Moussa John Kalapo

Moussa Kalapo’s story translates as a dialogue between friends, foregrounding environments: real to imagined. The two friends, Saba and Moussa, carry two noticeable qualities. Recording and being recorded. Inner beings, undergoing the process of exchange. Familiar stories allowed to clash. The camera, a mere impotent tool, disrupting that ‘usuality’. Sensitive lines are crossed, religious lines unintentionally blurred. Saba’s environment is being represented as portraiture. No easy distinction between conventional human portraiture and ‘environmental-scapes’. Saba’s facial expressions, scarcely found in the body of work, represent a map of his life journey, his wishes and regrets. The natural intensity of his body and environment become margin-less vistas. In the mix, the photographer is alive in the images. I sense his subtle values, which are pronounced outside his camera operations.


In this visual narrative, the two above mentioned protagonists (collaborative spirits) confront the movement of Africans within and ‘beyond borders’. I am distrustful of the word, ‘migration’. It has come to represent very little humanness. Moussa, the photographer, looks beyond Saba’s ‘selfimposed expectations and aspirations’. He is one with the space and time: people, structure, land, and all feelings and thoughts involved. At least that is what we discover through Moussa’s open eye. The idea of moving to the ‘other worlds’ become mute and irrelevant. The living is here and now.


All forms of writing on image-making amount to speculation with very little visual evidence. African commentators must enjoy that freedom. The freedom to conceptualise or frame outside controlled frameworks.


Moussa has ‘re-colonised’ his sensory freedom to express and to breathe. His only master is the constant re-negotiation of space, light and extending oneself to Saba.


The absence of human figures in the images, may be reminding the viewer that the photographer pays no homage to constructed borders. With little consideration of those who occupy that space. Any African movement is trivialised and incapacitated by the word ‘immigrant’, which carries anguish. I hardly hear of Western ‘immigrants’. They are usually called researchers, tourists, adventurers, basically knowledge seekers.


The feel of the images in this story is flexible: a mix of colourfulness and banality, to remind us that we are free to exercise and express our imaginings. The reader can attach no fixed ideas to the story, unless they insist. A colourful passage flanking a figure. Walking away from the reader. Carrying what looks like large framed images. There is little room for the reader to readily attach sorrow to that image. The reader is forced to think with the senses or just turn the page. I don’t know how the reader could pass over it, the wall is engulfingly pink.


One observes simplicity, yet meanings that are confessed are complex. The framing and what sits inside have a loose relationship. No strict terms. The air feels fresh in this world of genre-free photography. No easy victims are created in this often harshly depicted story.


I do not trust meanings, particularly when they are realised from afar, and imposed. A bad culture. Meanings that operate outside my senses. That are not in my ‘literal dreams’. Dreams are inborn. I speak of present and past dreams. Opposed to the ‘for-sale dreams’.


The last conversation I had with Moussa was that Saba’s life has changed. Saba’s life has never not changed.


By Buyaphi Mdledle