Noncedo Gxekwa Nonzuzo Gxekwa

Twin Photographers Noncedo Charmaine and Nonzuzo Gxekwa Talk Individuality

 

Noncedo Charmaine and Nonzuzo Cheryl Gxekwa are identical twin sisters. They’re also both photographers with wholly independent styles. As artists, both are concerned with the everyday, capturing people and places in and around the cities they’re based in: Noncedo in Cape Town and Nonzuzo in Johannesburg. Despite their remarkable similarities in looks and interests, each has her own approach and point of view. Mesmerised by light, Noncedo’s images are composed and crisp, turning busy street scenes into quiet poetry. There’s a raw energy and playful personality in Nonzuzo’s images that comes from her spontaneous approach, often snapping street scenes with her phone.

 

Individuality is made paramount in photography, your subjects or style is what sets you apart. We were curious to find out how Noncedo and Nonzuzo navigate this as twins. Interested in uncovering the visual similarities and differences between each, we arranged their photographs as diptychs in conversation with one another. (Noncedo on your left, Nonzuzo on your right) What emerges are two styles that are familial but unmistakably individual, just like the sisters who produced them.

 

Image Credits:

Left: Noncedo Charmaine

Right: Nonzuzo Gxekwa

 

Twin Photographers Noncedo Charmaine and Nonzuzo

 

As twins, what does independence mean to you? 

Nonzuzo: Independence means being able to express one’s individuality even if it means being the odd one out, and also just understanding the power in that.

Noncedo: Independence for me means being courageous and following your instinct to see through your individual style. So it is always being able to express oneself fully even when you are part of a collective.

 

How are you similar to each other?

Nonzuzo: We are similar in that we are both drawn to colour and odd things. We are drawn to detail. We like coffee and we’re very stubborn sometimes.

Noncedo: We have similar taste and interests. We’re drawn to odd things, architecture (in clothes and buildings), colour palettes. I think we both love the idea of having good warm bread in the morning with amazing butter and a coffee in a beautiful cup. Of course we are very stubborn.

 

What are your markers of individuality?

Nonzuzo: The way we carry ourselves, our sense of style. Ncedo is more bold and out there, I am more reserved and have a more monochrome kind of style.

Noncedo: Markers of style: I’m into more flowy, unisex kind of clothes, sometimes very bold in colour compared to the neutral tones we both enjoy. I love rings and wear a cross as an earring. Nzuzo loves striped t-shirts and jeans. She has an amazing collection of silk scarves. We share a love of beanies.

 

Twin Photographers Noncedo Charmaine and Nonzuzo

 

How did you get into photography? 

Nonzuzo: It was a picture that Ncedo took of me against a tree that sparked my interest, as well as having moved to Johannesburg, discovering the Market Photo Workshop (though I have not studied there). Those are the two things I’d say were what got me into photography, then it became this tool of discovering the city and getting to know people.

Noncedo: It started when we were kids in high school. We played around a lot with mama’s camera. I eventually studied photography.

 

How would describe your individual photography styles? What are you each drawn to capturing?

Nonzuzo: I would say candid docu-street potraiture…and that is because it is never thought of for long periods, I walk the streets and shoot what appeals to me at that moment. I am drawn to the gritty, not so beautiful scenes that people overlook sometimes. I love the street style in the CBD. It is not Vogue style but there is something beautiful with the way people express themselves through clothes…have you ever seen how the Mozambican women layer fabrics or the way the men from KZN wear formal pants with striped t-shirts & beanies? They have created their own fashion language. I am also drawn to people, just because I think we all have interesting stories. Flowers and the female form excite me just because of the little surprises you find when you look closer.

I don’t think our photography style is that different, we are “feel & shoot” but then Ncedo’s pictures are more refined. She pays attention to the technical side of photography whereas with me, my images are very raw.

Noncedo: I can’t describe the style, I guess I am comfortable in most. My photography is mostly about feeling and mood but obviously exploring different themes. I love the everyday lived experience that is most times very abstract. The abstract lets you explore beyond the boxes we try to create. What I love about Nzuzo’s photography is that it is spontaneous whereas I sometimes get stuck with trying to make it all perfect because of school. I am trying to break free from that prison…LOL.

 

Twin Photographers Noncedo Charmaine and Nonzuzo Twin Photographers Noncedo Charmaine and Nonzuzo

Do you crit each other’s work? Or act as a support system

Nonzuzo: Yes to a certain degree, generally we like each other’s work but maybe things around framing, colours or spending time on a particular thing are the general comments we share with each other. Also because Ncedo has the technical expertise, she offers advice on how to get better.

Nonzuzo: Yes to a certain degree, generally we like each other’s work but maybe things around framing, colours or spending time on a particular thing are the general comments we share with each other. Also because Ncedo has the technical expertise, she offers advice on how to get better.

Noncedo: Yes, we do both. I think because we’re drawn to similar things in general, it is easy to support each other. Sometimes we get too self-critical to a point where it gets in the way of getting on with the work, the other will therefore step in as a support system.

Crit, yes. You know the saying, “charity begins at home”. If we don’t [crit each other] then we are not honest with each other. It does not build us in anyway.

 

Image Credits:

Left: Noncedo Charmaine

Right: Nonzuzo Gxekwa

 

Twin Photographers Noncedo Charmaine and Nonzuzo Twin Photographers Noncedo Charmaine and Nonzuzo Twin Photographers Noncedo Charmaine and Nonzuzo Twin Photographers Noncedo Charmaine and Nonzuzo Twin Photographers Noncedo Charmaine and Nonzuzo

 

Interview by Alix-Rose Cowie.