2017 - Ongoing
These images depict the unique and aspirational subculture surrounding all-female teams of drum majorettes in South Africa. These girls, affectionately known as ‘drummies’ are from some of the country’s most marginalised communities.
The sport has a long history in South Africa, and became popular across the country in the early 80s, but participation in the sport has since dropped dramatically. However, in many marginalised communities across the country, it is still taken seriously and is considered a highly competitive sport. For the girls and young women involved, being a drummie is a privilege and an achievement, indicative of success on and off the field.
While there have been various debates around the archaic sense of discipline and idealised notions of femininity associated with the sport, I witnessed how being part of a team offers girls a sense of belonging and emboldens their self-worth. The significance of pride and confidence is stressed to the girls, which is vital in communities where opportunities for young women are often severely limited. As a female only sport, ‘drummies’ is a safe space where the girls are encouraged to excel, and their distinctive uniforms serve as a visual marker of success and emancipation from their surroundings.
This is part of my on-going work exploring notions of femininity and empowerment in modern society. With my continued investigation into this subculture, I hope that these images can communicate the pride and confidence these girls have achieved through identifying as ‘drummies,’ in a context where they face many social challenges.
I shot this work over a 5 week period in Autumn 2017, and recently again over 5 weeks in Spring 2018. So far, the scope of the project has been focused on majorettes teams based in South Africa’s Western Province- one of the country’s 9 provinces. If I were granted this award, I would utilise the funds to continue my investigation into this unique community, focusing on teams based in the province of Gauteng, as I would like to show the wide scope and positive influence that involvement has on girls across SA’s various social and geographical spaces.
As I work alone with no assistant, the funds would go towards my travel expenses and accommodation, so I can visit teams in more rural regions, as well as working in more urban spaces such as the township of Sophiatown outside Johannesburg. The money would also facilitate the purchase of materials, primarily film, as I have shot this whole series on medium format film so far, and hope to continue to work in this way. It would greatly assist me with affording the processing and scanning costs associated with shooting on film. I have already contacted a number of teams who are willing to work with me, so it would just be a matter of organizing my travel and materials!
For me, attempting to show the way that young women in various spaces are empowering themselves through involvement in drummies would make a thought-provoking commentary on the social climate in SA regarding recognition of women’s rights and opportunities, as well as working to create a depiction that is empowering and optimistic of these women and girls, and the way they view their future.