There’s a grittiness to the photos of Tshepiso Mabula that makes her work stand out from the pack. Whether she’s shooting breaking news on the #FeesMustFall campaign or an EFF rally, or just capturing some quieter moments of everyday life in the townships, her photographs have a vitality that makes you look, and look again.
Mabula (24) was born in Limpopo and her interest in photography was sparked in 2012 when she visited a family member who showed her a copy of Bloemhof , a book of photography by the award-winning South African photographer Santu Mafokeng.
She went on to study photojournalism and documentary photography at the Market Photo Workshop in Johannesburg, and then became an intern photographer at The Citizen. In December 2016 she went to Spain for three months on the Intercambiador ACART artist in residence programme, working with four other international artists. She produced a body of work that was exhibited at the Quinta del Sordo in Madrid. She has also exhibited at the 2017 Art Africa Faire in Cape Town.
Her work has been published by the Citizen and the Star newspapers and by the Design Indaba, and she was nominated as a 2017 Design Indaba Emerging Creative. She’s a multimedia producer for the Umuzi Photo Club, a youth development organisation that helps young people to find their voices through photography. Mabula says she likes to explore the small things through photography, exposing the humanity in oppositional, chaotic or even boring environments.
She captures the dignity of ordinary people, far removed from the glamorous or “ideal” atmospheres of high-profile photography. She describes herself as a storyteller and a visual observer of Bantu living, and believes that her calling is to produce work that promotes equity and social unity, and seeks to correct the injustices that exist in our everyday culture. “To me, social justice means being able to embrace our similarities as a people while working towards creating a society where all can live freely without prejudice,” she says. Her photographs seek to question social issues such as patriarchy and classism and advocate for a better society for all, especially for black women. Mabula is also a writer and has blogged on topics such as her difficult childhood and getting to know her father.
— Lesley Stones