Is this water toxic?
Does this water
heal?

Would it be very anxious to baptize
here? Or to drink this water?

These questions form the backbone of my project. Many worshipping groups in African religious expression is closed tied to water. Amanzi are also known for their spiritual meaning to traditional healers and Baptist churches. Through the lens, I continue to observe the space, the water and document life in all aspects of grandeur and the minutiae tenderness and joys of being.

If these photos have a purpose, it is this: capture everyday occurrences and moments that I can learn from it could be a Church goer or a young boy and girl who came to swim or friends passing on the space. Whatever the locale or experience. These images depict life in Fleurhof (Soweto) from my perspective. I’m challenged to question the space in a portrait when a subject has a belief.

A dam in Fleurhof that hold healing waters, drinking water, swimming water but scientists warn worshippers of the contamination from nearby open mine waste.

Amanzi explores black religion and the power that water holds in healing. A lot of worshippers use water for healing purposes. Many churches come here for baptisms, kids come to swim and cows come to drink.

If there is contamination (from mine) our health could be in danger, gazing at yellow mountains of sand in the distance – an abandoned mine dump. This is one of about 6000 abandoned and derelict mines. These people have been practicing their religion for hundreds of years and their religious practices should not end because other people are irresponsible and polluting the water.

Biography

Andile Bhala is a documentary photographer and street portrait photographer based in Soweto, South Africa. He has always seen things in a different way and found it easy to project his perspective of things through photography. Being from Soweto, the pursuance and expression of his love for photography has not been easy. He started engaging visually using a phone and fell in love with this art called photography. Through years of practice, Andile has gained the ability to document everyday stories of everyday people. He is driven by a deep passion to tell real stories with all their layered complexities. Along the way, he saved a bit of money and bought an entry level camera to pursue his love of documenting everyday stories in the township.

Photography has been a beacon in my life. The streets of Soweto with their bustling life, noise, smiles and legends in the making compel me to traverse this vast space in search of stories. My bicycle, music playlist, red backpack and lenses are my companions as I seek to see beyond the obvious, beyond the stereotypes. I document the truth with an unwavering belief in the power of the human spirit to overcome the mundane and the complex. I’m drawn to moments that tell stories of dualities and contrasts of life in Soweto. The rawness of the streets is integral to the work. I try not to manipulate the image. The reality in the image must not be lost. I challenge myself to see beyond the cacophony of the environment to capture its beauty.

Andile enjoys social documentary photography, and specialize in everyday lives of South Africans – ordinary, diverse and conflicting. Street photography allows him to exist in the environment with the people and capture life in the belly of townships or the city streets. Most of his photos are taken in Soweto and around Johannesburg’s business district. Andile’s work focuses on the beautiful, the positive and the motivational side of Soweto.

“Life through the lenses is full of splendour and I find my mood being altered by it. I cherish this connection and I will continue to find meaning in the mundane and complex. What you see in my work is my footprints – the places I have been and the people I seen.

Select Group Exhibitions

2015
instagram group exhibition at the upcycle in Cape Town

2016
Runner up at Open Society Foundation “social justice through the lens Finalist at Standard Bank Gallery “Portraits in Progress” Project titled: A Train Traveler

2018
Photo incubator edition three group exhibition. Project titled “Yini Ubudoda’ 28 March 2018

2018
Market theatre Trade fair September 16 – 23 Project titled: Yini Ubudoda

2018
Addis Foto Fest Ethiopia Project titled: Yini Ubudoda

2019
Solo exhibition
Cape Town Coffee Fest
Project titled: One sugar no Milk

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