Vitiligo has long been misunderstood and people who had the condition went to great lengths to try to cover it up – well-known South African actress Leleti Khumalo has admitted that she used to apply make-up for hours to try to hide her vitiligo. But that’s no longer the case. There is increasing recognition and appreciation of the individuality and beauty that it imbues the individual with.
It is that appreciation and celebration of individuality that lies at the heart of Reatile Moalusi’s latest exhibition Molelo Wa Badimo, which opened at Absa Gallery on 5 May and will run until 14 June 2019.
Moalusi’s exhibition is a three-part character portrait series – Complexion, Pigment and Hue – and delves into vitiligo. It explores and debunks the myths around the condition, and documents individuals’ life experiences using collaborative character portrait photography – all with the aim of raising awareness about vitiligo.
“Molelo Wa Badimo seeks to inspire a renewed dialogue about beauty by dispelling societal myths about vitiligo and focusing on identity and self-acceptance,” says Moalusi. “Metaphorically, Molelo Wa Badimo illustrates a fusion of opposites (white and black), an element of the new South Africa (the rainbow nation) and the coexistence of opposites in one.”
Part one of the exhibition, Complexion, was shot in 2012 using large format photography to showcase and highlight each individual’s character. They were all photographed in studio, in sharp contrast with the photos from part two – Pigment – which were taken on location using only natural ambient light. This use of light against a backdrop of wildlife represents a spiritual and cultural connection to the ancestors and to being gifted.