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Bicycle Portraits will be a photographic book about contemporary South African bicycle commuter culture. Pledge now and own a copy of your own...
Bicycle Portraits will be a photographic book about contemporary South African bicycle commuter culture. Pledge now and own a copy of your own...
245 backers pledged $16,074 to help bring this project to life.

"Before I used this bicycle, I was a marathon runner."

Hi everyone. Sometimes when we interview people for Bicycle Portraits we explain to them that they can reply to our questions in their mother tongue. So often we ride away without being sure what exactly was said, only to discover amazing and sad facts about a person when we finally lay eyes on the translation. One morning in Phuthaditjhaba, Free State, Nic and I split up for a few hours, and in that time riding around I came across Malefetsane Qabalatsane pushing his beaten-up Nishiki very slowly up a small hill. He explained to me in broken English that he was involved in a car accident some time before and he found it difficult to ride up hills with his injuries. It was only when I received the translation of his complete interview yesterday that I read what he had told me in Sotho. Malefetsane was a marathon runner. After his accident he will probably never run again. And his bicycle is the only thing he has left after losing his job on the mines up north. He now lives back at home in Phuthaditjhaba with his children, and only survives by collecting scrap metal and transporting it on his bicycle to a local scrap dealer for a few cents per kilogram. Malefetsane is not bitter, like so many he is very thankful for the little he has...

Malefetsane Qabalatsane 'Before I used this bicycle, I was a marathon runner.'

On the border of Lesotho we found a few industrious guys like Tanki Mohapeloa selling their cross-border transport services to people who don't see the need to go through border control just to deliver goods to family or friends on the other side. Tanki and his colleagues can cross the border on their modified bicycles many times a day without problems - everyone there knows them well...

Tanki Mohapeloa 'I can carry a bed with this wagon... from Lesotho to South Africa. When I work hard, of course I sweat a lot, it is hard work.'

The South African government is in the process of rolling out 1 million bicycles to young learners, who daily have to travel long distances to school, around the country. While to program  hasn't been without problems and controversies, it has given Dubiseng Janki her very own Shova Kalula bicycle and her independence...

Dibuseng Janki with her mother, Majanki Janki 'I love my bicycle because it helps me on the road. I ride it to school and the government has made it possible for me to have a bicycle.’

Don't even think of stealing Teboho Nyama bicycle - he will find you...

Teboho Nyama 'The person who takes it - unless they destroy it, or do something to it - I am going to find it...'

Some people just know a thing or two about stylish bicycling...

Elias Nkeleku 'This bicycle is not mine, it belongs to my friend. I need to fix my own bicycle again so it can be fine.’

Ride safe.

- Stan.

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