By Thobeka Bhengu
There is something moving about seeing young black women empowered. Their confidence shoots through the roof. The way they present and articulate themselves takes a complete shift for the better. Education should be a holistic approach, which entails developing young people intellectually, socially, mentally creatively and spiritually. When the education environment is safe, flexible, fun and requires a young person to push themselves beyond what they have ever imagined, it makes it easier for young people to learn.
The Photo XP project was founded by Zanele Muholi in 2004 and has trained and shared photography skills with black youth and women. The Mobile School of Photography project is a fairly new project under the Photo XP banner. The project was discussed in November 2018 and by December 13th 2018 Sir (Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Embassy) Zanele Muholi, and renowned visual activist welcomed students from Thamela Primary School. The number of participants increased each week and by the end of December, there were already 26 students participating in the Mobile School of Photography including Duduzani Primary School learners, Inanda and Chesterville residents. The participants attended sessions, went for studio visits and captured images in different spaces around Durban. Teachers accompanied the students throughout the holidays to the sessions. Parents were notified and gave consent to have their kids attend the sessions.
On the 5th of January twenty-six participants graduated from the Mobile School of Photography. Each one of them equipped with basic skills of using a camera, reading, writing and capturing moments that matter. The theme of the project was land. Each participant had to take images that speak to the issue of land in South Africa. They had to go to different places including Inanda, Chesterville and Durban Beach to capture different images.
The land discussions should be inclusive of young black women who have inherited the injustices of the past. The importance of the relationship between women and the land in this country is a vital one. In their congested and polluted townships where they come from, the students had a brief understanding of the importance of the land discussions. The archiving of these visual discussions and narratives is just as important.
The 05th of January 2019 was a glorious celebration. Parents, teachers and friends attended the graduation ceremony to experience and celebrate these young people. Inkanyiso team worked tirelessly to put together the graduation ceremony in about 2 days. Some members of the team had to depart to their respective provinces and the ceremony had to happen before their departure and before the schools opened. Thankfully, the relationship with The Chairman had been cemented on the 22nd of December 2018, for Somnyama Ngonyama Book Celebration. Ndabo Langa, the owner of multiple establishments including The Chairman, was able to give us a perfect space to host the graduation at DGIT, on Mahatma Gandhi Road in Durban.
As an organizing team we thought that the space was big enough to accommodate close to about 50-70 people but by 10 am the participants and their parents had filled in the seats. As more people came, we ran out of seats but everyone was patient with us and wanted to be there to witness this special occasion. The master of ceremony(MC) for the day was Christie Van Zyl, who handled the programme with grace. Lindeka Qampi and Lizzy Muholi spoke on behalf of the facilitators and finally, Prof. Zanele Muholi spoke on the project and the importance of this project as it relates to black girls and the land issue in South Africa. Muholi encouraged everyone to “give young people cameras instead of candies”. Students performed a Busi Mhlongo’s powerful rendition of Not Yet Uhuru with two poems incorporated in the performance.
The house music played by one of the service providers Aluta Humbane Productions by Aluta Humbane, also set the mood. “Thina sizwe” created a sombre and reflective mood that was linked to the land issue as the song also speaks about the unfair dispossession and the endless tears of black South Africans who were displaced and removed from their land.
The actual handing over of certificates became a celebration, students showed off their talent and danced after receiving their certificates. They laughed and danced while their parents watched their kids make them proud. This was a special occasion, a first class of the Mobile School of Photography and the first graduation ceremony was a resounding success. This would not have been possible without the support of the schools, teachers, parents, service providers, Inkanyiso team and the vision and resilience by Sir’ Zanele Muholi.