This series of images from a village in the Transkei region of South Africa focus on male youths in the community

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Young South African photographer Robin Bernstein recently travelled to Tsweleni in the Eastern Cape to shoot a series of portraits that engage the local community. Setting up makeshift studios around the village, he invited passers by to sit for him and later distributed over 300 prints to participants.

“The Transkei region was one of the largest designated ‘Bantu’ homelands reserved for Xhosa people under the apartheid regime’s system of forced spacial segregation based on ethnic lines,” Bernstein says. “Today the area remains among the most rural places in the country. Its status as a historically significant and transforming region positions it as an important site for critical discourse about South Africa’s colonial past, and subsequently racialised and economically troubled present.”

Bernstein, who studied at Stellenbosch Academy of Design and Photography and the University of Cape Town, and is a co-founder of Cape Collective Assist, was naturally drawn to shoot with the young males in the area. “I have a particular interest in how the experiences of manhood and youth intersect in different, and very subjective ways across South Africa,” he says.

A work in progress, Bernstein plans to return to Tsweleni later in the year to gain feedback on his initial images and extend the scope of the project. “I would like to work with community leaders to introduce photography into the local teaching repertoire, both as a means of job creation, and to stimulate a documentary photographic culture here. Ultimately, the aim of this project is to present a holistic picture of a specific time and place by encouraging a new generation of photographers from this region.”

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Published on 09/07/2018