“MADIBA’S PEOPLE” South African Art Portraits

South African art portraits, Madiba's people

Welcome to: “Madiba’s People” the South African Art portraits project closest to my heart: Also available as Printable wall art limited edition South Africa travel photography prints in my Photo Art Stories shop on Etsy

In the year 2007 – 2008 I was photographing for the Niall Mellon Township Initiative in the townships around Cape Town. Here I first started my collection of “Madibas people” photographs.

South African art portrait color for sale
“Three Guys” Khayelitsha township, Cape Town

A few years later, in 2011, I packed up my city life in Cape Town, Western Cape. I bought an old caravan and moved to the East Coast of South Africa (otherwise known as the Wild Coast – and not for nothing! For the next few years I lived in a cherished little African village known as Coffee Bay, the Transkei. These have been the most precious days of my life thus far.

You can read more in depth about these great adventure years on my old blog Diary of a Wild Coast Gypsy Girl :))

Ps. I lived semi off-grid with only my own company, in my little caravan in Coffee Bay for 2 and a half years from 2011 to 2013. I entertained myself during the solitary nights by writing my blog of daily adventures and playing with my photographs. This picture was taken in 2014 during a visit after I had already moved back to the Western Cape. On this trip I was accompanied by my dear friend Kate.

Some of the following South African art portraits of the amaXhosa people were taken while I was photographing for the Niall Mellon Township Trust in Khayelitsha and Imizamu Yethu, Cape Town in 2007 – 2008.  The photos formed part of my exhibition ‘Ilungile, It is good’ at the Artscape theatre in Cape Town, 2009. A big thanks to my friend Jac Kritzinger for writing the following excerpt for that exhibition.

A Photographic Exhibition by Lavonne Bosman

Colour photograph, Cape Town township
Maggie and Albert” Khayelitsha township, Cape Town 2008

Shrewdly conceived and intimately observed, this collection aims to document the heart and soul of a people during times of intense transformation.

Rather than focusing on the activity surrounding the actual construction, the photographer trained her subtle lens on an infinitely more dynamic subject: the people who still call row upon row of decrepit shacks home.

Purposefully set against the backdrop of physical improvement in their environment, the stirring characters in this changing scene are portrayed with honesty, liveliness and wit. Void of socio-political commentary and stylistic pretense, these images tend to represent the snapshots of an observant passer-by, an incidental visitor with no intention of being a voyeur. The result is emotionally and aesthetically refreshing.

The reality that many of the subjects appearing in these photographs are not directly influenced by the radical crossover from dilapidated tin to sturdy concrete – the young cannot fully comprehend the impact of what’s happening, while the elderly cannot fully benefit from the lifetime’s promise it implies – makes these photographs even more intriguing.

We are reminded that there cannot be hope without suffering. But we are also reminded, by the simple joy, color, happiness and inner beauty captured in these images, of the invincibility of the human spirit in the face of adversity. Corporeal poverty can never subtract from the riches contained within. And the utter sanctity of this inner space becomes an extension, a symbol, of the outer structures being raised to improve the lives of these extraordinary people.

Whether this collection is perceived as a glimpse into the daily life of a community on the road to progress, or a final account of a communal lifestyle that might be irreversibly altered by economic upheaval, is up to the viewer. But the resounding message is one of ultimate hope.

In her literal and figurative quest to look for light in a somewhat bleak world, the photographer has succeeded in letting us in on a secret – her creative honesty, together with the fine work being done in the construction of proper housing in this community, allows us to dwell with new vision on the words of Fugard: people are living there.  

Jac Kritzinger

South African Art Portraits from the townships

Black and white African portrait, South Africa, Cape Town, photography
Socks” Khayelitsha township, Cape Town, South Africa
Imizamu_Yethu, Hout_Bay, township, South_Africa
Ha Girls” Imizamu Yethu township, Cape Town
Color photograph of three African boys with big smiles
Boys on a wire” Khayelitsha township, Cape Town
Portrait of a man in his township shack home
Mongezi” Khayelitsha township, Cape Town 2008
My “Madiba’s people” South African portraits collection is now available to purchase as Digital downloads directly from my Photo Art Stories Etsy shop!

The project “Ilungile” is combined with the follow-up project Makhelwane (My neighbor) from the Transkei, Wild Coast, Eastern Cape where Nelson Mandela was born and raised. Mandela was affectionately referred to as “Madiba“.

Through the years I continue to document Madiba’s People (the amaXhosa) still living in their rural homelands. During the time I lived in the Transkei I came to befriend and love a lot of the people who were my neighbors.

I titled the collection Madiba’s People (after Nelson Mandela) in order for this group of special people not to be forgotten, as what was already happening during this beloved president’s funeral when the people were only allowed to observe the occasion from the distant hills. Normally it would be seen as an insult for anyone not to attend. Something so contrary to their ‘Ubuntu’ culture (“I am because we are”)

My objective is to preserve moments in the lives of individuals in this rapidly changing culture as it is affected by modern technology and Western influences.   I also aim to use photography as a means to create an insight into the people’s lives and their struggle against poverty and its effects.  My choice to focus on the positive is derived directly from the strength and pride radiated from the beautiful amaXhosa people themselves.

It remains my wish to return there and help to set up a community project to support my amaXhosa friends, living tough but beautiful traditional lives.

These photographs are available as large wall art prints in my Photo Art stories shop.

Black and white African portrait, children
“Shy three” Coffee Bay

Black and white African portrait art
“Braids girl”
Black and white portrait of an African mother and baby, South Africa
“Mother and baby” Coffee Bay, Transkei 2011
Black and white photo portrait of an African girl and baby
“Girl and baby” Coffee Bay
Black and white portrait, African kids
“The Kipling two”. Coffee Bay.
Black and white African art portrait of three young girls
“Sunday sisters” Coffee Bay
Black and white travel art portrait South African art young amaXhosa boys
“Little Madalas” Coffee Bay
Black and white portrait of an amaXhosa African woman
“Portrait of a Mama” Coffee Bay

South African portrait and landscapes in color…

Color landscape photograph, Coffee Bay, Transkei. South Africa
“Lucy’s House” Coffee Bay
Three African boys with handmade wire cars play on the beach of Coffee Bay, South Africa
“Wire Cars” Coffee Bay
Color photograph of three Xhosa women, carrying baggage on their heads
“Three Mamas” Coffee Bay
A Xhosa woman in colorful tradition outfit is cooking with black iron pots over open fire
“Communal cooking” Coffee Bay
Color portrait of a proud Xhosa man
“Mister Bom Bom” Coffee Bay
Color portrait of an African grandmother
“Mama Gloria” Coffee Bay

See more of my Madiba’s people collection from my follow-up trip to Coffee Bay.

Interested in investing in my printable wall art, limited edition South Africa travel photography prints?

Visit my Photo Art Stories shop on Etsy

3 responses

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