These images focus on the life of Khanyisa Mtulu as she prepares for hermatric dance. In South Africa, the final year of high school is known as matric and the matric ball carries huge significance, seen as a landmark event in the lives of students. They often spend much time and money on the event, meticulously planning their outfits, with many of them getting dresses and suits custom made. For female students like Khanyi, the hair and make-up preparation is a coming-of-age process leading up to the final reveal of their “look” on the big night.

Khanyi is from Phillipi, one of the most dangerous townships in Cape Town. It is an area that sees some of the highest murder rates in the country, and where gang violence and drug abuse is rampant. Many families in the area face acute poverty and social challenges and dropping out of school is common. Students at Peak View High School, where Khanyi studies, often repeat grades in order to get to the final year of school and reaching matric is seen a success in itself, whether or not a student passes their final exams. For these students, attending the matric ball represents a huge achievement. While the night allows them a chance to feel glamorous, and socialize with their friends and teachers, it also signifies their success in reaching their final year of school, and of having overcome odds stacked against them to do so.

This project is part of photographer Alice Mann’s ongoing work exploring notions of beauty, physical appearances, empowerment, and femininity.

How to View

During the day, the installment can be viewed on monitors inside the ICP Museum and during evening hours, images are literally “projected” onto the windows of the ICP Museum; they can be viewed from the sidewalk outside the Museum and are most visible after sunset. Learn more about Projected.

About the Artist

Alice Mann (b.1991) is a South African photographic artist based in London whose intimate portraiture essays explore notions of picture-making as an act of collaboration. She aims to create images that empower her subjects and creates projects over extended periods, allowing for engaged and nuanced representations. Mann’s work has been published in international publications including The Guardian, the New Yorker, and the British Journal of Photography. She has exhibited at Red Hook Labs in New York, at Unseen Amsterdam, and at the 2018 Addis Foto Fest. Her award-winning series Drummies was selected as a winner of the 2018 Lens Culture emerging photographer prize and the PHMuseum Women’s “new generation’ prize for an emerging photographer. Four images from the series were recently awarded the 2018 Taylor Wessing portraiture prize.

Image: © Alice Mann