A lens on Langa

2011-09-30 08:29

A recent photographic exhibition in Langa was an unusual event for the township’s residents as it gave them a rare opportunity to see themselves reflected in pictures.

The exhibition, which was set up at the Langa taxi rank, comprised images shot by a group of young township photographers who had spent two days shooting the people who walk the township’s streets.

One of the photographers, Siyamthanda Mdliva (19), who was mentored through the two-day shoot by experienced photographers, said she always dreamt of becoming a professional photographer.

With the experience gathered from non-profit organisation Iliso Labantu (Eye of the People), she sees the possibility of making her dream a reality.

“I want to tell a story to the community through pictures,” she said. Mdliva is one of 10 Iliso Labantu photographers who supplement their income by selling their images as postcards through various tourist outlets in Cape Town.

Iliso Laban tu, initiated by photographer Alistair Berg in 2001, has helped develop the careers of a number of photographers

whose names now appear in the credits of regional and national newspapers.

Berg, who has published photographic books on the Fifa World Cup, said photography had been good to him and he wanted to give something back by developing new talent.

But Berg has a hands-off approach, letting the photographers run the show while he does the necessary coordination of the postcard sales and marketing.

Initially the group would shoot on a Friday and Saturday, and hang the prints on the Sunday of the same weekend, but Berg said they discovered that Sundays didn’t work. “People are either in church of hung over,” he said.

Thus they eased the pressure a bit and gave themselves a week to edit and print, and then exhibit
on a Saturday.

The recent exhibition was the 10th, with other exhibitions having taken place over the years in townships such as Du Noon, Mfuleni, Khayelitsha, Nyanga, Gugulethu and Hout Bay’s Imizamo Yethu.

The reactions of Langa residents to 10 photographers roaming their streets ranged from pleasantly surprised to suspicious. Invariably, the children were delighted.

“This is beautiful,” said Langa local Nolwazi Khangele (46).

She said many people did not believe the photographers when they said they would exhibit their photos in Langa.

“I thought they (Iliso Labantu photographers) were tourists who take our pictures to their countries. I am happy that I get my own picture at the end of the day.”

– West Cape News 

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