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Sunday, 26 February 2023 13:14

Seasoned photographer Jacob Mawela's exhibition put spotlight on Soweto's oldest kasi.

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

Seasoned Pimville-born and raised lensman Jacob Mawela's photographic exhibition, Titled, "Easterly-lying of the Orlandos", will be held at Soweto's oldest kasi, Orlando East.

It will be launched at the iconic Donaldson Orlando Community Centre (DOCC) on 4 March at 1pm. 

Soweto a sprawling township of over 30 odd settlements is rich in history. Many of the houses in this township are similar architecturally, thanks to apartheid planners who thought it was best to construct what are notoriously called Match-box houses.

However the township has produced some of the most resilient people, such as academics, entrepreneurs, writers and artists.

Mawela, dedicated a good part of his professional life to this project. The hard working and as yet to be publicly acknowledged photographer, embarked on this mammoth project, shortly after the watershed 1994 elections which heralded South Africa into a democratic trajectory.

It nearly wouldn't see the light of day had an incident in which an assegai and knobkerrie-wielding Inkatha Freedom Party impi returning from a 1995 local government pre-election rally at Orlando Stadium turned against the then fledgling photojournalist on a platform of Orlando Station, turned awry!," a curatorial note accompany this exhibition explains.

"He wena, unga sa thathi izithombe!" Hey you, cease recording photographs!  A hostile toned voice bellowed across the Orlando Station railway line from where a lone figure was pointing his camera at a menacing assegai and knob-kerrie wielding Inkatha Freedom Party Impi awaiting its train to the various reef’s hostels, on an opposite platform.

Lowering his camera in reverent obedience, the photographer swayed his neck in time to discover the sight of a warrior thrusting a spear by his neck.Maintaining his composure at the sudden turn of event, he kept eye contact – in supplication – with the aggressor whilst pleading for rationality.

The timely arrival of a train pulling into the railway separating the men ultimately diffused a standoff which could potentially had culminated into the untold!

In essence Easterly-lying of the Orlandos is Mawela's visual chronicle of Soweto's oldest neighbourhood named after an erstwhile mayor of the city of Johannesburg named Orlando Leake back in the early 1930s. 

His monochromatic images serve as a rustic prism through which Orlando East residents and visitors to the exhibition will look and cherish the kasi's rich heritage.

The exhibits will also be accompanied by catalogues that chronicle the history of the place and will be distributed to the local library and schools.

Funded by the Presidential Economic Stimulus Programme 3, the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture and the National Arts Council – the display will be open for viewing from March 4th to March 31, 2023.