Tshepiso Mabula ka Ndongeni’s Elegy for the Forgotten

Our bodies remember what our minds have chosen to forget. The heavy burden of trauma brought on by Apartheid sits in our gut. Healing is imperative and a rebirth is necessary. Tshepiso Mabula ka Ndongeni offers us an avenue for remembering (and potential healing) with her series of photographs; Ukugrumba, an isiXhosa word meaning “to dig up”. Ukugrumba is showing at the Market Photo Workshop (The Photo Workshop Gallery) until January 2020.

These documentary-style photographs examine and reflect on haunted sites that bear memories of a violent past through digging up untold stories of former liberation soldiers and their families. The series focuses on stories that might have escaped our collective memory—behind images of those we remember as heroes who fought for liberation, lie soldiers and families who fought for our freedom and whose blood has nourished the trees that bear the fruits of freedom*. Ukugrumba is an elegy for the forgotten.

The work revisits the past to shed light on the reality of the trauma that apartheid caused. This trauma continues to plague both the old and new generations of South Africans. The individual stories in Ukugrumba are part of [a] greater narrative of South Africa’s past in relation to the new South Africa of reconciliation. (Market Photo Press Release).

Tshepiso Mabula ka Ndongeni is a Johannesburg-based photographer born in Limpopo. She completed her studies at Market Photo Workshop and was later named the recipient of the  2018 Tierney Fellowship Award. Her interest in photography was partly inspired by South African photographer Ntate Santu Mofokeng, particularly his series of images Rumours: The Bloemhof Portfolio (1988 -1994).

Honour lives in the shadows and Tshepiso Mabula ka Ndongeni is excavating it and bringing it to the fore.

* “My blood will nourish the tree that will bear the fruits of freedom. Tell my people that I love them. They must continue the fight.”–  full quote by Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu.

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