Photographs from Sifikile

  • Flowers by Bethlehem Matomane

    Flowers by Bethlehem Matomane

  • Going to Scrap Yard by Bethlehem Matomane

    Going to Scrap Yard by Bethlehem Matomane

South African photojournalist Victor Matom has taught youth in Soweto photography for over 25 years. As a boy, Matom used to sneak into whites-only book stores to learn all he could about the craft he eventually turned into a career. Now, Matom teaches students at a school called Sifikile, in an area of Soweto called Orlando East. Sifikile means “we have arrived”.

These images are from the students at Sifikile. They use analogue cameras and the few materials available to them to interpret and document their environment. Often, the chemicals and photographic paper they work with have expired. But the skill and thought they bring to each image is undiminished.

Analogue cameras provide Matom’s students with a sound understanding of photography, but the school is interested in using digital cameras to keep costs to a minimum. If you are interested in supporting Sifikile, contact Victor Matom.

The Sifikile photographers:

Bethlehem Matomane
I am Bethlehem Matomane, and I was born in 1984. Currently I’m staying in Soweto, Orlando East. It is a great location to live at, and the part of Orlando East I live in with my family has a lot of Xhosa families from the Eastern Cape. My family’s one of those families and we live in a very happy environment.

I passed grade 11 in the end of 2003. I started to do photography in 2008 at Sifikile under Mr. Victor Matom, and I’m still at it. I want to be great in the photography world and make a name for myself. I’m currently unemployed and from time to time take on part-time construction work.

Ndikhokhele Khonose
My name is Ndikhokhele Khonose. I am 27 years old, from Orlando East, in Soweto, in an area where we live with people we know from the rural Eastern Cape. We’ve come to be a united community, helping each other out where a hand is needed, and working out issues together with one goal in mind.

I was about 5 years old when I was first taught about photography by Mr. Victor Matom. It was a rare thing around this area to have a photography class, especially for small kids. Mr. Matom has been great help in all these years, teaching us, mentoring us and looking out for us too, not just as students but like we were his own. I’ve been involved in photography for over 20 years now. And I want to build a career in photography. At the moment I’m travelling with a construction company I work for whenever there is a project to be done in a particular area.

Rueben Lumbela
In less than two months, I’ll be turning 24. Where I’m from, most people work hard just to afford moving away. People always seek a better life and environment. Ambition and passion are the order of the day. This is the reason why I love Soweto; you’ll never be short of inspiration.

I completed high school in 2009. And in 2010, I joined a fine art program. In 2011, I was introduced to photography, an art form that requires you to see beyond the subject; establish light; analyze composure; and portray your perspective. Achieving all that at once can be a daunting task but with such an superb teacher, Mr. Victor Matom, “daunting is nothing.”

Sabatha Barnes
My name is Sabatha Barnes. I was born 23 November 1988, I’m 25 years of age. I’m from Soweto, in South Africa. I have grade 12 and a computer literacy course. In 2011 I got an opportunity to be part of the Sifikile photographers’ school. It’s where I met my mentor Mr Matom who taught me how to use a camera. I have been at Sifikile now for four years.

For me photography is a career that is difficult to access. Photographers have the opportunity to work in the world of visual communication. Through the medium of still images they communicate with both the individual and the masses.

Thabiso Motebe
My name is Thabiso Motebe. I’m from Soweto. I was born in 1991. I’m 22 years of age, and my educational qualification is grade 12. I started doing photographs in 2011 at Sifikile, with my mentor Mr Matom.

Photography is important to me because it helps capture important and beautiful moments that let generations look back upon and remember someone else’s memory or make them create their own.