The idea of becoming a photographer seemed as likely to wheelchair bound Buhle M, 30, as the prospect of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. "A wheelchair needs so much space," she thought, and how would she carry the camera, the tripod and get around? The woman who lost the mobility of her legs in an armed robbery in 1997 was daunted.
Buhle's photographic essay of the life of a woman who has impaired vision included the UNCRPD's call for "respect for the inherent dignity, individual autonomy including the freedom to make one's own choices, and independence of persons".
John Robinson, the photographer who facilitated the course was impressed with Buhle's perseverance in spite of the exhaustion he witnessed in her at the end of a day "I have taught able-bodied photographers who want everything on a plate, but the four people I taught in the course did not have that plate. They were willing and learnt."
Buhle said she and her family "were stunned" by her photographs, which were printed onto banners and mounted for an exhibition. The community was incredulous. "They asked, how can a disabled person take photographs? When we looked at our banners I could not believe it was me who took the pictures and I am now famous."
IN BUHLE'S WORDS:
Buhle, who works in the Human Resources Department of the South African Police Services in Escourt, Kwa Zulu-Natal, talked to the FHR about the impact of the incident that changed her life when she was still at school, completing grade 10. "I was shot in 1997 in the breast in a housebreaking in Wembezi township in Escourt. There were two men. They stole some few things and they shot me and then afterwards, when I was lying down and bleeding, they both raped me. I took a two-year break after the incident and then went to a school, which allowed disabled children to enroll. But I was the only one who was disabled and people took me as a sick person or a stupid person. [It was like] I was a half-human being. But when I later went to live in Port Shepstone, a rural area, I saw people with disabilities who are successful. They told me, disability is disability. You cannot change it but you can change the way you think about it. I thought I needed to accept myself and continue with my studies and so I did a human resource management course."
Nathi N, a 27-year-old man with cerebral palsy, said the photography course facilitated by CREATE has increased his confidence in his abilities.
"At first it was not easy because it was the first time I was using a camera and can only use one hand. My left side was affected by cerebral palsy, which has also affected my speech. They bought me a tripod and that helped to keep the camera steady."
Nathi, who works part time in the CREATE offices in Durban said he was surprised to learn that he was capable of taking photographs and was inspired by the life of a certain Mr Zuma.
"He lives in my township, Mpophomeni, in Howick. He uses a wheelchair, has the use of only one hand and works as a welder. I photographed him at work. The response to Ngubane's work was overwhelming. "I live with my single mother and my sister and they were so shocked to see what I had produced. It shows that even if you have a disability you can do lots of things if people believe in you."