out was the abuse of substance like alcohol and how land is been occupied and demarcated.
Emerging Voices 2 : Umuzi Agency's 2014 journey with the CEPD
We would like to thank the Center for Education Policy Development(CEPD), The Department of Higher Education and the Women on Farms Project, Human Rights Education Centre of Southern Africa, Isibaya, BUA Mining and the Benchmark foundation, and Nikamandla Woman, who made this very insightful project possible. 
The journey continues…

Article written by: Thapelo Motsumi
Images taken by: CEPD participants and Thapelo Motsumi
Edited: Tebogo Mathodlana and Andrew Levy

 

Umuzi rocks the #GEW2014

 

Global Entrepreneurship Week is about more than celebrating and empowering entrepreneurs across the world. It’s also about connecting like-minded individuals worldwide through collaboration. These are the themes that some of the speakers have been sharing at the 2014 Festival of Entrepreneurship held this week at the hub of Johannesburg’s entrepreneurship down at Maboneng Precinct.
Umuzi had the honor of been invited to speak at two of these innovative talks. First up was BusheraBashir, head of Power of 50, at the Pop Art Theatre & Performing Art Centre on Fox street where she was talking about “Creating the next generation of professionals and entrepreneurs”. 

Umuzi rocks the #GEW2014

 

Bushera spoke about Simphiwe Khumalo, (P50 Graphic Designer) who is from Soweto. She shared his narrative which really gave the audience a sense of the his challenges and how Umuzi’s Power of 50 model supported him in overcoming these challenges.
She spoke about these four challenges:
  • The majority of youngsters from the township cannot access education due to the expensive costs.
  • Most of them were brought up with the fact that the creative industry is not seen as a viable career path within the black community. 
  • There is a huge gap between what the education system teaches and the skills that you need at work.
  • The challenge to enter the creative sector is immense and the divide is growing rather than closing.
Umuzi rocks the #GEW2014
Next on the bill was Andrew Levy, MD of Umuzi. He spoke about his biggest #stuffups and the learning’s he had from them.
Umuzi rocks the #GEW2014

 

Umuzi rocks the #GEW2014

The lively Braamfontein audience listened to how Andrew explained the biggest stuff up he had was not taking ownership of his space as a leader. “Fence sitting leadership led to mundane goal setting.”

Umuzi rocks the #GEW2014

We would like to thank The Hook Up DinnerThe Innovation Hub and the festival’s organizing team for the great opportunity. And mostly to the audience that came in numbers to hear our story.

Written by: Tebogo Mathodlana
Edited by : Andrew Levy and Bushera Bashir
Photos by: The Hook Up Dinner, Tebogo Mathodlana, Thapelo Motsumi
Umuzi on Maggs on Media
Umuzi was recently on eNCA‘s  Maggs on Media with Jeremy Maggs. Andrew Levy (Umuzi MD) spoke about about Umuzi’s journey in 2014, the narrative behind The Power of 50 and the Ke Nna Mang exhibition
 
Umuzi on Maggs on Media
Click on link to view interview

Umuzi would like to extend a special thank you to eNCA and the Maggs on Media team Jeremy, Helen and Roxanne for this amazing coverage.


Footage by : Umuzi Photo Agency
Broadcaster: Maggs on Media
Commissioned by : eNCA

When the Mail and Guardian journalist Lauren Clifford-Holmes asked us what will our students be showcasing at the Ke Nna Mang | Who am I? Exhibition, we simply told her “Lauren, are you worried if the kids are alright? After attending the exhibition and experiencing the #KNM vibe Lauren put together this amazing slideshow on the online publication.
#KNM Spotted on Mail and Guardian.
Click on image to view
Township youth mentored by top SA brand houses have produced thought-provoking work for the latest Umuzi Photo Club exhibition” – Lauren Clifford Holmes
  
Thank you very much to the Mail and Guardian and Lauren Clifford-Holmes, the feature is super awesome. Well done to all the students who were interviewed, you turned up the heat..
 
Produced by: Lauren Clifford-Holmes 

Images by: Lauren Clifford-Holmes, Thapelo Motsumi, Mmuso Batlang, Nomthandazo Mngomezulu, Theo Mosienyane, Loyiso Langa, Lawrence Matshidiso, Andrew Soglo and Snazo Notho

Interviewees: Andrew Levy, Irene Styger, Morena Pheleu, Bongani Molapi and Simangele Shabalala
Ke Nna Mang | Who am I

Thank you to all our loyal supporters who braved a crazy Jo’burg storm to attend our #‎KNM exhibition last Thursday. Not even a raging storm in the middle of Jeppestown could stop you from supporting our young creatives take another important step towards becoming fully fledged creative professionals, and transforming the South African creative economy.

Ke Nna Mang | Who am I
To our partners who proudly shared the evening with us, Setlogane Machidi (head of Investec CSI), Belinda Goddard (Da Vinci institute), Gordon Cook (Vega school of brand leadership), and Xolisa Dyeshana (Creative Circle), thank you for making this journey possible.

To our panel discussion host, Debora Patta, we really appreciate the generous time you always offer from your hectic schedule. 

Ke Nna Mang | Who am I
Bjala – our Jeppestown urban partner – JJ, Chantel, Queen, and the team, we are so grateful for your efforts to make Umuzi and our supporters feel at home in Jeppestown. We couldn’t have done it without you.

The food was delicious thanks to Tutto’s food truck, Rather Tart for the sweet and savory crepes , Thulasizwe and Curry Boss. KWV and Vinimark your donations of wine and Grolsch, the refreshing beer, kept the party going.
Ke Nna Mang | Who am I
Tsogo Sun you helped us raise funds and made some lucky people’s evening with some great prizes. Specific appreciation to Deborah Pillay from 54 on Bath, Peter Davidson from the Sandton Sun, and Anthony Batistich from the Monte Casino Hotel. John de Canha , thank you for bringing Tsogo Sun on board, and for generously donating our Grand Prize, 2-night stay at the Beverly Hills Hotel in celebration of its 50th birthday!
 
Thank you to Uber for getting our guests to and from the exhibition in style.  Thank you to Jeppe SAPS and the JMPD for keeping our guests safe on the night.
Ke Nna Mang | Who am I
And there wouldn’t have been a party without the media spreading the word. Thank you especially to eNCALead SAMaggs on Media, the Mail & GuardianMetro FMSoweto TV, SAFMYFM and Cliff Central for the airtime.

Lastly, to our Power of 50 recruits, this event wouldn’t have taken place if it weren’t for you. You made us all so proud. Alright, Alright!
Ke Nna Mang | Who am I

Umuzi.

Checkout our photo album on Facebook.

Images by: Thapelo Motsumi, Lucas Lesenyeho and Loyiso Langa

 

0
Hamba Kahle: Umuzi bids farewell to Judy Lelliot

“So what are you guys about?” She asked with great interest in her voice. She was a budding multimedia journalist at the Times and Umuzi had come to tell her our story. That was the first time we met Judy in 2009. 
 (more…)

The Umuzi Photo Agency has just completed an Epic journey through four countries, tracking work and people that so many of us take for granted. In partnership with the Stoned Pebble Consulting, Umuzi traveled to Lephalale in the Limpopo province, to Lesotho, Botswana and Swaziland to document the incredible work of the African Development Bank and the Legacy of its projects.

 (more…)