I am pleased to announce that I have been selected as a finalist in the Standard Bank Sikuvile Journalism Awards. I am going to feature in the Feature Photography category among some of South Africa’s biggest hitters:
Brenton Geach, James Oatway, Leon Sadiki, Alon Skuy and Paballo Thekiso.
I am also a finalist in the Young Journalist of the Year Category that features a number of up-and-coming journos who have been be kicking ass: Poppy Louw, Sihle Mlambo and my fellow MPW mate AlaisterRussell.
It is an honor to be named among such well known journalists, who I have looked up to since I began my journey into the field.
This was my letter of motivation: Dusi – Paddling Through Sewage and Facing Guns
It was an unimaginable story. A canoe club in Soweto were gliding through sewage and risking the wrath of gun wielding fishermen to triumph in an exclusive sport and smash stereotypes.
On any night, you will find Nkosi Mzolo and the Soweto Canoe & Recreation Club (SCARC) on the water. Scholars, welders and clerks all paddle for the chance of a brighter future as a professional. An inspirational tale that shows people can make it anywhere if they fight hard enough.
It wasn’t an easy assignment. It took weeks to track Mozolo down; it was worth it. He had quite a story to tell.
I spent two days with the club members at their home, at time trails, and at the Power Park Dam. It wasn’t enough.
At the time, the club was training to compete in the Dusi Marathon, I was told that several of their members were expected to do well. I needed to follow them to complete the story.
For three days I followed the race in the searing heat, treacherous rapids and hidden rocks more than 800 paddlers risked their necks on 119 kilometres of the rough white waters of KwaZulu Natal’s (KZN) Msunduzi River. The Soweto paddlers did well. What started as a small story 200 word story became a panoramic photo essay that took six months.
For three days I watched them bleed and sweat. A large part of the story is who did not do so well. Jacques Theron and Shaun Griffen broke their canoe in half early on Day 3 and ran the rest of the way to Durban, carrying half each. They refused to give up.
This is what reporting in Africa should be; recognizing the value of a story, digging deep, sticking with it and shattering the shackles of stereotypes. As a photojournalist for Forbes Africa it was a difficult one to capture. You are torn between spending your time waist deep in water to wait for a photograph and outrunning the leaders. Outrunning them means another wade in the water. You can’t drive to much of the race.
Sometimes you get too close. In search of the shot I often found myself stuck in the middle of the river. I can still hear the scrape of the canoes on the rocks as they brushed by.
The story of the Dusi is of grit and determination. It’s not your average feature story you hear but it’s difficult to tell without dedication and the taking of risks.