Twenty eight-year old Manyatsa Monyamane, a Mamelodi-raised, Johannesburg-based photographer describes herself as “an artist; a storyteller through imagery, inspired and influenced by African literature, theatre and everyday surroundings”. And looking at Monyamane’s portraits that boldly and contemplatively frame her surrounds, you can see how this description comes to life.
Her work won her a place in the top 10 and winner of a Merit Award in the 2017 Absa L’Atelier and she was also recently awarded the Lizamore & Associates Mentorship Prize and picked up the Multi and New Media / Photography Merit Award at the 30th instalment of the inaugural Thami Mnyele Art Award.
Her work will be on display and for sale at the forthcoming Cradle Contemporary Art Fair, which will be held over four days – from Thursday, November 30 to Sunday, December 3 at the Cradle Boutique Hotel located in the Cradle of Humankind.
Manyatsa Monyamane first started taking photographs with a point and shoot family camera at the age of nine, and later went on to study photography. “My photography is aimed at creating an archive and to serve some sort of historic record, while putting a spotlight on unpopular themes and subject matters and celebrating everyday life.”
Monyamane chats about a new project capturing the youth of the 1970s and earlier and what photography has taught her.
Can you recall the first photographs you took?
Yes, the first photographs I took was of my family members.
Where did you love of photography come from?
My love for photography sparked from my love of storytelling, photography became that vehicle to drive the stories I want to tell.
What inspires you and your work?
My work and I are inspired and influenced by African literature, theatre and everyday surroundings.
What or who is your subject matter and why?
The participants in this project emphasize the historical value of the elders, these are real people who witnessed and experienced the transition of an entire society towards the birth of a new nation and have defined what it means to be a South African today and yet their strength has never been celebrated. So this project focuses on capturing the essence of timeless beauty and style of the youth of the 70s and earlier, looking at how they define themselves 50 years later and also their strength that carried us through the dark days and continue to carry us to this day.
How do you go about picking your subjects and putting them at ease in front of the camera?
How I go about finding the participants that I work with is through friends, family members and moving around the city and townships having conversations with elders. Through the conversations, we have established a rapport which comes in handy when they stand in front of the camera.
You were recently one of the top 10 artists in the Absa L’Atelier awards. Tell us about that.
Having been a winner of the Merit Award has given the project awareness and put a spotlight on our unsung heroes and heroines which created interest of people wanting to learn more about their individual different stories.
Has photography become easier now that it is all digital?
I think photography has become more easily accessible but the journey of visualising and imagination in creating the work still remains the same but just more complicated for analogue. The fact that you can see the image after you’ve clicked the shutter on a digital camera as compared to analogue, where the image “exists” because you photographed it but it doesn’t “exist” since you haven’t gone through the lab development process, that inspires a different imagination process for analogue photography compared to digital.
What do you feel photography has taught you?
Photography has taught me to view life with a different perspective.
Which photographers, local and international, do you admire?
Edinah Ndlovu, Neo Ntsoma and Zanele Muholi