Unsung heroes: Joburg photographer Manyatsa Monyamane captures youth of the ’70s in powerful new series

Manyatsa Monyamane, a Mamelodi-raised, Johannesburg-based photographer, who recently featured in our story “20 Emerging Black Womxn Photographers in South Africa You Should Know“, describes herself as “an artist; a storyteller through imagery, inspired and influenced by African literature, theatre and everyday surroundings”. And looking at Manyatsa’s portraits that boldly and contemplatively frame her surrounds, you can see how this description comes to life. Her work won her a place in the top 10 of the 2017 Absa L’Atelier.

In high school, Manyatsa started taking photographs with a point and shoot family camera and later went on to study photography. “My photography is aimed at creating an archive and to serve some sort of historic record, while putting a spotlight on unpopular themes and subject matters and celebrating everyday life,” Manyatsa chats about a new project capturing the youth of the 1970s and earlier and what photography has taught her.

Can you tell us about your latest body of work?
I am currently working on a series of fine art photographs, which are a celebration of the undying spirit of resilience of the truly unsung heroes of our land. The participants in this project emphasise the historical value of the elders; these are real people who witnessed and experienced the transition of an entire society towards the birth of a new nation, and have defined what it means to be a South African today, and yet their strength has never been celebrated.

This project focuses on capturing the essence of timeless beauty and style of the youth of the ’70s and earlier, looking at how they define beauty 50 years later and also their strength that carried us through the dark days and continues to carry us to this day.

Which camera do you use and whats your favourite equipment?
I use a Nikon DSLR camera and my favourite equipment is a 5in1 reflector, I take it everywhere!

Which photographers, local or international, do you look up to?
Edinah Ndlovu, Neo Ntsoma and Zanele Muholi.

What do you feel photography has taught you?
How to view life from different perspectives. Follow Manyatsa.

Between 10 and 5