Producing work that celebrates the anarchy of growing up in South African’s biggest city, this photographer reminds us that our experiences as young people are often universal
In a relatively short time, Soweto-born photographer and artist Musa Nxumalo has developed a distinct visual style. Documenting South African youth as they experience their daily routines as well as nightlife, Nxumalo conveys a spirit that is raw and evocative of youth culture in Johannesburg. Describing this documentation as a portal of his own self discovery – “For me, it has been more of a way of finding myself, of learning about life outside of people and a life that I grew up exposed in my neighborhood, Emdeni", says Nxumalo.
Since his first body of work in 2008 entitled “Alternative Kidz”, Nxumalo has mirrored his own journey through prevailing social movements in South Africa, as seen through the eyes of youth challenging popular culture standards. “These were my twenties; a period of finding oneself; of seeing the world for what it is; hopping in and out of relationships; letting go of religion; questioning beliefs; trying to make sense of my purpose in life; learning to deal with disappointments; failures and wins whilst trying to have the best time by partying all the time.”
“I always imagine it as a project that will give you a sense of a young male from the township, who doesn’t want to be confined by the social issues that are common in spaces like that” – Musa Nxumalo
As part of his recent In Search Of… exhibition at Goethe-Institut in Johannesburg, Nxumalo presented “Alternative Kidz” and “In/Glorious”. In Search Of… is my first big project that has small bodies of work that have to do with what I call a journey to self-discovery. I always imagine it as a project that will give you a sense of a young male from the township, who doesn’t want to be confined by the social issues that are common in spaces like that.” Citing South African authors Njabulo Ndebele and Sindiwe Magona as influences of his work, Nxumalo hopes to translate a sentiment of deep-rooted knowledge of a disaffected youth culture, coupled with a desire to break free from social constraints and become citizens of the world.
As much a voyeur as well as a participant, his work dispels racial stereotypes associated with South African culture – capturing an identity struggle that his audience can relate to all over the world. “Because racism is a form of grave stupidity, my work intends to dispel these tendencies anywhere in the world where the work can reach.” Currently preparing to produce an exhibition for Cape Town’s Art Fair, Nxumalo intents to continue pushing social boundaries with his instinctive documentations.
See more work from Nxumalo here