Wembley to Soweto

An extraordinary photographic journey is being exhibited on the South Bank at the gallery@oxo. Wembley to Soweto consists of over 60 photographs that have been taken by the disadvantaged teenagers from the townships in Johannesburg. These pictures not only capture the spirit of their life in South Africa, but also show the diversity of society and culture in this country.

There are pictures showing their home surroundings, celebrations in their Baptist church, the street markets of Johannesburg and the opening ceremony of the World Cup, as well a many other poignant images. The project dates back to 1988 and there is a shot by John Cole of the ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ concert that was held at Wembley Stadium. This image actually hangs in the home of Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg.

Twenty one years later, and inspired by his image, John Cole has joined forces with David Westhead from Wilton Pictures to set up a course to teach 8 teenagers from the Umuzi Photo club in Soweto the fundamentals of great Photography. The project is backed by Kweku Mandela, Nelson’s grandson.

Now a second iconic stadium image, this time of the 2010 South African World Cup kick-off Concert, at a packed Orlando Stadium in Soweto, shot by Wembley to Soweto students, has taken its proud place next to John Cole’s image on Nelson Mandela’s wall.

Involvement with the project has helped empower the young people to fulfill their hopes and dreams.  Participants have been awarded full scholarships and bursaries to photographic colleges, had work published in magazines including Marie-Claire, have completed shoots for Vodacom and the South African Parliament and had images exhibited in top galleries in New York, Antwerp and Johannesburg.

“I really wish and hope that Wembley to Soweto can be a big tree that grows a lot of branches to let the world know about photography, and how what we experience in our everyday life can be interpreted through pictures” Tshepang Masemola, 16.

“I feel hugely privileged to have worked with these very talented young people and without a doubt this has been one of the most rewarding, satisfying and absolutely fun projects that I have ever worked on” says John Cole.

Kweku Mandela says: “There’s no better way to communicate across cultures than with images which take your breath away.  One photo can change a life – these kids are an example of that.”

7-24 July 2011, 11am-6pm daily
gallery@oxo, Oxo Tower Wharf,
Bargehouse Street, London, SE1 9PH

FREE admission
Nearest train/tube: Southwark, Waterloo

Information line:  020 7021 1686