Tombstone unveiling in Chaneng Village, Rustenburg
When Patience first asked me if I was available for a tombstone unveiling I was really not sure what to expect, let alone how I would feel while taking pictures.
Patience is another one of my regular clients who I have photographed all of the major events of her children’s lives from birth to the first day at big school etc. The latest event was the unveiling of her mother’s tombstone.
The day began for me at around 4am with a drive to Chaneng Village close to Sun City to start photographing the day at 7am.
Admittedly I got lost… But see it from my point of view, rural villages do not have the best road infrastructure or the luxury of street names to follow. I got close, but took one too many “Sho’t Lefts” and had to call for some help to get to the house.
The unveiling was punctuated by a brass band (Experience brass band) that played a very upbeat tune between the various speakers. The first time they struck up a tune I was taken by surprise by how loud it was :-)
I also loved how the family and friends were dressed in their sunday best to attend the unveiling. Suits and bow ties, hats for the ladies. I loved these details.
Back at the house it was time to feed all the guests and Patience said I needed to go around and capture everything. The “real village experience” she called it. In between photographing the three-legged pots over fires cooking the meat and the rest of the preparations I was led to a room with 7 or 8 grannies who were in charge of making the Umqombothi, a beer made from maize, maize malt, sorghum malt, yeast and water, which takes 5 days to make. They were just so amazing so I chatted to them for a while and tasted the beer. Interesting.
I thought I had better not drink too much because I still had a few hours of work left :-)
I do not know how to describe what I felt while I was shooting, but it was an emotional experience. I was humbled to be invited into the midst of the family and friends in the middle of a rural village – everyone I spoke to was warm and friendly. I remember taking a granny’s portrait and showing it to her on the back of the camera. She let out a yelp of surprise and joy and said something to the effect of this being the devils work :-) The technology was certainly new to her.
This made me wonder about how many of the village residents had ever had proper portraits done. Other than an ID photo, how many had memories captured… I would love to do a project where I travelled the country shooting free portraits for families that would never normally have that luxury – the question is how to fund it. Any corporates want to sponsor a trip?
The day definitely opened my eyes and made me think about things a little more. I am grateful for everything I have and the opportunities that photography has presented me with.
I hope these pictures give you a small insight into the experience I was privileged to share.