Image: Zwelibanze Zwane

There was a pronounced presence of youngsters voting at this year’s elections. SA’s youth, who mostly have a secondary recollection of the historical importance of the country’s first democratic election, have become increasingly disillusioned by the promised hope that came with democracy 30 years ago. They have been the ones most affected by rampant crime, rising unemployment, and crumbling infrastructure among several other pervasive issues. 

Students from the Thokoza-based social and artistic initiative, Of Soul and Joy (OSJ), sought to make sense of this complex societal dialogue through the power of photography. On the morning of election day, the young photographers took to the streets of Thokoza and captured the moments and movements of history unfolding.

Image: Fuwe Molefe

In 1994, the resources and responsibility for telling these stories largely belonged to journalists and professional photographers such as Joao Silva whose powerful images recently resurfaced in a New York Times article, and are captured in his book with Greg Marinovich, The Bang Bang Club. Fast forward 30 years later, and a historically silenced demographic in SA is now in a position to create their own archives to engage where they come from.

“It’s easier for the older generation to reflect on where we have come from as a country,” says Jabulani Dhlamini, OSJ project manager.

“This project helps us to see the perspective of the youth in this equally pivotal moment in SA’s history, as they also come face to face with changing the country’s destiny in very difficult days. This is a visual dialogue between 1994 and 2024, the past and the present. Do the stories told match their experiences right now?”

Image: Bongane Radebe
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