The Melville resident is hosting a solo exhibition in partnership with Sophiatown The Mix from 04 November until 23 December 2017 at the Dr AB Xuma House where the Sophiatown Heritage Centre is situated. Tukiri said he is inspired by stories of Sophiatown in the ’50s and how mixed it was. “I am also aware that a lot of the people who survived the forced removals are passing on, so to me it is vital that their stories and memories are preserved,” he said.
Being a town that evokes memories of a vibrant, multi-cultural community and a place where artists, writers and musicians flourished, Tukiri aims to educate and inform individuals about the place. He also hit on the idea that current residents of Sophiatown will have an opportunity to learn and meet some of those who lived there many years ago. “I have photographed people that lived in, and were removed from, Sophiatown. I want the viewer to get a sense of what life subjects have made and what clues to memories may lay within their spaces”.
“The subjects recount feelings of the people of Sophiatown and what it was like in those days and their feelings now,” said Tukiri. The project runs within the Johannesburg Photo Umbrella, which is part of the SA-UK Seasons 2017 – a partnership between the Department of Arts and Culture South Africa and the British Council, he said.
He added, “The project highlights place, land, memories, identity and upheaval.”
Tukiri stated that the former Sophiatown residents only have their memories and emotions left from the time of removal
Old Sophiatown meant different things to different people, it was a place of fun, it was rough, there was music, there was poverty. There were people living together at the cusp of Apartheid policy as the Group Areas Act was enforced. Non- white residents were moved out to make way for a new area called Triomf a white only area. And with that, Sophiatown of old was no more, it was flattened, destroyed with only a handful of physical remnants remaining. Residents, some of whom owned their own stands and homes were forced to make a new life in a new place, some never to see close friends again.
Slowly some of the people who were removed are coming back to Sophiatown, but many are not. What is clear is that memories of Sophiatown still endure. Uprooted – The people of Sophiatown is a reflective body of work giving voice to these memories and the people who hold them.