The ‘Born Frees’ make up about 40 percent of the population, and the critics among older South Africans contend that they are apathetic and apolitical, unaware of the history of the struggle that made their lives better. Will they allow themselves to be defined by the scars of apartheid, or will they embrace freedom, choice and opportunity? Taking responsibility for being exactly where you are gives you the power to be exactly where you want to be. They are the future. I will focus on the future.
The ideologies of freedom in South Africa vary in almost every corner, baring in mind that South Africa is diverse country. How then can we expect the new generation of young people in South Africa to be defined by a political term ‘Born Free’ which also suggests that before the first Democratic Election in South Africa, the young people then were not regarded as free. What is it with the youth of 1994 that is free? Is the term referring to the black children that were born after their parents burnt dom-passes and voted for the first time in their country or does it refer to white children who could finally have a black friend without the segregation rules? Or does it mean both, if so then I think it’s fundamental that we should look at the post Apartheid system and how it has affected the lives of young people in South Africa with different backgrounds. The environment I grew up and the problems I had to face as a young person in South Africa fail to describe me as free. I became very conscious of where I belong in this country and what I could offer to other people I meet especially young people. I wanted to find out their definition of freedom through examining their social dynamics and their interaction with me as a stranger in their space who share the same confusion of what it means to be a born free in South Africa. My process throughout the whole journey was learning and teaching. The confusion began at calling every youth born in 1994 as free. We can all agree that the majority of white children were long free compared to the majority of black children in South Africa before the first Democratic Elections in 1994.
I allowed myself not to only look at other born frees the same way I look at myself but I was more interested in our life experiences, environmental backgrounds family problems and statuses. Most importantly what we make out of ourselves. Through long dialogues and playing, laughing and crying a moment shared is the moment I captured through writing and photography.
Sipho Mpongo was born in the Eastern Cape in a rural village called Nqamakwe in 1993 and was raised in Langa, Cape Town. Illiso Labantu, a local photographic mentorship programme, provided the platform for Mpongo to launch into a photographic career. Sipho has recently completed a full time course in study at the Cape Town School of Photography whilst simultaneously contributing to various photographic group shows and projects in Cape Town and internationally. Most notably Mpongo recently had fundraising exhibition at Pace/McGill Gallery in New York to help children in South Africa. Mpongo recently won a prestigious Magnum Foundation Photography and Human Right Fellowship Award at the New York University.