The Portfolio: Tshepo Moloi

Untitled, July 2019 (Tshepo Moloi)

Untitled, July 2019 (Tshepo Moloi)

In 2015, while staying in Pennyville, New Canada, I bought a digital camera and started documenting my surroundings.  I was always online, which was where I discovered Andile Buka (the Johannesburg-based photographer) and began reading his books and asking him for advice.

My hometown is actually Daggakraal, in Mpumalanga, where I have also done some photography. Migration, identity and belonging — those are the themes I tend to gravitate towards.

I wouldn’t say I understand belonging, especially when I consider my family structure and the place I come from. Sometimes I don’t feel as if I belong in many places (I currently live in Midvaal) because I don’t know many people.
I’m always going around trying to talk to people, which is when they become aware ukuthi, “Oh, this guy, uringa different”.

I only go to my mother’s home on holidays and if there are cultural ceremonies I need to attend. Daggakraal is a rural place but it has improved in terms of development. People back then were only allowed to build mud houses, they could not build formal homes. As for my childhood there, I don’t remember much. I left the place when I was 12.

This image is part of a long-term project in which I look at my position within the family structure. I started the project because I felt disconnected culturally. I started having questions but I didn’t have the courage to speak to my family. Sometimes they wouldn’t answer, sometimes they would.

This photo was taken in Daggakraal at my maternal great-uncle’s place during a cultural ceremony. After what had been a busy day, during which I had been quietly thinking about projects I could do because I hadn’t been shooting a lot, I felt it was the right time to start documenting .

I used to shoot a lot of film but this was the first time I had gone to Daggakraal to shoot with a digital camera.

When there are ceremonies, one has to do this and that, so the only time I got to shoot was at night. This also saved me the trouble of people asking me why I was shooting.

To take the picture, I moved towards a quiet corner of the yard. A dog belonging to my mother came close to me. While I couldn’t see the dog, I could feel its presence. Because it was at night, I couldn’t see anything through the viewfinder, which is why I used the flash.

I find that the flash emphasises the subject in a particular way. It triggers the mind and the emotions, forcing a different way of looking.

When I analyse the image, with the dog looking away, it is a bit blurry. To me that evokes this idea of disconnectedness.

​Tshepo Moloi

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