Jamal Nxedlana: I am because you are

Photographer Jamal Nxedlana

Words Tom Czibolya

“My work has always been community-based in the sense that it’s about letting others shine. Spotlighting emerging creatives is maybe the single most important part of my practice” – when we came across Johannesburg photographer Jamal Nxedlana’s extraordinary series, FAKA, a part of the Orlando exhibition at C/O Berlin, we immediately wanted to learn more about the artist behind the images. Jamal is the founder of the platform for South-African artist and creators, Bubblegum Club thus has a unique view on the questions of race and queerness in the country.

“In terms of my practice, it’s about making people visible, it’s about giving them a platform to share their stories. I do believe that I am able to shine through the people I support. There is this saying “umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu” (I am because you are) and I think my approach to art and community very much embodies this philosophy.”

Jamal also believes that being political is something that is entirely up to the individual:  “We all come from different backgrounds and we all have different experiences. I can’t speak for anyone else but myself. But I do hope that people would want to engage in politics more. Let’s not forget that political statements aren’t necessarily obvious and they can be quite personal too. Frankly, in places like South Africa you are already political just by existing. So if you can contribute by creating something that helps people by giving them new ideas or bringing them together, do it. You don’t need to spend years and years at a university studying politics or gender or race to get engaged in these topics. At the end of the day, it’s the nuances, the smallest things you can think of, that really make a difference.”

Orlando is on display at C/O Berlin until the 18th of January.

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