Finding power and community in South Africa’s drum majorette groups

Drum majorettes got here to South Africa in the Seventies, and by the early Eighties the synchronised, baton-twirling gymnastic show had taken the nation by storm. But the sport’s reputation has waned ever since and it’s now seen as a nostalgic quirk of a bygone period.

In marginalised communities nonetheless, the game stays a lifeline for a lot of girls. Becoming a majorette means making mates, studying difficult athletic feats and proving themselves via a demanding rehearsal schedule. Throughout the poorer areas of South Africa right this moment, you would possibly hear the sound of the marching band, and catch a glimpse of the drum majorettes, often known as drummies, in their distinctive vibrant uniforms.

South African photographer Alice Mann started photographing drummies in 2017, visiting eleven faculties in the Western Cape and Gauteng provinces. Her vibrant portraits, taken with a medium format movie digital camera, present drummies each in rigorously synchronised formations, and in looser, private moments backstage, when every woman returns to her personal individuality. These pictures at the moment are being launched as a brand new ebook, Drummies, printed by GOST Books.

Cassidy Sauls, Stacey Prinsloo and Levera Theron, Avondale Primary School Majorettes, Atlantis, Cape Town, 2018

(© Alice Mann)

Curro Thatchfield Primary School Majorettes, Centurion, Tshwane, 2018

(© Alice Mann)

Helderkruin Primary School Majorettes, Florida Park, Johannesburg, 2018

(© Alice Mann)

Tanique Williams, Hottentots-Holland High School Majorettes, Goodwood, Cape Town, 2018

(© Alice Mann)

Her work highlights the troublesome circumstances that many drummies dwell in – their brilliant, sharp uniforms typically distinction with the unloved, dilapidated faculties they’re practising in. Being a drummie could be a channel for upward social mobility for South African ladies, an area to show self-discipline and achievement and avoid felony exercise in the realm. Their spangled uniforms, typically costly, are a approach of defiantly displaying a way of value which isn’t essentially conferred on them by the broader society.

Her work exhibits the power that the sense of teamwork provides to the drummies; in a bunch, they’re typically staring straight on the digital camera with a gaze that appears to problem the viewer. It was vital for Mann to incorporate them in the staging and manufacturing of the images in order to have interaction them with the challenge, and not render them passive topics.

Fairmont High School Majorettes, Durbanville, Cape Town, 2018

(© Alice Mann)

Chloe Heydenrych, Paige Titus, Ashnique Paulse, Elizabeth Jordan, Tammy Baantjies and Chleo de Kock, Fairmont High School Majorettes, Durbanville, Cape Town, 2018

(© Alice Mann)

Wakiesha Titus and Riley Van Harte, Avondale Primary School Majorettes, Atlantis, Cape Town, 2018

(© Alice Mann)

“This is part of my ongoing work exploring notions of femininity and empowerment in modern society,” says Mann. “With my continued investigation into this subculture, I hope that these images can communicate the pride and confidence these girls have achieved through identifying as ‘drummies’, in a context where they face many social challenges.”

“I want these images to function as a testament to the commitment and determination of these young female athletes, in a world where so many sporting opportunities are still focused on men.”

Drummies’ by Alice Mann is printed by Gost Books. An exhibition of the challenge is at Kunsthal Rotterdam till 23 January 2022

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