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Young photographers zoom in on their work

“Many of our young become teen parents, drop out of school, drink alcohol and do drugs. These things can negatively impact you for the rest of their lives.”

Students from the Thokoza-based social and artistic initiative Of Soul and Joy (OSJ) showcased their photographic work during a pop-up exhibition at the Mall of the South (MS) from June 16 to 18.

The exhibition, coinciding with the day of remembrance for those who lost their lives during the 1976 Soweto Youth Uprising, celebrates the creativity and ingenuity of the students in telling the stories of young South Africans on the periphery of society.

Lehlohonolo Sigaba (16) from Thokoza, said she feels comprehended and prestigious to be allowed to showcase her work.

Sigaba said she wants to work harder to produce more work because this shows they appreciated her work.
She presented a project titled The Angel during the exhibition.

“This project is about me seeing an angel. Through this project, I am trying to find answers. I am trying to get people, especially the youth, to spread the Gospel, the word of God and to convince people that God is alive,” said Sigaba.

A photograph captured by Tadiwa Mkono at Thokoza in 2022.

“I am doing this because I have realised the youth is more focused on technology instead of focusing on God. I am confident to state that Jesus is coming back.”

She said Youth Day reminds us of the power of the voices of our youth and their abilities to effect a change in society.

“I take it as a motivation to always be like a candle which burns but gives my light to others, meaning that I aspire to be successful while young to inspire the youth to keep working hard to attain their goals. There is no dream too big to achieve. We can turn every dream into success.”

Another junior photographer from Thokoza, Tadiwa Mkono (15), said he was honoured and humbled to showcase his work. This has inspired him to find himself through art.

“I presented my project, which is titled Groot Klep.

This project shares the importance of a grandfather’s care and their love for us as teenagers. I wanted to show young people they should enjoy being young and grow up too fast.

“Many of our young become teen parents, drop out of school, drink alcohol and do drugs. These things can negatively impact you for the rest of your life,” said Mkono.

A photograph captured by Xolani Ngubeni at Katlehong in 2023.

The 15-year-old photographer said being a youth in South Africa makes him feel like he is in survival mode, explaining young people need to survive poverty, unemployment, inequality and substance abuse.

“I wish there were more options for young people in South Africa to flourish.”

Zwelibanzi Zwane (23) from Alberton said his presentation encouraged the youth to know themselves well.
Society should not easily influence them, and they should always remember that everything is possible in life.
“Even in critical situations or doubts, they should always stay positive”, he added.

“Being a youth in South Africa is the most precious thing ever. However, what I wish to be different is the opportunities.

“The youth should be open to more opportunities and more career choices to avoid being influenced by the harsh lifestyles in our townships. They should be open to things they enjoy doing,” said Zwane.

The student photographers enjoyed the support and mentorship from experienced photographers who are also OSJ alumni, like Thandile Zwelibanzi, Sbusiso Bheka, and Tshepiso Mazibuko and the OSJ programme manager, Jabulani Dhlamini.

Dhlamini said, given the high unemployment rate and a lack of opportunities, especially for artists and creatives, their students use their cameras to express themselves and create art that deals with these challenges.

He further shared that this enables them to start conversations, learn, and educate their communities.

MS centre manager Hester Smith said it is an honour to be associated with an initiative that prioritises youth development and provides them with opportunities for personal and professional growth.

“Our collaboration with OSJ is meaningful during youth month, as it highlights the significance of supporting and uplifting the younger generation,” said Smith.

Of Soul and Joy students Siyabonga ‘Wildcat’ Mhlanga, Limnandi Paca, the project manager Jabulani Dhlamini, Tadiwa Mkono and Zwelibanzi Zwane.

“By providing a platform for young photographers, the mall recognises the talent and potential of these individuals and offers them a chance to showcase their work to a wider audience. This exposure can lead to valuable connections, opportunities, and recognition for the youngsters, paving the way for their future success.”

Background

OSJ is a platform initiated in 2012 by Rubis Mécénat and Easigas under the Rubis Group’s South African subsidiary to provide township youth with professional photography skills.

It is dedicated to empowering young South Africans through creativity by providing mentorship, training, and support.

The programme aims to cultivate artistic expression and storytelling skills among the youth, enabling them to positively impact their communities.

Through photography and various art forms, OSJ encourages dialogue and addresses pressing social issues while celebrating the unique voices and perspectives of South African youth.

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