All the colors of South Africa, in a series photographed by Lebogang Tlhako with a story written by Zaza Hlalethwa.
It’s after school. You have had a long day of working, playing and eating the French polony skaftein umama or aunty packed for you. Your lepondo has unravelled, your socks sit around your ankles and the polish in your school shoes has been replaced with dust. It’s time to go home.
But before taking the walk home you b-line for the residential spaza shop or corner stall in your neighbourhood. “Nix mapha,” you declare to the friends who have kaap’ad you before splurging on Eclairs, a Pin Pop and amakipkip.
They stare, clicking their tongues and swallowing saliva as you open the packet and pop a handful of amakipkip into your mouth.
First you start with the yellow. Then you work your way through the orange, green, red and blue. Your palms are a tie dye-coloured mess by the time you discard the kernel remnants that were too hard to bite through. But you don’t care because the affordable snack was worth the taste and stains. Known as amakipkip, diskopas or popcorn ya ko kasi, the snack is an integral cog in the economic and diet culture of kasis across South Africa.
This is the premise of Nix Mapha, a photographic series celebrating heritage ya kasi by highlighting this essential childhood snack. Nix Mapha is the result of a collaboration between photographer Lebogang Tlhako, model Zinhle Mthembu, hairstylist Bonolo Gabuza, Makeup artist Mamello Mokhele and stylist Thobeka Mbane.
In addition to being devoured after school, children across South Africa have memories of sneaking out of the yard with cousins during mgidi to walk to the nearest spaza shop. Not only did this get them out of endless chores but it was an opportunity to collect money and make sure everyone came back with a packet.
The series pours out of normative ideas of South African patrimony. It widens the narrow portrayal of life ekasi by using the pictorial to exalting and centering an often untold narrative.
Story written by Zaza Hlalethwa.
Photography: Lebogang Tlhako / @sisterbozza
Styling: Thobeka Mbane / @thobekambane
Make up: Mamello Mokhele / @mamello_mokhele
Hair: Bonolo Gabuza / @beezybraidsza_
Model: Zinhle / @uzinhle_mthembu