Tshepiso Mabula is a photographer and writer born in the Lephalale district of Limpopo, South Africa. Mabula’s interest in photography sparked when during a visit to a family member she was introduced to award-winning South African photographer Santu Mofokeng’s body of work, this then led to her studying photojournalism and documentary photography at the iconic Market Photo workshop. She is the 2018 recipient of the Tierney fellowship at the Market photo workshop and she explores the small things through photography: exposing humanity in oppositional, chaotic, or even boring environments. She captures the dignity in ordinary people, far removed from the glamorous or ideal atmospheres of high-profile photography. Tshepiso is a storyteller who believes that her calling is to produce work that promotes equity and social unity and seeks to rewrite the narrative and change the perception of marginalised bodies that exist in our everyday culture. She questions ideas that speak to correcting social injustice.
Lesedi Kganya – which is to say let light reign. These words dance seamlessly on the lips of Gogo Ndabezinhle intsizwa kaSibisi as she concludes the reflective and sacred practice known as ukuphahla (meditation/conversation with one’s ancestors). As she lights the candles and imphepho (sage), the rising smoke and the dancing flames silence the disruptive racket of the rough township atmosphere, this hallowed moment is one of the first times I’ve seen my good friend Gontse Kwapeng as Gogo Ndabezinhle intsizwa kaSibisi, a fully initiated healer, who is called by her ancestors to heal families, communities, bloodlines and people alike.
Her meditation would usually be done in private but in this instance, she speaks to those who have called her, the unseen entourage that illuminates her path, about the conversation we are to have and the images I am making. She asks for permission, guidance, and wisdom. The cold room where she prays is filled with the smoke and scent of imphepho, and this ambient space is where our conversation starts to take shape. As we talk my mind drifts off, I think about the anxiety that had engulfed me as I got into the taxi to make my way to Gogo’s home. I wonder if I may have contracted Covid-19 on the way or if I will possibly contract it when I go back home. Our conversation is sparked by my curiosity and the desire to learn from a healer who is considered to be unconventional. Gogo Ndabezinhle is a Sangoma, a healer who practices African spirituality and relies on the use of water, herbal medicine, and other recipes to help heal their patients. When I was growing up my mother taught me always to revere and respect izangoma because of the manner in which they are called. One doesn’t apply to become this kind of healer, neither do you enroll at a university in fact every sangoma is called by their ancestors first. It takes a lot of work to heed the calling, be initiated, and then practice and I have had the privilege of witnessing Gogo Nd.