When I met 16 year old Khensani Mahlatlole, I was certain that she loves fashion and art. She introduced me to her little brother. I asked if her parents knew that I’m at her house in Midrand, Johannesburg. She then told me that her parents don’t stay at the same house; she stays with her father and he’s probably out.
Typical teenagers room with posters on the wall, personal paintings, and quotes. Khensani has been to Europe. She attends school at Reddam House Waterfall where all the questions about black culture are posed to her and she told me she struggles answering them because she is exposed to a white environment more so than a black environment.
Khensani’s parents have worked hard for her to have a better life.
“I also feel like I shouldn’t feel guilty for having certain things other people don’t… my parents worked really hard and I shouldn’t take that for granted, I should work hard also.”
I noticed a replica of Drum magazine cover with Dolly Rathebe. I was stunned and I wanted to know why she had it, I wanted to understand her consciousness because that cover has a lot of history in South Africa.
She told me that Dolly Rathebe is her inspiration and she would like to have her own publication similar to Drum magazine but hers will deal with the contemporary issues young people like her in South Africa are facing. The look in her face was serious when she said that.
I told her let’s create her first cover photo for her unborn publication. It was like a joke when we threw her wardrobe down looking for a perfect background blanket/dress/towel however we ended up finding a camping tent. We used her painting which means two different things. The paintings on her left depicts her dreams as a young girl living in Johannesburg and the ones on her right are her reality. As someone whose always curious, I was more interested to see where she fits in all of this process hence she is centred on the photograph.
It felt like I knew her for ages because of her enthusiasms to collaborate and good manners.
I had to cut short our almost three hour shoot because I had to catch a taxi to Maboneng Precinct to meet someone. She promised to drive me to Maboneng. I thought she was joking when she said that, nonetheless we drove. On our way to Maboneng, there were traffic officers stopping cars for a check-up. I was losing my mind, “Khensani, do you see the traffic cops?”, as calm as an African princess she replied, “I’ve been stopped before and I told them I left my licence at home, simple”.
I thought to myself that this girl is old for her age.
Luckily the traffic officers didn’t stop us. I smiled all the way to Maboneng.