Mpumelelo Buthelezi

Nance field Hostel in Soweto used to be one of the apartheid government’s labour dormitories. It gained the fearsome reputation of the brutal Noxus in the 1990s, due to political violence between hostel dwellers and people living in the surrounding areas.

Photographer Mpumelelo Buthelezi captured the mood and the evolving lifestyle inside these ageing buildings, now encircled by informal settlements with an estimated population of 3 000. The hostel is home to many young men and women born here after the advent of democracy in 1994.

They have turned it into a vibrant, though poverty-stricken residential complex boasting one of the busiest Shisa Nyamas called Mutah, which is famous for its chicken and pap menu and is more hygienic than other vendors in the area.

The younger generation plays with their peers across the neighbourhood. Michael Mthetwa is a traditional healer known as Bab’ Mnyambose, who has been living here with his three sons since 2000. He was born in KwaZulu-Natal. He says they used to rent these hostel rooms before. Today more men live here with their families. The government long ago undertook to change these hostels into family units, but local residents have transformed the environment into a homely, tolerant and child-friendly one.

Mpumelelo Butheleziʼs Biography

Mpumelelo Buthelezi is a South African photographer who lives and works in Johannesburg. He completed his Photojournalism and Documentary Photography degree at the Market Photo Workshop in 2017. In his practice, Mpumeleloʼs work explores the themes of social activism and religion as well as the ways that people sustain themselves like in the case of waste pickers. Mpumeleloʼs work finds itself at the intersection between documentation, storytelling and activism.

Mpumelelo was recently selected for an artist residency programme with the Consulate Italian Embassy with Centro Luigi Di Sarro(Italy) for pack-and go travel exhibition tour residency in 2022. He is one the 10 selected awarded projects for the Social Impact Awardʼ 2022. He is the recent 11th recipient of the Cassirer Welz Award 2021 which includes artist residency program and a solo exhibition at Bag Factory Artists Studios. He received the 2nd Heather B. Mattera 2022 photography scholarship to study in New York. He was part of the TEXT ME curatorial programme with Media Arts Festival 2022 in Leeuwarden, Netherlands. In 2021, Mpumelelo was awarded the best photographer of the year category under North-West Media Awards.

Mpumelelo is been on artist residency with Sir Prof Zanele Muholi and Muholi Productions in 2021,KZN, also participated in a virtual residency with Arts Unchained in 2021. His work was exhibited at Kampala Photo Biennale 2022/2021 in Uganda, Transitions Rotterdam Foto Festival in the Netherlands in 2019, Foto Schiedam Festival in the Netherlands in 2019, and had his first solo exhibition at Wetilt Gallery in Italy 2019, CULTVR LAB Catalyst 360 solo Exhibition gallery in Wales,UK 2022.

Mpumelelo went on to exhibit his photographs at Social Art Award in Germany 2019, and was the 2nd prize winner for Nikon Yellow competition in 2018.He lives and works in Johannebsurg, South Africa.

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