Abstract Peaces: Redefining mental illness

Conceptual photographer Tsoku Maela challenges the stigma around mental illness by drawing on his personal experience.

From the Series

Cape Town-based storyteller from Limpopo Tsoku Maela believes that mental illness is often misunderstood and misrepresented in African communities. As a sufferer of anxiety and depression, Maela decided to visually represent his exploration of mental health issues. In the series Abstract Peaces, Maela provides a captivating account of finding oneself despite the stigma surrounding mental health.

Speaking to the Daily Vox, Maela explained that struggles with mental health are too easily swept under the rug by people of colour: “Growing up in a black community, you quickly learn that there is a list of problems that do not “affect” black people. Mentally ill? Bewitched, or you simply study too hard. Depressed? Lighten up, you’ve been watching way too many of those white teen movies. Seeing a psychologist? You’re weak and you should probably stop that before the neighbours find out,” he was quoted as saying.

The highly publicised body of work struck a chord with a number of people who can attest to the challenges Maela highlights.

Previous works include Broken Things, a short documentary and photo series about finding self-love despite your flaws.