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The Nelson Mandela University Arts, Culture and Heritage Department in collaboration with the Faculty of Humanities, the School of Visual and Performing Arts and the Department of Visual Arts with its Photography - third year students doing the Bachelor of Visual Arts, proposes a response entitled, Behind the Mask: A New Struggle. This photographic offering signals an exhibition in response to #StoryOfMyLife launched in 2017 by Institutional Photographer, Leonette Bower.

#Storyofmylife is a documentary photography project that was born from #Feesmustfall in October 2015. The series of images captured in black and white aim to provide a platform for students to tell their story. Bower shares that the project “wanted to tell the story of the university as a visual narrative, with specific focus on the “access” theme – students who are confronted with and negotiate various challenges in accessing the university”.

Gretchen Sudenie wrote “I have lived a colourful life. ‘Colourful’ does not necessarily mean great or happy … but it does include elements of greatness, happiness and satisfaction”. Sudenie, continues “There is much more to say, but the following will have to sufficiently sum it up – ‘Had I not understood the complexities of my struggle, I would not have accessed the blessing that lies in having overcome them’. Anonymous.”

As Bower reflects from a trifold vantage point of being a staff member, photographer artist and human being, her “main objective was to offer others a window into the lives of students… my wish it that this project will encourage the sharing of our life stories, as it has the ability to break down walls.”

 

 

Four, third - year photography students, Harriet Moeketsi, Diana Lendrum, Azola Fumba and Dion Nonyane have captured the lives of students at a time of COVID-19. These black and white images serve as a response in lived experiences at a different time to Bower’s offering. The subject matter, students and their lived experiences, remain the same. The mood and texture resonate as personal and intimate, building on the previously collected student voice. The protocols of the pandemic are pervasive in the images and tell a stark story, with glimmers of hope.

 

 

Acknowledgements

Harriet Moeketsi, Diana Lendrum, Azola Fumba, Dion Nonyane, Leonette Bower, The Faculty of Humanities, the School of Visual and Performing Arts, the Department of Visual Arts, Communication and Marketing, Digital Communication and Marketing and Arts, Culture and Heritage.