Leburu le ile, a Setswana phrase loosely translated, ‘the white farmer has left.’
These are the words uttered by farm workers when asked about their living conditions on a non-operational farm. An exhibition capturing this reality was put together by Paako Magabane.
Opening his exhibition and book launch on Thursday, June 15, at the Market Photo Workshop in Newtown, Magabane, photographer showcased his series of pictures.
This exhibition is about families who live on vast fields of land yet have no land to call their own.
Speaking to The Sunday Independent Magabane said his intention of buying property is what inspired him to do the project.
"I live in the south of Johannesburg. So close to where I live, there are farmlands.
One day I was driving around and I see this mud house. I decided to take a picture.
So as I approach the scene, I see a woman seated outside her mud house. As I took a picture of the house, a younger lady emerged and began telling me that they’ve been living here for the past 8 years as this was a farm. 'Le buru le ile,' said the woman (the white farmer is gone)," said Magabane.
Magabane tells the story of lives left desolate through his exhibition and book.
"When she said that, I thought to myself, ‘our people are displaced and if we don’t do something about this now then we’re going to be another generation that is landless.’ Because the land is in the hands of the few, the prices go up because it is scarce commodity so we have to find a solution, we can’t rely on the government."
He explained that this was done to take the conversation on land forward.
“My aim is to contribute to the land discussion because if we don’t come together and come up with solutions that will take us forward, we may find our kids having to fight but if we talk and come up with reasonable solutions. If there’s such a thing as a land activist, then I want to be that.”
“The book is expected to reach to people who would otherwise never be in our circles. A book outlives human beings so one day my children will pick it up and know this is my contribution.”
While he believes black people are not economically emancipated, he has hope that black people are yet to be free.
"When I catch up on news and books, we are still yet to be economically free. Because land costs so much, so for the common man to own land, it becomes a big challenge. Let’s recognize that land ownership is dignity," said Magabane.
While there’s a limited edition of the book, it will be available online through social media and on e-book.
The exhibition aims to articulate the undertones of these beautiful and romantic sceneries and tell a story of these people.
Through this body of work Magabane seeks to reflect the state and complexities of our society back to us the people of South Africa.
Leburu le ile, the exhibition, is a body of work that seeks to photographically tell a story about ex farm workers who are living on abandoned farms even though these farms have not been operational for many years.
Magabane is a Johannesburg based photographer specializing in commercial, portrait and documentary photography. He was born and raised in Soweto, South Africa and he grew up as a curious young boy in the streets of Moletsane.
His journey in photography began in 2007 as a hobby, which later became a passion and career. Magabane studied and acquired his qualification in photography through the Market Photo Workshop in 2010.
Magabane’s work has been part of several exhibitions including Black Ambition, Intransit and Human code & symbols that were held at the Market Photo Workshop and the Goethe Institute in Johannesburg. In August 2010 he co-published a book together with filmmaker Tebogo Malope called Black Ambition Life In Two Lenses.
As a full time photographer he currently runs a growing commercial visual arts company called Over Exposed Photography and his photography studio is based in Greenside, Johannesburg.
** Pictures: Siphosihle Mkhwanazi
Sunday Independent/ IOL