Photographer Lindeka Qampi gives voice to gender-based violence survivors

Qampi showcases a poignant body of work about survivors of gender-based violence, as part of the group exhibition Yithi Laba (This Is Us), at Market Photo Workshop, in Johannesburg. The exhibition was conceptualised by acclaimed visual activist Zanele Muholi in commemoration of 25 years of democracy in South Africa.

By: Thanduxolo “Thandz” Buti
Main image by Inkayiso Team

For the exhibition (open untill 15 April), Muholi also roped in three other fellow photographers who helped shape her as a photographer. Showing alongside her are Neo Ntsoma, Ruth Motao, Berni Searle, and Qampi.

“The idea was to share what the 25 years of democracy means to us as individuals. I really loved the concept because our work is unique and democracy means something different for all of us,” says Qampi.

While the other photographers explore various themes, like religion, same gender love and intimacy, Qampi tackles the pressing issue of sexual violence. She bravely uses her personal journey as a rape survivor to emphasise the importance of creating safe spaces for survivors of sexual violence to share their stories.

“Only God knows why it [Photography] became part of my life, but now I truly appreciate it because it changed my life.” – Lindeka Qampi

“The collection is a way of restoring the pride of rape survivors, like myself, who have bottled the pain for many years and struggled to overcome the shame and fear,” she explains.

“We have come a long way in 25 years because before were not brave enough to share our stories because of the stigma,” Qampi shares.

“We still have a long way to go but we have freedom of expression and we are slowly but surely breaking the silence. It’s great to see us [survivors] working together in order to find a resolution to stop this from happening everyday.”

Qampi is also the project facilitator for Inkanyiso, an LGBTIQ activism platform, founded by Muholi. Her career as a photographer began in 2003 as part of a collective of photographers, called iLiso Labantu (The Eye of The People). Muholi visited the group for a presentation about photography and later the pair started collaborating on photography workshops.  

“We are using the camera to capture, write and raise awareness about our daily issues. We document homophobia, hate crimes, gender violence etc. In some way or another we are historians because this is going to be an important document of history,” explains Qampi.

She adds: “It is great to be part of Inkanyiso because I feel like as a photographer you are a social weapon. We show the truth to the people and it would be great if there were more galleries in the townships because I feel like that’s where we are needed the most. We are still living in country that still believes the LGBTIQ community have a disease.”

Lindeka Qampi with friends and family at the opening of Yithi Laba (Image by Inkanyiso Team)

Life is truly full of unexpected surprises and this is proof for Qampi who stumbled upon photography by sheer accident and since then it’s been the pillar of her life. Even though it was never on her bucket-list it has firmly weaved its way into the fabric of her life.

“Only God knows why it became part of my life, but now I truly appreciate it because it changed my life. Today I am traveling the world and I am part of a movement that is even bigger than me.”

The photographer does not take for granted the power of photography. She marvels at how it’s able to not only reflect our lives and pain but also able to kickstart the healing the process.

“This to me is ‘Healing Photography,” she shares.

“I am a person who suffers from low self-esteem and therefore my art becomes a way of finding my voice, and hopefully the work helps the viewers to also discover their voice.”

“I always advise young artists to not concern themselves too much with people when they are in the creation phase, and to use the process as therapy. We suffer unnecessarily at times because we always worry about what other people will say. At the end of the day we have our own selves to deal with and hence I use my work to heal myself first.”

Qampi hopes that her work shows “the journey from being a victim to being a hero.” She adds that her role as an activist and artist is to use her skill as a tool to confront social issues in the townships, especially gender violence.  

“I hope that this work changes the way think and that it allows them to come into such spaces and dig into the knowledge – and understand the power of art and photography.

“I would also be happy if they are also inspired to also document their lives each and everyday because when we are gone they have to carry message forward. The beauty of art is that it can make us see things differently. It’s a never ending dialogue.”

View the gallery of Lindeka Qampi’s photo series:

The Yithi Laba exhibition is open at the Market Photo Workshop, in Johannesburg, Newtown, until15 April.

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