Abahlali Photography Exhibition at Bean Bag Bohemia

[Sample picture by Fikile Nkosi in file attachment]

Abahlali base Mjondolo
Shack Dwellers
Wednesday – December 7, 2005 11:04 AM

These 20 photographs have been taken as part of a project to allow 7 members of different informal settlements in the eThekwini Municipality the opportunity to both visual and verbally represent their life.

This project addresses the idea that no one can truly represent something that they have not experienced. I funded this project as an undergraduate student from America living in South Africa for a semester. It was possible for me to have gone into different settlements with my nice camera and taken pictures of the conditions and comment on them, however it would all be from the view of an outsider. ‘Outsiders’ have taken almost all of the pictures that I have seen of informal settlements. This, I quickly realized, is not because there are no aspiring photographers in these areas, or no desire to visually represent their own conditions. It is simply because the residents in the area could not afford cameras, film, developing, and other means of visual representation.

So, within the constraints of time and limited financial means this project is a result of an opportunity given to seven young aspiring photographers.

Six out of the seven photographers are women, all are in their 20s, and all are living in informal settlements. This show is not a romantic view of poverty, these are the pictures of the life of each of the photographers and these are their stories. This is what they wanted to share with people.

I asked the seven photographers to take pictures over a week long period of their life and visually capture what they wanted people to know about the conditions that they live in. They were all asked to respond verbally to the pictures that they had taken in order to capture their thoughts on the subjects of the pictures. The words displayed with the pictures are typed from recordings and are true to the words that they spoke.

When I talked with one of the photographers, Akhona Khebesi, she commented that people were very angry because people just drive by the different informal settlements on their way home and they don’t even look out their window. They have no idea what it is like to go home to a jondolo (a shack). She said, “They think that if they’re ok then everybody is ok. But we are not ok…people living in informal settlements are not ok”. These photos are just snap-shots of life to try and capture some of the range of conditions that face the photographers everyday and have been taken in hopes of showing everyone else—us ‘outsiders’ who will never really know—what it is like to live there day-after-day. I encourage all viewers to truly take the time to look. More importantly, I encourage viewers to take action and not allow these pictures to represent the living situation of anyone in South Africa anymore.

The money made from sales of these photographs will be given directly to the photographers.
Thank You.
Lizzy Good

Premary Ridge

“She was cooking outside—she told me that I have no paraffin. I have no nothing this is why I am cooking outside. I am not working, I have no money for paraffin—take the photo for me and tell all the world ‘how poor are we here in South Africa’

If you don’t have paraffin you can’t cook. Paraffin stove is not healthy for people, I like to say that and I always say that—its not right for people. And the smoke when it comes out your eyes getting sick and your chest getting sick”

“We’re poor here in South Africa.
If you rich here, you rich more.
If you poor, you poor more.”


Fikile Nkosi picture and quote.pdf