The South African photographer Sabelo Mlangeni (1980, Driefontein, South Africa), known for his documentary work on usually invisible groups and cultures, is showing a selection from a special archive of wedding photography for the first time. The Isivumelwano exhibition is an ode to love and community, providing a glimpse into intimate and underexposed South African wedding ceremonies
The weddings and accompanying festivities that Mlangeni has been recording as a 'cameraman' since 1997 offer an inspiring counterbalance to the stereotypical white wedding. 70 moving, hand-printed black-and-white and colour photographs of a poetic, almost mythical quality.
For nearly 30 years, Sabelo Mlangeni photographed weddings in South Africa, Lesotho, Mozambique and Swaziland. The Isivumelwano exhibition shows a large selection from his extensive photo archive for the first time. The photographer captures the variety of rituals, traditions and celebrations in intimate images, thus exposing, in his own words, 'the underlying systems in which we find ourselves (and against which we resist)'.
The title Isivumelwano comes from Nguni, a group of languages that also include Xhosa, Zulu, Ndebele, and Swati, which are spoken in several countries in southern Africa. The word means a contract, agreement, or covenant, and here is synonymous with the marriage ceremonies in black communities recorded by Mlangeni in southern Africa. The never-before-seen series of 70 hand-printed images invite you to participate in almost as many ceremonies, all very diverse in nature. Lovingly captured couples who deviate from the heteronormative standard, local populations and cultural customs defy traditional notions of the white wedding.