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The Portfolio: Tshepiso Moropa digs up family treasures

After taking a six-month hiatus, I finally picked up a pair of scissors and I started cutting again. Figure by figure. Flower to flower. Carefully pasting each fragment on an A5 cardboard sheet, I am finally starting on a new body of work. Something that I have been contemplating doing for a while was completed in 36 minutes. 

For this particular collage I searched for an archival image of a black wedding that took place in the early 20th century in various digital libraries (of course, taking into consideration that the photograph is not copyrighted). I knew that I had found the right photograph when its composition matched the one of my parents. I then printed the archival image on film paper to get the look and feel of a photo album.

 The collage also features a handwritten love letter, which symbolises the union taking place on each photograph shown. The letter stamp is appropriately put on the top left side of the handwritten note. I intentionally put the letter in the collage in hopes that the collage itself is viewed or “read” as a love letter. A love letter to my parents; a nostalgic love letter to my parents.

I knew that the new body of work that I wanted to begin had to involve archival images of black weddings to cast a spotlight on marriages and their identity throughout the years. I wanted to do this by superimposing photographs onto archival images of weddings, just like a reimagined archive. After weeks of researching and talking to unco-operative relatives, I realised that I had reached a dead end. Then, one day, a wedding picture of my mother and my late father appeared on my phone. I had scanned this particular image a few years before.

 I didn’t have the physical collection with me at the time. Its location was in a storage facility in Honeydew. And after gruelling hours of searching through dusty books and forgotten clothing, I found the images neatly tucked away in a dark blue box. 

The collection is valuable to me. The images are symbols of a sacred union between my parents. Ultimately, they went their separate ways 13 years ago but the images are remembrances of my father and of a time my parents were together. 

 This is why I enjoy working with archival images. They illustrate a piece of information about people who were once with us. It makes me pleased to know that I didn’t have to look far for inspiration. It was near me all along.

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