Using the art of photography to evoke meaningful conversations about leadership issues in Africa, is photojournalism maven, Qiniso Mbili who is currently exhibiting his exclusive masterpieces at one of the best art galleries in the country.
The DUT graduate (Bachelor of Technology in Journalism) heeded his love for photography during his second year at university through a basic photography module. He was fascinated by how a camera could freeze a moment and allow one the opportunity to pay attention to what they could otherwise have just looked past.
Currently working as a freelance journalist, photographer, videographer and video editor, Mbili also operates in the community development space as co-founder of The Organised People Towards Development (TOPTD).
In addition to this, he curates a blogging platform called Perception Media – which documents the art scene in Durban. The blog was established from the belief that Durban has a unique offering in various art disciplines. He believes that the international community should have an interest in African arts, especially in Durban.
Describing the nature of his work, Mbili says that he has a special interest in socioeconomic issues such as poverty, inequality and unemployment.
“It is widely shared public sentiment that Africa has a leadership vacuum. I have taken it upon myself as an artist to try and evoke dialogue about leadership issues. My objective in my projects is to call for dialogue, reflection, learning, unlearning and a more proactive and inclusive approach to issues of leadership,” he explains.
The reception towards his work has been nothing short of pleasant. Mbili’s photographs have managed to draw a large number of influential people from different parts of the world who now follow and applaud his work.
The astute journalist says what has been a major stumbling block is that many galleries do not recognise photojournalism as a genre under contemporary art. He recalls quite a few encounters at his open gallery, where a number of people expressed how they wished he had lengthier captions when explaining the stories behind some of his pieces.
“The challenge is that although photojournalism is about telling stories, I believe much of it has to be through the photograph and not through writing lengthy paragraphs,” he adds.
When asked what inspires him to capture a photograph, he says that he is enthused by how normal everyday objects appear when photographed in a manner set to drive a point. With his art, the goal is for people to pause, reflect, marvel and lament on everyday life.
Mbili further emphasises how important it is for Africans to tell their own stories, and even more so, to own them. Consequently, he encourages people to not only attend his exhibitions, but to also buy the prints.
His ongoing exhibition titled, ‘Wena WeZulu’ is showing at the Hazard Gallery in Maboneng Precinct, Johannesburg. The exhibition explores relationships between African leaders and the people who put them in power. It also explores political, traditional and religious systems of leadership and the extent to which individuals can go in following and supporting their leaders.
For more details, follow him on Twitter: @qiniso_mbili as well as on Instagram: qinisombili
~ Thabile Shange