Freedom, I dream up for myself and others. Inkululeko, ndiphuphela mna nabanye. Vryheid, ek droom vir myself en ander.
The 2023 Stellenbosch Outdoor Photography Exhibition, entitled ‘Freedom, I dream up for myself and others', opened publically in July 2023, featuring exceptional works by top-tier masters of photography. It was jointly presented by the Stellenbosch Triennale and proud patron Private Clients by Old Mutual South Africa, curated by Under The Aegis and Anelisa Mangcu.
Eight large-scale works by eight masters of photography who are inspired by the African continent were exhibited across the historic town for the next 10 months. The aim was to explore the medium of photography through the lenses of some of the very best. These works included:
Malick Sidibé (1935-2016) was a Malian photographer known for his black-and-white studies of popular culture in the 1960s in Bamako. Malick Sidibé Photographer had a long and fruitful career as a photographer in Bamako, Mali, and was a well-known figure in his community. In 1994 he had his first exhibition outside of Mali and received much critical praise for his carefully composed portraits. Sidibé's work has since become well known and renowned on a global scale.
Renowned photographic master Calvin Dondo, born in 1963 and a graduate of Harare Polytechnic, garnered international acclaim showcasing his unique perspective on African lives. His extensive career includes the establishment of Gwanza, a platform promoting photography's societal role, and curating exhibitions globally.
South African photographer Petrus Cornelius Jacobus "Obie" Oberholzer was born on a small farm outside Pretoria in 1947. He studied graphic design at Stellenbosch University in the late 1960s, and photography at the Bavarian State Institute of Photography in Munich in the early 1970s. He returned to Germany in 1979 for his Master's degree in photography. Since 1987 he has produced 15 coffee table books on his travels and life in Africa, 37 one-man exhibitions in South Africa and 11 in Europe.
Akinbode Akinbiyi is British Nigerian photographer, author and curator known as an internationally renowned representative of photography in Africa. His work has helped to shape our understanding of contemporary Africa and its people. In 2019, he was awarded the Goethe Medal, one of Germany's highest cultural honours, in recognition of his outstanding contributions to photography and his work to promote cultural understanding between Africa and Europe.
One of the most influential and important photographic artists of the 21st century, Roger Ballen’s photographs span over forty years. His strange and extreme works confront the viewer and challenge them to come with him on a journey into their own minds as he explores the deeper recesses of his own.
James Barnor's (HonsFRPS) masterful career has spanned more than six decades of continual development, working as studio portraitist, photojournalist and Black lifestyle photographer-at-large. His wide-ranging portraits depict the self-assurance and individualistic fashion trends that thrived both in London and Accra over time.
While international recognition arrived late, Barnor’s meticulous recording of a newly-Independent Ghana and London’s “swinging Sixties” is now recognised as an unparalleled, historic documentation of those times.
David Goldblatt (HonFRPS) was a South African photographer noted for his portrayal of the country during the period of apartheid. After apartheid had ended he concentrated more on the country's landscapes. What differentiates his body of work from those of other anti-apartheid artists, is that his forms of protest had a beautiful subtlety often lacking in traditional documentary photography.
From the series Lament I-VI, this piece by Berni Searle speaks to the ruthless plunder and brutal colonialism of the Democratic Republic of Congo during Leopold II’s tenure as king.
Over the past 25 years, Berni Searle has become known for poetically charged work that consistently challenges and reminds audiences of the visible and invisible traumas that pervade post-Apartheid South Africa, using a singular artistic language that contains multiple layers of meaning, overwritten by contemporary life stories and experiences.
Beyond the main exhibition featuring masters of photography, the Stellenbosch Outdoor Photography Exhibition Student Competition invited students from the Stellenbosch University and the Stellenbosch Academy of Design and Photography to enter.
All participants had the option of visually exploring the themes ‘The Alchemy’ or ‘Freedom, I dream up for myself and others' in any photography style of their choosing.
The judges included:
Artist Ashley Walters (South Africa)
Curator and Mentor Anelisa Mangcu (South Africa)
Photographer Casper Kofi (Netherlands/Ghana)
Artistic Director Anissa Touati (France)
Director of Institutional Advancement at Zeitz MOCAA, Lungi Morrison (South Africa)
Founder of Tongoro, Sarah Diouf (Senegal)
Curator & Founder of HAUSEN, Usen Esiet (Nigeria/USA)
Founder & Executive Director of Dikan Center, Paul Ninson - Photographer (Ghana)
Ultimately, Thapelo Mahlangu emerged as the Stellenbosch Triennale Student Photographer of the Year, exploring one of the proposed themes 'The Alchemy' through his series, 'My Body Being My Home'.
Here's a look at the three finalists that made it to the top:
Born in 1994 in Soweto, Thapelo Mahlangu grew up navigating a dual life, commuting from the township to a private school, and gaining a wholly unique perspective on life. Initially pursuing soccer and culinary arts, he discovered his passion for photography in 2017. A student at Stellenbosch Academy of Design and Photography, Thapelo aspires for his work to visually and emotionally impact viewers, reflecting his diverse experiences.
Gina, concurrently studying Commercial Photography at Stellenbosch Academy of Design and Photography and BA Fine Art at Stellenbosch University, draws inspiration from daily life and relationships. Her work spans various mediums to create personal and intuitive responses to her environment, exploring the delicate, fleeting nature of collective and personal experiences. Interested in the human figure, Gina incorporates interpretations in both recognisable and abstracted ways.
Robyn Garstman, a photographer hailing from Knysna on the Garden Route, holds a Visual Communication degree from Stellenbosch Academy of Design and Photography. Working with digital and analogue photography, as well as the moving image, she explores conceptually focused art on the human experience, often integrating these themes into her photographic work.
The Student Exhibition, featuring Mahlangu's winning series, as well as finalists Robyn Gartsman and Gina Therons, will open early in 2024, alongside the rest of the masters' works that will remain on display.