I'm still thinking about Sipho Gongxeka and his first show at the Market Photo Lab -- even though it's been a whole year. I wrote and "drafted" this on 31 July, 2014 but for some reason my last two questions weren't answered and I found the whole thing flat I sat on it. But I think of the work and the show and my feels every so often I decided to post it now. 
       
sipho gongxeka photography, market photo lab, yizo yizo, youth day,

It was a cold Jozi evening in early July when I went to the opening of Sipho Gongxeka's Skeem Saka exhibition at the Market Photo Lab Gallery in Newtown. There, I was transported into a sort of behind the scenes of a film not yet produced. Some of the photographs look like stills grabbed from mid-90s and early '00s classics such as Yizo Yizo and Hijack Stories. The complete body of work, though, looks less like performance and more like every day, run-of-the mill South Africa. In all the photographs the subjects are looking straight at the camera -- straight through the camera.

I also got to witness the magic of what happens when a black kid's art dreams begin to come true. At the opening, I spotted two women who were much older than the regular "Jozi art crowd." Dressed for the weather (and probably like people who leave their homes at 5:30AM) in their gorgeous camel coats. Upon asking, I learnt that one of them was Sipho's mother and the other woman his aunt. They know all the faces in the photos and kept remarking how well he captured them. At least four of the photographs feature the photographer's best friend -- his sister told me so when I asked how proud the family was feeling. See, not everyone gets to see their kid's art dreams come to fruition. Granted this is only the beginning but judging from it, we're in for great art from this young broseph.

I got in touch with Sipho and we had a chat on the BBM (because I'm awful that way) in which we talked about approaching one's art with perspective and I decided my being too close to my work is why I can't write. We even almost talked about the cultural powerhouse that is iKalawa and it was great.


sipho gongxeka, youth south african photographer, beautiful black woman, african youth,

N: Sawubona Sipho. How are you doing post-opening night? I was there and I'm still kinda reeling from the exhibition's energy. How do you feel now that the work is out there. In the world?
S: It was an emotional night for me, after two years of hard work. But its always a good feeling to share your work with the world

N: Most of the people in the photographs came out to support you, what was that like?
S: My story is their story too, it was important for people to see what I was talking about. Izinja zam' mazikhona yonkinto iright!


N: Yeah, you got ukuthi ublase in front of abantu base kasi lakho. The blurb in the gallery talks about how the work was inspired by classics like Yizo Yizo, Jerusalema and Hijack Stories. Who is your favourite starring of all time?
S: Papa Action

N: Baba wami. You've mentioned that the work had been a couple of years in the making. What does it take to curate (in your case create) a body of work for exhibition? Lol, did you have a brief?

S: It was a personal story no brief at all. To put out an exhibition or a body or work one has to work hard


uGeneral
N: Were there photographs that were intensely close to your heart (you know what Badu said about being an artist) that didn't make the cut?

S: I've learned one thing as an artist never get too close to your work. That always works

N: Do you have a favourite photograph from the exhibition?

S: No I love all 27 of them, its 27 stories
N: Nazoke! I've just felt like I missed something. Ngizophindela ngiyozibuka futhi. I have quite a few favourites but the one I kept going to was the one of uGeneral. It drew me in. Did you have that in mind while you making it?

S: The thing about photography is to keep people interested in looking at the work, General was that image I needed to get people talking.

N:
Would you talk to me about "Sash" for a while? He's in a number of the photographs and your sister told me that you've been bras for the longest. How did you meet? What's it like having him for a brother?


S: He's my Skeem since childhood, he just had to be there.



N: In your speech, at the opening, you spoke passionately about representation. In my head I was like "yessss" -- I may have said it out loud too. Why do you think these problematic images and ideas keep prevailing?
S: To be brief about that its about time we as blacks tell our own stories.

N: I love how (in the blurb at the gallery) you addressed how these shows that inspired you, productions that most of us consider the height of filmmaking and storytelling even today weren't perfect. Especially in their treatment of women. Please expand on that.

- dololo


N: I hear you're a big Kalawa fan. Me too! I cannot imagine my lived experiences "in post-apartheid South Africa" without their music. What makes you a fan?

- dololo


Sipho had to head out to an (actual) interview and other artist things before we could decode the heft of Kalawa. All the sad faces.

Skeem Saka is open at the Market Photo Lab Gallery (2 President Street) until the 15 of August


Photographs belong to Sipho Gongxeka peep more at kingsiga.wordpress.com