By Lindiwe Dhlamini
Photos by Inkanyiso Team
The echoing voices of the crowd that was in attendance during Yithi Laba (This is us) exhibition opening curated by Lerato Dumse & Zakara Raitt at the Market Photo Workshop in Newtown, Johannesburg on the 28th February 2019 are still resounding in my head.
The sounds of joy, laughter and mind-blowing poetry still gives me goosebumps and one cannot deny the power that the five photographers Lindeka Qampi, Bernie Searle, Ruth Motau, Neo Ntsoma and Professor Zanele Muholi have. They gathered over 200 people in the same gallery, at the same time to witness greatness hanging on the walls. The works displayed spoke a different yet similar language, it was definitely the language of LOVE of different spaces, different objects, different people with different expressions.
I was first captured by the beautiful poster display on the glass doors of the gallery with images of each of these legends mentioned above, and the work displayed inside was even more breathtaking. I have never in my life witnessed such a historical and powerful collaboration with images that told stories I could relate to as a Black South African queer person from a township. Walking around the gallery, looking at how some of the people in attendance were encapsulated by the works of these legends. I had the pleasure of getting vox pops from some of the people who were there, the interactions were genuine as people felt relatable to the space and the artworks.
Speaking to some of the attendees, here are some of the comments I gathered; “This is by far one of the best exhibitions I have attended in a long time. I love the Black *women only collaboration, I wish I could see more collaborations like these from other artists in South Africa and abroad. This was just brilliant.” – Luyanda Makhubo
I am a die-hard Lebo Mathosa stan, the minute I saw her image on the wall captured by the talented Neo Ntsoma I knew the show was going to be LIT!” – Mzwakhe Nkambule (28)
“I am particularly drawn to Lindeka Qampi’s work because I never thought that trash can be transformed into something so beautiful – this is pure talent, creativity and everything great about art – I am blown away. I also love Bernie Searle’s images, the use of color and how it transcends from one picture to the other is so fascinating, bold and forces you to take another look– over all powerful show” – Lungile Mdluli (24)
“As a spiritual person I relate more to Ruth’s work. In an era of false prophets, I thought that was a powerful selection to remind us that no matter what we must always keep the faith alive, I loved it” – Serati Moeti (33)
While not everyone in attendance had good things to say about the show, the positive feedback outweighed the bad. The show was a success and the people were happy to see one of the best shows end February 2019 on high spirits. As if that was not enough, the attendees broke out into struggle songs in celebration of the brilliance they had witnessed. The festivities of the night carried on, food and drinks were shared among guests before taking different transport safely home covering several Gauteng municipalities.
The showing photographers mingled with the crowd, while also taking selfies with them. In the midst of all that I managed to scoop a comment from Lindeka Qampi who was looking drop dead gorgeous in a beautiful Black maxi dress with African print design. “You know Lindi, I have never had a birthday and this today, what I am seeing here, feels like my birthday and I am so happy to see my work being celebrated. I am so blessed to have people like Muholi and all of you in the crew, you are family to me and all the love you have shown, and all your teachings resulted in what you see on the walls today.” Lindeka Qampi – Yithi Laba exhibitor.
The next day, we were called in to do interviews at the Market Photo Workshop where the Yithi Laba exhibition is still on show till 15 April 2019. I had the honor of interviewing Ruth Motau and Neo Ntsoma, whose responses reignited a fire in me to never stop dreaming. I was inspired by the way they both managed to break through boundaries to be where they are today. It is always encouraging to see Black woman who have paved the way for young upcoming Black female photographers sharing the stage and doing it so gracefully. I cannot wait to see the final interviews and overall show.