Although represented by the Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg - South African photographer Jodi Bieber thought it important to say ‘yes’ when young curator Zanele Mashumi asked to hang some of her Soweto work as part of a group show in Soweto. The Bombay Imagination Room, curated by Mashumi Art Projects, is a pop-up gallery on Vundla Drive in Soweto until December 6.
“I want to support Zanele and the show as I think it is wonderful that my photographic work on Soweto be shown in Soweto. It’s a great feeling when you come across young talent. It will be great to see Zanele be natured and to become a top notch curator. It’s a great feeling to see people looking at the work who might have only entered a gallery space in the suburbs,” Bieber tells photographyanddemocracy.com, after we visit the gallery together for the launch.
Zanele Mashumi has been running Mashumi Art projects in Soweto for eight months. The organization’s first Soweto setting for a show was inside a restaurant in Vilakazi Street, Orlando West, the street where Mandela’s home-turned museum is a popular tourist spot.
“We situated the gallery in a restaurant because we want to introduce the culture of art in a space that people will feel comfortable with, and not feel intimidated by the artworks that [are] on display. The clientele of locals have been improving greatly! People have been responding very well to the project. We get a lot of first time buyers,” says Mashumi.
“The main aim for Mashumi is to establish an audience in Soweto. Our long term plans is to run a traditional gallery in Soweto. To also establish a market internationally for South African artists,” she adds.
Since November 18, several South African photographers have been showcased at the Bombay Imagination Room alongside other artist, painters and performance artists.
The photographers were chosen based on the work they’ve done in Soweto and artist who live in Soweto, explains Mashumi.
“Jobi Bieber was chosen for the exhibition because of the amazing caption of the modern Soweto after the apartheid era. It was very important to have Jodi to be part of the project. Soweto has so much colour and stories to tell,” says the curator.
Bieber’s Soweto, also a book, is a portrait of life in Soweto today. Among the photographs Mashumi chose is: “an image of a couple in Rockville [an area of Soweto], which I found interesting because most interracial couples move to the North suburbs area [of Johannesburg],” she says. “In the background are small photographs of children, which are from the white man’s family and the black woman’s family. The audience in Soweto doesn’t realize that Soweto has become so diverse.”
The work of Soweto-born photographer Andrew Tshabangu is also displayed that the gallery. While Tshabangu still lives in Soweto, he often travels overseas, explains Mashumi. “His photographs that were selected for the exhibition were taken in London. The photographs are documented based on the spirituality. This particular work speaks about the Nigerian church based in London. The church has similarities with the Zion churches based in Soweto and other township areas in South Africa. Andrew Tshabangu was very intrigued by these similarities,” explains the curator.
Also emerging photographer Lungile Zaphi, who studied at the Market Photo Workshop in Johannesburg, is exhibited at the gallery. “Her photographs focus on the tavern culture in Soweto, the people and the space. In most cases people never understand the lifestyle of the taverns in Soweto; Her photographs add an educational element about the space and people,” says Mashumi.