Beauty of ordinary things

I was born in Emdeni in Soweto 25 years ago and I went to Emdeni High. I wouldn’t say it was boring, but it was a typical township landscape, with ­pantsulas, lots of alcoholics, crime and stuff. But I searched for something else.
I was influenced by ­television—the local stuff.

I’ve always been influenced by music videos. Back then I was into hip-hop. I watched music videos by Nas and Busta Rhymes. It was something fresh, something I wasn’t exposed to before. The bling, the cars and houses were something I’d aspire to.

There used to be a programme called Street Journal on SABC1. Watching that, I got into art. It wasn’t a sophisticated television programme, it was playful and the presenters were very cool guys, the kind of people I could associate myself with.

I watched lots of interviews of local artists. I’d see the things they were doing and I fell in love with that.

I remember seeing this band—I forget which—being interviewed on the programme. It had a black chick singing. Now I remember, it was Freshlyground. That interview was really awesome and the diversity of the band race-wise was something beautiful to me.

Getting inspired

I watched many more interviews and then I saw photographer Lolo Veleko on the same programme. She was talking about her work, the ­Market Photo Workshop and the bursary scheme it offers. In 2005 I came in and here I am.

Back then I worked in Rosebank at Hang Ten and at lunch time I’d go over to Exclusive Books and browse.

On Street Journal I heard that you could find the magazine One Small Seed in the bookshop and that is where I encountered lots of ­photography.

I couldn’t follow the names, but I saw the work of one guy from Cape Town called Tom Buchanan.

He was the first photographer whose name I memorised and when I got on to the internet, I tried to find his work. Later I came across the work of Liam Lynch and he swept me off my feet.

At the moment I admire the work of Los Angeles photographer RJ Shaughnessy and a new generation of European photographers. I see an immediacy in the way these guys handle photography.

About the ordinary things
Lots of photographers I come across take their work too seriously. There is no playfulness and a lack exploration of what photography can do.
The work I enjoy is not always about wanting to be right or about wanting to show justice. Sometimes it’s just about the ordinary things that one does every day, photographing them professionally. It’s not always about right and wrong, about
politics.

Otherwise, I’m not a big reader. As far as music goes I listen to Odd Future, a Los Angeles-based mob of rappers. Tyler the Creator has some good albums out, such as Bastard and Goblin. These are rappers that speak about the pain of the absence of a father and making it in the ‘hood as a kid. Then, once you realise your potential, you’ve got people that hate you.

In Jo’burg my favourite place is the CBD. I hang around Newtown pub Kospotong. I live in Commissioner Street, completely alone. There is a cool underground scene there. I’m making lots of lesbian friends now and photographing their lives has become one of my projects.

Musa Nxumalo’s photographs can be seen in the exhibition Photographs: 1959-2010 at Afronova Gallery, 155 Smit Street, Braamfontein, until September 30.

Matthew Krouse

Matthew Krouse

Matthew Krouse is the arts editor of the Mail & Guardian, a position he has held since 1999. He has edited two anthologies: Positions (Steidl, Jacana Media 2010) about artists engaging with politics in South Africa today, and The Invisible Ghetto (GMP, 1994) a compilation of creative writing about gender. His essays have appeared in collected works about arts and culture here and abroad. He has worked in the theatre for over a decade as an actor, writer and senior publicist at the Market Theatre. Read more from Matthew Krouse

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