'Daleside: Static Dreams' by Cyprien Clément-Delmas and Lindokuhle Sobekwa to be published in November

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'Daleside: Static Dreams' by Cyprien Clément-Delmas and Lindokuhle Sobekwa to be published in November
Daleside: Static Dreams by Cyprien Clément-Delmas and Lindokuhle Sobekwa. £40.00. © Cyprien Clément-Delmas.

LONDON.- Since 2015, French photographer Cyprien Clément-Delmas and South African photographer Lindokuhle Sobekwa have collaborated to create a portrait of Daleside, a small Afrikaner suburb south-east of Johannesburg, South Africa.

Daleside, in the Gauteng Province, once had a predominantly white population and is isolated in the industrial outer suburbs of Johannesburg. Its separation has resulted in Daleside's residents becoming increasingly inward-facing, and in the space of a decade it has become an isolated ghost town with a dwindling population consisting of mostly mine workers and smallholders.

The two photographers met through the Of Soul and Joy programme launched by Rubis Mécénat in Thokoza, a township in the suburbs of Johannesburg where Sobekwa grew up, only five kilometres from Daleside. Rubis Mécénat then commissioned this project, exploring Daleside in 2015. Clément-Delmas and Sobekwa accompanied each other to the suburb where they soon stood out and became recognisable on the streets as it was uncommon to see a Black and white man walking side by side. They struggled, especially at the start of the project, to gain access to personal spaces but gradually and patiently built relationships with their subjects. When Sobekwa returned to Daleside alone he came up with strategies to help build trust such as attending church or carrying round an album of the photographs he was making to show he meant no harm. It took Sobekwa a lot of time and energy to build the trust, which had been much easier when he was with his white French collaborator.

The resulting photographs provide a counterpoint—Clément-Delmas’s images show dignified figures whose dreams are at odds with reality whereas Sobekwa’s landscape portraits show no such escapism. Looking beyond the deep-seated Black/white binary, they depict the poverty afflicting Black and white residents alike as forgotten members of society stuck in a dead end. Contrary to his expectations of what he might find there, Sobekwa came face to face with the reality of Black and white residents experiencing the same poverty out of eyeshot of the tightly-guarded houses of the wealthy. In Daleside: Static Dreams, the images by each photographer are presented alongside each other in a foldout book so they can be read individually or as pairs.

‘I first visited Daleside when my mother was employed there as a domestic worker. At the time, the white-dominated area seemed like an isolated place, a ghost town. It is a place I have always had unresolved issues with and a curiosity about since I that first visit. While growing up, the community was a place I always felt took so much from me—mainly my mother—who had to live there for her line of work. When I was a young boy and went to visit her, I was denied entrance at what to me felt like some kind of paradise. Going back there to photograph was a way for me to confront these feelings, and in doing so, I realized it was not what I expected it to be’. --Lindokuhle Sobekwa

‘The families that stay in Daleside are mostly the ones who can’t afford to go anywhere else. They can’t escape from this place. I believe the people of Daleside dream of a better, different life. But, their reality wakes them up all the time. They are static dreamers, stuck in this town, in their lives and in their social class’. --Cyprien Clément-Delmas

The Of Soul and Joy programme is a lasting social and artistic initiative undertaken by Rubis Mécénat in 2012 in Thokoza, South Africa, that aims to empower youth in South African townships through photography. The book, Daleside: Static Dreams is in collaboration with Rubis Mécénat.

An exhibition of this project, curated by Valérie Fougeirol and organised by Rubis Mécénat will be on display at PhotoSaintGermain festival in Paris, France, from 6 to 21 November 2020.

Cyprien Clément-Delmas is a French photographer and award-winning film director. His first documentary short film The last tape, followed a 16 year old child in Ukraine who wanted to become a soldier and go to war. The film had its international premiere at Sheffield Doc/Fest and was awarded the silver prize at the German Academy Awards. The story led to his first documentary feature, Boy of War, granted and premiered at Jilhava Film Festival and winner of the VFF at Dokfest Munich. Clément-Delmas was also nominated for the Cannes Young Director Award in 2016.

At the age of 20, he exhibited his photographs for the first time in Paris. Many exhibitions followed, included one organised by the Kowasa Gallery, Spain; Ithuba Arts Gallery, South Africa and a sale of his photographs at Christie's, Paris. Clément-Delmas is also always involved in social projects. He has led documentary workshops for prisoners in Spain. Since 2012, he has been teaching photography to young students in the township of Thokoza in Johannesburg, South Africa and, now, since 2019, he is teaching documentary filmmaking in Kingston, Jamaica.

Lindokuhle Sobekwa is a South African photographer born in Katlehong, Johannesburg in 1995. He came to photography in 2012 through his participation in the Of Soul and Joy Project, an educational programme that teaches high school learners photography in Thokoza, a township in the southeast of Johannesburg. During this time he studied with photographers Bieke Depoorter, Cyprien Clément-Delmas, Thabiso Sekgala, Tjorven Bruyneel and Kutlwano Moagi.

Sobekwa began exhibiting his work in 2013 as part of a group show in Thokoza organised by the Rubis Mécénat foundation. His photo essay Nyaope was published in the Mail & Guardian (South Africa) in 2014. Nyaope was also published in Vice magazine’s annual Photo Issue and the De Standaard (Belgium) in the same year and exhibited at the Turbine Art Fair as part of their new artist feature exhibition. In 2015, Sobekwa was awarded a scholarship to study at the Market Photo Workshop where he completed his foundation course. His series Nyaope was exhibited in the ensuing group show, Free From My Happiness, organised by Rubis Mécénat for the International Photo Festival of Ghent (Belgium); the exhibition toured to additional sites in Belgium and South Africa. A publication, edited by Tjorven Bruyneel, included a selection of the works.

In 2017 Sobekwa was selected by the Magnum Foundation for Photography and Social Justice (NYC) to develop the project I carry Her photo of Me. In 2018 he received the Magnum Foundation Fund to continue with his long term project Nyaope.

Lindokuhle’s work has been exhibited in South Africa, Iran, Norway and the USA, and was presented by several galleries at the 2019 edition of Paris Photo. His hand-made photobook, I carry Her photo with Me was included in African Cosmologies at the FotoFest Biennial Houston, curated by Mark Sealey. He joined Magnum Photos in 2018 and became an associate member in 2020.

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