Design Indaba Emerging Creative for 2022 Njabulo ‘Kwame’ Maseko says photography has empowered him to express something greater than himself via the art of his visual storytelling.
1. You're a profound visual storyteller. How did you come upon photography and why does it speak to you?
I can’t remember what exactly led me to study film and photography; all I can recall is how influential it was to have a lecturer who believed in me and my talent, and who gave me the hard truth about each and every project. Discovering photography helped me open up to a different avenue of how to express myself.
2. There's a definite spiritual quality to your work – can you tell us a bit more about this?
If it doesn’t aim to make me feel something from within, then I don’t feel as though I’m serving my purpose as an artist. At the heart of creating art that aims to heal or be felt, I need to lend myself to being a vessel for something greater than just me. I need to care and concern myself with stories and experiences outside of my own frame; to be present and forgive myself for moments when I haven’t figured it all out. I think this quintessentially human part of my experience allows me to create work that reaches deeper than the surface. And, in many ways, I know that I’m fortunate to be ‘guided’.
Even though I work from a photographic space, none of my influences have anything to do with my medium of expression. Instead, I draw a great deal of my influence and inspiration from moments in conversation – maybe a word sparked an idea, or a line of lyrics came through better, or differently, than it would have from an image. My firm belief is that the most powerful way to encompass what influences me to create is to observe the living that’s going on in front of me.
4. Name a few career highlights to date.
I wouldn’t say I have any career highlights to mention, even though I’ve worked alongside amazing creatives and shot for some sizeable brands. I don’t think I’ve really reached a mark where I can say I’m truly fulfilled. While that moment is yet to come, I’m sincerely appreciative of each and every opportunity in which I get to showcase what I can do.
5. What are you working on at the moment, and where would you like your talent to take you?
I’m trying be more consistent these days in creating projects that resonate with me. I think, in the past, I didn’t give myself the opportunity to believe in myself; I carried significant self-doubt and was rather insecure. This prevented me from even trying in certain instances.
Right now, however, I’m at a stage in my life where being imperfect and incomplete is as real to me as trying to reach for a type of perfection that meets no end. This is where my social conscience has emerged strongly: I hope to open doors for young boys and girls in the townships and rural areas to believe in their creative talents. So I’m partnering with NGOs to provide schools with equipment, Information and extra-curricular activities that will create opportunities for their scholars. Helping them to learn and improve upon their skills, and talents, has become an important part of my journey.