“I hope to evoke pride in my people.” The zines showing off Soweto’s diversity
Sipho Gongxeka’s hometown is intrinsic to his identity. “I’m a Soweto boy, influenced by the culture and tradition of Soweto,” he says. Surrounded by the rich heritage of his neighbourhood, Gongxeka noticed an absence of locally-created media to show it off. As a photographer, he wanted to fill that gap. In a sea of artists making their name online, Gongxeka went old-school. By creating and distributing his own zines, he captures the diversity around him. His editions of independently-published work is keeping print alive.
The content of Gongxeka’s zines is driven by his interest in clothing. People’s sartorial choices are a significant part of life in Soweto, used to symbolise status and identity. “I wanted to explore the role fashion plays in township communities,” Gongxeka says. His series of styled images challenge convention, avoiding the stereotypes that are often used to divide people. They show that clothing is a form of expression, but there isn’t one specific look that defines people. “I take pride in creating work that creates conversations,” he says. After exhibiting at the Keyes Art Mile, Gongxeka’s photos have definitely become a hot topic among art enthusiasts.
Gongxeka studied photography at the Market Photo Workshop. There, he received the prestigious Tierney Fellowship, as well as mentorship by renowned photographer, Pieter Hugo. With years of experience and learning behind him, Gongxeka is using his photography to build up his community. “I hope to evoke a sense of pride in my people when they see themselves reflected in my zines,” he says. “We are our best selves when we love ourselves.”