Text by: Thobeka Bhengu
Photos by: Thobeka Bhengu and Lerato Dumse
The first day of February 2019 was the last day with these young and brilliant Basotho women. The day started with breakfast as usual and later included a brief session with Muholi whilst the facilitator backed up footage from the previous day.
Muholi encouraged the participants to work on their biographies and make certain that they do not “short-change themselves” encouraging participants to mention all their accomplishments. Muholi also announced that the group needs to put together a proposal for the Women Mobile Museum, which forms part of the Mobile School of Photography. Participants will shoot Maseru landscapes, host exhibitions in public spaces and launch an official blog for the Maseru group where they will share the work that is being done in their country.
Tambu Muzenda facilitated an exercise where participants had to focus on themselves, relax their bodies whilst seated with eyes closed to avoid any distractions. The exercise focused on the space, awareness of what is in the space and to think about the moment they came into this room, what their expectations were and how these experiences have enriched them and have invoked something in them. After this intimate and relaxing session, the group of women shared some of the work they wrote.
Tsebo Phakisi shared a piece of writing about an incident where she got burnt by the oil when she was younger. Matseliso Motsoane wrote something about her name, which she paralleled to how the names that are given to us end up influencing who we become or what we do. Tambu also shared how she had taken back her name because of how there was always trouble that always followed her. To embrace her name, she had to associate the name with several positive words. I also had the opportunity to share with the group how I have moulded myself to follow my name and how it has been such a challenging process to uphold such a name provided how I grew up around an extremely violent space.
You have to choose every day to be a better person, to be non-violent and a non-toxic person. I also spoke about how we get toxic and violent towards others without acknowledging it. The sharing space had already been set up in such a way that the women started to dig in deep into the things and scars they have had to ignore. Before we knew it, it had been time to get lunch and a few minutes to stretch and breath. When lunch was finally served, the conversations continued, where Tambu shared a list of songs where women are crying for acknowledgement, for affirmation and women crying to be seen. These songs included: I am not your superwoman by Karen White, I will survive by Gloria Gaynor, I will always love you by Whitney Houston, Respect by Aretha Franklin, Willing to forget by Gladys Night and the list goes on. These songs speak to a certain type of violence and the ability to stay in relationships where we are not loved, the way we want to be loved.
The participants later made selections of the images to present in the afternoon and the setup ensued. Mohokare Guest House conference room was booked and presentations took place. After setting up a projector for presentations, the first participant to present was Mamohlakola Letuka. Letuka’s concept under gender-based violence looked at the violence against men and her task was to go around Maseru and capture images of men who were willing to share their experiences.
The second presentation was from Matlali Matabane, who took portraits of herself and others to portray Gender-Based Violence using a timeline of images where the one picture relates to the other as some form of narrative.
After Matlali’s feedback, Tsebo Phakisi presented her images and concept which was separated into three parts, the first part interrogated the objects that are implicated in gender-based violence, the second part was about the modes of healing and the third part was about communal healing.
The next speaker was Matseliso Motsoane, who looked at her relationship with medicine, nature, and the relationship that women have with herbal medicine and how it helps them or guides them through issues of love, violence, self-awareness and self-love.
The last participant to present was Tsépiso Mahooe who displayed five images that seemed lighter in narration but were stronger visually. The images celebrated the beauty of different women who are part of the experience. The images were natural, showed their beauty and the love of oneself with flaws and all.
The overall feedback from Sir Zanele Muholi, facilitators and participants towards the presented work was encouraging and assuring that all participants will get to the same level of understanding and delivering as expected. The constructive feedback given was reassuring and it was also pointed out how the images could have been improved and how images are just as relevant as the narrative behind the image or the concept.
After all the participant’s presentations, Lineo Segoete shared images she also took during the experience and Lebogang Mashifane shared a short documentary that she put together in collaboration with participants. After the two presentations; participants, facilitators and guests shared their words of gratitude to Inkanyiso team and Muholi for bringing such an experience to Maseru. The session became heavy and emotional as everyone attempted to explain what this experience meant to them and how this experience has transformed them. Everyone recognized that this experience will contribute immensely in a new generation of black female photographers and creatives in Lesotho, the kind of creatives who have realised how much work needs to be done in Maseru, to ensure that there is an active visual archive in Maseru.
In the process, we also acknowledged that one of our own Maleballo Mokhathi could not be present due to funeral arrangements at home, the team expressed their deepest condolences and wishes of having her present. Just when we had closed off the session and wrapped up Maseru Photo XP 2019 experience, Maleballo walked in with her footage in her hand and a bright smile that lightened the mood.
We are thankful for the love that Inkayiso team has received in Lesotho and may this relationship grow stronger as we move forward.