© Jabulani Dhlamini, from the series uMama, 2012

uMama is a product of the 2011/2012 Edward Ruiz Mentorship recipient, Jabulani Dhlamini, in which he explores single motherhood and the personal moments that can often be overlooked as banal. It is in these moments that Dhlamini takes the concept of uMama not only as a gendered figure, but as a more complex signifier of societal issues. Reflecting on his own family life experiences, Dhlamini celebrates the roles of single mothers in society but also recognises their challenges.

uMama also explores imagery of single mothers through their children, raising questions of absence and what it means for young people to grow into adults without the presence of a father. The exhibition features images of mothers’ homes, and details important to them, to contextualise their lives and show their presence as homemakers.

The issue of single mothers is one of historical significance, speaking back on migrant labour histories, the format of domestic work and more contemporary issues of HIV/Aids and the current economic struggles.

About Jabulani Dhlamini

Dhlamini was born in 1983 in Warden, Free State. In 2009 he completed a diploma in Photography at the Vaal University of Technology, majoring in visual communication and theory of photography. He has won numerous awards in photography, including two Profoto Awards in 2008 and 2009, a Fujifilm Southern African Photographic Award in 2009, and honorable mentions in the 2010 Photo Imaging Education Association Awards and in the 2011 Ernest Cole Awards. He has participated in exhibitions, including the Month of Photography in 2008 and Bonani Africa in 2010.

About Jodi Bieber

After completing three short photography courses at the Market Photo Workshop, Bieber participated in a photographic training programme at The Star newspaper under the late Ken Oosterbroek in 1993. She continued to work there as a photographer, leading up to and during South Africa’s first democratic elections. 1996 was a turning point, when she was chosen to participate in the World Press Joop Swart Masterclass, held in the Netherlands, and started working on assignments for publications like the New York Times Magazine. Bieber also worked on special projects for non-profit organisations like Medecins Sans Frontiere.

Over a 10-year period (1994–2004) Bieber focused on the country of her birth, South Africa, photographing youth living on the fringes of South African society. This work finally found itself a home in a book, Between Dogs and Wolves: Growing Up with South Africa. It was published and released in five countries in 2006. Her most recent book, Soweto, was published in partnership with the Goethe-Institut and Jacana Media in May 2010. Her iconic photograph of a young mutilated Afghan woman, Aisha, featured on the cover of Time magazine in August 2010 and Bieber was recently awarded the 54th annual World Press Photo of the Year 2010 for the image. Bieber has previously won eight World Press Photo awards, and is only the second South African photographer to win the highest honour in the contest.

2011/2012 Edward Ruiz recipient Jabulani Dhlamini, explaining his work to an audience member during his exhibition opening.
Jabulani Dhlamini and his mentor, Jodi Bieber during the exhibition.