C& at Office: Sabelo Mlangeni

“When I dream, I see color…”

South African photographer Sabelo Mlangeni dropped by at Contemporary And’s Berlin office. Here is a little glimpse of the conversations we had.

Sabelo Mlangeni, Arob House, 2004. Photography. Courtesy of the artist

Sabelo Mlangeni, Arob House, 2004. Photography. Courtesy of the artist


C&: What is photography to you?

Sabelo Mlangeni: A continued search. For example, my first-ever contact with a  camera was a wedding in 1997.  I have never seen anything like those photographs till today. I search to reconstruct them every day.

C&: Do you dream in black and white?

SM: Outside of the complexities of an everyday life, when I dream, I see color.

C&: Where do you draw the line between observer and voyeur?

SM: An observer seeks to understand or to achieve an understanding.

C&: Do you like being photographed?

SM: Depends on who is behind the camera.

C&: How do you find/decide on the subjects of your photographs?

SM: I am influenced by South African landscape and the everyday socio-political happenings  from past to current events. We live to witness all these  shifts with the people in photographs.

C&: Why did you become a photographer?

SM: It’s a long story. What I can say, though, is that it was never anything premeditated. Reflecting on it  now, I think, GRACE, HOLY SPIRIT.



Sabelo  Mlangeni was born in 1980 in Driefontein near Wakkerstroom in Mpumalanga. In 2001 he moved to Johannesburg where he joined the Market Photo Workshop, graduating in 2004. Recipient of the POPCAP’16 prize for Contemporary African Photography and the Tollman Award for the Visual Arts in 2009. Recent solo projects include Heartbreaker at artSPACE in Auckland, New Zealand (2016). Recent group exhibitions include: Rise and Fall of Apartheid: Photography and the Bureaucracy of Everyday Life at Museum Africa, Johannesburg (2015); Distance and Desire: Encounters with the African Archive at the Walther Collection, Neu-Ulm, Germany (2013-2014); Public Intimacy: Art and Social Life in South Africa at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco (2014); Apartheid and After at Huis Marseille, Amsterdam (2014); the Lubumbashi Biennale (2013); the Liverpool Biennial exhibition The Unexpected Guest (2012); 9th Rencontres de Bamako African Photography Biennial in Mali and the Lagos Photo Festival, Nigeria (both 2011); Appropriated Landscapes at the Walther Collection, Neu-Ulm, Germany (2011) and Figures and Fictions: Contemporary South African Photography at the V&A Museum, London (2011).

Upcoming shows: “Big City” in Recent Histories – New African Photography at Walther Collection, Neu-Ulm, Germany, 7 May 2017

Kholwa at the Museum of Archeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge, 13 June 2017

Residency at Waza, centre d’art Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 15 July 2017.



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