Africa is the root of everything we know, from the first of humankind to stand on two legs to the origin of every technological device we use today… and the mix and diversity of cultures on this continent is staggering; from the Berbers in the Atlas Mountains, to the Bantu tribes in the east and the Anglo-Africans in the South, with all their nuances and practices that make them unique. However true this all is, when one hears the word ‘Africa’ in the media, one still thinks of war and poverty and struggle. That’s not true for those of us who live it and love it every day. That’s not true for Justice Mukheli, Vuyo Mpantsha and Innocent Mukheli from Soweto, who go by the name of I See A Different You

As African youth they realised that the media does not portray Africa the way Africans see it. Often the stories are negative and are told by people who don’t live in Africa. There are so many of these stories that we end up believing them ourselves.

When did this concept evolve into something concrete for you? When did you decide to use photography and fashion to change these ideas?
When we were growing up, often/always the media’s point of view towards our Soweto was very different to the one we experienced. It’s always been a problem amongst us because at school when you said you came from Soweto, immediately the people’s reactions changed and most of the time all those people have never been there. Only late last year did we see how we were going to tackle this issue, when Innocent went to Kenya he took a photo of a local who was on a bike and he looked so cool. We didn’t believe the amount of cool the guy had because when ‘they’ spoke about Kenya on the news we never saw that side of it. We were blown away! So, that’s when the direction started.

When we were young, were very creative. We used to make cars out of bricks and try to find places to do somersaults and and we used to skate a lot… What we experienced was fun, but the media showed kids that were starving and studying in bad situations. I went to a school that was exciting! We did a lot of sports and I designed a lot… it was fun. I never saw any crime. (TEDx Soweto)

Tokyo 2013, image:

Bilene, Mozambique 2013, image:

How did TEDx Soweto go?
It went very well because the people related to what we were saying, but scary too because it was the first time speaking in front of an audience that big.

Tell us a little about each of your members; where you’re from, what you like, how you decided to work together etc…
We are from the same neigbourhood, Pimvile in Soweto, and we all met at church! Justice and Innocent were 13 years old and Vuyo was nine years old. We were all singing in the church choir. Justice loves drawing but enjoys design and illustrating posters… Innnocent loves his fine art and Vuyo loves singing and music. We pray every time before we shoot, then we will go out and pretty much just drive around and if we can find a place that talks to us, then we will shoot it. Sometimes we will just drive and talk to each other and end up not paying attention to locations,then end up having to go home without any pictures!

The music on the I See a Different You video is pretty decent, apparently you sing, Vuyo… Is that what you guys do in your spare time? Where can we access any more of it, if there is any?
First and foremost thank you so much! Yes, it’s Vuyo on the vocals and we’ve been doing music for sometime now. We do have more music but it’s not online yet. We are creatives; photography is just one of the platforms to express what we feel.

St Louise, Senegal, image:

Paris 2013, image:

So Innocent and Justice, you guys are twin brothers. Does that make it easier to work together, because you’re of the same mind, or are you quite different?
It doesn’t really make it easier or better because we don’t look at each other like brothers, we are more friends than we are brothers. We have similar interests but different personalities.

We see you’re very much involved in styling as you are in photography. What are your favourite styles/brands to work with and where do you like to shop?
Truly speaking we are into a whole range of brands, we can’t really say we only wear a specific brand. With regards to shopping, we don’t only shop in one place because its hard to get a whole outfit in just one store. We love fashion, it interests us because we grew up with stylish grandparents; every time we look at our photo albums all you will see is happiness, fashion and style. It’s really inspiring you know, we design some of our clothes but mostly we buy. The tailor is the one who makes sure we all look nice, his attention to detail is remarkable and he loves what he does. So if you ever need a tailor, send us an email!

So with all of the support and RVCA and Markham and GQ and all of that, do you guys find yourselves being recognized in the streets a lot? Do you ever miss just being regular guys?
Nothing has changed actually; we are still the same old guys, we still walk freely in the streets.

What do you think South Africa needs to do to realise the same pride that you have in your heritage?

We just need to bring back that interest that makes people want to know where they come from, their roots. That way we will preserve our heritage.

To see more of their work, head on over here to access their archives and get in touch!

Paris 2013, image:

interview: Shiba Mazaza, originally published in 2012 for one small seed.
images: I See A Different You