Relationships depend on connection, whether it's the relationship you have with yourself or your relationships with others. Though we may not be able to connect physically with friends and family due to the pandemic, we are sharing this photo series shot in 2019, reflecting the value of connection, self-love and acceptance featuring Zinhle Mthembu and Koki Beuzana.
Zinhle and Koki met on this shoot, thereafter formed a friendship, both Sagittarians, their free-spirited, playful and humorous nature emanates in this shoot. Reflecting on self-love and confidence, Zinhle elaborates on her gender neutral style, being bald and how not having the typical features of what is considered "beautiful" empowers her to love herself. She says:
"Keeping my hair short is a conscious choice, I have been comfortable with having short hair from a very young age. I enjoy not having hair, and not having the stress of growing hair, not feeling the pressure of being prettier than anyone else and keeping my look and style gender neutral." "When I was growing up, my mom also had a hand in making me wear unisex clothes so my clothes have always been gender neutral. It is a comfortable zone for me, since I don't feel any pressure to have hair or to always wear makeup, or just be girly, you know, I really am comfortable with expressing myself as gender neutral. And yeah, it ensures I survive certain experiences sometimes, since having sex appeal and wearing certain clothes in some instances just attracts unwanted energies, or attention, so I keep it G and easy, I prefer to be neutral with my outfits."
"I feel really empowered, having short hair. It's really beautiful being bald, it shows that you have a strong character and you are not afraid of the world seeing you for who you are. But it's also not easy having a bald head and being dark in our society at times, it has a stigma of being ugly. But I still embrace my look."
Our ability to be present with others often reflects our ability to be present with ourselves, connection begins as an inward process with self. When we can fully recognize and fully embrace ourselves, we can fully recognize and fully embrace others. Zinhle's unapologetic embrace of her physical features and self-expression, reflects a deeper self-love that allows her to live authentically which resonated with Koki and thus allowed them to connect and form a friendship.
Photography: Fortune Flank