Zinhle Belle is a student journalist at Wits University. These are her reflections at her home in Johannesburg during the lockdown. 

I recently wrote an article on Wits Vuvuzela titled ‘Lockdown Loneliness’ where I was able to interview a few students about their experiences of mental health during this period. I wanted to do a visual representation of how I conceptualise the physical embodiment of lockdown and the emotional state I feel. 

As a journalist, I often seem detached from the matters that I report on, I often feel like an observer of the world rather than a participant. My camera has allowed me to capture and present other peoples stories. I struggled to find my photographic muse during the lockdown as my creativity has been stunted. These series of photos tell the narrative of my moods during the lockdown.

At Nature’s Mercy

Since Covid-19 was categorised as a pandemic, human movement has been constrained. The whole world is under lockdown and in South Africa, we are bound to our homes. I would usually associate the outdoors with freedom, but it has now become one of the things that have stunted my progression and the plans I had made. 

I often go out into my garden as relief from confinement indoors, as it is the only place outside that falls within the limitations of outdoor movement. I appreciate this tree in my garden (below, left), as it has been here for over 50 years. Although it is vulnerable now, as the trunk regularly deteriorates from seasonal changes, it has been able to withstand the harshest of conditions.

Ironically, a crack appeared in my wall at this beginning of the year (below, right). I took it as a symbolic of perfect imperfection in this life. As the time I spend in lockdown is prolonged, cracks appear in my emotional state also. I have feelings of despair due to the unlikeliness of a breakthrough in the fight against the virus. Although being indoors is the only way to remain safe, I often feel confined to and constrained by the four walls in my room. 

Natural occurrences like this and the recent of floods and wildfires in South Africa reminded me of how man is not always in control of life. Disasters show us that nature may come to humble us at any time. 

The Boundaries of Intimacy

One of the emotions that lockdown has triggered the most is loneliness. Lockdown has put restrictions on how we are able to maintain our relationships. Previously, being in someone’s presence was a display of affection but now, social distancing is the biggest expression of love and care. My mother Rethabile Belle, 59, (below right), recently celebrated a birthday. Due to the limitations of movement, she was not able to be in the company of my two older sisters. In these moments I’ve been lucky enough to depend on my mother for emotional support. For those who are lonely too, establishing a routine and maintaining electronic relationships can also serve as a support system during this time.


Light in the Darkness

The mood in lockdown has generally been one of uncertainty. There is no clear path of when this lockdown will end. I feel like I’ve been living in the shadows since lockdown has begun, because of how much is hidden in my future.

There was a disruption to my academic year which brought scepticism of how to continue learning. However, this period offers the perfect balance of fear and excitement. I choose to rather embrace it as a time to reflect on my craft of photography. At this time, I choose to place value in the light that is still able to penetrate in this chaos of darkness. I am still healthy and able, which is motivation enough to be optimistic about what is still to come. 

Below, left, is a close up aerial view of a light bulb in my room, taken at night with the assistance of manipulated exposure,  titled ‘light in the darkness’. On the right is a self-portrait through the use of natural lighting and shadows. The outline on my face resembles the ‘ying-yang sign’ which represents the perfect balance of good and bad.

Featured Image: I watch the days go by through my window, as my outdoor movements remain limited. Photo: Zinhle Belle.

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