Mutha’s Review on ‘FOTO Project Space’ photo Exhibition
It was strictly chance that got me to the opening of the FOTO Project Space ( FPS) exhibition. The invite arrived randomly on my Facebook wall. Not knowing a single person on the attending list didn’t phase me. What’s life about if you don’t jump outside your comfort zone at least once a day? I explained to my fiancé he would have to sort out dinner. Kissed him and my daughter goodbye. Grabbed a good girlfriend and dragged her along for what was to be an incredible, eye-opening, fascinating evening mingling with a whole new posse of appealing peeps.
Finding the place was easy. Unit: B105, 66 Albert Road, Woodstock, Cape Town. We parked around back and the first thing spotted? One of the most awesome graffiti pieces I have seen in a while. It was a sign of things to come. We entered the building and after receiving semi directions from a very friendly patron exiting the building, the sprayed signs literally pointed out where to go. The energy as we entered the space was vibrant, the crowd varied, from uber tech geekdom to sleek decidedly CapeTonian hipsterati. We were handed a glass of wine and I started my hunt for information and conversation.
FPS is a non-profit artist-run space that plays the role of classroom, workshop, studio and exhibition space to photographers from the most unlikely place, Cape Town’s townships. Striving to be a sustainable resource centre that is focused on investing in the futures of aspiring artists and photographers, FPS is aiming to create a communal open minded environment that connects local and international creative industries.
My question at this point was of course, how did this project get started in the first place? I soon found the guy who could give me the answer. Alistair Berg, co-founder and director of Iliso Labantu. Iliso Labantu means ‘the eye of the people’ and it was through this NGO that this exhibition came together in the first place. Founded in 2005 by Alistair Berg and Sue Johnson the organisation aims to provide training and opportunities for people living in our squatter camps surrounding Cape Town to use photography as a way of documenting their lives, and the lives of the communities around them. Shooting with donated camera’s it’s amazing how far these photographers have come. Their striking images bringing the stark reality of township living to the rest of South Africa and the world.
Through Iliso Labantu the members have had opportunities they would never have had otherwise. The group then meets once a week to critique each others work and obtain the advice of professional photographers simultaneously. The more I spoke to Alistair, the more I understood the journey these amazing people have been on. Iliso also assists their photographer participants sell their work in the galleries and shops around Cape Town as well as licenses for their work. The sales of these images help to support the photographers families and the Iliso Labantu project itself.
The thing I liked most about the photographers themselves was the age and experience gap, bringing professionals and novices into the same space. Some, like Lindeka Qampi and Mandla Mnyakama had been with the project since its inception, and are now considered professional photographers on an international scale. Others like Sipho Mponga ( currently aged 18 years old) who only recently joined, are going places quickly as they are mentored by their older counter parts.
It’s an inspiring NGO, run by inspiring people. Besides this fab exhibition (and several more exhibition spaces in Cape Town and around the world) they also take their work back to the communities.Their flash photo weekends are an absolute hit. Several times a year, they will concentrate on a specific area in a township or neighbourhood for around 48 hours. They pick a work site and return the entire time to that spot to download and edit their photo. Then on the Sunday they will find a public place in the area to display the photo’s. The community love it. Most have never had photos taken of themselves before. They also make the fact that these street exhibits will be happening to newspapers and people all over Cape Town, so the crowd is eclectic and mixed, not something one often sees in the Muthacity. Like I said. Inspiring the rainbow in our nation. The very idea speaks to my soul and life goals as I pointed out in my post on ‘What makes you love your city?’
If you would like to find out more about this project, get involved, assist in tutoring or raising funds you can visit their website: www.ilisolabantu.org, drop them an email or give them a call. This is a cause that shows results. You can also go and visit the FOTO Project Space in Woodstock or browse the exhibitions tumblr blog: fotoprojectspace.tumblr.com. Know of more ‘real’ NGO programmes responsible for uplifting our Mutha City community? Let Mutha know by filling in a comment below, who knows perhaps your cause is my next review.
Tags: Cape Town, exhibition, FOTO project space, Iliso Labantu, inspiration, Mutha Business, photo, photographers, South Africa, squatter camps, talent, Western Cape, woodstock