Simphiwe Thabede

Simphiwe Julia Thabede born 1999 is from Katlehong, the east of Johannesburg. Simphiwe is a female visual artist, photographer and collagist. She draws her inspiration from various artists such as; Pamela Tulizo, Ogorogile Nong and Frida Orupabo to name a few.

Simphiwe’s work is influenced by pop culture and contemporary visual culture, Thabede completed the Foundation and Intermediate Course in Photography at The Market Photo Workshop in Newtown, Johannesburg. Simphiwe Thabede’s interest in the medium has grown from being passionate about creating photographs to reading and understanding the deeper context of the power that images have. She strongly believes every individual has a story to tell, for Simphiwe the camera is more than just a device for creating images but it is a tool for communicating and creating dialogues with the self and the outside world. 

Living Legacies present in Identity and Representation – ACT Warrior Wall.

By Tsholofelo Seleke

As September is celebrated as heritage month in South Africa, we take a moment to reflect on the importance of identity, ownership, and culture. 

The Arts & Culture Trust (ACT) is celebrating South African artistic icons who have contributed to their various fields over the past 50 years. This year in honour of Heritage Day, ACT has mounted the ACT Warrior Wall Heritage Day Exhibition in partnership with the Market Photo Workshop (MPW). The project draws on ACT Lifetime Achievement Award winners: Miriam Makeba (Music), David Koloane (Visual Art), Don Materra (Literature), Sylvia “Magogo” Glasser (Dance) and Dr. John Kani (Theatre).

These legends dedicated their lives to their craft. They have genuinely inspired and paved ways for many, both locally and abroad. A pertinent question to ask is: does their legacy still speak to today’s youth? 

These were influenced by Koloane and Makeba. As a photographer, she wanted to disrupt her comfort zone and make a blend of digital and analogue collage work. Koloane explored the city as a subject and described it as a patchwork. He was also dedicated to equipping black artists with skills, resources, and space to practice. This gave birth to The Bag Factory, based in Newtown. 

Thabede’s collages use Johannesburg’s iconic structures and place them with images of people that are not necessarily from the country but more representative of Africa. A sense of displacement is evident not only in the form of artistic work but also in the content itself. Makeba is a figure that speaks well to this as she was exiled from her own birth country and became “Mama Africa”. Representation and identity are common threads in Thabede’s work. These are also the words she used to express what Heritage Day means to her. 

Note to editors: The writing mentorship for the ACT Warrior Wall project took place alongside the photographic process with Siphumelele Gumede and Tsholofelo Seleke tracing and researching the photographers and their journeys and producing two articles documenting the project. This was done in partnership with The Ar(t)chive NPC which has been involved in several ground-breaking training programmes with young arts writers.

About The Ar(t)chive NPC:

The Ar(t)chive NPC is an independent South African Contemporary Dance and Physical Performance archive currently based at WITS University’s School of Arts. The Ar(t)chive NPC houses a range of video, photographic, journalistic materials focussed on South African contemporary dance history and heritage and has served under and postgraduates from South Africa, America, India, The United Kingdom and Europe.