Violence, imagined or real, marks Thembinkosi Hlatshwayo's Slaghuis II

While the art of portrait photography is slowly dying with the advancement of smart cellphones, contemporary fine art photography is thriving.

This is justified by the quality of young photographers who are following closely in the footsteps of great photographers such as Andrew Tshabangu and the late Santu
Mofokeng.

Thembinkosi Hlatshwayo is one of such young people with cameras who have emerged in the past two years to display their passion for the art.

Hlatshwayo, whose exhibition Slaghuis II is currently presented virtually at the Market Photo Workshop in Newtown, Johannesburg, is redefining the visual landscape.

Slaghuis is Afrikaans for "butchery", a word with strong imagery of violence. In township parlance, slaghuis is also a place where brutality habitually befalls victims of crime.

Hlatshwayo's exhibition features an engaging body of work that is inspired by the environment where he grew up. His first Slaghuis exhibition won him the 2019 CAP Prize for Contemporary African Photography in Basel, Switzerland. The work also featured in the NICE Magazine 3rd Edition and was part of group exhibitions at Fotomuseum Winterthur, IAF Basel Festival, and Johannesburg's Turbine Art Fair.

Slaghuis II was produced last year as part of his mentorship as the 2019 Gisèle Wulfsohn mentorship recipient of the Market Photo Workshop.

The 27-year-old is excited about the new exhibition and says the recent work is also created in a tavern environment. Hlatshwayo grew up in a home that was also a shebeen.

Using visual language, he is known for transforming the familiar spaces and tavern into a space of violence. He explains that Slaghuis II is a search for what it means to be marked by violence.

"The work is created around the shebeen, however, in this one it has become more about research for transformation; basically what it means with these experiences of violence.

"The series is different from Slaghuis I because it is more about research and investigation," Hlatshwayo says.

"The new body of work was created last year while I was mentored by seasoned photographer John Fleetwood. There are a lot of chapters that I still want to unpack and explore under the theme of Slaghuis."

Hlatshwayo was born in Lawley, south of Johannesburg, which was in the news last week for the violent eviction of home owners who the state had accused of illegal purchase of stands.

He learnt photography with Jabulani Dhlamini's Of Soul and Joy Photography initiative in 2016. In 2018, he completed a year course in the Advanced Programme in Photography at the Market Photo Workshop.

Slaghuis II is on until May 29.

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