The Contemporary Archive Project (CAP) is an organisation based in Durban, South Africa, working as a collective to safeguard and build an archive of contemporary work made in the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province. Through incubation programmes, and creating a network for local image makers, CAP is creating community whilst building an archive of work that tells the stories of people and a place sometimes overlooked.
Durban, South Africa
Children carry a pipe of water to their homes, Eskhebeni, Inanda, KwaZulu-Natal. Thobani K’s incubator project focused on experience of water in peri-rural area of Eskhebeni. Township and rural communities experience water supply via water tankers as the main source. His work aims to conscientise viewers about the privatisation issues of water and the social gap that is being widened in South Africa.
Photographer: Thobani K
Location: KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Their background experience with the Durban Centre for Photography (DCP) informed much of the pair's thinking, and the desire to broaden the circle was realised. Their mission to continue the legacy work learnt at the DCP became a core value in CAP’s work, and so the shaping of CAP as a space for critical thinking through incubation and conversations became the organisation's foundation.
In order to build an archive of contemporary photography, CAP trains photographers to develop industry-level practices while archiving, cataloguing and preserving digital photographic files. The organisation also seeks out photography work to safeguard on its platforms. This includes a methodology centred on detailed captions, written narratives and image metadata that are added to each photograph and photo story.
CAP embraces image-making as a conscientised and ethical practice. This means, documenting with consent, in-depth research and fact-checking, and engaging persons or topics without prejudice.
Contemporary Archive Project is a school of thought that teaches “making” photos instead of “taking” photos*, which is a more ethical, decolonised approach to photography.
These are teachings and methodologies inspired by Durban Centre for Photography, under Peter Mckenzie’s mentorship, and Market Photo Workshop.
Portrait of photographer Busani Gcabashe at Inanda Dam on a CAP outing.
Photographer: Niamh Walsh-Vorster
Location: KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Post photowalk lunch (left to right): Sibusiso Nzimande, Thabiso Ngobeni, Thobani K, Niamh Walsh-Vorster, Paulo Menezes, Menzi Dlamini, Nokulunga Ngubane, Lindokuhle Ndlovu and Manelisi Nene at Little Gujarat Restaurant, Prince Edward St, Durban Central.
Location: Durban, South Africa, 2022
Today, CAP has grown to a humble collective of community members and peripheral photographer friends, whose contemporary photographic archives of Durban and its surroundings are now part of the online collection that will be curated on CAP’s website, and in future exhibitions and educational showcases.
Photographer’s Thobani K, Lindokuhle Ndlovu, Paulo Menezes, Niamh Walsh-Vorster and Sibusiso Nzimande were part of the first incubator programme conducted by CAP, investigating the theme of water. The final collective body of work used the themes of water as a starting point, which touched on heritage, identity, race and land. Juxtaposed to each other, the photographs of the province offer a glimpse into the multifaceted experience of KwaZulu-Natal, from the inner city, to peri-urban and rural spaces.
Date: April 2022
Photographer: Lindokuhle Ndlovu
Location: Inanda Amaoti area, South Africa
One body of work to note in particular is Thobani K’s, which investigated the water issues in the area of Eskhebeni, Inanda (where he lives and grew up), as well as connecting his family’s personal history with the space. Much of the organisation's ethos is to promote a photographer's own stories, and dismantle The Outsider gaze, which Thobani’s work epitomises.
The archive that continues to grow includes the work of Mandisa Buthelezi, Wandile Msomi, Themba Mbuyisa, Andre Swart, and Manelisi Nene. The hope is through more incubator programmes, Durban photographers can spend time developing new work that is made consciously and with care.