In Africa, collaborative art projects have over time been more evident among other art genres like film, music, theatre and very rarely witnessed among photography. Peregrinate, is one unique exhibition – which proves how powerful art by different artistes can well relate and convey visual message and beauty.
Visiting Kigali under the organization of Kigali’s Goethe Institut late last year, the showcase brought together African photographers photographers Musa N. Nxumalo, Thabiso Sekgala from South Africa and Kenya’s Mimi Cherano Ng’ok into each telling their own story, yet together highlighting it onto one platform. Taking place on November 4th at hotel Umubano, it unveiled vast skill and another side of life one wouldn’t easily fantasize.
Photographing ordinary typical places in various society scenes, friends, family, domestic environments societies, they highlight these moments, objects and spaces in a socially and historically significant way. Peregrinate cautions one on the issue of time, space, distance and the relationship amongst them all. Just like the exhibition is entitled, each photographer holds works he shot from his travel sojourns.
Thabiso Sekgala holds a fantasy for installations, landscapes and housing. The photographer who shoots from a distance exploring his subjects’ relationships to space and the idea of home being shaped by personal and political narration captures various homesteads.
Sekgala also shares social activities too of people weddings, music rehearsals among other social activities. Entitled September 2012 morning Class, the photograph is of a female educator who is focused onto taking notes on a wooden chalkboard supported by three wooden stands.
The artiste only makes the educator his subject, hence not including the learners; It is evident that this shot is taken from a learning environment in a remote village- but under a tree. We well relate to this form of learning system that some African societies still experience to this day.
Bongani Kona, a South African based freelance writer describes Sekgala’s works as contemplative- that invite this intimate dialogue with the self about the meaning of home. Even when crossing borders between nations has become a universal feature of modernity that most Africans at one time or another by choice or by intimidation will endure the pain of forsaking their homeland and loved one to settle in a foreign land is always a troubled situation.
From Soweto, being part of a family of generation that is spread across various townships spanning the rest of South African social-political history and a young democratic state, Musa N. Nxumalo’s works, which he has captures since his twenties revolve around people of Nxumalo – his clan lineage and the transformation of the South African landscape. Nxumalo’s works more close in on social life within people in neighborhoods.
Thorough his works, which total to over twelve photographs, evident is how the he skillfully captures emotions, socialization, street activity, nightlife and relationships among society- one wonders how Nxumalo that easily relates to and captures his subjects, since the scenes taken are like he wasn’t in presence- that the subjects were so free about what they were doing. Such skill is what any documentary, or travel photographer would desire. For instance, through one of his works entitled Neighborhood 14, from the 2010-2012 series In /Glorious is a scene of a kissing couple amongst a crowd.
As a traveler through Nairobi, a Kenyan capital, Brazil, Dakar Senegal among other places Mimi Cherono Ng’ok too captures life in diverse forms- from emotions of a few people in homesteads, bedrooms, to transportation- vehicles, streets from a wider perspective, and how people relate to each through his sixteen-photograph collection. Through some of his collection, he touches typical aspects within any African society.
Entitled Daddy’s Shirts, a piece from the 2008-2014 series The Other Country, is of a number of shirts hanged onto the wire outside. Road to Juba, from his 2008-2014 series depicts a dusty road in the wilderness leading to an unknown destination, while Nairobi West hospital Bed is of a patient’s bed- though the patient isn’t the subject.
However, Peregrinate is also about loss, of things or property, which further spark a longing for home and family. Through some works, structures like torn or abandoned buildings and homesteads quite make one relate to situations of war aftermath and pain for immigrants. Among the featured works is Sekgala’s 2011 piece entitled Home away from home– from his series Homeland quite sparks an insightful dialogue on the meaning of home, especially to immigrants in South Africa.
Sekgala’s travels across South Africa will quite unearth memories among African immigrants in most societies. One picture taken of Kgalabatsane, former Bophatswana shows a bushy remote street- like an abandoned community, partially littered with garbage, reflecting some lack of solace amongst a society.
Something these photographers all share is they revolve around society- with people at the core focus of all activities. Each photographer displays the relationship the subjects hold their surroundings.