Ulwalamano/Kinship by South African Visual Artist, Ranji Mangcu, is a personal project seeking to make sense of her simultaneous proximity to, and alienation to Xhosa culture as well as the common dilemmas faced by contemporary Black and Indigenous People of Colour. This project investigates her own identity crisis of being Xhosa yet being raised in Sandton Johannesburg and having to navigate through the many white spaces such as institutions and academic spaces situated within that region.
“My work is based on the idea of how our personal experiences interlink with our identity and our history and where this rubs up against your own personal history. For my artist statement for the Eclectica gallery, I mentioned the idea of the ‘hybrid’ identity, as a South African, I have a lot of experience having to navigate white spaces and have experienced this perpetual ‘code-switching’, where you form a brand new identity when you enter these spaces, then once you realise yourself as a person, you have to locate yourself in your ancestral history and then your own cultural identity” explained Ranji. Despite the end of apartheid just under 30 years ago, the ever-present legacy of systematic marginalization between Black and White South Africans is hard to ignore.
“I take photos of people that I know and people who know me, I am a big fan of portraiture. It is usually a calm chilled process, it is a collaboration between me and my subjects and every image that has been constructed highlights them, the choices that they made and how they want to be represented. I construct the images in the way that my subjects project themselves in front of the camera” expressed Ranji. The visual semantics clearly expressed in Ranji’s images, displays her skilfully incorporating both her and the experience of many other ‘hybrid’ South Africans who also find themselves navigating through a white space. The representation of the hands clasping onto each other's arms situated in front of a white sheet successfully illustrates such, but yet a hint of solidarity also comes through.
“There is a lot of micro-aggression in these spaces, and as you grow up, you realise that certain spaces are not meant for you, this is one of the examples where colonialism is an ever-present thing within South Africa, despite becoming independent years ago” Stated Ranji.
Ranji Mangcu is a South African Visual Artist whose work focuses on identity and culture. To view more of her work, visit her Instagram