Photographers’ book nominated for Design Indaba Award
By Leila Dougan
Three photographers travelled across South Africa in 2014 capturing the country after two decades of democracy, and the book that came about as a result of their journey has been nominated as this year’s Most Beautiful Object in South Africa (MBOISA) by the Design Indaba Team.
Sipho Mpongo (22), Sean Metelerkamp (31) and Wikus De Wet (26) spent seven long months travelling through the country in a camper van to produce a book and a body of collaborative work called Twenty Journey.
Each photographer had a different approach to the people they met and spaces they came across. Metelerkamp considered the idiosyncracies of every day South Africa; de Wet decided to focus on the link between the land and people; while Mpongo set out to capture the so called ‘born frees’ in the year before the #FeesMustFall movement changed the socio-poitical landscape of South Africa.
“Being a born free myself, I’ve always known from my childhood that life was not fair and my community was not free. I began to be interested in fallacies about the New South Africa and the realities like mine,” said Mpongo.
“I particularly wanted to create a panoramic view of how young people live in different spaces across South Africa to contradict the idea of [the Rainbow Nation] …my project provided a space to question our existence as ‘Born Frees’ in this country. The student protests is one that answers many questions about the state of our country as we move forward,” said Mpongo.
The three photographers covered a distance of 24 000 kilometers across all nine provinces in order to mark two decades of democracy in South Africa. ”We used that ‘date’ as a marker to create an archive of content that would possibly help us understand where we are as a country. Also to reflect on the content as the years pass,” said Metelerkamp.
Once they completed their trip, the three photographers put together a book, also called Twenty Journey, complete with a selection of photographs, maps, handwritten notes and diary entries, a collage and collection of memories and memorobilia, that captures not only the people they encountered along the way, but also a reflection of who they are as artists and archivists.
“As the journey rolled on most people that we encountered were intrigued by these three characters travelling in a camper van for seven months. Once the journey was complete we realised that the concept [collaboration] between three people from various cultures was a story in itself. And so we implemented the bits and pieces into the book,” said Meterlerkamp.
Their work is far from over, the project will continue and new collaborators will journey across the country every five years in order to collect more stories. “Throughout the whole journey I realised how lost and confused as to what I mean, as a Black Man in this country. I think without realizing [this project made me realise] as a born free I had a story to tell,” said Mpongo.
In addition to the prestigious nomination by the the Design Indaba Team, the photographers are also planning a documentary and an exhibition in Johannesburg later this year.
I think this is only the beginning of a bigger task,” said Mpongo.
Check out the Twenty Journey website here