Lindokuhle Sobekwa (born 1995) is a South African documentary photographer. He is a Nominee member of Magnum Photos
and based in Johannesburg. Sobekwa was born in Katlehong, a township, 35 km from Johannesburg, South Africa. He learned photography in 2012 through participation in the first Of Soul and Joy Project
, an educational program for young people run in the township of Thokoza; the workshop was given by Bieke Depoorter
and Cyprien Clément-Delmas. His photo essay, Nyaope
, about people who use the drug Nyaope in the township in which he lived and beyond, was published by the South African newspaper Mail & Guardian in 2014 and by Vice Magazine
and De Standaard in 2015.
In 2015, Sobekwa received a scholarship to study at the Market Photo Workshop where he completed his foundation course. His Series Nyaope
was exhibited in the ensuing group show, Free From My Happiness
, organized by Rubis Mecenat at the International Photo Festival of Ghent in Belgium. In 2016, he left South Africa for a Residency in Tehran, Iran, with the No Man’s Art Gallery
. The same year his work was displayed in the traveling iteration of Free from my Happiness
His work features in the book Free from my Happiness
edited by Bieke Depoorter and Tjorven Bruyneel . He also took part in the group show Fresh Produce
, organized by Assemblages and VANSA at the Turbine Art Fair in Johannesburg. Lindokuhle Sobekwa is also an assistant manager to the Of Soul and Joy Project
, as well as a trainee at Mikhael Subotzky Studio
In 2017, Sobekwa was selected by the Magnum Foundation for Photography and Social Justice to develop the project I Carry Her Photo With Me
. In 2018, he received the Magnum Foundation Fund to continue with his longterm project Nyaope
, and has been selected for the residency Cité des Arts Réunion.
Sobekwa became a Magnum nominee member in 2018.
Source: Magnum Photos
About I Carry Her Photo With Me
The day his older sister Ziyanda disappeared, Lindokuhle Sobekwa was hit by a car. The two were walking together along a road in the Johannesburg suburb of Thokoza when Ziyanda began to chase the seven-year-old Sobekwa. Out of fear, he began to run, and then he was hit. Above him, he recalled before blacking out, was the blurry silhouette of a woman or girl. His sister vanished in the ensuing scramble, with no word as to why. “She was in a period of being a very secretive person,”
Sobekwa remembers. She was thirteen years old.
Sobekwa would not see Ziyanda again for a dozen years. Then one day, he returned from school, and Ziyanda was at home. She was reunited with the family for a couple of weeks. At the time, in 2014, Sobekwa was coming into his own as a photographer. He was in his final year of high school and working under the mentorship of Magnum photographer Bieke Depoorter and filmmaker Cyprien Clément-Delmas through the Of Soul and Joy
project, an artistic initiative based in Thokoza. He remembers walking into Ziyanda’s room one day; in that moment, he saw his favorite would-be portrait of his sister: “She was lying in bed, there was a beautiful light. She said, ‘If you take a photo, I’m going to kill you.’ A few days after that, she passed away.”
Disappearances are not rare in South Africa, Sobekwa says. Most Black South African families are familiar with the trauma of disappearances, which date back to the late 1980s and early ’90s, the height of the apartheid crisis. During this time, an ethnopolitical war between two rival parties, the African National Congress (ANC) and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), suffused the townships with panic, as residents along the factional line were routinely vanished by violence. In Sobekwa’s family, the cycle began with his grandfather, who was the first of the line to come to Johannesburg, in the 1960s. He never returned to the countryside; his fate is still unknown.
In 2017, the Magnum Foundation named Sobekwa a Photography and Social Justice Fellow. Suddenly, he had the resources to expand his search for his sister and develop his personal journal into a full-fledged series, I carry Her photo with Me
“I had my own unanswered questions, maybe guilt of some sort,”
says Sobekwa. “I felt the need to go into these spaces and make the camera my excuse. I realized that going alone, it would be difficult.”
With his camera in hand, he slipped once more into the role of documentarian.