Sabelo Mlangeni latest work takes audience to Zion Church

A photographic exhibition exploring the identity of members of the Zionist Church in South Africa is currently showing at the Wits Arts Museum (WAM).

Umlindelo wamaKholwa, a collaboration by photographer Sabelo Mlangeni and historian Dr Joel Cabrita from the University of Cambridge, focuses on two South African Zionist Church communities in Driefontein, Mpumalanga and Johannesburg.

Mlangeni, a documentary photographer who studied at Johannesburg’s Market Photo Workshop, said he was inspired to collaborate with Cabrita who has done extensive research on Zionist churches around the world.

“Most people don’t know and understand what Zion churches are all about. When I read previous work which Dr Cabrita had done, it inspired me to explore this subject using photography,” Mlangeni said.

Cabrita, who is currently based in Botswana, told Wits Vuvuzela that her research on Zionism explores its influence in South Africa as the country’s single largest popular religious movement with over 15 million members.

“I have done extensive research as a historian to understand the dynamics of Zionism. In this project I wanted to explore how bonds of faith and friendship are forged. I hope this collaboration will afford me the opportunity to reach new audiences,” Cabrita said.

Mlangeni said the response to the exhibition has been overwhelming.
“I didn’t expect so many people to come to my exhibition, more especially considering that I’m not a well-known photographer. What’s really humbling is that even people who come from Johannesburg but are currently based in the United Kingdom attended the exhibition,” he adds.

The 38-year-old showcased some of his work titled Kholwa: The Longing for Belonging at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Cambridge last year.

One of the people who attended the exhibition, Natalia Peterson, said before she came to the exhibition the only thing she knew about the Zion church was their distinctive church attire.
“I had an opportunity to learn about where it (Zionism) originated and what the church is all about. I hope more people would visit the exhibition and see the outstanding work that Mlangeni did,” she said.

Mlangeni will host a discussion about the exhibition on July 28 at the Wits Art Museum at 14:00. The audience will be entertained by Zion church choirs from Bloemfontein and Johannesburg.

The exhibition runs from June 27 to October 28, 2018.

FEATURED IMAGE: A photographic exhibition of the Zionist Church at WAM. Photo: Takalani Sioga


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