When duo Kabelo Sello and Kgotso Selomah graduated from the Market Photo Workshop in Johannesburg in 2016 and 2018 respectively, all they wanted to do was to take the art of photography back to Soweto where they come from.
In the absence of opportunities, with a passion to capture township stories, the two launched Kombonation — a pre-to-post-production business in Soweto specialising in real and raw visual storytelling.
They present this work on T-shirts where they are able to showcase their photographic skills. They also dabble in music.
“Townships don’t have a lot of galleries or spaces where photography can be admired, so we wanted to bring the sophistication of the arts closer to the people. What we also noticed is that photography had a lot to do with accessibility and affordability — that is when we decided to host annual exhibitions as a way of giving back to the hood using our talents,” Selomah said.
The pair met in Jabavu in 2015 when Selomah was finishing her grade 12.
While Sello, 28, was flexing his photography skills, he asked Selomah to be his model and that initial interaction saw their working relationship grow and they ended up working together on full-time basis before they established Kombonation in 2018.
“The idea of promoting this art-form with a level of sophistication that we bring, we noticed how people in the townships were subliminally taught to be ashamed of where they come from. We wanted to set the focus back on how beautiful the township and its people can be. With no filters or no fancy backdrops, that we should celebrate ourselves exactly as we are,” said the 25-year-old Selomah.
“And because we are taught not to love ourselves or our surroundings, we find that people don’t even find pleasure in taking care of the environment. Kasi is not being taken care of and that is the ripple effect that comes from the older generation down to us. That’s the change we want to bring through photography. A new perspective into who we are with a new sense of pride,” she said.
Working on a dream that can possibly change lives doesn’t come easy, they said, adding that there were times when they made sacrifices to a point of going broke.
“Thank God we don’t have children to take care of yet,” Selomah said laughing.
“Kombonation is the baby we are growing. To be where we are now, we started doing gigs that would not pay us much. Looking back, we are better equipped now and have our own screen printing machines to create revenue for ourselves. We keep growing each year.”
In the four years of their partnership, they have made enough waves within the township to be selected as part of the four Night Embassy ambassadors to make their boldest and most innovative nightlife dreams come true.
As part of the Night Embassy events tour, a safe space that spotlights subcultures and creative communities of Joburg’s nightlife, Kombonation will be hosting their three-night shindig dubbed Kaofela Kaofela.
The three nights will also feature artists such as Focalistic, Bonj, Deniece Marz, Mam Thug, Teedo Love, while also hosting skating contests, revealing their latest T-shirt and photography exhibitions at the iconic Uncle Tom's in Orlando west.
While pursuing one vision of igniting Soweto with art, they also found love with each other and want their story to be testament that love does exist in the township.
“While black love is being undermined, we want to elevate it. We want to celebrate it boldly and show that you can give birth to more than just babies but to businesses, to realising dreams and to empowering the hood,” Selomah said.
“Our residency [event] will contribute to the shift of the township nightlife landscape. As Kombonation, we're essentially about doing anything with purpose, even in spontaneity, so partying with the intention of inspiring townships and beyond to do great things in their communities is paramount.”