Instinctively, I stop and stare like a weirdo in awe of my surroundings and the people, probably like most photographers, as I contemplate how each shot should be captured in an interesting way…with that Mo Matli aesthetic, which honestly, I’m not always certain of but definitely know it when I feel it.

Maybe one day I’ll be able to define it, maybe not… maybe it doesn’t matter, maybe feeling it is what makes it what it is, authentic.

I capture truth, most times truth through my eyes and hope it’s the truth you know and feel too since we are all connected somehow. So I get frustrated when an image just looks nice and doesn’t evoke any emotion or move a person towards introspection or empathy. If it is just nice, I often wonder about its power to change perspectives, spark feelings of strength, hope, joy and even sadness; but no matter the moment, I don’t stop and capture until God has blessed my shot, and believe me when I say I know when he has. Maybe I shouldn’t define the Mo Matli aesthetic, maybe doing that will wipe away Gods breath, Gods voice?

When I came back home last night, I noticed that this picture had been stuck in my mind from the moment I took it. There was something about it that validated why a march against gender based violence was so necessary, why our voices are so necessary to be heard. It reminded me that activism can’t be a once off thing that happens, where people will take pictures and it becomes a trend on social media for a day, only to be forgotten after a new hashtag comes to rise. Women live this pain every day, even behind their smiles; and a lot of the time people don’t realise that… it is so easy to be detached from this issue (GBV) especially if no one around you has experienced it.

Capturing this moment instantly put me in every woman’s shoes, it got me really questioning why men do this to women?

Why do they make us feel like this?

What kind of spirit takes over them when they decide to hurt us so much, that you even see the pain in a picture?

Through the unconscious help of a friend (thanks to whatsapp story, a friend identified one of the ladies) and social media, I was able to find the two ladies in this picture to find out what made that moment so emotional for them and they each had this to say;

“Silence has a way of being the loudest noise to a woman in trauma. Not even the noise in my head is louder than silence. I was overwhelmed with fatigue, not from the walk, but from living everyday a breath at a time. It’s tiring to live like that. Breathing is supposed to be an unconscious action. But I am conscious of my breaths more often than not, “this could be my last”, I often think. Sometimes that's a good thing, but not in this context" Bulelwa Ndaba

She further went on to say “I broke down some more when I realised I’m held: physically, spiritually and soulfully. I was held when I couldn’t keep my fist up anymore, I was held vocally when I couldn’t be vocal, I AM held every day by every womxn who is alive walking this journey (with me). Sometimes/ most of the time you feel so alone but you’re not, it’s lovely to know I’m not alone but it also hurts to know that I’m not, none of us deserve this.”

Mbali Nkosi- Mutuswa said; “For me personally, I cried for all the women I love that have been abused. I felt the weight of all the fear we carry around daily. I cried thinking about how protective my son gets since men harass me even in front of him. I felt all the women’s energy. My friend’s tears moved me. I cried because I’m so tired.”

And me? The photographer?! I captured that pain for the men to open their eyes; do better bafethu!

And to the women… We will always have each other, never think you have to go through anything by yourself. I love and honour you and your children.

Keep fighting Mbokodo, kuzoshintsha.