João Ferreira

Araminta de Clermont

29 Sep - 30 Oct 2010

© Araminta de Clermont
Breaktime: Boi Boi, Zuko and Prince. 2010
Pigment ink on cotton rag, 308gm hahnemuhle
91 x 112 cm
"A New Beginning"

29 September - 30 October 2010
70 Loop Street

This body of work, photographed between July 2009 and August 2010, focuses on recently initiated young Xhosa and Sotho men living in the townships surrounding Cape Town.

With their families often having found themselves displaced from rural, historically beleaguered areas like The Eastern Cape, or Lesotho, (usually for economic reasons) these young men, living in the marginalized sprawls of urban shack-lands, are holding onto their own traditions and precious cultures.

For the majority of these young men, the initiation process is a watershed, an apparent opportunity to start a fresh new way of being.

For up to 6 months after his time in the bush, a newly initiated man will wear clothing which denotes his status as a new man, showing that he has left childhood behind, has gone through the circumcision process (with all the accompanying challenges) and has entered a new phase of life, maturity, and responsibility.

This outward demonstration of an inner change is a hugely significant part of the process, and a great source of pride. "It is a great honour to wear these clothes", said most of the men photographed. Such outfits also serve to remind the new men to behave befittingly and respectfully in this period of transition.

Subscribing to certain rigorous guidelines, (though the styles of the components are left to the individual's personal tastes and influences), such attire is instantly recognizable within a particular culture. "New" Xhosa men, or Amakrwala, will wear blazers, buttoned up shirts, and hats. Trousers and shoes must be smart. "New" Sotho men, or Makolwane, will wear traditional blankets, hats, and beads.

Older men who see the newly initiated man wearing such an outfit will often stop him in the street to congratulate him on his new standing. Unknown people will engage with him on a completely different level than if he were dressed in his normal clothes. As these suits demand immediate respect, so too do the men wearing them.

These photographs also raise questions about the validity of a new start, when seen in the context of the surroundings in which these young men are raised. For what may happen when the environments have not changed as the man has?

Tags: Araminta de Clermont