University of Cape Town
Cape Town, South Africa
IQHINA is the IsiXhosa word for “a knot”, speaking to the many points at which the intricacies of my personal identity meet my family history, which then meets the greater South African political history and the current landscape of South Africa that I have to navigate as a Black, Xhosa woman. Tracing threads of religion, education, and connection as they exist in photographic and textual archives, this photobook and portrait series formed a process of retrieving my lineage and identity. In doing so, I contended with the colonial erasure of IsiXhosa cultural knowledge. Fundamentally, IQHINA is a body of work about how two South African families from Ginsberg Township in the Eastern Cape, have formed and performed identity and kept their own histories intact in the face of colonial erasure and Apartheid. Both sides of my family have formed and projected their identities through uniforms. My father’s family in the cloak of academia, and my mother’s through a Xhosa-Christian identity, iterated through the military culture, practices, and aesthetics of the Salvation Army. It has given them agency from cultural amnesia. Both my maternal grandfather Mhlobo Zihlangu and my paternal grandmother Nonji Mangcu ensured that their children had the weapon of knowledge and self-identification to wield in the face of the systemic disruption of Black identity, and ensured that these identities were immortalized in a photographic archive. These archives have now come to represent something close to a tangible map through which I, as their granddaughter, can understand that my history and identity can transcend the parameters of white supremacy and the violent, generational erasure of Black African histories. Through IQHINA, I have chosen to continue the project of building archives that were initiated by my grandparents, in a way that also brings to light the growing matrilineality within this archive, being that the majority of their descendants are women. As the namesake of Rantshi Mangcu and his daughter Nonji, I represent the continuation of my great-grandfather and grandmother’s powerful legacies of treating knowledge as a tool of agency. As such, through this body of work, I aim to continue the legacy of my grandparents, by presenting a body of work that helps re-frame African modernity in the minds of contemporary Africans, starting with myself and my own family’s photographic archive. In continuing my family’s photographic archives, I aim to bring light to the importance of Black lineages, memory and self-identification as tools in reframing Black African history in a way that informs a new way of being and self-understanding for me, my siblings, my cousins and descendants to come.