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.
Countering the exclusivity and inaccessibility of art, First Thursdays is a free cultural exploration of art galleries, live music events and reclamation of the city. Last night academy recruits, alumni and community members infiltrated Braamfontein to attend Umuzi’s very first pop up exhibition at the popular First Thursdays art walks.
Curated by american based photographer Moyo Oyelola and Umuzi creative directors Nthabiseng Lethoko and Odendaal Esterhuyse, the thought provoking exhibition presented an opportunity for new and old Umuzi community members to come together over a glass of wine and thought provoking art.
Forming part of a host of exhibitions and activities for the first First Thursday of the year, Umuzi recruits exhibited a series of multimedia installations and artworks around the themes of spiritual deprivation, gentrification and addiction.
Following a successful showcase in December, the second showing of Lost in the World boasted a surprise performance by writer, multimedia recruit and all round creative Ramoloti Kganakga. Dressed as a vagabond, Kganaka tackled issues of gentrification and other forms of systematic oppression in a commanding spoken word piece. Caught off guard, audience members were challenged to interrogate their own prejudice towards marginalised people.
Despite a downpour of rain,the night was a great success that saw new and old community members network, share ideas and socialise in the name of art.
We would like to thank Southpoint Central for helping us host a spectacular first First Thursday exhibition and look forward to working together and making creativity more accessible.
On the 9th of December 2016, Umuzi Academy hosted a year end exhibition titled Lost In the World.
Curated by american based photographer Moyo Oyelola and Umuzi creative directors Nthabiseng Lethoko and Odendaal Esterhuyse, Umuzi recruits created work that reflected the themes of spiritual deprivation, gentrification and addiction.
From conceptualising, producing and having their work printed and displayed, the exhibition was the first time many of the recruits had organised an exhibition, something they will surely be accustomed to in the future.
Boasting an edible social experiment and selfie station the multimedia exhibition was interactive and encouraged audience members to make their own impressions on some of the artwork.
We spoke to one of the participating multimedia recruits, Jabulile Hlanze’s whose artwork revolved around the theme of nature as a conduit of spirituality, she spoke to us about her creative process and her experience partaking in the exhibition.
What theme were you doing and why did it resonate with you?
The overall exhibition was titled “Lost In The World”, which explored the idea of a lack of direction we all may experience. Under the theme ‘Spirituality’ – I explored the way I take in and experience the concept of spirituality. It resonated with me because spiritual presence is something that is important to me.
Can you explain your piece to us, the name, your intentions with it and what you had hoped people would get from it.
My piece was titled Rooted in Spirit. Not only do trees provide oxygen and shade but they bring comfort as well. Whenever I need to connect and balance my energy, witnessing a person (or beings) and being under a tree to connect with self helps to rejuvenate my soul, it allows me a moment to engage with the present moment – even in the simplest of surroundings.
In the madness of the everyday, spirituality tends to be the last thought that is fully acknowledged so I hoped people would be able to take a moment and absorb the different textures, conclude what would resonate with them within the piece and grant a moment to appreciate the spiritual calmness that trees bring.
What was your creative process in putting together the piece.
Looking at the space that was offered, I wanted to create a mixed media art piece (which is something I’ve never done except in print exhibitions) that would offer the printed image room to expand into a tangible experience. Entering the space the viewer would walk on the African mat ‘incansi’ which lead to the printed art piece framed by actual grass cuttings which were placed inside a circle of different color candles that were lit. Hanging above the grass was, ‘isimbhatho, a traditional church regalia used and worn when prayer.
How was your experience of the whole exhibition?
It was interesting to note and experience the way other people express their spirituality and addictions. It was also interesting to consciously note the different expressions of gentrification and areas going through such transactions.
The thought-provoking exhibition was rounded off with tunes, dance moves and laughter as current recruits, alumni and industry friends bid the year farewell.
It’s a new day, a new year and no better time to Make It as a creative. In our latest campaign, Make It, we focus on the physicality and craftsmanship of creativity as well as the personal achievement of “making it” in the creative industry.
Making it as a creative in South Africa is no easy feat as many young creatives find themselves discouraged by a number of factors such as accessibility to resources and affordable creative education. Yet, despite these challenges the South African creative industry has never been in more need of young, black creatives than it is now.
But how do young creatives who have no access to information, equipment and finances make it in such a specialised industry? By accessing the necessary skills and resources required to enter the industry through affordable creative education.
The creative industry is full of opportunities and our department managers have compiled some amazing content to help upcoming creatives learn more about the creative industry and how their skills and talent can be turned into a sustainable career. From copywriting, and graphic design to digital marketing and multimedia we’ve got the lowdown on what it takes to Make It as a creative professional.
Try our “What Kind of Creative Are You?” quiz and find out how your creative flair can be turned into a creative career.
When Umuzi decided to host its first InstaMeet and the Cohort 4 Digital Marketing Team became the group that was officially entrusted with the brief, I don’t remember once feeling burdened with the responsibility but mostly excited to be taking determined baby steps towards making company history.
Almost immediately the team interpreted the global theme into a spirited commemoration of Food, specifically focusing on how food continues to bring us together, helping us celebrate special moments and show our loved ones that we are always thinking of them.
Umuzi was determined on putting its own personal imprint to the whole event, so we derived a hashtag that was inspired by the different kinds of foods that would aid all foodies in reminiscing the countless memories of very significant times in their lives.
The event planning consisted of innumerable meetings, purposefully driving us to our predetermined goals, there were as many frustrations in the two weeks of preparations as there were major victories. The biggest success of them all being the day of the amazing event.
The event began with our invited guests arriving, registering and being given tokens that allowed them to freely fill up their empty goodie bags with ten things from our Spaza Shop; a deliberate replica that mimicked the same invention as those we still find everyday on pavements and street corners. The only difference with our Spaza Shop is that it was stocked with items that would reawaken childhood memories, everything from Apple Munches, Drink O Pops, Fizzers, Bibos, Nik Naks and more. The reactions to our creation were all so worth it, each item inspiring our foodies to share a sentimental story relating to what they chose.
The Umuzi InstaMeet consisted of different visits to three locations; a starter at Thabo’s Chesa Nyama that was made up of Kebab Sticks and Mealies; a meal that was intended to embrace diverse memories as well as comprise of a unique and modern touch. This is where we spent most of our time, jovially enthralled in casual bursts of conversation and laughter.
The main course was enjoyed at the Downstairs Diner, where our meal options ranged between Dombolo & Beef Stew and Pap & Tripe. For some, the decision was quite difficult to make, I was pleased to observe that most of our guests refused to choose and asked to have their plates filled with both of the meat options.
As the sun began to set, we made our last walk of the day, all the way into Maboneng to Coco Bella for our dessert. The idea behind this one was motivated by the coloured ice cream cones we all ate as children. We had to unfortunately alternate that option for the sweet cones they offered, but nothing was lost as we giddily licked on the dripping caramel and enjoyed our vanilla flavoured ice cream.
The whole weekend consisted of creating new memories, unlocking and reliving memories that we hadn’t even realized had long been tucked away. Even the Umuzi Recruits that weren’t with us on the day were encouraged to share their most nostalgic food memories on our InstaMeet hashtag #DownFoodieLane, so they could join the global event by letting everyone know what they were eating. Our Instagram Influencers also did a great job of posting very beautiful pictures of the event under the same hashtag.
If you missed the event and the chance to participate, please search the hashtag #DownFoodieLane on Instagram to better understand what our day was made of. It is said after all that seeing for yourself always leads to unquestionable belief.
Written by: Sinawo Bukani
Images by: Sipho Biyam
If township streets could talk they would speak of my father, die real jita van di plek, the main matwetwe, umaqhuzu, hardcore malambane, a humble ghetto king with a flow like Serote and wit like Sobukwe. My father lives in echoes of ‘Dudu my darling’ and ‘Dudlu m’twana’ on kasi street corners my father is umathandakishin’ ne Chuck Taylor, on Friday nights he is West Nkosi and the Marabi bell 800 at Seipati’s jazz oasis, he is slow sips of Mellowood and Klipdrift . My father is Sunday afternoons with udarlie at Nomsa’s hair palace; he is the serene beauty in the curl of her perm, the sweet smell of her hair, he is dark and lovely, soft and free and ‘bhut’ungam’shisi ubaby’. My father is the comfort of Ntate Thuso on Lesedi FM, he is the naughty in Joe Mafela’s ‘Thoko ujola nobani’.
My father is the pride in Mahlathini’s raw, he is the wise whisper in Sbongile Khumalo and he lives in me, to many my father might have seemed like a small town hustler, a ghetto tsotsi, because he never wore a suite with smart Flourshem shoes. He never tucked in his shirt like a good little boy. My father never said ‘yes, sir’ or ‘no, mam’, he never polished his shoes or strapped on a waist coat but he had impeccable work ethic. My father is a graduate of the University of Hard Knocks, where every man is on his own. My father didn’t have a long will and testament but he left me a rich legacy. My inheritance is my heritage, it is the courage in Mafokate’s ‘Don’t call me Kaffir’. It is the wisdom in Mhlongo’s ‘khula, khula tshitshi lami’. Mine is the lineage of Nkalakatha. It is the knowledge that sometimes ‘is vokol is niks’ and sometimes we go higher and higher.
My father was a Pantsula who gave birth to ‘uSkapadiya’. A premium kasi gentleman. My privilege might be none excitant but I know I am resilient. I know because I was raised in the days of blow by blow and Dingaan Thobela, when men had no choice but to go pound for pound using nothing but their God given strength. I was born back when Jerry Skhosana tore goalpost nest in the name of ‘iBhakaniya’. I am hardcore, I am ‘yizo-yizo’ the return, ‘simunye’ nanini ‘Gaz’lam’. I am the sassy in ‘Nomakanjani’, I am love and care, and I am ‘Sponky-ponky love. I am unapologetic, like Senyaka, ke chesa mpama. I am authentically African, ang’siyi fong Kong. I am loud, like ‘iyho bangani iyho’, I never adapt but I know how to adjust I am irrepressible, like kwaito, from Mapaputsi to Mampintsha I keep on conquering.
I am a fire brand, I am a living revolution. In song and dance, in everyday living. They say heritage is a birthright passed down from generation to generation, that it is the catalyst of one’s identity, the treasure of knowing yourself. They say where you live and who you’re with is what makes you. Whop you become is the product of the village that raised you. My heritage is black, it is unorthodox and it can never comfort.
Images by: Ngaka Marman
Written by: Tshepiso Mabula
Makoti kapa lefetwa? (For the unapologetic mkhwekazi)
More than just apparel, dresses for women have become somewhat symbolic and representative of the different life stages women go through. Most women wear school dresses as young girls, a wedding dress, a maternity dress, in other cultures or religion, a women even wears a dress that covers her entire body to symbolise the sacredness of her body and sometimes a mourning dress to symbolise the death of her husband. These dresses then become a language in which society can identify or classify a certain woman who wears either one of these dresses.
Susan Bordo describes the female body as the “docile” body that has become the language of the ideals and norms of a particular society. In other words what women wear or how they behave is a direct result from the ideals of her surroundings, the body tells one of the culture or society from which they belong to; the body has become the platform to express those ideals. The dresses in this series of photos speak about the ancient menstrual dresses that women used to wear to let everyone know what was happening to them. Women would be excused from their daily chores for seven days, however, years down the line this tradition has allowed men to stigmatise women during their menstruation. Shame and disgust are now tied together with menstruation.
Words and photographs by: Boitumelo Mazibuko