Kasigrams: Looking at township life through our own lens

26 April 2018 - 12:00
By Nothemba Mkhondo
Image: Mlungisi Mlungwana

Snapshots of poverty, violence, and hardship used to define the disconnected, one-dimensional view, provided by outsiders looking in, which simply skimmed the surface of township life.

But a new picture is being painted by a fresh crop of young photographers, who are weaving a rich tapestry that authentically depicts the common experiences of their everyday life.

At the hands of this new-generation of photographers, who capture their own reality on the move, ordinary landscapes become beautiful images, be it an old man sitting on a stoep, kids playing, or young men laughing in the streets.

Using Instagram as a platform, these photographers are not only creating and preserving a collective memory of the lives and culture of the people ekasi; they are also taking back power by challenging representations and changing perspectives.

Neo Sefatsa and Mlungisi Mlungwana are just two of the young photographers turning township photography on its head, by sharing a new, intimate snapshot of township life for the world to see. 

Mlungisi Mlungwana
Image: Suppplied Mlungisi Mlungwana


Age: 23, Orlando East (@mluart)

My background is in performing arts. I trained to be a theatre actor and screen actor from the age of 12 years. I started taking photographs when I couldn’t continue acting lessons and wanted to find another form of storytelling.

My photographic style is a combination of documentary and portraiture. I use my lens as my third eye to capture and preserve emotions and events that are meaningful.

What defines me as a photographer is light. The use of light ultimately decides your end result — the lack of light can create beautiful images; more of it can create flat images. Every day I seek to create light that enhances my stories.

I am inspired by my mother. She is a phenomenal woman, who has been through every fire just to make sure I had a great childhood and got proper education like every other child. She is incredibly supportive I love photography because I love preserving memories, and I love the emotions a photograph can evoke.

In the future I hope to collaborate more with great photographers, because you can’t achieve as much alone as you can together.

Neo Sefatsa
Image: Supplied Neo Sefatsa


Age: 38, Soweto and KZN (@upendopictures)

My background is in graphic design. I started taking photographs when I started travelling around South Africa.

I would capture random moments of everything surrounding me along the way, and it grew on me.  

My photographic style is an artistic form of storytelling. What defines me as a photographer is my photographic style — I see beauty in any environment. I am inspired by everything around me, such as diverse cultures, life in the townships, art, and fashion.

I love photography because it allows me to freeze the moment for a lifetime, and it allows me to fall in love with my surroundings. In the future I want to capture images that will talk to the issues that we face as a society, such as woman and child abuse.

This article first appeared in print in the Sowetan S Mag September 2017 edition.