/ 30 July 2021

The Portfolio: Simphiwe Majozi

Image1 (7)
Communication with ancestors: Simphiwe Majozi says that his exhibition, Inhlambululo, incorporates familial elements and objects as a way of maintaining strong ties with the departed. (Photo: Simphiwe Majozi)

This project communicates my family’s close relationship with the isiZulu tradition of inhlambululo. After the passing of family members, we perform a ceremony to highlight our strong connection with the ancestral plane. The clothing and other belongings we have inherited manifest as our tangible family soul. This project came about through a certain feeling, which has guided and led my expression.  

As a young South African, I was exposed to the tradition of living in someone else’s house and  automatically having to pay rent to live as a tenant, which happened when I lost my mother and had to relocate to the space I only used to visit when I was younger, my grandfather’s house — which we had always perceived as a family house. During my stay I found myself deeply affected by the space I encountered and what was left behind, and it is in this place that I realised that I am in a fortunate position to exchange dialogue with the tangible family souls, and to be able to reflect these conversations through the medium of photography. 

My approach to some images, in particular one which I titled uKundlulisela, came from a space and time where I was really overthinking how I would manage to both penetrate and express these very personal and unseen emotions. I was in a space of deep introspection — with an acute awareness of time, hence I used my shutter speed to collect every feeling and experience. I chose to portray a human figure and to incorporate certain familial elements and objects to paint the background of my deceased family, their lineage and existence. In doing so, I position myself centrally within the everyday imagination of holding up this age-old communication and tradition. We use a pot lid as an alternative and modern mode of a satellite, allowing us to send and receive information from our families beyond.

Naturally, when we view a human subject who is headless or faceless, a sense of discomfort follows an unwillingness to accept the reality presented before our eyes. Through this device, I am saying that we tend to portray our ancestors as ghosts,  however they are here and waiting for us to tap into their community. 

This project reveals the starting point of my inspiration, which is the loss of my mother and the living lineage of her existence, which is my sister. My intention with this project was to challenge the gaps between what is unseen and untold, by going back to search for the untold African stories that were hidden from us. My aim is to produce stories that elevate my family and community as well as define a new narrative for contemporary African photography. 

For more of Simphiwe Majozi’s work, follow @simphiwestixmajozi

Simphiwe Majozi’s exhibition, Inhlambululo, can be viewed at the Springs Art Gallery