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On Seeing and Being Seen

A Solo Exhibition by Dahlia Maubane.

Opening Saturday 30 Jan 2021


Gallery 1989

Market Photo Workshop


Artists Statement

On Seeing and Being Seen is a body of work that explores the role of participatory photography as a tool to investigate how a group of women street-hairstylists utilise, navigate and shape urban spaces whilst plying their trade. Starting my Masters study in early 2019, I have been collaborating with four hairstylists who have consented that I use their street names in my study and exhibition as Squeeza, Rose, Beauty and Phumzile. I provided the participants with disposable cameras to photograph and make visible their concerns, fears and aspirations as street hairstylists. They operate from specific street corners in the inner-city which I map in my exhibition. Although, two of the busiest streets where the women are situated have already been renamed by the City of Johannesburg, I refer to them in their former names, Bree and Jeppe Streets.

My photographic exploration of the inner-city is usually made up of long walks through the busy street scenes. I end my microbus taxi commute into the city at Bree Taxi Rank and then walk on the populated sidewalks of Lilian Ngoyi Street, popularly referred to as Bree Street, where I first meet with Phumzile. I then walk past Kerk Street market, where Squeeza works alongside a group of nine other street hairstylists. My final visit is to Rahima Moosa Street, still known as Jeppe, at the corner of Small Street; to catch up with Rose and Beauty before my commute back home. I have been navigating this part of the city over the past eight years, from the time I first developed my ongoing photo series called “Woza Sisi” as a student at the Market Photo Workshop. I have since been in contact with some of the street hairstylists operating from the pavements and involved them in a support initiative to crowd fund for care packs over the Covid-19 Lockdown period. My frequent walks in the city have informed my encounters with the space, its people and movement. My representation of the women street hairstylists has significantly shaped my personal experience as a documentary photographer questioning and re-framing my insider-outsider standpoint. My own photographic work juxtaposes multiple viewpoints of the inner-city of Johannesburg with the participants’ daily work environment to foreground the city’s complex realities. It explores ways to reflect on the continually shifting nature of the city. This walk will form part of a viewer experience of site-specific ‘pop-up’ street exhibitions hosted by the participant photographers on Saturday 30 January.

Participatory photography can be a powerful tool for advocacy. The participants’ photographs can generate insights, give voice or draw attention to certain aspects of the issues they face as a community. The opportunity to document from their own perspective and share stories through their photographs empower the participants to make changes in their daily work environment for themselves and other members of their community. In using photography, the participants expose their challenges and aspirations, and express hope for improved visibility and economic success.

This exhibition frames complex and reciprocal ways of seeing and being seen from the perspective of different lenses, my own and that of my collaborators. My hope is that the different lenses provide deeper insights and empathy from the viewers, and increased agency among the participants through narrating their own stories.


Please RSVP by Thursday 28 January at

For more information please email