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TAMBORA



'Tambora is the name of an African drum. Songs, dances and rhythms are essential to Xhosan life and music is integral to who we are. Our group is composed of Xhosan women who live in New Brighton Township, outside Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape, South Africa. Some of us are studying at the University of Port Elizabeth, some at the Technikon and some work at jobs. Tambora is our real life.'

Akhona and Siphokazi Dilima are sisters and have been singing and performing together their whole lives. In 1997 Siphokazi Libe began singing with them, later joined by Bulelwa Runu and Nolukanyo Dunga. This group have been performing together since 1999 when Luke Dixon met them in Africa and brought them to England in 2001 for a month of workshops and performances. There were residencies in colleges, workshops with theatre nomad and other professional performers, schools events, and triumphant performances at The Astor Theatre Deal, The Battersea Barge, The Royal National Theatre, and London's Alternative Fashion Week.

'This Project involved two groups of women, one from the township of Grahamstown, South Africa and the other from Great Mongeham, Kent, England. Each woman was given a disposable camera, kindly donated by Kodak, and asked to make a portrait of their lives during a period of two to fourteen days. I then collaged each woman's photographs onto an A2 board.
The result is an extraordinary insight into their daily lives. This is especially important for the women in Grahamstown as most of them had never used a camera before. It is also important for everyone to feel that photographs can be of the most mundane things or experiences, and yet may be the most relevant to our lives. Generally we have a record of life made up of special events and people dressed-up and behaving their best rather than about the ordinary moments of our lives. This has been a wonderful experience and I hope that for the women it has gone some way for them to show their life in photographs.

The idea for this project came about in South Africa in 1999, when I was taking photographs for Theatre Nomad from Deal, Kent at the Grahamstown Festival. Gill Maylam took me into a township where she had helped set up an arts project called Umthathi (this is the Xhosa word for sneeze wood, which is the symbol of strength and protection) and here met some of the women. Afterwards I realised I wanted to take more photographs but also what seemed more interesting would be for the women to take photographs of their own daily experiences. I became interested in the idea of involving a group of women in a village in Kent to do the same project and then to exhibit all the work together along with the portraits I had taken.'


- Sarah Ainslie

Sarah's exhibition opened at the Grahamstown Festival, South Africa in July 2001. It will next be seen in Kent, England.

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