Graduate Work Spotlight: Giya Makondo Wills


Giya Makondo-Wills (b.1994) is a British-South African photographer who looks at identity, colonisation, race and the Western gaze. She studied at the University of South Wales (formerly Newport) in the U.K where she obtained a BA and MA in Documentary Photography. She has also been exhibited and published internationally and has been commended for her work. She works with re contextualizing colonial archival collections alongside long term photographic projects. And continues to look at systems of power, how we can continue to re address colonial legacy and how our history effects life today.

Project Info

This work depicts indigenous South African Ancestral belief and Christianity, in relation to
missionary activity and the colonisation of the country, addressing the long-term repercussions of 19th century European migration into South Africa. It discusses the attempted dismantling of Ancestral religion and its replacement with Christianity whilst considering documentary photography and the western gaze, and exploring the sanctity of keeping traditional beliefs alive and the adaptation to the world we know today.

The complex interplay between Christianity and Ancestral religion manifest within my own family, where it is common practice to call on God and The Gods. Being both British and South African, I address the clash of beliefs from the point of view of the coloniser and the colonised. Embodying a dual perspective and with an exploratory approach, I highlight the symbiotic relationship between cultural elements and the resilience of pre-colonial customs in as they adopt a modern guise. The title ‘They Came From The Water While The World Watched’ is a reference to the initial European migration and colonisation of South Africa and the Western world's indifference to the perpetration of this act.