A photo essay of eKhaya eKasi Art & Education Centre in Khayelitsha and The Heart of a Woman Project in South Africa (thoawSA), a women’s mobile photography and digital literacy initiative that has been my passion project since May 2013.
I have spent almost two months in over four visits to the centre since December 2012.
All photos by the Andrea except where noted.
Lulama Sihlabeni, director of eKhaya eKasi Art & Education Centre, stands in front of this multi-purpose community centre in Khayelitsha.
The view from the rooftop of eKhaya eKasi Art & Education Centre where I first visited in December 2012. eKhaya eKasi is located in a residential area and means ‘home in the hood’ in isiXhosa, the predominant language in this Khayelitsha Township. The neighbourhood has modest brick houses and informal dwellings also known as shacks. The informal homes are made of corrugated metal, tin and wood and residents share a communal water source and toilets. This Township was established during the apartheid era in 1985 and is Cape Town’s largest with over 1 million people.
Women at eKhaya eKasi make bracelets for a Cape Town business. Programs that address unemployment, illiteracy, poverty, health and HIV/AIDS are offered. The skills development programs teach women, mostly mothers and grandmothers, arts, crafts and entrepreneurship. There is an on-site art boutique where participants sell their work to the tourists that visit. Sales provide revenue to the centre so the programs may continue as well as offers an opportunity for the women to generate an income so they may provide for their families. Women are often the sole providers and caregivers in the Township and face challenges such as high unemployment rates, alcoholism and domestic abuse. The centre also acts as a haven for residents and gives them a chance to socialize.
eKhaya eKasi provides space for social services and community meetings. Women in the skills development program serve soup to residents for the Meals on Wheels program. The Elders seated in the photo meet to discuss their burial society. Burial societies are designed to help ease the costs of a funeral by operating on a monthly contribution. The estimate is that two thirds of households in townships participate. The ability to give their family a dignified burial is a significant cultural event.
Veliswa Wowo, a married mother of 4 and founding member of The Heart of a Woman Project in South Africa photographs live chickens in Khayelitsha. Inspired by the model of education and empowerment through the arts, Andrea Rees founded The Heart of a Woman Project, a development initiative that partners with non-profit organizations focused on women’s empowerment and skills development. The goal is to educate women impacted by poverty in mobile photography, technology and social media using donated previously owned iPhones. It aims to empower women to have a voice, access to Internet, a creative outlet and sustainable income through the sales of photographic products. The pilot project and program began at eKhaya eKasi in November 2013 with 9 participants over an 11-day workshop. Participants received 200 postcards of their own image taken in Khayelitsha to sell in the on-site boutique and through partners in tourism.
Work clothes hang on a clothesline outside a shack in an informal settlement that we photographed in Khayelitsha. Informal settlements are areas with makeshift dwellings crammed closely together. Residents do not have access to water in their homes or on their property. They must walk to get water from a communal water source and use communal toilets, which are often in disrepair. Participants in the program are active on social media and use their photos and voice to share Township Life.
Yolanda Nkatula, a married mother of 2 pauses to photograph a ‘Stop Woman Abuse’ mural on Walter Sisulu Road in Khayelitsha. Many of the fences are painted with street art and showcase anything from advertising a local business to addressing social issues.
Aviwe Dalingozi, a participant in The Heart of a Woman Project, photographs children in Khayelitsha as a curious resident looks on.
Retsepile Tom, founding member of The Heart of a Woman Project, photographs an informal settlement. The population of Khayelitsha is speculated to be over 1 million people. This settlement has an approximate population of 11,000 people.
Participants, Yolanda Nkatula and Esther Mahlasela share a laugh as they pretend to be waiting for a bus at this Khayelitsha bus stop. We stopped to discuss the art of capturing street photos.
Yolanda Nkatula and Aviwe Dalingozi photograph the mural on a shipping container, home to Mama Blessing Hair Salon in Khayelitsha. The Townships have become like cities and are made up of small commercial shopping malls and independently owned businesses. These businesses sell their goods and services in shacks, shipping containers or simply on the sidewalk. With high unemployment rates in Khayelitsha, it is necessary to find economic opportunities. Most of the containers and shacks are painted with colourful murals.
Participants walk (and dance) back to the van after two days of photographing Township Life with the goal of one of the images becoming a postcard.
Esther Mahlasela (red hat) sits at the project’s laptop to take her turn learning how to adjust the brightness of the screen. As she placed the pointer on the slider to lower the brightness, she accidentally dragged it too far and the screen went into complete darkness. Development programs give participants the opportunity for peer-to-peer learning, to solve problems and work together. Workshops focused on basic computer skills, mobile photography, social media and digital literacy.
A participant in The Heart of a Woman Project in South Africa folds greeting cards. At the end of the 11-day workshop in November 2013 each participant was given 200 postcards of one of their images to sell in the on-site boutique at eKhaya eKasi. Both products are currently sold in the boutique, globally through the website and postcards are available at The Backpack, an award-winning hostel in Cape Town. It was revealed at the first anniversary photography exhibition and celebration in November 2014 that this program is the highest income generator.
The women get familiar with Hubspace Khayelitsha. Hubspace provides a co-working environment for entrepreneurs in townships. They host a variety of workshops and events and offer advisory service and business support for their members.
Nwabisa Ndongeni, project coordinator of The Heart of a Woman Project in South Africa talks about the program to tourists visiting the centre on tour with Uthando South Africa, a responsible tourism organization.
Nwabisa Ndongeni, mother of 2 and founding member, photographs Henry at the Site C taxi rank in Khayelitsha as Thoban Joppie, a member of the Cape Town Instagram community offers some tips. On June 1, 2014, the women hosted the inaugural #InstameetEKASI in Khayelitsha with members of the Cape Town Igers (instagrammers). It was wonderful to see these two communities come together in their mutual love of mobile photography and Instagram. The ladies enjoyed their time, appreciated the tips and look forward to another InstameetEKASI.
Henry, Site C. Photo taken June 1, 2014 by Nwabisa Ndongeni at the inaugural InstameetEKASI. Nwabisa is one of the founding members of The Heart of a Woman Project mobile photography program at eKhaya eKasi and the coordinator of the program. She has been teaching the 3 newest participants since October 2014.
Velisa Wowo, a founding member of The Heart of a Woman Project mobile photography program at eKhaya eKasi proudly displays a framed image of her photo of a shoe repairman in Khayelitsha. This image is Veliswa’s series 1.0 postcard and greeting card and was taken with a donated previously owned iPhone 4s. The women were surprised with framed photos of their ‘postcard images’ in June 2014. They are on display at eKhaya eKasi and were admired by the community and guests at the 1st anniversary photography exhibition and cultural celebration at the centre on November 22, 2014.
Busisiwe Dalingozi, a married mother of 2 goes through her iPhone photos and shares them on social media. Each participant has their own Instagram, Twitter and Facebook accounts. The ladies use social media to share images of Township life and connect with supporters around the world. They also share the events taking place at eKhaya eKasi such as the Uthando tours, a wedding and a luncheon for Arun Gandhi and Gandhi Legacy Tour that visited in June 2014. To connect with the women on Instagram and Twitter, search for hashtag #thoawSA (The Heart of a Woman Project South Africa) or #eKhayaeKasi.
This is a collage of the women’s photos taken over the first year of The Heart of a Woman Project in South Africa. It was debuted at the 1st anniversary photography exhibition and cultural celebration at eKhaya eKasi on November 22, 2014.
The Eza Kwantu Cultural Group performs at The Heart of a Woman Project First Anniversary Cultural Celebration and Photography Exhibition. Eza Kwantu is a local youth group of vocalists that sing in isiXhosa.
“Photography is more than art; it is empowerment, it is a creative outlet, it is a voice, and it is a source of income for a group of women from a Cape Town Township” – Andrea Rees
eKhaya eKasi generates income through product sales in its on-site art boutique, business to business orders and tourism to support the programs and become self-sustaining. The art boutique focuses on handmade crafts and photography products by artists in the women’s skills development programs, from the community and other areas of South Africa.
The goal is to draw tourists into a community that did not previously have tourism attractions, to offer a cultural exchange and to provide economic opportunity and sustainable income to the artists and residents that partner and work with the centre.
- Traditional cooking class
- Beadwork class
- Traditional meals
- Musical performances
- Djembe class (African drumming)
- Township Tours
Every sale and visit offer travellers to Cape Town and Khayelitsha an opportunity to make a difference and help improve the lives of those that are impacted by poverty.