PROFILE: Uncovering the township’s untold stories one shot at a time 

A photographer shares her story of using her camera lens to depict the art and magic that exists in everyday life 

Dineo Mtetwa, is a storyteller at heart — whose main interest is to portray the nuances of township life.  

The 25-year old’s collection of images, which are both taken in colour, while others are black and white feature fleeting moments and regular objects that are part of our daily lives – some of which we hardly pay attention to. 

Mtetwa, publishes most of her work on her Instagram, where you can see photographs of people rushing in and out of taxi ranks, minibus taxis on the road or parked, school children milling about in the streets, street vendors, quaint houses and people sitting around in the township and protests. 

Speaking to Wits Vuvuzela, about the inspiration behind one of a recent black and white photo she took of a woman street vendor, walking, while carrying brooms on her head, she said, “umama othengisa umshanelo (the woman who sells brooms) was just walking by. “You don’t know her struggles or her achievements, but you can see the context and the setting”.  

Mtetwa acknowledges that township stories have been told before, but she believes she brings a different perspective.  

She says that it is not a usual occurrence to see images of people like her hanging in art galleries. To put an end to this, she dreams of one day running an art gallery in a township to make her photography accessible to her subjects. 

Born in 1998 and raised in Soweto, Meadowlands, Mtetwa is passionate about the township, adding that, “even if I become a billionaire, I still be coming from Soweto.” 

She holds undergraduate and honours degrees in Bachelor of Arts from Wits. She also holds a master’s degree which looked at the minibus taxi industry, public health and passenger’s pandemic stories in Soweto at the same institution. Mtetwa is now a PhD candidate, and her research is on medical anthropology, focusing on how electricity impacts every aspect of human life. 

She explains that education has changed the ways in which she interacts with Soweto and other people who live there.  She had questions about it that she could not find answers to before she was equipped with research tools. “School has filled in the gaps” she says.   

Social entrepreneur, creative and friend of Mtetwa, Mpumelelo “Frypan” Mfula says that “the mixture of academic understanding, social and intuitive understanding of your neighbourhood, the world and your subjects is powerful”.  

Mfula has worked with Mtetwa from late last year to date, in a project called Let’s Play Outside which is a content development programme that teaches high school pupils from different parts of Johannesburg how to use mobile phones for storytelling, content creation, publication, and monetisation. 

Mfula describes her photography as “authentic” because she has no formal photography training as she started from “a thing of feeling”.  

As a coach for Let’s Play Outside, Mtetwa currently teaches the pupils at Daliwonga Secondary School in Dube, Soweto how to develop a short documentary. 

FEATURED IMAGE:  Dineo Mtetwa in Cape Town. Photo: Supplied


The Forge remembers Senegalese filmmaker, Ousmane Sembene 

The Forge facilitated a conversation on African film by a Sembene screening, a story about the “Father of African Film” Ousmane Sembene.  

Multicultural community centre, The Forge commemorated novelist and filmmaker Ousmane Sembene through a screening of Sembene!, a documentary film  which looks at his life and times as an African cinema pioneer.  

Dubbed as the ‘father of African cinema’, Ousmane Sembene was born January 1, 1923, in Senegal. The writer and filmmaker was known for his political and historical themes. La Noire de… (Black girl), his 1966 feature film was considered the first major film produced by an African filmmaker.  

Sembene! Is a 2015 documentary film directed by Samba Gadijo and Jason Sliverman that looks at the life of Ousman Sembene in the form of interviews with Gadijo and archives of his films. Gadijo who also narrated the documentary was one of  Sebene’s closest confidants and the documentary follows their friendship. 

La Noire de… (Black girl) scooped a major prize at the 1967 Cannes International Film Festival. The film depicts the virtual enslavement of an illiterate girl from Dakar working as a servant for a French family. 

Co-director of public programs at The Forge and Commune, Mwelela Cele said that the film screening was inspired by Africa Day, Ousmane Sembene and filmmaker and writer Tsogo Kupa’s Sikelela Tapes and articles on Africa as a Country

The space has been holding screenings since 2021 every last Thursday of the month, but they were disrupted by the covid-19 pandemic. This was the first screening since the covid-19 restrictions were lifted.  

The screening was held at The Forge’s theatre on May 25, 2023. After the screening Tsogo Kupa, an internationally award-winning filmmaker, writer and Wits Film & Television graduate, engaged the audience in a discussion about the documentary and the issues surrounding the African film industry.  

Kupa says that “even to this day as Africans we don’t feel like we own the medium of cinema, we feel like it is an art form that was picked up by Europeans and Americans”.  

“Part of why we remember Sembene is to fight for the fact that we need to make his name well-known, and I think part of the reason why Africans feel like they don’t own cinema is because we don’t know of African masters of the medium”.  

Sazi Bongwe, a literature student at Harvard University who attended the screening says that there is a lot to take away from cinema, the screening and the film itself as someone who is invested in art.  

Cele told Wits Vuvuzela that The Forge will host another film screening linked to youth month at their theatre again in June 29, 2023. 

FEATURED IMAGE: Sembene! plays at The Forge’s theatre. Photo: Mbalenhle Dlamini


NETBALL: School teams shoot through to 2023 World Cup  

Building up to the 2023 Netball World Cup in South Africa, the Sophiatown Netball Championship shines a light on the need to restore school sports. 

Gauteng premier, Panyaza Lesufi promised netball players from six schools in the greater Sophiatown area that they will be going to Cape Town for the Netball World Cup 2023, taking place from July 28 to August 6. 

Initially, only the four best players were promised an all-expenses paid trip to the World Cup. But Lesufi’s pledge on Sunday, May 28 made the circle bigger, including players from all six teams that participated in the two day Sophiatown Netball Championship, at the Brixton Multipurpose Centre in Johannesburg. .

The schools that participated were Coronationville Secondary School, Riverlea High School, Hoerskool Die Burger, Florida Park High School, Langlaagte Technical High School and Westbury Secondary School.  

Sophiatown Netball Championship volunteer teams trying to save the ball. Photo: Mbalenhle Dlamini

The Sophiatown Netball championship is a community centred tournament hosted by member of parliament Nompendulo Mkhatshwa and chairperson of the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), Asanda Luwaca. 

Westbury High School goal attack (GA), Kamohelo Nketsi described the championship “as a great opportunity to showcase their skills and talents especially because they come from an area that is undermined and underdeveloped”.  

Florida Park High School was crowned the overall Sophiatown Netball Champions and walked away with a trophy after they played four times and beat three teams. Ntombizandile Ngwenya, who plays Florida Park’s Centre (C) won player of the tournament. 

A netball clinic facilitated by the University of Johannesburg’s (UJ) Netball Academy and a career guidance session by Wits University were part of the developmental part of the tournament.  

Mkhatshwa, said that they are “to raise awareness about the world cup and to resuscitate netball in schools by placing coaches from UJ in the schools and giving the schools netball equipment”. This work is part of her constituency work as a member of parliament.  

Coach Makhosazane Sithole from Westbury High School told Wits Vuvuzela that “the championship is good for exposure because it shows the girls that netball can take them far and what netball can do for them outside Westbury”.  

Mkhathswa added that drugs are a huge problem in the community, and sports  can be used to keep youngsters off the streets.  

The girls were full of excitement and shock some even started screaming “forever yena”, a pop culture reference for love and adoration while others cried after Lesufi made the announcement.  

FEATURED IMAGE: Westbury Secondary School and Riverlea High School battle it out for a goal. Photo: Mbalenhle Dlamini


‘Welcome to Kwa Mai Mai’: A hub of unforgotten culture


Joburg’s oldest market showcases how migrant workers weaved their cultural practices into what is now known as CBD’s popular trade zone.  

Anthropologist and music guru, Dr Sipho Sithole and Bridge Books, a bookstore focusing on African literature in Marshalltown hosted a tour of Kwa Mai Mai – Johannesburg’s oldest traditional market — early this week.  

Kwa Mai-Mai, located in the CBD is an economic centre, where you can find traditional healers, clothes and medicine. The place is also popular for its food: phuthu which is a staple, traditional South African dish that is made from Mielie-Meal served with braai meat of your choice. Overall, Kwa Mai Mai is a place welcoming for everyone looking for relaxation, healing and traditional items for any purpose.  

The market was first established after 1929, as a camp for migrant workers coming to work in the mines. It has now become a home to many people, a community and an entry way to African spirituality.  

The tour was part of the marketing of Sithole’s book about Kwa Mai Mai, titled Maye  Maye! The history and heritage of the Kwa Mai Mai market. The book gives readers a historical view of market and the people who reside, sell and work in it.  

The tour began at Bridge Books in Commissioner Street where Sithole spoke about the inspiration behind the book followed by a trek on the busy roads down to Berea Road, where Kwa Mai Mai is located.  

Dr Sithole, who was leading the tour, first introduced the audience to the popular Shisanyama spot and then the Nazareth Baptist “Shembe” church and next to it, a compound where cultural goods are sold.  Dr Sithole said, many of those who visit the compound are surprised that the shops, which typically measure 3m x 6m, double up as living quarters for the traders. 

Sithole said the market consists of 218 stalls, including shelters, catering to more than 400 individuals and has more than 100 kids living in it with their parents. 

Walking into the traditional market. Photo: Mbalenhle Dlamini

Sithole, who holds a PhD in Anthropology from Wits University explained that “this book records my collective observations and interpretations from the ethnographic work that I conducted over a period of four years among Kwa Mai Mai traders and residents”. 

The market’s committee chairperson, Malibongwe Sithole said that: “Kwa Mai is an informal trading zone, but we want to formalise it so that it can be recognised and respected worldwide”. 

Street photographer Nonzuzo Gxekwa who attended the walkabout said: “[I am] fascinated by the fact that there are a lot of women that run this space, but I have never known the story behind it and going through the city with someone else’s insights is always refreshing, it gives me something to think about”. 

Bridge Books founder, Griffin Shea added that the book and the walkabout are a way of thinking about the CBD as “a massive trading space that is super valuable” that can receive the same level of support as places like Sandton get for small businesses to run effectively.  

When asked what he hopes the book will achieve, Sithole told Wits Vuzuzela that he hopes it will “redress the past, formalise that place and bring traffic of people to buy there because those people do nothing but sell their goods.” He also added that he wants it to bring awareness to young people so that they talk and write about the place.

FEATURED IMAGE: Dr Sipho Sithole speaking about the office at Kwa Mai Mai. Photo: Mbalenhle Dlamini


REVIEW: Keeping play and art alive in the city

The exceptional childlike fusion of art forms enabled the audience to have encounters with our material conditions through art.   

Created by the renowned Jade Bowers (director), Lebo Mashile, Tina Redman (performers) and Yogen Sullaphen (musician), the site-staged work took to Nugget Street outside the Windybrow Arts Centre in Hillbrow from April 20 till April 22, 2023. The theatre work was produced by the University of Johannesburg Arts and Culture division and the Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study (JIAS), and aimed at young audiences although with a broader appeal to people of all ages.  

Bowers, Mashile, Redman and UJ Arts and Culture students created childhood experiences of living in Johannesburg with all their innocence, naivety and boundless play. 

In a press release, UJ Arts and Culture said that Breaths of Joburg was part of a “larger research project that considered creative writing and site-specific theatre as tools for engaging urban publics in dialogue about every day, ground-up, place-making in city spaces”.

Lead researcher Alex Halligey told Wits Vuvuzela that a “smaller model of the research project asks the questions of how we use creative arts, how you can see something in the city and write a poem about it”.  

The Windybrow Arts Centre mostly draws in young people coming from school who use the centre as a place of play and diversion from the stresses of living in the city. Promoting access to art for everyone, Breaths of Joburg enabled the audience to have encounters with our material conditions through art.  

The performances, which were outside the arts centre, attracted children coming from school, students and adults, who lined the wall fence, settled on the pavement and on the theatre’s steps that lead to the street to resemble a theatre in the round.  

Using short and immersive acts, the actors took the audience to a Johannesburg familiar to me – from late night encounters to the vibrant economy of the city run by street vendors, hairdressers and taxi drivers who can take you almost anywhere in the city. 

This Johannesburg is Sindi’s and Babes’ world, two little girls played by Mashile and Redman respectively. The production used plastic beer crates as props and the performers’ creativity to create this world and the characters’ transition from childhood to adulthood. 

Babes (Tina Redman) and Sindi (Lebo Mashile) perform for an audience of schoolchildren at Windybrow Arts Centre. Photo: Mbalenhle Dlamini

“The show is about them (Sindi and Babes) travelling through the city. They want to learn how to make money, and we are those adults,” Redman told Wits Vuvuzela.

The actors had tough conversations with the audience as they explored themes that could be deemed complicated for young children to digest such as crime, death and sex work. However, Redman and Mashile and the student actors gained the young children’s attention with animated singing, dancing and hand-clapping games. 

Mashile captured the audience with her spirited spoken-word performance while the rest of the cast huddled quietly around her, moving in ways that symbolised air and a flowing river. She spoke about how Johannesburg was land that had rivers and fed its people before “they” (colonialists) “discovered” gold. It was an effortless transition of the child into the world of adults that they were trying to convey. 

After the three-day run at the Windybrow Arts Centre, Halligey said, “We are looking for funding to do Breaths of Joburg again and opportunities to do projects that are similar to what we did with Breaths of Joburg.”

Vuvu rating: 9/10

FEATURED IMAGE: Babes plays a monster chasing Sindi around the streets of Joburg. Photo: Mbalenhle Dlamini


SLICE: Pageants may glitter, patriarchy still tarnishes them

Throwing around buzzwords such as ‘social change’ and ‘inclusion’ cannot disguise the misogyny at the root of beauty pageants.  

The search for Miss South Africa 2023 is on and like clockwork, every year social media is filled with entry videos from young women who have their eyes set on the pageant crown.  

This year the Miss SA organisation has changed some rules and will now accept entries from aspirants ages 20-30 years old, a change from the 20–28 years range. For the first time, married women and those with children may take part in the contest. This comes after Miss Universe announced in August 2022 that married women and mothers would be allowed to compete in 2023 for the first time in its history.  

Miss SA prides itself on advocating for women’s rights and its awareness of social change. The organisation in its own words describes itself as “a platform for change, a powerful organisation, a leading voice on female empowerment and a launch pad for much needed change”. 

However, changes made to the competition rules, glitter and buzzwords such as “empowerment” and “social change” cannot distract me from the problematic fundamental nature of pageants.  

I am also reminded that in 2021 the organisation sent Miss SA Lalela Mswane to Israel to participate in Miss Universe 2021 despite the SA government withdrawing its support and that of South Africa for the pageant. This is related to Israel’s historical and ongoing apartheid politics.  

The Miss Universe organisation on its website says it “celebrates women of all cultures and backgrounds and empowers them”, and yet hosted a pageant in a country that actively disrupts the lives of many Palestinian women. And Miss SA took part in the competition and represented a country still wounded by its own history of apartheid in another state that perpetuates it.  

In 2018, when Miss SA celebrated its 60th anniversary it revived controversy around apartheid when black women could not compete in the pageant, and relegated to contesting in “Miss Africa South” until 1992 when the pageant became inclusive. The organisation failed to acknowledge that racist and segregationist history contributed to black participants breaking away to a pageant of their own. 

What does “inclusivity and diversity” mean when finding one woman out of thousands is at the heart of pageantry? What does “woman empowerment” mean when only the woman who fits into a set criterion of beauty and femininity wins?  

The ways of beauty pageants have changed over time, from awarding women for simply being beautiful to promoting other attributes such as education, eloquence and a demonstration of general knowledge. This is what Miss World calls “beauty with a purpose” which also focuses on how the contestant will use the title or opportunity to better their communities. 

Third wave feminism recognises that women have agency and rejects the idea that women do not have choices and therefore is in support of women participating in pageants. However, it does not accept the gender binary and exclusion of other genders such as transgender or gender non-conforming existences. 

The question remains whether these competitions uphold patriarchal norms. The rules may say contestants need traits other than beauty, but at the end it is beauty that determines the winner. 

Whether women have agency or not, the objectification of beauty measured by competitive processes that have so much to do with the body specifically, reinforces patriarchy instead of taking it apart.  

With the changes to the rules, Miss SA has shown the ability to challenge ideas in nonthreatening ways and by some right, they have shown that with enough time they can adapt their steps to new socio-political and cultural climates. However, it is a matter of how dismally late changes come.  

By the time I am done holding my breath for another step in the right direction for pageants, maybe we would have fully obliterated the need for them.  

FEATURED IMAGE: Mbalenhle Dlamini. Photo: File


Music meets queer rights

by Mbalenhle Dhlamini | March 30, 2023

The British Council alongside Business and Arts South Africa host a queer edition of karaoke night at Wits’ Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct.

On Friday March 24, 2023, people took to the stage for their fifteen minutes of fame, at the queer edition of Fak’uoke (wordplay on Fak’ugesi and karaoke) in Braamfontein.

Fak’ouke is part of the Fak’ugesi Festival, which showcases and celebrates African digital creativity annually. Festival planner, communications intern and MC, Nontokozo Qhobosheane said, “With the help of our partners, Business and Arts South Africa and the British Council we were able to make all our attendees feel like stars.”  

This queer edition of Faku’ouke was inspired by Five Films for Freedom, a nine day film festival with queer rights as the theme.

Rowann Hermans, karaoke night attendee and ‘best power ballad prize winner said, “Bear in mind that I didn’t know it was a competition until they said that they were going to start voting.”  

Hermans walked away with a pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses and six bottles of wine for their rendition of Estelle’s ‘American Boy’.

“I really just enjoy performing so my expectations were to make a show and engage with the audience, I was more there to perform a song than to win,” they added.

Lathitha Gqokama who was in the crowd and attending a queer event for the first time said that “it was a safe space for any kind of self-expression, and I particularly enjoyed experiencing the diversity among the people who were there”. 

The Faku’gesi festival plans to host another Faku’ouke queer edition during pride month from June 1 to June 30, 2023.   


FEATURED IMAGE: Attendees second self is Fantasia onstage. Photo: Mbalenhle Dlamini