They Came From The Water While The World Watched explores Christianity and traditional beliefs in South Africa

Young British South African photographer Giya Makondo-Wills documents the complicated interplay between Christianity and traditional beliefs in her new body of work, They Came From The Water While The World Watched. Born and based in the UK but spending a lot of time with her family in South Africa, she was drawn to shooting her surroundings from a young age and is currently completing her studies at the University of South Wales. “My practice looks at the legacy of colonialism, from my perspective of being part coloniser and colonised,” Makondo-Wills explains. “I want to create new perspectives regarding documentary photography and the western gaze. This discourse is informed by representations of Africa and how progressive people are when photographing the continent.”

She began They Came From The Water by shooting her two grandmothers, one living in each of her homelands, as a way of exploring her own dual identity. “My South African grandmother is a practicing Christian but also acknowledges the Ancestors, they are one in her belief system.” From there Makondo-Wills travelled the country meeting preachers and believers to discover how pre-colonial customs have been effected by missionary activity and adapted to modern times.

Having debuted the series at Assemblage in Johannesburg in May, this month she brings it to London as part of the graduate show, Two Eyes Serve A Movement, at Peckham’s Seen Fifteen Gallery. “I hope the images express the resilience of the human spirit and how we can all adapt and move forward,” she says. “I’m only 22 so it’s very early days for my career but I hope to continue to make work that has something to say and encourages young people from black, mixed, minority and underprivileged backgrounds to tell their own stories through the arts.”

Two Eyes Serve A Movement opens at Seen Fifteen Gallery, London, on 16 June

Visit Giya Makondo-Wills

Published on 31/05/2017