Picturing an Afrotopia through the eyes of children


Remember what it was like to be a child? Justice Mukheli wants to go back to when everything seemed simpler. Though he’s no time-traveller, he is a photographer and film director with his camera focused on the everyday lives of children. His photos are uncomplicated – distinct silhouettes, gentle lighting, a raw vulnerability that isn’t contrived. Mukheli’s life experiences have shown him that a pared-down, childlike perspective is the key to contentment. “If we were able to retain our innocence as kids do, the world would be a much better place,” he says.

The emotion in Mukheli’s art stems from his own childhood. His father left when he was just a teenager. Through his creative outlet, he was able to deal with the hurt and disappointment. “My photography was a safe space for me to find peace,” Mukheli says. The artist continued to seek solace in his work. He later co-founded the acclaimed collective, I See A Different You, together with Innocent Mukheli, Vuyo Mpantsha, and Neo Mashigo. Since 2011, the initiative has been documenting South Africa the way locals see it.

This year, Mukheli decided to push the boundaries of art to educate and inspire. His solo exhibition, Through Their Eyes, features portraits of children across our continent. By envisioning life the way a child would, Mukheli imagines an Afrotopia – a perfect, distinctly African place. We’ll always see the same turbulence, trauma, and hardship until we begin to consider things from a different perspective. Mukheli’s photos are not an answer to problems, but rather a guide. It’s in every one of us to change the lens, and look at the possibilities that South Africa holds.