Young photographers make their mark

Freedom Park youth have made their mark in capturing their lives on film and will be exhibiting their work at Tafelsig library next week.

They formed part of the African Centre for Cities research project – Youth, Identity and the City – which engaged 13 youth, who had dropped out of school and were unemployed from Mitchell’s Plain, Philippi and Gugulethu in a photographic training project.

Their work was captured in a book titled Ithemba. Keuse. Destination. Alles begin met my. Hoop. Choice. Umvuzo Iqala Ngam Hope. Khetha. Bestemming. It all starts with me, launched and exhibited at the University of Cape Town on Thursday December 5.

The pop-up exhibition and book launch was in collaboration with workshop facilitators Rosca Warries, Dane van Rooyen, artist Kirstin Warries, all from NoDread Productions, and Tafelsig People’s Association (TPA) Youth for Change.

Five of each of the photographers’ best work is on display in Philippi Village until Friday December 13.

Participants’ peers and the community can engage and encounter their messages and photographs of hope at Tafelsig library from Tuesday December 17 until Friday December 20.

Project leader Mercy Brown-Luthango said the focus was on the role of young people in cities and that they were able to do self-reflection using photography as a tool. “How they understand their position, community, identity and location (spatially, emotionally and socially) in relation to the city as a whole, in this case Cape Town,” she said.

Each participant was given two disposable cameras to capture photographs of their communities, where they live as well as historical places visited in the city.

Ms Brown-Luthango said she was most surprised that the youth had been excited about their trip to Robben Island.

For her it was always a place of pain, suffering and torture in the context of banishment, colonialism, isolation, apartheid and prison. “They wanted to stay there. For them it was peaceful. They suggested a bridge should be built to link the mainland to the island.”

Their description of the island is very different to the photographs of Tafelsig, where they wake up, often hearing and witnessing shootings and being imprisoned in their homes by the ripple effects of gangsterism and substance abuse.

The book includes inscriptions from the teenagers.

“Thinking about why freedom is found in abundance outside of your own zone ‘space’,” wrote Ernestine Cupido, 24, from Freedom Park.

She told the Plainsman that before the project she stayed at home and was scared to be among people. “I’ve come out of my comfort zone. Mostly outside of my house is gangsterism, substance abuse and I did not want to indulge,” she said.

Ernestine has been doing an engineering learnership course in Bellville for the past six months and is optimistic about her future.

“When opportunity comes and knocks at your door, walk through it. You never know what is on the other side. On the other side I found myself and it uplifted me to choose what kind of work I want to do and do things that would improve my curriculum vitae,” she said.

Xolisile Sitwayi, 25, from Samora Machel, said the project managed to take him from thinking the circumstances he found himself in could be seen as the end of the world to motivating him to get up in the morning.

“Wake up and do something. It gave me courage. It uplifted my spirit. It gave me skills instead of waiting to do something.”

Xolisile now takes more photographs with his cellphone and would like to be a professional photographer taking pictures at educare centres for example.

“It has been a long process but it has been a good one. It has motivated me to look at where I want to be in future,” he said.