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Cape Town-based pho­tog­ra­pher Them­bela “Nym­less” Ngayi re­cently re­leased a photo es­say ti­tled The Great African Hor­ror Story that con­structs a se­ries of scenes to tackle his strug­gles with men­tal health, black­ness and mas­culin­ity in the hope that he can raise more aware­ness and un­der­stand­ing of de­pres­sion.

“In so­ci­ety, men, es­pe­cially in black com­mu­ni­ties, of­ten feel un­able to reach out be­cause of the stigma at­tached to symp­toms of any men­tal con­di­tion, as well as the stereo­typ­i­cal think­ing en­trenched by so­ci­ety on how men are sup­posed to be­have,” Ngayi told #Trend­ing.

“Seek­ing help or show­ing signs of any emo­tion, like cry­ing, is im­me­di­ately per­ceived to be weak. The re­sult is we end up seek­ing com­fort in al­co­hol. Some men re­sort to spousal abuse as a way to val­i­date their mas­culin­ity, while oth­ers go to ex­treme lengths, such as sui­cide.”

An­other young pho­tog­ra­pher, Tsoku Maela, cap­tures his own ex­pe­ri­ence in Ab­stract Peaces, a vis­ual diary of a per­son dur­ing dif­fer­ent stages of de­pres­sion.

“I have strug­gled with manic de­pres­sion and anx­i­ety my whole life, but have only re­cently found the courage to open up about it to my fam­ily,” Maela says in the es­say that ac­com­pa­nies his se­ries.

“They may not un­der­stand what it is, but they un­der­stand me bet­ter as a per­son. De­pres­sion isn’t all doom and gloom; there is so much beauty to be drawn from it. It’s an op­por­tu­nity to learn about your­self and how your in­tri­cate mind works – and the rea­son it works the way it does. We’ve been in­doc­tri­nated to run away from the dark and to­wards the light, to em­brace our virtues and ig­nore our vices, like they came from out there some­where and are not part of our bi­o­log­i­cal, ge­netic and spir­i­tual make-up.”

Maela de­scribes his call-to-pho­tog­ra­phy as a “run to­wards the dark­ness”, and so it is through his work, and that of count­less other em­bat­tled artists, that the heal­ing process of the artists and their au­di­ences can be­gin.


THE GREAT AFRICAN HOR­ROR STORY In his monochrome photo es­say, Cape Town-based pho­tog­ra­pher Them­bela Ngayi por­trays the tor­ment and ef­fect that de­pres­sion has on African fam­i­lies



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