Puleng Mongale’s series Intimate Strangers features unrelated lookalikes in an attempt to capture a feeling of brotherhood. Each pair are photographed in different settings. This latest edition to the series, Part 4: We The People, is the most minimal in terms of the props and backdrop, but the styling of the characters themselves is striking.
“Surprisingly, this episode – unlike the previous ones – didn’t really have a clear concept. I felt compelled to shoot the pair as soon as I could (which was sometime in September) before it became impossible to find them in one space together. I had a vision of how I wanted them to look (in terms of styling) but I didn’t know what message I wanted to communicate. Bantu and I dressed them up and used a friend’s apartment to capture them. We were pleased with how the shoot turned out, the images were stored and we left the messaging for much later.”
This part of the series is published alongside lyrics from American hip-hop band A Tribe Called Quest. Mongale explains that this suggestion came from her friend and collaborator, photographer Kgomotso Neto Tleane.
“Usually, conceptualising is my baby but the photographers seemed more attached to this episode than I was so I asked them to handle this one. He [Kgomotso] is a huge fan of the group and he thought the lyrics of the song “We The People” went hand in hand with the images we’d produced. He felt very strongly about it so I gave him full control over it. Even letting him do the posting and layout on the blog.”
When asked about the choice of lyrics, Tleane responded: “The issues addressed in the song are the same issues we face as black South Africans and other black people anywhere in the world. We [black people] are communicating the same message but through different mediums of creativity. That's why I felt that this chapter resonated with some of the songs in the album, especially ‘We The People’.”
“Black people all over the world are confronted by the same issues – inequality, racism, economic exclusion… For example, Black Lives Matter is an American movement but it resonates with every black person regardless of where they are in the world. I honestly see no difference between an African American and a Black South African. Our struggles in the spaces we occupy are the same,” says Mongale.