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Young South Africa: Twenty Journey


2014 sees South Africa reaching two decades of democracy and in the light of this, three young photographers are embarking on a cross-country journey to document their findings along the way.


The photographers – Sipho Mpongo, Wikus de Wet and Sean Meterlerkamp – will each pursue a specific area of focus throughout the Twenty Journey. While Sipho is planning to reveal more about the first generation growing up out of apartheid rule, Wikus will investigate the value of the land and its relationship to the people who inhabit it, as Sean highlights the absurdities of life in this magnificent and puzzled country.


As part of our annual Young South Africa series we have a Q&A with Sipho, Wikus and Sean about their own work and expectations for the trip.


Sipho Mpongo:


In what ways does your background continue to influence and inform your work?

Through the fact that I am still finding myself. My background always gets in the way of my exploration. I look back at how things were and I try to capture them in a different way now.


How do you believe that the generation of ‘born frees’ can make the most of their unique position?

I personally think it’s quite a tough position we as born frees are sitting in. We have so many opportunities that the generation of 1976 never had. But I like the generation of 1976 because they shared same dream and they were united. Born frees in South Africa are the result of Apartheid, although I don’t really like the term “born free” as it sugar-coats everything that this generation is going through. There is a unique struggle being born free in South Africa.


And, on that note, how do you plan to explore this through your photographs?

I want to take an anthropological approach. I am investigating rather than just taking a photograph. I intend to spend some time with the born frees in order to get to know them based on their history in the South African context. Only when I have gathered all the information, will I then portray their story visually through a photograph.


What is your perception of the current creative industry in South Africa?

It’s growing and everyone is doing amazing things, I celebrate that people are thinking out of the box.


What does the term ‘Young South Africa’ mean to you?

It means to have dreams, passion and drive.


What are you most looking forward to on the Twenty Journey?

Meeting people and having a kiff laugh.


Sipho Mpongo - Langa (1)

Sipho Mpongo - Langa (2)

Sipho Mpongo - Langa (4)

Sipho Mpongo - Langa (3)

Sipho Mpongo - Langa (5)

Sipho Mpongo - Langa (6)


Wikus de Wet:


What themes seem to reoccur in your work?

South Africa in a democratic era. I am also working on a series on Afrikaner identity in a democratic South Africa.


How did you become interested in the relationship land has to the people who occupy it?

While doing my Afrikaner series I realised that a lot of the conversations I had with people had something to do with land and the access to land. This sparked my interest is the ongoing issues with land that we have to deal with in South Africa.


In what ways do you think photography as a medium can aid in your investigation thereof?

Using visual images together with audio and writing to create multimedia stories will help tell the stories better.


Tell us about your perception of the creative industry in South Africa right now.

There are a lot of talented people out there that are really good at what they do. I think that if you want to stay ahead of your peers you should create something fresh.


When you hear the words ‘Young South Africa’, what comes to mind?

The opportunity for growth.


What are you most looking forward to on the Twenty Journey?

Visiting all the places that you usually drive past on your way to the bigger cities.


Wikus de Wet - Children reenacting the battle of Majuba. Orania. 2013.

Wikus de Wet - High School children of the CVO School having fun at the public swimming pool on a hot summer afternoon. Orania. 2013.


Wikus de Wet - Dirkie Potgieter discussing the maize crop with a fellow farmer. Christiana. 2013.

Wikus de Wet - A young Afrikaner's room. Bloemfontein. 2012.



Sean Metelerkamp:


What are you influenced and inspired by? Has this changed significantly since you first started out?

Life in general. It is most definitely going to change when it ends.


Why do you find yourself drawn to and fascinated by the absurdities of life?

I like to laugh in life’s face as much as possible.


Tell us about your decision to capture this through point and shoot cameras and various video formats?

They are the best tools for the job. Connect the point and shoot to the eye, which is connected to the brain – and you have a story.


What are your thoughts on the creative industry in South Africa at the moment?

I try not to think about any industry that has the word creative in it.


What do you think defines South African youth culture?

This is a broad question and I wouldn’t want to generalize. So I’m going to be as vague as possible and say: a cellphone shaped bird perched on a purple squirrels’ sack of nuts tearing them open to reveal a mansion of screaming babies wiping their snot-filled noses on the sandpaper pillars, is what defines South African youth culture.


What are you most looking forward to on the Twenty Journey?

Taking Wikus onto the top of the campervan and doing a full suplex onto the tarmac (that’s a three metre drop, boet) just like the Undertaker from doubleyou doubleyou E.


Sean Metelerkamp - Kloof street, Cape Town. 2013

Sean Metelerkamp - Woodstock, Cape Town. 2013.

Sean Metelerkamp - Plettenberg Bay. 2012

Sean Metelerkamp - Potchefstroom. 2013

Sean Metelerkamp - Majubadag, Orania. 2013



Sipho, Wikus and Sean are currently raising funds for their trip. Visit their Kickstarter Campaign to find out more.


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