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​​Meet Nocebo Bucibo, a Wits master’s student who took the journey to tell the story of hostels in Johannesburg in pictures.

On Saturday, March 3 2018, Bucibo’s journey came full circle as she was exhibiting her photographic work of life in hostels at the Workers’ Museum in Newtown, Johannesburg. 

More than 100 people from various hostels visited the museum on the day. It was all smiles around as they saw their pictures on the wall and they also had a chance to tour the museum, comparing their current living conditions to those of the past. 

Bucibo says her journey began back in 2010 when she lived close to the hostels in the early 90s in Thokoza on the East Rand during the violent conflict between the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and the African National Congress (ANC).

“These memories drove me to begin visiting hostels in Johannesburg, where I developed personal relationships with people who live there. This photographic exhibition, Ihostela ngeliny’ikhaya: regarding photography as a just image forms part of my practical research for my master’s dissertation a just image: South African hostels and contemporary South African photography. 

“In my written research I explored Roland Barthes’s (1980: 70) concept of a ‘just Image’ and its potential function of understanding the notion of memory and personal identity that may be conveyed through photography,” said Bucibo.

She expressed her gratitude to the City of Johannesburg’s Department of Arts, Culture and Heritage for affording her the opportunity to showcase her work in one of the City’s heritage sites, Workers’ Museum. 

Bucibo said in photography, the term a ‘just image’ conceptualises an image, which evokes the physical, psychological and cultural space of South African migrant hostels.

“IHostela ngeliny’ikhaya in its true sense has been home to many families that have lived in the hostels in Alexandra’s Madala Hostel, Mshayazafe Hostel, Kwa Mai Mai and many more I visited. The hostels are spaces that accommodated migrant workers who came to the City of Johannesburg to improve their financial status and contribute to the country’s economy,” she added. 

Belinda Hlaka, Operations Manager from Arts, Culture and Heritage Programmes, said as the department they would like to thank Nocebo for choosing the Workers’ Museum site of labour migration to display her work. 

Statistics show that every month, about 3 000 new migrants come into the City of Joburg.

Hostels played and still play a vital role in accommodating city residents, with some of the hostels having been converted into apartments, which are now homes to families away from home. 

“The Workers’ Museum will exhibit Bucibo’s work from March 3 to March 12 2018 in celebration of the Human Rights Day on March 21,” said Hlaka.​​​​