As we celebrate the month of August, it is important to reflect on the achievements of women, and the imperative role that women of all races and religions have played and continue to play in South African society.
It is said that through thoughtful intention and design, God made women to be tender and nurturing. And that great women of faith have courageously pursued lives to glorify God, even through tragedy and trial.
In this feature, we shine a spotlight on Seopedi Ruth Motau, a veteran photographer and visual storyteller whose career spans over three decades. This piece is a recognition and appreciation of her work which illuminates the everyday battles women are fighting for mere survival. It pays particular attention to the narrative she immaculately illustrates through images, of women in their different places of worship.
Seemingly, Ruth has found that her work resonates with women as they commit more time to the kinds of activities portrayed in her photos. She also addresses the complicated relationships that women face in their domestic spaces. She has ventured into the remotest corners of South Africa and her photographs are nothing less than powerful expressions and depiction of women as prayer warriors. Her pictures also display the extremes of a woman’s life, the struggle to live their life on their own terms, starting from within their families, and permeating to every aspect of their existence in our society. While women play such an important role in the whole structure of our society, many still do not have equal opportunities.
Captured in black and white, for stronger textures and contrast, Ruth’s photographs bring out emotions more strongly, removing distractions from the images. Ruth creates and photographs imaginary worlds that debunk, critique, and despise claustrophobic expectations of domestic perfection. Her work is a critical look at how women continue to strive for perfection in their homes and selves, an unending, frustrating, and fruitless endeavour, in spite of modern-day life.
“I prefer black and white photographs because they bring out the richness and special tones. Even though the world is in colour, I love to interpret what I see in black and white. It is intimate! In my early years of photography, I was influenced by many photographers who worked in black and white and who captured images that will stay in my subconscious mind forever,” she says.
What is prevalent in these narratives, is the role of women in all societies. Ruth’s work speaks volumes about the reality of how home life can be overwhelming and complicated. Not only about the struggle to survive, but also of the celebration of life and culture. “I consider myself a social documentary photographer who records or documents social issues without prejudice or judgement around my surroundings,” she says.
Ruth was the first black female photographer who was employed by a South African newspaper as a photo editor and played a pivotal role as a photographer during the 90s. She worked as a photojournalist for newspapers and that shaped and gave her an opportunity to discover what she really wanted to do as a photographer.
“The stories I covered for the newspaper pictorially did not do justice, so I will go back and do some of the stories in a picture form. I cannot remember the first time I picked up the camera, but the first time when I put the photographic paper in the developer in the darkroom and saw an image coming from the paper, something in my spirit was ignited, and I knew then that photography was what I wanted to do,” she says.
“I am a creative person. I paint with light and that simply means that without light, I cannot create or make images. In photography, light is my biggest deal. I started photography at Alex art Centre and spent most of my three years at the Market Photo Workshop. With David Goldblatt as my mentor and teacher, his teaching was taking photographs without a flash. We used available light. I was influenced by the likes of Sebastiao Salgado, Yousuf Karsh, John Loengard, Brian Lanker, Don McCullin, Roy DeCarava, Santu Mofokeng, Guy Tillim, and Ernest Cole to mention a few. Sometimes I would point a camera to myself and the results would always amaze me,” she says.
Her impressive body of work includes the ‘Hostel and Shebeen Series’ which portray the general everyday hostel and shebeen life. “As a social documentary photographer from Meadowlands in Soweto, I grew up around hostels. When my father came to Johannesburg, he lived in Jeppe hostel. So, I was curious about the everyday activities and lives of the hostel dwellers. Shebeens were popular in the hostels and the images show most activities that transpire almost every day. Shebeens are a part of life to those who make a living from the income generated from selling alcohol to feed their families and they are mostly run by women,” she says.
Over the years, Ruth has captured many images that tell different stories and some of her work has been recognised and displayed at the National Museum of African Art. She proudly mentions this as a huge milestone and highlight of her career. “The National Museum of African Art bought my work as a collection and they are the only museum dedicated to the collection, exhibition, conservation, and study of the arts of Africa in the United States.
Even good photographers take bad pictures sometimes and Ruth is quick to admit this. “I have taken a lot of horrible pictures, but my worst experience was when I went on a student assignment to photograph the late Mr Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela for the first time and realised afterwards that I did not have a film in my camera. I never told anyone until later years,” she says.
While you always want your home to look chic, staying on top of the latest trends décor trends can be tricky. If there is one perfect moment to update your home, it’s at the start of a new season. As we are leaving the cold winter days behind us, it’s time to refresh your home and get ready for the Spring/Summer season with new décor accessories from Teiburry – home of luxury décor items.
Whether you love trends or will typically go to great lengths to avoid them, there are bound to be a few décor items on Teiburry’s range that you will adore. Your home is a constantly evolving mix of all the things you love, as it should be. But as with new season fashion trends, we see new emerging new home decor trends each season, that tempt us to update our homes – rather than change them entirely.
Teiburry offers a wide range of décor items that will help to transform your home this coming season. Founded by Maboshadi (Shadi) Nhlapo an Accountant by profession, who chose to walk away from the perks of being an Auditor/Accountant back in 2006, to pursue her love and passion for home interior décor. This move gave birth to various businesses among the Teiburry Deco Luxe company.
“Decoration is my first love and I’m glad that I could finally pursue a business that resonated with my creative mind. Having been in love with decorations and beautiful spaces all my life, it was her academic sharpness that delayed her. Being married to an IT specialist who worked for an international company it was through traveling to various countries which gave me the opportunity to see beautiful and creative spaces from different countries. Monaco is one country that cemented my love for beautiful spaces. I was always intrigued by what is out there in all my travels. I do not have any formal training in décor, however, my fondness of finer things in life has helped me navigate the décor space with ease,” says Shadi.
Throughout the years, she has kept abreast of the latest trends by paging through home decoration magazines. This coupled with her passion for beautiful things has awakened a keen eye for the latest trends. While Teiburry does not do home interior consulting, Shadi believes in handpicking pieces that she believes will enhance her clients’ living spaces. Other than beautiful spaces, Shadi loves gifts which is another service offering within the Teiburry brand.
Shadi plans to grow her portfolio into hosting bigger events. Teiburry currently hosts small and intimate events with a maximum number of 20 people.
“Our core values are based on honesty and integrity. These are hallmarks of how we work. We are service-centric. As punned in our tag line, “With us service is a Habit”, she says.
The fashion and modeling industry, just like other industries is feeling the pain amid the COVID -19 pandemic and resorting to developing digital solutions. With modeling work at a standstill, for the most part, newcomers like Sejeng Mashoene are bearing the brunt of the lockdown restrictions due to the pandemic and the biggest surges in infections currently in South Africa.
At the beginning of the year, barely two months into modeling, Sejeng was booked and busy! She secured a booking with an amazing pan-African fashion brand, Maryzo Designs to showcase their new clothing range. A few days later she was announced as a finalist for Miss Regal International South Africa 2020. Subsequently, she was in a pageant production with Mrs South Africa 2018, Nicole Capper. On the very same day at the pageant production, she got a call from her agent informing her of a call back for an ad campaign that she could not attend due to the clash. A few days later, she received confirmation from her agent that she had been booked for another print media ad campaign which she shot a few days later. Shortly thereafter, she was offered an opportunity to be a model trainer and scheduled to start at the beginning of April 2020. But then the unexpected COVID – 19 pandemic occurred globally, forcing the world to come to a standstill in the middle of March 2020.
As the country reported more and more cases of COVID-19 throughout March, this meant that photoshoots and castings had to be postponed or cancelled altogether. Just as she thought that her new career was flourishing, Sejeng’s plans became increasingly unstable.
“When the Coronavirus made its way into the country, my modeling career that was literally taking off had to come to a halt. To be honest I was crushed! After struggling with unemployment, I finally had something in my life to look forward to, but all that had to a pause,” says Sejeng.
Currently, South Africa is on level 3 lockdown regulations which means that the rules are now more relaxed, compared to level 5 and more than eight million people have returned to work. However, the economy has taken a hard knock and still at the early stages of recovery. But things are not the same and everyone is adjusting to the “new normal”.
As hard-hitting as this may be, Sejeng remains optimistic. “What keeps me positive during these uncertain times is interacting with my fellow Miss Regal finalists. I’m keeping in touch with my agency through videos and live sessions on Instagram providing insight with the way forward in the modeling industry during the pandemic. In my own time, I continue doing pageant training with Stride to keep me prepared for the pageant. I have also joined a lockdown campaign with 4ourth Roc clothing where I shoot indoors wearing 4ourth Roc gear. Being creative, learning new skills, staying informed, updated and being open-minded to change in order to adapt is really what has kept me sane during these indefinite times,” she says.
Going forward, Sejeng has learned and is finding new ways of pursuing the modeling space virtually. She is adapting to self-taped castings which are a great time saver. “This is something that can really assist in the future even when the pandemic is over. I do have hope that my modeling career will still take off with the same energy after the pandemic. I can’t wait to get back to the buzz again! I’d like to work with big brands in the industry. For now, though, it’s all about creativity and adapting to change.
MORE ABOUT SEJENG
She is an Economics graduate, a passionate teacher, a model signed to Rage Model Management, a model scout at Opulent models and a Herbalife entrepreneur. She was raised by a single mother in a township called Lebowakgomo in Limpopo and attended a multiracial private school in the city of Polokwane.
Before venturing into the modeling industry, she obtained a BCom degree in Economics and Econometrics at the University of Johannesburg, with the intention to pursue an honours degree the following year. Unfortunately, that did not come to pass, due to unforeseen circumstances. She tried seeking employment with just the degree but was unsuccessful, in the year 2017. Her mother suggested that she study teaching by doing a post-graduate certificate in education, and she did. Upon completion, she worked as a temporary teacher at a school in Midrand – north of Johannesburg. After her contract expired, she continued looking for employment while modeling for her cousin who is a photographer, to assist him with his portfolio. That is where the spark began. As she searched for modeling inspiration on the internet, she came across a post by The Model Academy, inviting aspiring models to a workshop. She booked and attended the workshop and thereafter attended two courses offered by the academy until she received the certificates. She then took the decision to sign with Rage Model Management in November 2019. In February 2020, her career as a model began… And…SHE IS THE NEXT MODEL TO WATCH!
Diane Nkoa (20) is a Cameroonian fashion designer based in Tunisia who is advancing the approach of women and menswear. Her designs challenge the often-narrow rules that accompany Tunisia’s fashion by creating evolving, provocative, implicit yet comfortable clothing. Diane’s design aesthetic has an emphasis on superior construction, movement, textures, strong silhouettes, and innovative technics.
Whether you love discovering new clothing lines, wearing ‘It’ pieces before the masses, or shopping brands that others are less familiar with, emerging designers such as Diane are well worth your attention.
In December 2019, she officially launched ADN by Diane to exhibit her work as a fashion designer. “I wanted to finally showcase my work after being scared for a while to publicly put the title of ‘fashion designer’ next to my name. I am glad that I actually did it! Now, my brand is really doing well, more than I expected.
Currently, young people are drawn toward the fashion industry for the way of life it represents. For Diane, the fashion bug bit her quite early! “I started designing clothes when I was 13 years of age. After High School, I received a scholarship to study fashion designing at ESMOD Tunisia, where I’m currently still studying. They offer topflight programs in design and business to cover the full range of the fashion industry’s demands,” she says.
She describes her design aesthetic as; “Sometimes I’ll describe it as minimalist and sometimes extravagant; I cannot quite put my finger on it! So, I just do whatever comes to mind. I just love expressing my creativity. The inspiration behind my designs is everything around me. I could be staring at a tree and find inspiration,” she says.
According to Invest in Tunisia – The Textile & Apparel Sector in Tunisia is positioned as a cornerstone of the Tunisian industry and keeps a prominent place in the national economy while maintaining a strong contribution to the socio-economic balance of Tunisia
“The fashion industry in Tunisia is really thriving! Some European brands make their clothes in Tunisia and I really like how fashion designers incorporate the Tunisian culture into their designs. However, I do not align my brand with the fashion trends in my country because I want to create new trends. Some Tunisian designers focus their work on wax, which is good but not innovative for the current fashion era,” she says.
Diane looks up to fashion designers such as Anissa Meddeb, who is originally from Tunisia, born and raised between Tunis and Paris. In 2016, Anissa launched her label Anissa Aida – The brand is a mix and match of inspirations from Tunisia and Japan, both cultures rich in heritage and traditional craftsmanship. I love how minimalist her style is. Internationally, I am inspired by Iris Van Herpen because her clothes and fabric are daring and thoughtful. She is a Dutch fashion designer known for fusing technology with traditional Haute Couture craftsmanship. She opened her own label Iris van Herpen in 2007,” she says.
We asked her to describe the inspiration behind two of her designs and this is what she had to say:
“For this design, I drew inspiration from Laetitia Ky, an artist based in the Ivory Coast, who makes unbelievably inventive sculptures with her hair. She just needs some wire, thread, and her own hair. I wanted to make a dress using wire, but the final dress was not what I drew at first. The first design was straight and not circular. Because the wire came tied circular, I just decided to use it as it was, instead of straightening it. For the lingerie underneath, we had just learned to do it at school and I just wanted to practice,” she says.
This design was inspired by my absolute love for lingerie! That’s why I chose to study it this year. I think that lingerie is too beautiful to just be worn as an undergarment. The garter belt is the perfect accessory to make clothing look sexy. I made a corset, and a pair of shorts that can be lengthened if wanted and added a shirt to make it classier.
Diane’s plans to grow her brand include collaborating with industry role players.
“I plan to do fashion shows; collaborate with other brands and concentrate on identifying innovative fabrics for my brand. Ideally, I would like to build an established brand that would one day become a form of reference for innovative and eco-friendly fabrics. My wish is to see icons wearing my brand and for ADN to be a style movement that showcases Tunisia’s talents,” she concludes.
The South African fashion industry, like many other industries globally, is currently going through a rough time. However, this industry has generally been flourishing over the years, with many fashion designers establishing their own labels and clothing boutiques mushrooming everywhere. This has created healthy competition and we are in awe of the grand design garments that we see displayed.
This feature celebrates a fashion designer and boutique owner, Siyamthanda Celeste Bottoman who took the plunge and left her stable job as a Phlebotomist to pursue her love for fashion, a year ago. Growing up she had a keen interest in fashion designing, but always thought venturing into the science or medical field would be more financially rewarding.
While working at a local private hospital – Netcare Blaauwberg in Cape Town, she found the courage to start an online store selling bags and accessories. Surprisingly, the stock was sold out in one day, which made her realise that the business had great potential and that it could be lucrative in the future. To date, she is a flourishing boutique owner with a flair for fashion.
“When I could no longer manage the demands of both my work, the business, being a mother and wife, I decided to resign from my job. I had to make a choice to venture into business on a full-time basis, seeing that it was growing beautifully. So, I started customising clothes and restructuring my business such that walk-ins and other businesses in clothing could also buy in bulk from us,” says Siyamthanda.
This bold move gave birth to L’mad by Celeste, a clothing boutique that offers a wide range of customised clothes for infants, kids, women, and men. They offer customers a choice of buying from their customised catalogue or tailor-made. Their custom-made clothes vary from street swag, African print, urban, simple, elegant and luxurious garments. L’mad by Celeste are always on the edge of the latest trends. You’ll find an eclectic mix of designs for any occasion.
Siyamthanda is a fashionista in her own right who is as dashing and colourful as the wardrobe she designs and curates. With her collection, you can expect remarkable cuts, fascinating prints that are reasonably priced. She has a keen eye for fashion and her fearless style and boldness in her creations are what make her brand stand out.
Siyamthanda has also expanded her business and has established a section where they customise school and work uniforms, homeware from beddings, curtains, cushions and also manufacturing these items for other shops.
“I aspire to be a very successful entrepreneur who will inspire and help other entrepreneurs one day. I have so many ideas written on my diary that I would like to turn into business ventures someday in property and logistics. For now, I’m focusing on learning more and building my own business. I am firm believer that with God on my side, nothing is impossible in life! Looking back, I have come a long way and I’m grateful about the decisions I’ve made. Moving forward, I see the light at the end of the tunnel, and with time, patience, perseverance, focus, I am surely getting closer to my destination,” she concludes.