I forgot to vote
Diana Motsi/ Mpalume Mentorship Recipient
The Mpalume Mentorship
The Mpalume Mentorship is a pilot project created by the Zimbabwe Association of Female Photographers (ZAFP) and funded by ProHelvetia’s ANT Adaptation Fund. Named for a founding member, Annie Mpalume, who battled the odds to become one of the Zimbabwe’s first female photojournalists, the mentorships took place over three months in 2021.
Diana Motsi is a Zimbabwean artist and self-taught photographer focused on stories surrounding African women and their health, sexuality, education, and human rights. Her art practice uses photography and storytelling to construct visual critiques of Zimbabwe’s socio-political state drawing from current events and social development programs. Diana was mentored by documentary photographer and ZAPF co-director, Cynthia Matonhodze.
I Forgot to Vote
I forgot to vote is an exploration of young Zimbabwean identity and how it informs voter participation. The project investigates each subject’s individuality, highlighting how political involvement or indifference is guided by childhood memories, political and religious ideology, economics, or personal experiences. The majority of young people interviewed choose not to vote despite recognizing its value, and this political indifference is expressed through the title, “I forgot to vote.” The intention of the work is to reveal the diverse realities of young Zimbabweans by detailing their political or non-political activity. In so doing, the images complicate the simplistic narratives that have traditionally dominated the media in regard to Zimbabwe’s political and social history.
To protect subjects’ identities, all names used in captions are pseudonyms.
'Godknows', wearing a fake diamond '30 Billion Gang' chain, is not interested in talking about the topic of voting. He feels the photographer has another motive. He asks, “where are you taking these images?” The '30 Billion Gang', popularised by Nigerian singer Davido is now street slang for a sign of wealth. In spite of his unwillingness to comment, Godknows’ chain could be perceived as satirical in a country where everyone experienced 'billionaire' status due to currency hyperinflation in 2008.
Kenny holds the Hansard (a record of speeches, questions and answers, and procedural events in the Legislative Council and Legislative Assembly) from 2017. He says that although he does not understand much of what is written, to him, owning the book is a representation of his political involvement. He says, "at least, unlike most young people, I know who my MP is. I am going to vote."
"My beliefs teach me to remain politically neutral and abstain from voting or participating in 'any action to change governments'."
Vanessa is a young woman who sells in her mother's tuck-shop. She is reluctant to speak about the topic of voting. However, she says what she remembers mostly about her youth identity is the year 2008 when this $10 billion dollar note was first printed. Is she going to vote? She says she does not know, she feels indifferent.
Elizabeth shares sentiments that her apartment has become a lonely place to be. As a queer woman, she does not feel welcome or acknowledged. It is very difficult for her to resonate with the Zimbabwean identity. She says, “I am Zimbabwean because l was born here, but l really want to leave because this country has nothing for me. There are no opportunities for a person like me." Will she vote? She says, “yes, I want to take my chances.”
"My father holds old Zimbabwean stamps which remind me of a time when things in the country were functional. Now they are not. I don’t know if l wants to vote or not. It all seems hopeless. I do not think we can ever go back to that time my father talks about where things were better."
"My exam fees were two million and four hundred and eighty thousand. I was a millionaire who was supplementing 2 subjects at 'A' level [high school examinations]. My life has always been the same because what is in my pocket does not go along with my lifestyle. I will vote for change, but.. I don't know."
Martha sits in a park bench. She talks about how she cannot vote because she is classed an 'alien'. Although she was born and bred in Zimbabwe, one of her parents was born elsewhere. Her ‘A’ status makes her unable to vote. Because she strongly wants to, she is willing to go through the long process to change her citizenship status. She continues to wait.
Tafara is a creative in Harare. He deems his work “social commentary”. He calls himself a revolutionary. He says young people who vote are revolutionaries.