My work focuses on the marginalized and easily ignored sensibilities in life, thereby shedding light on experiences that push back against spaces and notions that seek to erase. I have a keen interest in subcultures as keepers of memory and consistent modes of survival to marginalized people.
I study and work a lot in townships as a way to reimagine how they can also be seen as sights of knowledge production. My work is also interested in exploring modes of creating a lot more concern about the state of life for young South Africans as I feel most of us are lethargic and desensitized.
My main motive is care, and through my interest in enlarging what viewers see and appreciate when looking at people in the margins I intend to alter what one considers as worthy of ‘looking’ at.
Sunday best, Kakade! Is an ongoing photo series done as an attempt to transfer the power of representation from the photographer to the subject. The series comes after reading Susan Sontag’s essay – Regarding the pain of others where she argues against objectivity in photographs and contends that the photographer yields all the power, especially when it comes to depictions of pain and cruelty. This has been a big contention even in my own practice as a photographer (practising mainly in the documentary style). This is partly because of how photography comes about and how it has been used historically to depict black people and the continent, something I won’t delve into right now.
The series is inspired by Ntate Santu Mofokeng’s Black photo album and the lifetime work of Seydou Keita. It is about showing how Black people in townships around Johannesburg seek to represent themselves by letting them choose their photo setting and where it’s taken.
The series came as a result of an announcement I made when I managed to turn my backroom into a studio and requested people to come have photos of themselves taken for free, dressed however and carrying what they would like featured in the photos. It has grown to where I have also allowed people to ask me to take pictures where they like as that also speaks to who they are and how they like to be perceived.
The title Sunday best is inspired by the popular black south African saying “Sunday Best”, meaning you look really good or are in your entire splendour and glory as the word Sunday would to some usually suggest. What is similar to Mofokeng’s series is that there are a lot of family photos, to Keita is that people are drenched in their favourite outfits and to both is that the pictures are also mainly portraits. I am interested in how the series can grow to respond, work with and or critique the works of the above-mentioned artists.
The point is to find out how different people look at themselves through photography without taking away people’s agency and whether or not that is possible. What more can photographs say about people when they choose where they are, who they are with and what they have with them in the photographs.
The Xhosa word Kakade, meaning “vele” or “of course”, comes as an affirmation of pride and or appreciation of one’s personhood, be it in the moment of the photo-shoot or in perpetuity. In this series, I intend to work with and against this statement and discover if representation can go beyond the photographer’s perception, especially in townships where media has a preconceived image of it.
Secondly, I would like to see if collaborating with one’s subjects as a photographer is actually possible. Furthermore I would like to see if the creation of a new “image” of the township/blacks is something to even concern oneself about or if it’s just a waste of time.