Zola Songo is a young South African photographer, social activist, musician and all round creative being currently documenting her life experiences in beautiful B&W photographs as she journeys through Europe and South Africa whilst completing her studies. Having already exhibited at the KZNSA Art Gallery early in her career, the young Port Shepstone-born creative describes herself as “a curious being who finds solace in placing my feet where they have never met the ground.” A multi-faceted artist who continuously seeks adventure and finds artistic pleasures that lurk in the unknown, Zola shares with us some of her most personal photography series.
On “Faded Footsteps” | Durban B/W Landscape Series
I have a crush on perspective and bigotry almost always wins so I decided to explore the lives of bridges through a photo essay. The rite of passage for those who can afford to drive on them and the shelter they provide for those underneath. Breadwinners, taxi drivers, students, venders, thieves and rapists all share the shelter and mask the day as normality. Prostitutes have been made and had, lives have been lost, belongings have been stolen yet our mothers still walk on. Masking fear and caution with purpose and direction while their bags are clinched slightly tighter to their breast and breaths are held a little longer. While others experience fear and anxiety others swim in opportunity. Above these bridges only cars can drive, I was chased away by cops while shooting from the top. The same bridges that were meant to connect now segregate and create class.
On “Alone” | European B/W Series
I was not inspired by the comfortable and reserved lifestyle I had come to know in the Netherlands. It birthed no intense desire to create or express. Somewhat mundane for my African hardship taste. I did however through travel to Croatia, Italy, Hungary, Czech Republic and Spain amongst others manage to find ways to escape comfort and jump into the unknown through trains with strangers across countries with languages I could not utter and quite often accommodation I had to hunt upon arrival. Defying Maslow’s hierarchy of needs inspired me. I could reach self-actualization without the certainty of the other levels. I fought perspective and dared myself to see things in a light that had never crossed my prejudice. I was alone but surrounded, yearning to speak Zulu while people muttered in German. I began to loath the roll of English on my tongue. The mundane began to inspire. I had to see South Africa afresh when I returned, it was beautiful yet had a vile stench to it.
On “Portraits” | Personal B/W Series
I don’t take myself too seriously. The portraits came from a night of emptiness and a camera. The next day I found toys in a box and lined them up so that the girls looked punished while a small fading man stood tall. I thought it was funny and somewhat feminist. Then I thought, “how can we bring meaning to this image?” because I have learnt that bodied by the right context, everything makes profound sense.