Twenty Journey: The many characters of South Africa through the lenses of three young photographers

Two decades into South Africa’s democracy, three photographers set off on a road trip to discover more about their country’s mixed-up character.

In 2014, three photographers; Sipho Mpongo, Sean Metelerkamp and Wikus de Wet, set off on a journey around South Africa in order to discover more about the character of their country 20 years into democracy. They named the project Twenty Journey.

“We are all from different cultural backgrounds and we grew up in different times and different places. So I grew up in Bloemfontein, I’m 25, Sean is 30, he’s from Knysna and Sipho is 21 and he is from Langa. So it is basically a look at South Africa 20 years into democracy. It is the current pulse of South Africa from three different perspectives,” says photographer de Wet.

The three had not been friends before their road trip began, and each set off with a different focus: de Wet looked to discover the relationship between the land and the people who occupy it; Mpongo documented the “born-frees” (those born after the fall of Apartheid in South Africa); and Metelerkamp sought to capture South Africa’s idiosyncrasies.

I think people have a warped perception of South Africa. We were able to see what’s actually going down – in little villages and big cities and strange weird little towns. South Africa is not as dangerous as people think it is. - Metelerkamp

Through the journey all three learnt about the country they call home, but also a huge amount about themselves.

“What’s that word? Ubuntu? I am because of you,” says Metelerkamp as he reflects on their time together. “We took a portrait the other day of the three of us, twenty years ago this couldn't have happened – us three doing this. It is kind of interesting looking at these three different textures and colours.”

After traveling for seven months, covering 24 000 kilometres across all nine provinces, the Twenty Journey photographers certainly captured some of the absurd, the majestic and the confusing faces of South Africa.