alice mann

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.

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  • Dr Van Der Ross Primary has one sports court, which is used by all the sports teams. The drummies have to be supervised when using this court, there are active gangs present around the periphery of the schools property.

  • Keisha Ncube is 9 years old, and is in her third year of being in the drum majorettes team. Keisha Ncube is 9 years old, and is in her third year of being in the drum majorettes team. Her Coach, Morisha Prince says she is still working on improving Keisha's confidence, which is an important aspect of being able to perform in front of crowded stadiums during the teams competitions.

  • Jo-dean Martin, who is the ‘drummies’ team ‘leader, and Ashnique Paulse, the team ‘sub-leader’ wear pink and white busbys, signalling their senior positions in the team.

  • Keasher Malgas waits in the team’s kitroom before practice. They store their uniforms and equipment in a space in the school garage space, which is also used as the changing room for the team. The team’s busbys (the specialised hats) are kept safe in plastic containers.

  • Taylim Prince is a grade 6 pupil, and one of the more senior members, who has been part of the drum majorettes team for 5 years.

  • The drum majorettes before practice, in one of the school quads. Sometimes they practice in the paved quads as there are active gangs in the area where the school is located who shoot across the sports fields.

  • Lezance Jansen, Micah Adams and Warnesha Adendorf, three of the youngest members of the Helderkruin majorettes team, stand in front of a converted shipping container, used as a pre-fab classroom.

  • Katelynne Koelman and Eden Adolph on the edge of the schools practice court. The periphery of the school property is surrounded by barbed wire and glass sharps in order to deter criminals from looting the school, and to stop gangsters jumping over the wall from the surrounding properties, which had been a problem for the school in the past.

  • Hilce Rhode looks over her team leader Eden Adolph's shoulder. Starting the sport at a young age means that many girls compete alongside each other throughout their school careers, resulting in long lasting relationships, offering them a valuable support structure which many do not have at home.

  • The girls spend years perfecting their routines, adjusting them according to their strengths until they are totally synchronised to the music. The coaches like them to contribute and incorporate their ideas into the routines, with the idea that they should feel they own them when they perform them on the field.

  • Warnesha Adendorf, Amber September, Micah Adams, and Henriette Mostert. Because of the high levels of crime in the surrounding area, there barbed wire around the school's periphery and roofs, in an attempt to improve security for the children. The room where the team store their equipment always stays locked and supervised.

  • The Elgin Majorettes outfits have been specially designed by their coach, he wants them to be completely unique. Hilary Kernal wears one of the feathered caps he had made for the team.

  • The Elgin Majorettes anticipate getting called into the 'waiting area', where the next team to compete will wait while the team before them performs their display. The girls use this time to give pep talks, and always pray together before the start of each performance.

  • Eshmeal Ahrens, Lauren Lee Hendriks, Anushka Keteldas and Bussisiwe Mnqumevu. The Elgin Majorettes team is made up of girls from a number of schools around the area. These 4 girls attend St Michael's Primary. The teams coach is also the headmaster of this school.

  • Before competing the teams will practise for hours, going over each routine in detail. Pictured here is the The New Orleans Majorettes flag group.

  • Tanique Williams is one of the youngest girls in the Hottentots Holland team. She is in her first year at high school, so is also new to the team. She's not new to drummies though, as she was a Helderkruin drummi through Primary school, which has given her a very good foundation which will help her learn her new team's distinctive style quickly.

  • Many of the the Fairmont High Majorettes come from more priveledged families then some of the other schools. Combined with their commitment, the parental suppoert and extra funding has enabled them to become one of the best competiting high schools in the province.

  • Although it is a national holiday, the Fairmont Majorettes have a practice scheduled for the whole day. They take every extra opportunity to practice and a consistently high level of commitment is demanded from all of the girls involved.

  • Chloe Heydenrych, Paige Titus, Ashnique Paulse, Elizabeth Jordan and Chleo de Kock, on their practice session over a national public holiday. The team makes use of every availible chance to practise, meaning there are no days off.

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