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The man behind the camera

Through the Obee lens

Growing up as a young man, like everyone else, Obedience Mkhabela did not have it easy. Being the introvert that he was, also played a major role in helping him discover his hidden passion and attributes, his passion for photography and journalism.  The founder of Obee pictures, he shares his story of how his dream turned to a reality, with Flair Correspondent Siphiwe Tsheu.


Who is Obedience Mkhabela?

Obedience was born in Mpumalanga and then relocated to Ivory Park at the age of 4; started school at Mikateko Primary at the age 7 and ultimately went to Ivory Park Secondary School. My whole growing up was challenging as many would find it to be, especially growing up in the townships, locations and other informal settlements.

So where did you passion for journalism & photography come from?

As a young man growing up, I didn’t have all the toys I wanted as a kid. So being born in Mpumalanga and relocating to Ivory park really affected me in some way, in that, I stayed In Ivory park a few years before going back to Mpumalanga. So I made close friends here, and when I came back from Mpumalanga, I realized that I had lost a lot of friends, as some had also relocated to other areas.

So my boredom in a way awakened me to the realities and passions I didn’t know about myself. I started being creative. I would take an ordinary milk box, cut it open in the middle, and take the box inside a toilet paper roll, attach it to that space and create a camera.
When I started attending primary school, my Dad would buy newspapers frequently, and after reading he would leave them on the cupboard with the notion that I will read them after school. At the end of each day he would ask “Ufunde ngani ephepheni namhlanje?” which is to say, in English “What did you read about in the newspaper today?”
That’s when I would tell him about the people I read about, the news I read, as well as the sports. This in a way built my passion. Watching news bulletins daily on TV also helped to shape my perception in the right direction and it helped me to know  what I would want to be when I grow up.
After matric, I took a gap year the following year because I was still not certain  what I wanted to do. Through careful consideration, I then decided to enrol for a national diploma in Journalism at  the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT).

What can you say the Varsity experience was like for you? How did it positively contribute to your passion and drive?
Studying at TUT came up with a lot of opportunities because that’s where I got to learn the foundations, as well ‘the what’ of the art of Journalism. During my 2nd year, CTP partnered with the Institution for the production of the campus newspaper and offered a learnership opportunity to Journalism students. Amongst many participants, I was lucky to be chosen to be part of the first group of interns where we got to choose the publications we would like to intern for.
I also discovered that we had a local newspaper by the name ‘The Thembisan’. So I asked to be interned there as it was closer to both home & school.

Tell us more about your experience at The Thembisan…
In 2019 I started as an intern, interning for 6 months, with the hope that upon completion I would be offered employment as I was the only intern. However it did not immediately happen according to my expectations. To cut the long story short, In 2020 I was called back to start as a permanent junior journalist.

Tell us how Obee Pictures came about…
Obee Pictures started while was still at home, with no income.  When my internship with The Thembisan ended, I was challenged to find something to do to supplement both my craft as well as earn an income, and that’s how Obee Pictures started.
Though the concept and vision had been there since 2015, it only materialised in late 2018, and was registered in 2020 as a business. Last year I was also privileged to handle an initiative tagged “September project” which was aimed at encouraging the community to clean up dumping areas.

Where do you see Obee Pictures in the next 5 years?
I see the company growing, having its own equipment, studios, and giving back to the community. I want it to provide employment to the youths of Ivory Park, Tembisa & surrounding areas, with branches all around the world.

Final Thoughts?
I would like to see my NPO Obedience Mkhabela registered and through it I want to fulfil my desire of giving back.****

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