Tsoku Maela, born in Limpopo, moved to Cape Town where he completed a BA in film at AFDA with a focus on screenwriting. In 2014 circumstances led him to take up the practice of self-portraiture – an avenue that saw him investing more into the transformative and translative abilities that the camera can be ascribed. His work braces the power of still images as well as films, with an emphasis on the conceptual as the thread woven across his different visual outputs.
Unpacking themes relating to the spiritual, the political, mental health and the body, his work encourages and engenders dialogue between viewers, as well as demanding a meaningful engagement with oneself. Admirably, Maela takes his own struggles as the reference point for highlighting these themes, creating an intimacy between himself and those who encounter his work. The series ‘Be Glad U R Free‘ exemplifies the vulnerable contemplations he injects into his images. Here he interrogates freedom(s) and the lack thereof, particularly for himself as a black man. There is a familiarity in his work, with elements that remind you of the old images your mother would hang in the living room of the first family home – very present in your past, and lingering in your present as faces and scenes you unconsciously absorbed.
His series ‘Broken things’ saw him hit the international stage, where it was showcased at the Lagos Photo Festival. His work has also travelled to Zurich for Phot17, and been displayed at the Cape Town Art Fair and Turbine Art Fair in 2017.
His work continues to invoke a desire to push boundaries, and peel back concepts and existences that are taken for granted or pushed under the rug. Check out Maela’s website to view more of his work.