Alice Mann photobook bangs the drum for South African girls

Alice Mann’s long-term photography project, Drummies, examines how the sport of drum majorettes empowers young women in South Africa. Via a Kickstarter campaign, the photographer hopes to transform the compelling series into a photobook

Dr Van Der Ross Drummies, Cape Town, 2017, by Alice Mann from the series Drummies
Dr Van Der Ross Drummies, Cape Town, 2017, from the series Drummies, by Alice Mann
(Image credit: Alice Mann)

Since 2017, Cape Town-born, London-based photographer Alice Mann has been documenting the distinctive subculture surrounding all-female teams of drum majorettes in South Africa, known as ‘drummies’. This is a sport that palpably empowers those involved, in a society where women must confront myriad obstacles. 

Via Kickstarter, Mann (who is also a Wallpaper* photographer) is now seeking support to compile this long-term project into a photobook – a compelling and intimate visual documentation of confidence, commitment and determination, and a stand against societal friction in South Africa. 

Drummies Wakiesha Titus and Riley Van Harte, Cape Town, 2018

Wakiesha Titus and Riley Van Harte, Cape Town, 2018

(Image credit: Alice Mann)

Mann shot the entire series on medium format film camera, which was not without its challenges. ‘The work to scan, retouch and organise everything was quite a task. I think at the end I had around 600 rolls of film,’ she says. ‘The administrative side of putting a body of work together is probably as important as the images, and it is a part of the process I place a lot of value on, but it is also not as enjoyable as making the images. I prefer the part where I can work and collaborate with people!’ 

The hardback book, designed by Stu Smith will feature a cloth-bound cover with foil blocking and will be published by Gost Books. Accompanying the images will be an essay by art historian, curator and writer Christine Eyene, whose research and curatorial practice focus on contemporary African and Diaspora arts, feminism and photography. 

Mann’s Drummies series of photographs previously scooped the Grand Prix du Jury and the Wallpaper* New Generation Prize at the 2019 Hyères International Festival of Fashion and Photography, the LensCulture Emerging Talent Award, and the National Portrait Gallery’s Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize. But for Mann, being involved in Drummies was an accolade in itself. ‘Throughout the time I worked on this series, it was very important to me that the images were able to translate the confidence and pride of the young women involved in the teams, as well as their natural charisma and energy!’

Chloe Heydenrych, Paige Titus, Ashnique Paulse, Elizabeth Jordan and Chleo de Kock, Cape Town, 2018, by Alice Mann from the series Drummies

Chloe Heydenrych, Paige Titus, Ashnique Paulse, Elizabeth Jordan and Chleo de Kock, Cape Town, 2018

(Image credit: Alice Mann)

Hillcrest Primary Majorettes, Grabouw, 2018, by Alice Mann from the series Drummies

Hillcrest Primary Majorettes, Grabouw, 2018

(Image credit: Alice Mann)

Tanique Williams, Cape Town 2018 by Alice Mann from the series Drummies

Tanique Williams, Cape Town 2018

(Image credit: Alice Mann)

Fairmont High Drum Majorettes, Cape Town, 2018, by Alice Mann, from the series Drummies

Fairmont High Drum Majorettes, Cape Town, 2018

(Image credit: Alice Mann)

Helderkruin Primary Drum Majorettes, Johannesburg, 2018, by Alice Mann from the series Drummies

Helderkruin Primary Drum Majorettes, Johannesburg, 2018

(Image credit: Alice Mann)

INFORMATION

Drummies, a photobook, is available to pre-order via Kickstarter, and is scheduled to be printed in autumn 2021, kickstarter.com

Harriet Lloyd-Smith is the Arts Editor of Wallpaper*, responsible for the art pages across digital and print, including profiles, exhibition reviews, and contemporary art collaborations. She started at Wallpaper* in 2017 and has written for leading contemporary art publications, auction houses and arts charities, and lectured on review writing and art journalism. When she’s not writing about art, she’s making her own.