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Of Soul and Joy Celebrates Tshepiso Mazibuko’s Double Triumph at Rencontres d’Arles Festival

Of Soul and Joy is thrilled to announce that its former student, Tshepiso Mazibuko, has been awarded the 2024 Discovery Award Louis Roederer Foundation’s Public Award and the prestigious Madame Figaro Photo Award for her exhibition “Ho tshepa ntshepedi ya bontshepe” (To Believe in Something That Will Never Happen) at the Rencontres d’Arles summer photography festival in France.

The Rencontres d’Arles, recognised as one of Europe’s premier photography events, opened on 1 July and will be on view until 29 September 2024. Since its inception, the festival has been a significant platform promoting photography and its contributors, including photographers, artists, curators, and publishers.

Of Soul and Joy Celebrates Tshepiso Mazibuko.

For the Discovery Award, festival visitors voted during the opening week for their favourite artist. Tshepiso garnered the highest number of votes, earning a €5,000 prize. The Madame Figaro Photo Award, dedicated to women photographers, honours an outstanding artist featured in the festival’s program.

“It’s a huge honour to be recognised by the Arles Photography Festival with these awards. Having the chance to share my work at the festival alone has been richly rewarding, so to receive this added recognition is really encouraging. I look forward to using the prize to continue realising the work that has brought me this far,” says Tshepiso Mazibuko.

Tshepiso’s project, “Ho tshepa ntshepedi ya bontshepe,” looks at the impact of the political designation ‘born-free’ on South Africa’s post-1994 black youth generation. The title, derived from a Sesotho proverb, explores the paradoxical nature of this label and how the remnants of apartheid have hindered the full realisation of freedom. Through self-portraits and community-focused imagery, Tshepiso examines her own experiences and societal constructs.

“Tshepiso’s images seem to be suspended in time. Adopting an introspective approach, she paints an intimate portrait where frustration and benevolence coexist, where violence is latent, where faces are often tense, sometimes strained, sometimes proud, occasionally absorbed but rarely light-hearted,” says  curator of the exhibition, Audrey Illouz.

Tshepiso, who completed her photography studies at the Market Photo Workshop in Johannesburg in 2016, uses her medium to comment on political, societal, landscape, and historical themes. Her work has been exhibited at Ithuba Art Gallery (Johannesburg), Ghent Photo Festival (Belgium), LagosPhoto (Nigeria), Turbine Art Fair (Johannesburg), Iziko South African National Gallery (Cape Town), and Addis Foto Fest (Ethiopia), among others. She is a recipient of the Tierney Fellowship (2017) and the Prince Claus Fund Award (2018), and became a member of the Umhlabathi Collective in 2021.

“We’re so proud of Tshepiso for receiving this well-deserved recognition. Her work speaks to the difficulty of confronting the identity of ‘born-free’ thrust onto her generation, which she so powerfully captures through the people in her images. Tshepiso receiving these accolades is a testament to the critical value of her project, which crosses cultures and resonates with diverse audiences. For us at Of Soul and Joy, this is the ultimate realisation of the work we aim to achieve with our students,” says Of Soul and Joy Project Manager and mentor Jabulani Dhlamini.