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Bhala uses the lens to bring his audiences back to reality

Andile Bhala and his famous red bag and white bike.
Andile Bhala and his famous red bag and white bike.
Image: Supplied

A white bicycle and a red bag, these two things have become the signature of documentary photographer Andile Bhala. The Orlando-born artist has been taking street-style photos for close to seven years now. The self-taught creative has given himself the task to ride 150km around Soweto in search of 150 great photos.  He moves within the 38 locations in Soweto.

He tells SowetanLIVE that his favourite work is any picture he’s about to take, and says every environment and all the people he engages with help him understand life more.

“I get to find different stories because I use photography as a conversation around social issues or as a message I want to send.  I think a lot of people are offline in real life, but online on social platforms. So I use images as a way to communicate with those who are online on social platforms but are offline. Yet my images don’t live online only, they also live in my bag and other people’s phones.” Bhala said.

He ensures that his subjects have access to their pictures.  “I allow people to engage with the work and find themselves through these images I’m trying to create about them.”

His 150 project includes one of his workds titled Ubudoda, which explores masculinity in the township. Another project is titled Amanzi and  explores religion with images of people getting baptised at a famous dam called the Blue Dam in Meadowlands, Soweto. He also features images of ordinary people who use that same dam to swim.

 “I think pictures for me mean healing, pictures are my voice, they mean love, pictures are happiness. The emotions that are within pictures change people’s lives.”

On his Instagram feed Bhala has some of his work, and among those pictures you’ll spot images of kids using his camera to take their own pictures. He says his bike and bag attract attention and naturally children who are curious approach him. He then gives them the opportunity to take images and to learn.

“It’s for them to see themselves."

Andile Bhala is showing Soweto through his lens.
Andile Bhala is showing Soweto through his lens.
Image: Supplied

Bhala, an avid coffee drinker, will be an exhibitor at the newly launched Coffee Festival happening in Cape Town this weekend (1-2 June). The festival will be at The Castle of Good Hope in Darling Street. His work will touch on fashion and the South African coffee scene, mainly images of coffee lovers and glimpses of how coffee is made and consumed in the township.

“Coffee has become a lifestylewhere people chill over coffee or run ideas.I use coffeeas a foundation of the process of my ideas or any conversation that I want to engage in with a person. We’ve moved these coffee culture from our homes to coffee shops.I could see it’s a culture of breaking the ice and conversations over social issues.” he adds.

Boasting an impressive 65 exhibitors, each day at the festival will be split into day and afternoon sessions. The festival will also allow attendees to taste different brews and take part in workshops.  The line-up includes Latte Art Live, The Small Business Lab, The African Coffee Experience, The Coffee Cocktail Bar, a live music stage, a Coffee Art Gallery and many more.  

Street food, coffee cocktails and live music will be on offer, and all profits will be donated to Project Waterfall, a partnering with charities supporting local life-changing projects such as Woza. The Woza Coffee School is a charitable trust that trains the youth in the townships to become baristas while also connecting them to their first job.

Tickets can be bought here. 

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