“Skeem’ Saka”
– A solo exhibition by Tierney Fellow
Sipho Gongxeka

Skeem’ Saka opens Wednesday 9 July 2014 at 18h00
The Photo Workshop Gallery
10 July – 15 August 2014

The 2013/2014 Tierney Fellowship at the Market Photo Workshop in partnership with the Tierney Family Foundation was awarded to Market Photo Workshop’s alumni Sipho Gongxeka. The aim of this project is to award an aspiring photographer the opportunity to develop their career and skills through this unique mentorship programme, and the Tierney Fellowship creates an ideal space for a photographer to develop such a body of work. Skeem’ Saka is Sipho’s first solo exhibition that aims to create a dialogue with the audience on issues relating to masculinity; how men view themselves and the perception society has on the male figure.

Sipho was mentored by the renowned South African photographer Pieter Hugo.

Concept Text

Growing up in Soweto, I was continuously surrounded by fashion conscious individuals. To these individuals, clothing was a status symbol that separated “the men” from “the boys”. It signified power and affluence just like the characters I grew up watching on television and in films.

Television shows, such as Yizo Yizo and Gaz’ Lami, and gangster films, such as Mapantsula,Jerusalema, and Hijack Stories etc., portrayed characters that were seductive to me. These characters were young people who came from the township, just like me. The only difference between them and me is that they embodied style and glamour. At the same time, some of the characters were problematic in that they glorified criminality and prejudiced behavior towards women.

These characters continue to fascinate me. I am particularly interested in the idea that these popular images at times serve as sources of motivation for real life gangsters. While on the other hand, some people see these characters as figments of the filmmaker or television producer’s imagination. I am interested in how this idea of fiction and ‘reality’ feed into each other. I am captivated by this circular relationship.

In this body of work, I photograph i-skeem’ saka (a tsotsi-taal term meaning a close friend or a ‘homeboy/girl’). I chose this title because it speaks about relationships that go beyond friendships. iSkeem speaks about a shared brothahood and sistahood in ekasi (a tsotsi-taal term meaning township). These are men and women who identify with my childhood in that we were collectively exposed to the popular images seen in the gangster television shows and films.

I, mostly, photograph friends mostly because I spend most time with them. I sometimes style them and sometimes they style themselves.

My photographs are self-consciously cinematic, part accident, part choreographed/ performed in order to highlight the relationship between the constructed image and its reference to ‘reality’.

About Sipho Gongxeka
Sipho Gongxeka was born in in 1989 in Soweto, Johannesburg. Upon completing matric, Sipho developed a passion for photography and fashion. In 2011, he successfully completed the Foundation and Intermediate courses at Market Photo Workshop. In 2012 he continued with his photography studies at the Market Photo Workshop enrolling for the yearlong Advanced Programme in Photography. He has published locally and been exhibited on group exhibitions that include Identikit and Show Us Our Land.

Mentor’s Statement
Providing guidance and assistance to Sipho has been an incredibly rewarding experience. It has been particularly fulfilling to see how he reaches new insights about his work.  I have watched him become more confident and articulate about his practice as a photographer and the motivations that inform his work. He has produced an amazing body of work that is both intimate and intelligent. What started out as a few photographs has developed into a moving and coherent resolved series, which speaks volumes about Sipho’s way of seeing the world with all its complexities. I hope that through the mentorship he has acquired the skills to continue making challenging and accomplished work.

About The Tierney Fellowship at the Market Photo Workshop
The Tierney Fellowship was created in 2003 by The Tierney Family Foundation to support emerging artists in the field of photography. The primary goal of the Fellowship is to find aspiring artists who will be tomorrow’s leaders and to assist them in overcoming challenges that photographers face at the start of their careers.

Tracy Edser, the first recipient of The Tierney Fellowship at the Market Photo Workshop, exhibited her body of work in a solo exhibition, Amelioration. Mikhael Subotzky mentored Edser. Simangele Kalisa, the second recipient, exhibited her body of work at a Joint Tierney Exhibition at the Substation Gallery, Wits University, with fellows Monique Pelser and Ariane Questiaux. Jo Ractliffe mentored Kalisa. Thabiso Sekgala, the third recipient, exhibited a body of work entitled Homeland at The Photo Workshop Gallery in April 2011. Mikhael Subotzky also mentored Sekgala. Mack Magagane, the fourth recipient, exhibited his work called …in this city, a reflection of Johannesburg city by night. The exhibition opened in April 2013 at The Photo Workshop Gallery. Jo Ractliffe also mentored Mack Magagane. Lebohang Kganye, the fifth recipient, exhibited her work Ke lefa laka, a research into her family history using family photographs, testimonies from family members as well as personal narratives. Nontobeko Ntombela and Mary Sibande mentored Kganye.
Sipho Gongxeka is the sixth recipient of the Tierney Fellowship at the Market Photo Workshop.

Please see http://www.tierneyfellowship.org/ for more information.


For more infromation contact:

Bekie Ntini
Coordinator: Mentorships and Training
Lekgetho Makola
Manager: Programmes and Projects

+27 (0) 11 834 1444 T
bekien@marketphotoworkshop.co.za or lekgethom@marketphotoworkshop.co.za

For media and publicity:

Tsakani Mangani

Market Photo Workshop
2 President Street (entrance Bus Factory)

The Market Photo Workshop is a division
of The Market Theatre Foundation

Thato & Thato