The Portfolio: Sabelo Mkhabela

I’m always reluctant to call myself a photographer; rather, I’m a writer who can take photos. I don’t make images, I take them. I never stage anything: I just capture what I see in front of me. This is why I enjoy shooting live performances. There, nothing is staged. Every moment captured is real. I like that, in most cases, as much as the artist sees the cameras in the media pit, they are focusing on their audience.

This image of Joey Bada$$ performing at Oppikoppi in 2017 is one of my favourites. I was at the festival to document [Reason’s] performance. So, I didn’t have access to the media pit for the stage Joey was on; I wasn’t even sure I’d catch his performance.

I was just walking past the stage and happened to have my camera when he was announced as the next performer. I was in the crowd with everyone else, so I had to work my way through euphoric fans to the front, as close to the stage as possible.

Joey Bada$$’s performance was impressive to me because he kept it hip-hop — just him, a mic and his deejay. No live band or any other contraptions rappers usually bring on stage to complicate their sets and, in the process, lose the grit that makes hip-hop hip-hop, all in the name of seeming “musical”.

In this picture, Joey was performing the song Temptation, and he mentioned how big of a deal it was for him to perform in “the motherland” and particularly perform a song dedicated to black people. After all, our struggles as black people across the continent and the diaspora tend to mirror each other. Such lines as: “The government been tryna take away what’s ours/ It’s really all about the money and the power/ I just wanna see my people empowered,” resonate with any black person around the globe.

Joey Bada$$ performing the song wearing the infamous Black Panther beret, dressed in all black, and rendering his set without distractions, made me view Temptation in a different light. It’s the power of live performances. If I don’t revisit a song an artist performed on my way home or when I get home from the show, it’s probably because the artist didn’t do it justice on stage.

I can hear Temptation every time I see this image, and the album the song appears on, All-Amerikkkan Bada$$, remains one of my favourite albums across all genres.

We make it make sense

If this story helped you navigate your world, subscribe to the M&G today for just R30 for the first three months

Subscribers get access to all our best journalism, subscriber-only newsletters, events and a weekly cryptic crossword.”

Related stories


Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Latest stories

How to safeguard your digital footprint in cyberspace

Apply physical security measures in cyberspace; if you won’t open your door to a stranger, why accept offers and requests from strangers online?

Strike looms at Sars over 0% wage increase

The revenue collector says it is unable to offer its 12 479 staff any salary increase, leading Nehawu and others to announce strike action

Why opposition party solidarity matters in the SADC

There is a need for opposition parties to hold governing parties to account, thus strengthening democracy

Finding Alkebulan in Africa’s best museums

To celebrate International Museum Day, we look at10 culturally-relevant museums in African

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…