The Imara Collection – Mgwalana

These artworks form part of the Imara corporate collection and were commissioned by Imara Holdings Limited.



In isiXhosa tradition, a young man’s transition from boyhood to manhood follows a time honoured rite of passage known as ‘uMkwetha’. A boy must cover his body in white paint to symbolise his purity as a boy, and spend time with fellow initiates in the bush with nothing but a blanket to prove that he is able to sustain himself as ‘a man’.

Thembile Sambu wears the ‘Imara blue’, a symbol of acknowledgement of support during his time as an Imara Lightwarrior. Teddy graduates as a photographer and enters the world, armed with the skills he has acquired under Athol Moult’s mentorship. The Imara Lightwarriors project has also reached maturity. The journey to Mgwalana Village is a fitting final journey to the village of Teddy’s birth where he left as a goat herder, and returns as a man to tell the Imara Lightwarriors story. The project vision is also delivered as we witness, firsthand, how changing one person’s life can change the lives of many.


Title: Thembile Sambu, Imara Lightwarrior

Size 1 .Paper size 990 x 1080 mm. cat. 405.1. 1 artists proof.

Title: Mgwalana Village, Eastern Cape

Size 1 .Paper size 800 x 600 mm. cat. 405.2. 1 artists proof.

Title: Teddy under his childhood tree

Sitting under his childhood tree, Teddy reflects: “Many trees would be chopped down but nobody ever chopped this tree
down. There was just something about this tree”. Between the sky of his aspirations and earthly gravitation, Teddy enjoys
some repose under the tree that was his companion and spiritual counsellor as a boy. It had been the perfect shelter on rainy
winter days and provided cooling shade in the full blaze of summer when the sun was at its zenith. The leaves and roots of
this tree were even believed to harbor magical healing properties.
For Teddy, it was both ballast and a compass. If he had troubles at home he would go and talk to her. In her silence she would
listen and Teddy felt understood. “Sometimes I would find myself laughing hysterically with her.” Perhaps Teddy was laughing
at the audacity of his dream “to become a world famous farmer”. By his own admission, he never dared to imagine he would
graduate from a prestigious institution to become a professional photographer. And his journey continues – Teddy’s current
employer is speaking of opportunities for further business oriented studies.
But like this Umsintsi’s African roots, which draw succor from the hidden waters of life, Teddy’s connection to his country
and his people extends deeply: “What I have learnt as a man is that the wellbeing of my home and family comes first. I need
to work hard in order to make sure that they are happy. Today I name this tree Lightwarrior, as she has played a tremendous
role in lighting up the village of Mgwalana, and most importantly, lighting up my life.”

Size 1 .Paper size 850 x 860 mm. cat. 405.3. 1 artists proof.

Title: Twin Coral trees "umsintsi" enroute to Mgwalana

From East London, all the way to the mouth of the Great Fish River and along its banks, Teddy and Athol drive.
Teddy was returning as a young urban professional with full-time employment and a cache of worldly experience.
As the vehicle turns to cross over another river, Teddy spots a sign that both excites and perplexes him. “That’s my village!”
As it turns out, Teddy had never before approached Mgwalana using the coastal route. This new approach mirrors the
broadening of Teddy’s mind. His new perspective is set in sharp relief against the landscape. Approaching the village, twin
Coral trees serve as a metaphor for the two travelling companions – Teddy left Mgwalana alone, and now comes
back with his mentor.

Size 1 .Paper size 800 x 600 mm. cat. 405.4. 1 artists proof.

Title: Mgwalana homestead with kraal

Between the sun-flooded cloud vault of an Eastern Cape sky and the veld stands the homestead of Thembile Sambu’s boyhood. A mere thirty minutes away the N2 snakes a similar stretch to Peddie. Established as a frontier post in 1835 as Fort Peddie, it has been a municipality since 1905. Nowadays, the contrast between Peddie’s cheek-by-jowl government block
housing and Mgwalana village, is stark. The distance between the two is insignificant in terms of mileage. However, the two realities occupy territory on opposite poles of the historical process.
The view from the massive garden and the Kraal is into a valley of uninterrupted cattle-grazing country. As a herder, Teddy named all of his animals, but his favourite was Mazomzi, meaning ‘mother of the home’. Proudly, he tells that “she was strong, beautiful and bursting with confidence. She reminded me of my grandmother.”

Size 1 .Paper size 800 x 610 mm. cat. 405.5. 1 artists proof.

Title: Likhona Soyamba, a shepherd boy and his donkey

“My grandfather taught me how to herd and also how to plough in the fields. When I grow up I want to be a farmer like
my grandfather”. Although Likhona Soyamba was following his ancestors into the mountains by the age of five, Teddy was
amazed to behold him herding his grandfather’s donkeys and even riding them to gather wood and fetch water from the river.
Says Teddy: “It reminded me of myself growing up”.
Upwards of a million rural dwellers like eleven-year-old Likhona still depend on donkeys as a sustainable power source
in the new South Africa. On arid, overgrazed tracts of land these animals thrive, and contrary to popular myths donkeys
are both patient and industrious creatures. In the deft hands of the shepherd boy their commonplace uses on smallholdings
are numerous. Carrying water and wood, tilling soil to produce crops, and bearing the harvest free human hands for more
finely calibrated work.

Size 1 .Paper size 960 x 680 mm. cat. 405.6. 1 artists proof.