After Nelisiwe Nkosi was raped, she was unable to talk about it for months. She silently carried the burden alone and retreated into her mind until the trauma began to break her.
When she was raped a second time, she found a way to end her silence and work towards healing through photography.
The first, tentative pictures of her body gradually built up into a powerful collection called Breakeven that was exhibited at The Market Photo Workshop. Her work speaks about rape and the enduring trauma, with many photos of her hiding her face to reflect her initial silence.
“Photography is a way of telling the untold stories and showing information I can’t really put into words,” she says.
“This thing happened to the body but it’s so much more than that — it’s also about the mental issues that came thereafter.”
Nkosi has completed foundation, intermediate and advanced courses at the Market Photo Workshop. Breakeven was displayed when she graduated in 2019.
During the exhibition, she said she hoped the photos would say to other women that they’re not alone. “But mostly it’s directly to the male gaze to say ‘look, I’m here. This is happening. And it’s about time you own up and look at it’.”
Nkosi looks back on that exhibition as her proudest moment so far, when she was surprised and gratified by the response.
As well as positive feedback on the photos themselves, many people felt safe enough to share their own stories with her.
Now she’s striving to make a living as a freelance photographer and become known for her talent, not her history, although the two are intertwined. “I believe that because of what I’ve been through, I am constantly pushing myself to be better — to be so much more,” she says.