Hayden Horner
3 minute read
17 Oct 2019
11:40 am

Of Soul and Joy: An initiative that teaches photography skills to youth

Hayden Horner

The project provides a platform for youth to learn or hone their photography skills and then take part in a themed exhibition of their work.

Picture: iStock

South Africa has no shortage of amazing artistic talent and, when it comes to photography, some of that talent is already internationally renowned – in spite of their humble beginnings in townships.

One need only do a cursory search on Google for “SA photographers making it big” and you’re likely to come up with a list that include Lebohang Kganye, Oupa Nkosi and Zanele Muholi.

And yet, unless it’s in really tight-knit art circles, people seldom talk about the super talented black photographers and where their journey began or, better yet, the hurdles encountered in accessing often costly photo skills classes.

Refilew Modise, a senior photographer at The Citizen, agrees that the costs attached to photography classes are exorbitant and often serve as the main deterrent for young talent to develop their skill.

“For instance, an entry level DSLR [digital camera] can cost around R5,000. Of course, the latest cellphone models are now making it possible to take really great photos but these are also out of reach to most aspiring photographers,” said Modise.

Picture: Sibusiso Sithonga

He added that it’s important for corporate social investment or even privately funded projects to provide a springboard for up-and-coming new talent in this field.

One such project is the Of Soul and Joy (OSJ) social and artistic initiative, undertaken in 2012 by Rubis Mécénat Cultural Fund and Easigas, which is open to Grade 9 to 12 pupils at Thokoza’s Buhlebuzile Secondary School as well as out of school youth in Joburg.

Currently launching the third edition of its photo festival on October 26, the OSJ project provides a platform for youth to learn or hone their photography skills and then take part in a themed exhibition of their work.

With this year’s theme, inspired by South Africa’s 25 years of democracy, OSJ also serves as an opportunity for the young artists to delve into and explore the rich and somewhat contentious history of the township and how it’s changed since the tumultuous days of apartheid.

“Young people have a responsibility to know and understand their history and, in the process, use creative platforms to tell their stories boldly,” said OSJ project manager and mentor Jabulani Dhlamini.

“The works created by the Of Soul and Joy students seeks to reflect on and capture a Khumalo Street that is free from political violence but at the same time interrogate its current state.”

Picture: Tshepiso Mazibuko

Additionally, this year’s programme will also exhibit works created by former and current OSJ students. The festival will also welcome musicians and performers.

An exciting addition to the lineup includes talks and a panel discussion moderated by arts organiser Molemo Moiloa with South African photographers Andrew Shabangu, Jabulani Dhlamini, independent curator and founder of PHOTO, John Fleetwood and other emerging creatives.

Guests can also look forward to an interactive photo booth and have their family or personal portraits taken by OSJ photographers.

New images to be exhibited include a series of works developed under the theme “Khumalo Street, post 1994”.

During the 1990s this notorious street in Thokoza was a no-go area due to the political violence that claimed lives and displaced many families. Among those who lost their lives, was well known community leader Sam Ntuli.

Also to be showcased this year will be a collection of images from the Place of Peace 2018 exhibition by 2012 Alumni Tshepiso Mazibuko, Lindokuhle Sobekwa and Sibusiso Bheka.

Picture: Sibusiso Bheka


  • Saturday, October 26 from noon to 6pm
  • Buhlebuzile Secondary School
  • Free entrance
  • Secured parking area
  • Food & drinks available
  • Free shuttle service from the Market Photo Workshop at 138 Lillian Ngoyi St (old Bree St), Newtown to Thokoza at noon
  • Last shuttle will leave at 2pm and return at 6pm
  • Shuttles will also leave from 558a Lenkoe Street, Phiri, Soweto to Thokoza at 1pm and return at 6pm

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