By Thobeka Bhengu
The 31st of January commenced very early for the group. It started eagerly with an early morning exercise at the Ha Ratjomose Mountain. The lovely walk to the mountain is typically about 15 minutes long. By the time we arrived on top of the mountain nearly everyone was breathing heavily as a result of the walk and climbing up a steep.
The session facilitated by myself was intended to assist with gently releasing any tension in our bodies using thorough stretches and vocal exercises. The session took about 45 minutes and by the time we went carefully down the mountain going back to Mohokare Guesthouse for a hearty breakfast, our bodies were feeling a little lighter and stretched.
This day had an extensive and hectic program. Participants were scheduled to shoot the whole day, in order to get as many images as possible to choose from for their final presentations. Their presentations entailed, selecting five images chosen by participants as their best and a brief presentation of each image employing the method of five five W’s & one H. These presentations are particularly methodical in the Photo XP. They are always intense as Sir Muholi and facilitators offer constructive feedback on the images presented by each participant. For that reason, the presentations are an important part of the experience, and students were aware that they had to push themselves and deliver good images that speak to their individual themes in relation to the overall theme of Gender-Based Violence.
Two facilitators were present throughout the day to insure that should participants require any assistance it would be available. Participants were spread around the guest house shooting and trying to capture images they could be proud to present. The shoots went on for several hours until around 6h30pm when we all had to hastily prepare for Somnyama Ngonyama book celebration at Cafe What?
We all made our way to the venue to celebrate Sir Zanele Muholi’s Somnyama Ngonyama Book. The venue was a slight distance away from the busyness of Maseru CBD. Café What? is an artistic open space with images hanging for exhibition and a few tables where people were sit in a candlelit ambience with illuminating light from the bar and a projector screen that was used to project the Art21 documentary.
After the screening of the documentary, Muholi took the stage to respond to questions from the audience, moderated by Lineo Segoete. Muholi firstly thanked all the attendees for their time and generosity, as well as the owner and staff of Café What for allowing us in the space. Before responding to any questions, Muholi expressed how they do not feature strangers in their projects and provided a brief background of who Muholi is and how much they appreciate the beauty of Lesotho and being in Maseru. Attendees were thereafter given a chance to ask questions, the questions mostly revolved around Muholi’s work, their wisdom and activism. One or two questions were slightly personal trying to get to know Muholi as an artist and what keeps them going.
Muholi’s question and answer sessions are always authentic and civil conversations that open space for truthful dialogue with no topic off the table. In response to what keeps Muholi going, they responded: “What keeps me going is the love from the women that I spend time with, the women who understand period pains, the women who bleed and understand the pain of being.”
The session took about 40 minutes and at the end of the session, Somnyama Ngonyama books were put on auction after Muholi refused to sell them at the original price. The audience suggested the books are auctioned and 3 books were auctioned, allowing some attendees to head home with a copy of Somnyama Ngonyama.