Ramoloti Kganakga: Borrowing From The past To Celebrate New Age African Identities
A Profile written by Tshepiso Mabula:
Born and raised in Sandfontein in the North West, photographer Ramoloti Kganakga, who is known for his gritty images and grungy aesthetic, explores lesser known narratives using every day experiences as a catalyst. He uses portraiture to discover the hidden narratives in African history. In his portrait series entitled ‘Heritage Rites’ he celebrates the resilience of the women of Haiti during the Haitian revolution of 1784 to 1804. It is hard to ignore the grace in the depictions of black excellence in his imagery; the perfect contrasts in the rough grittiness of his aesthetic and the regal manner in which he captures his subjects make for iconic images that speak highly of Africa’s ability to reinvent itself.
Ramoloti goes by the pseudonym ‘Afari Kofi’ – a profound name that speaks to the ideology his work tackles. “Well, the name is actually a combination of two meanings, Afari derived from ‘Afuraitkait Nuit’ ― which means original people, for short, and the second Kofi, which is just a res name that stuck with me from my Varsity days, I actually used to go by many names in search of an identity and I guess this one fits the persona that I embody.”
In the age of rampant femicide and many misconceptions and misrepresentation around the female figure it is important to have creative work that aims to change the narrative. A consistent feature in Ramoloti’s work is the distinct feature of womxn fighting to stake their claim in society. In his work titled ‘The Animation of Her Inanimate’ he questions the lack of female agency in creative work, in this series, Ramoloti uses haunting portraits and still images to repaint the images of the female body that have been created in various media over the years. The work is a series of revolutionary portraits that show the model posing in powerful and empowering stances. She is dressed in all black and photographed in front of many different backgrounds. The work is striking.
When asked about his focus on embracing the womxn figure, the Joburg-based photographer says “I feel like I am a trajectory of what is wrong with the world and the injustice that is perpetrated on the ‘female’ figure in society. It’s like almost an echoed conversation that has been funnelled down throughout history to write off the womxn and what she has done and for me it feels like some of the womxn I am fortunate to meet express their unique stories through me, stories of who they are, and how they see themselves as new age warriors. It’s important because it’s about time men listened and magnified this narrative.”
He has done some curatorial work with youth empowerment organisation Umuzi in Jeppestown, Johannesburg. He has curated exhibitions for the now popular First Thursdays events in Joburg on behalf of Umuzi and it is here that he has showcased many untold stories that celebrate people who more often than not are side-lined because of their positions in society. In his work titled ‘Institutionalisation of a Zulu warrior’ he uses the medium of photography and video to document life in the Wolhuter men’s hotel in Jeppestown. The work is a series of quiet and intimate images that depict the lives of migrant labourers who have made a city hostel their home. The images feature warm still life images and portraits that evoke empathy and grab the attention of the viewer; the images are striking and will make you want to know more about the place and the subjects that are photographed.
He is also a poet and writer and has often used mixed media to reinvent his work, and is currently working on a few curatorial projects, and says he wants to continue using his work to challenge the narrative and recreate the ideas people have about Africa. “I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about ideas, activations, and public demonstrations that offer active engagements with audiences, I want to create a space where people can raise and exhibit new, unexplored ideas. I’ve missed spoken word, because for me it’s where it began.”
More of his work here.