series “Drummies,” the young drum majorettes of South Africa shine—both through the strips of glitter that adorn their color-blocked uniforms, and their playful-yet-assured presence.
The sport, once widely popular in South Africa, is now viewed nostalgically by many, Mann writes in her artist statement. But for young girls in communities with few opportunities, where life is dangerous due to gang violence, being a part of the Drummies community is inspiring.
Though she is currently based in London, Mann was born in Cape Town, and has traveled back to her native city to shoot the ongoing project. So far, she has visited six primary and senior schools in the Western Cape. She said of her first meeting with one team, in early 2017: “I was instantly struck by the confidence and energy of the girls I met. Although some of them were so young, their passion for the sport and complete belief in what they were doing was infectious.”
Since then, the work has garnered Mann the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize, as well as a nod from the British Journal of Photography as one of the “31 Women to Watch Out For.” She has also been featured in a number of exhibitions and fairs, from “New African Photography III” at Red Hook Labs in Brooklyn to Addis Foto Fest in Ethiopia.
Though Mann’s lighting, compositions, and palette commingle in a way that’s formally striking, the girls sell the images, too: lined up in stoic formation, exuberantly moving through Mann’s frame, or relaxing into one another and giggling. The Drummies identity is an empowering one, and that’s ultimately what Mann wants to express. Next up, she’s working on a monograph of the work, and hopes to photograph drum majorettes in other provinces to show the sport’s wider impact in South African culture.