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Photographer Mara Mbele using her medium as a tool for activism

Wits University, Bachelor of Arts in History of Art, Media Studies and Politics graduate, activist and freelance photographer, Mara Mbele views her degree as a chance to develop her understanding of reality and society through academic frameworks.

Her work predominantly focusesd on the #FeesMustFall student movement, as well as documenting the everyday reality of South Africans.

The combination of the theory gleaned from her university studies, and the on-the-ground experience of photographing the #FeesMustFall student movement, Mbele has enhanced her understanding of the socio-economic and political struggle in South Africa.

As a photographer, I strive to document the dynamic socio-economic and political conditions in South African protests, social life and specific sites located in Joburg’s urban spaces. The inspiration for my images is continuously fuelled by my desire to represent counter-narratives and counter-lifestyles against the mainstream representation.

Mara Mbele, photographer

Additionally, through photography, I navigate and narrate my experience as a WoC (womxn of colour) in post-apartheid South Africa. The majority of my coursework focused on critical social theory, feminist and queer studies, postmodernist concepts, as well as postcolonial critiques of society

Mara Mbele, photographer

Mbele has a Fees Must Fall photo book coming out, and says, as a student activist and photographer, she felt compelled to compile a book on Wits Fees Must Fall as her subject matter.

The photo book, titled Trigger Warning, facilitated the possibilities of my self-representation (protester and photographer), as a means to advocate for the students’ agency and visibility, as well as offer a counter-narrative to the homogenous violent nature of protests in the mainstream media.

Mara Mbele, photographer

The photo book seeks to navigate the specific relationship between student protesters amongst themselves, as well as the collision between protesters and police in terms of ‘comradeship,’ ‘trauma’ and ‘brutality

Mara Mbele, photographer

Click to follow Mbele's work on instagram.


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