In early August, Earl Abrahams and Wandie Mesatywa, second residency photographers of Amplify Studio in Cape Town were featured in a residency photographic exhibition titled, My Identity which explored these young, talented South African photographer’s identities.
Mesatywa’s project, Iqhiya captured the beauty of Iqhiya, also known as the doek or head wrap, declaring her pride in being a Xhosa woman.
Here, Abrahams and Mesatywa share with us what the project meant to them, their love of photography and their plans moving forward.
Abrahams: My project ‘Coloured In’ was a deeply personal and explorative one that forced me to confront myself and my identity as a so called ‘coloured man’. It steered me into a reflective space, forcing me to ask really hard questions about my community, people, space and current state of the City in which I had lived for so long.
Photography by Earl Abrahams.
My project allowed me to pause for a moment, to tackle issues in my head and heart – and I feel that ‘Coloured In’ has given me the foundations to continue creating…
Mesatywa: The project meant I had to open up to strangers and people I already know. And that was hard for me. I am a private person and I like my own space. This project opened room for people to interrogate me, my beliefs, and the culture I was born into. It has certainly brought me closer to my inner self…
Abrahams: It has amplified my own identity through granting me clarity of understanding of my own views and the views of those around me in relation to our community spaces and their challenges. The understanding of how complex and increasingly involved it would be to dismantle the inculcated systems that still reign within society today.
Mesatywa: I wouldn’t say amplified but it made me more aware of how further away I am to my true identity as a Xhosa speaking person. In relation to and with my culture. So the venture to self-exploration continues until my identity is amplified:).
Abrahams: It has truly been an honour to be a part of the Amplify residency programme/exhibition. This programme has given me the opportunity to develop as an artist and has given me a clearer focus of my future artistic endeavours.
Mesatywa: It meant breaking boundaries in the industry of art as a professional and recent graduate. As well as not conforming to expectations but realising the true potential of what I could achieve as an artist and a black young woman.
Photography by Wandie Mesatywa.
Abrahams: Inline skating was always my first love/passion (and I’ve been inline skating for more than 20 years). I got introduced to photography through inline skating and I generally only use to engage with it in that space. It is only within the last four years that I decided to venture out of the confines of the inline skating world and develop a new found love and passion for the story telling prowess that photography gives me access to.
What I love about this art form is that it allows me the freedom to share my worldview with others – I also love the diversity that photography offers – whether it be street, wildlife, fashion, conceptual photography – this art form has room for anyone and everyone.
Mesatywa: It is hard to say that it has always been a passion of mine, as it was a strange finding – when I realised it was something I loved, it was more of the freedom it gave me and satisfaction that I fell in love with. Only later I started appreciating and loving the artistic side of it.
Abrahams: I’ve recently relocated up to Johannesburg, so I plan to showcase the work in Jozi before the end of the year. I also have a part two of Coloured In that I have started working on and will hopefully be showcasing this body of work sometime next year. I’ve also started a new video series called TALK which showcases various individuals in the creative and other industries.
Mesatywa: I plan on producing more work around the same theme of identity. I am also involved in a group exhibition We Cannot Be Silent, which is currently showing at the Castle of Good Hope until 24 September. I am also part of a group show launching in September at Everard Read Gallery at the V&A Waterfront, as well as another group show in Hamburg, Germany also launching in September.
Abrahams: Believe in yourself and your abilities – start your own projects, even if you don’t have everything mapped out yet. You’ll be amazed at how a concept can lead you to other opportunities. Most importantly, tell your story – it’s those stories that have the ability to shift perspectives and help others to believe in themselves.
Mesatywa: Staying true to who you are is what adds depth and authenticity to one’s creativity. Therefore, I would say never lose touch with who you.
Abrahams and Mesatywa’s photography exhibits at Amplify Studios until the end of September.