Sibusiso Bheka

sibusiso bheka umsebenzi afronova gallery

Born in 1997 in Thokoza, South Africa. Lives and works in Thokoza, South Africa.

Sibusiso Bheka’s work documents his environment by night, giving us to see his reality of Thokoza, his playful moments almost surreal just before light disappears. His work is a testimony to South Africa’s violent past as well as a celebration of the intense beauty that can be found in the details of daily life in a township.

Sibusiso Bheka is Of Soul and Joy’s Project Assistant and graduated in photography from the Vaal University of Technology in 2018.

His series Stop Nonsense was part of the 11th edition Rencontres de Bamako -African Biennale of photography in 2017 as a traveling exhibition. The series was also shown at the National Museum of World Culture, Leiden, Netherlands in 2018. Bheka was shortlisted for the Magnum Foundation Photography and Social Justice Fellowship in 2018 and was recently shortlisted for the Belfast Photo Festival.

His work was shown at the Ithuba Arts Gallery, Johannesburg (2013), the Addis Foto Fest, Ethiopia (2014), the Ghent International Photo Festival, Belgium (2015), the Johannesburg Art Gallery in South Africa (2016), Arles Photo Encounters (2020) Bristol Photo Festival (2021).

He is currently in Paris for a 3 month residency at the prestigious Cité internationale des arts.

Please read Magical Realism, an essay by Sean O’Toole

2016 – ongoing

Stop Nonsense

Between 1991 and 1994, from Nelson Mandela’s release to the first democratic election in South Africa, it is estimated that 3000 people were killed in Thokoza. The apartheid government is widely believed to have ignited the Black-on-Black violence. Today, Thokoza is plagued by a complex web of issues that trace back to the segregationist Apartheid-era laws, and is marked by shanty huts and sprawl with dusty unkempt streets associated with crime and poverty. However, Bheka believes that understanding a place is about engaging with its harsh realities and also facing the illusions one may have about it. This body of work defies the preconceived notions of our overlooked and stigmatised neighbourhood to reveal the intricacy and loveliness of daily life in Thokoza. This is not an easy mission because Bheka shoots mainly at night. If the night embodies a world of dreams and possibilities it also epitomises danger and violence. His photographs snap and play with all these truths. Light and colour play a predominant role in his work, influencing both the outcome and his creative process on a conscious and subconscious level. The yellow-orange light and pitch-black shadows in his work refers back to the high-mask lights built in all the townships of the country during the apartheid. These lights were used by the police and the military to control all the comings and goings of people of colour who were not allowed to circulate freely. His work is a testimony to this violent past as well as a celebration of the intense beauty that can be found in the details of daily life in a township. Bheka reveals the poetic truth behind the complexities of any nation wounded and yet full of hope.