feature: south african photographer tsoku maela shares a surrealist glimpse into the struggle of mental illness in photo series ‘abstract peaces’

August 8, 2016

Mental illness in Black communities is often misunderstood, misdiagnosed or completely ignored,’

In his chilling photo series, ‘Abstract Peaces’, South African photographer Tsoku Maela works to reverse the stigma surrounding mental conditions as he shares artistic translations of his own journey. Born in Cape Town, Maela began his photographic expedition after a 5-day hospitalization in 2014- during which he contemplated his mortality- and ever since has produced immensely reflective and surrealist photos that place every aspect of his experience into perspective. Incorporating visuals of sharks, cracked walls, displaced bodies, and solitary subjects, viewers are allowed a true glimpse into his reality. 

In his own words: ‘Closer inspection of the work shows you an emotional and spiritual progression, the way the images start out with a sense of hopelessness and progresses to a more optimistic outlook on life.

Drawing much inspiration from the surrealist works of Salvador Dali, the thought-provoking images transcend Maela’s own struggle, as it aims to excavate the concept of ‘illness’ altogether; providing a platform for alternate interpretation and acceptance. Not only are they an exhibition of authentic bravery and purpose, these beautifully powerful images are a much-needed step in the direction of an empathetic understanding of the ‘mentally ill’- or mentally conditioned- community. Check out ‘Abstract Peaces’ and learn more about Tsoku Maela’s feat below.

By Cree B. McClellan, AFROPUNK contributor