Lindokuhle Sobhekwa exhibited his Nyaope series during our Pop-up Gallery in Cape Town in March 2014, and will soon exhibit his work in Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Oslo with No Man’s Art Gallery. We caught up with Lindokuhle to discover what inspired him to document the Nyaope addicted youth in his township Thokoza (near Johannesburg, South Africa) and how he started his early career as a professional photographer. Lindokuhle was born in 1995 and currently attends Buhlebuzile Secondary School focusing on Arts and Culture. Through this school, he was accepted into the “Of Soul and Joy” photography project which allowed him to discover his talent and passion. Lindokuhle followed more and more workshops developing his skills and technique and walked around his township with a camera. He caught the attention of a group of young men, Nyaope users, and they asked him to take their picture.
“Some were my friends and somewhere people I use to look up to in terms of sport activities. They live near my street… One day they saw me walking around carrying a camera, so they called me and said; “can you take a picture of us?” Some were busy smoking the drug; from there I saw something to tell people or to educate the community about Nyaope. I asked them if I could photograph them on a daily basis.”
Sometimes Lindokuhle prints off a couple of the pictures he shot, to show to the Nyaope boys. “When they see the pictures, they compare themselves to the time when they were clean. They totally regret their drug abuse. They warned me that I must not try this in any situation because this is a hell digger. They want to change when they see those pictures.”
The Nyaope series is already the third series of photographs of this young photographer. All of his work so far has dealt with issues that the community of Thokoza faces. His first series documented the daily lives of people under poor living conditions. “I was looking at how they maintain their daily basis and what they were using or doing in order to survive and start again another day.”
His second, ongoing series is about the Born Free generation in Thokoza. Born one year after Apartheid ended in South Africa, Lindokuhle is himself part of that generation. In the Born Free series he conveys his experiences growing up in a post-apartheid era. The layered images are representative of the freedoms and liberties he and his friends have and enjoy which his ancestors did not have.
Lindokuhle’s work exposes some confronting truths about what living in Thokoza means for some people. “I sometimes feel like leaving the place and move to a more quiet area, with less crime but every area has it’s own challenges. As a wise man once said, every house has its own obstacles so it’s to an individual advantage to learn to deal with the challenges. It’s been great living in Thokoza because it is diverse and the youth participates in interesting township sub-cultures such as Skhothane’s, Pansula’s and Stalliano’s.”
Lindokuhle’s career has taken quite a spurt over the last year. Only briefly after using a camera for the first time his work received recognition, leading to publication in a Belgian newspaper, a job at Life Magazine SA and his first art sales in Cape Town during the NMAG pop-up gallery. Being a good writer, getting a new, better camera and going to an institution that specializes in documentary photography are the next steps that Lindokuhle wants to take. Modest steps in comparison to his ambitions: “My biggest ambition in life is to see myself being part of the Magnum collective, to one day teach upcoming photographers and to educate people in my community.”
So who does he look to for inspiration? “Cyprien Clement-Delmas, Bieke Depoorter, Emanuele Satolli, Tjorven Bruyneel, Mikheal Subotzky, Guy Tillim, Thabiso Sekgala, Jessica Dimmock and Eugene Richards. Those are the people that keep me inspired when I look at their work. People like Bieke Depoorter, Tjorven Bruyneel, Neo Ntsoma and Cyprien Clement-Delmas are my mentors who guided me through the path of photography. Also there are two photographers Jessica Dimmock,Emanuele Satolli and Eugene Richards whose work is similar to the one I am doing about drug addicts.”
All images are courtesy of Lindokuhle Sobhekwa and are protected by his copyright.
Come see Lindokuhle’s work in person at the following exhibitions in the world:
NMAG Amsterdam presents Young South African Art
NMAG Copenhagen presents Young South African Art
No Man’s Art Pop-up Gallery – OSLO
NMAG’s finds in South Africa
Nicoléne van der Walt
Participants of the Blikkiesdorp Photography Contest