i came across what i thought was a very artistic photo of identical twins robed in Geisha attire with a slight pantsula twist; blush applied with a seemingly deliberate solid circle on their brown faces. i immediately wanted to see more so i searched till i landed on a page called CARBONCOPYTWINS – a photo documentary of identical twins sisters, Nonzuzo and Noncedo Gxekwa. i immediately wanted to meet them so i could pick their brains on the inspiration behind the project and their shared love for photography.
“For as long as we can remember we’ve been taking pictures of each other – ever since we were kids,” Noncedo recalls. “We got older and we were looking back at all these pictures we had and were like ‘oh, we should do this!’ but we never had the time until Nonzuzo came to Cape Town last year and we just finally decided to do it.”
We probably can all relate to the challenges we face growing up and would think that having someone like you to share your insecurities with would make it easier but, to the contrary, these ladies express how it is not as easy as we’d like to imagine.
“People also forget that we are two different people and almost immediately, they compare us and say things like ‘you’re the fat one’ – something they would think twice about saying to an individual that they don’t know that well,” says Noncedo.
One shouldn’t expect two people to have the exact same personality, regardless of their identical appearance, yet it seems that people have been focusing on their similarities their whole lives. Some scenarios aren’t as unpleasant as Nonzuzo shares:
“We’re always running into people, especially myself here in Johannesburg, who walk up to me excitedly and say ‘Heeey’ and in my head i’m like they probably know my sister. And it’s just easier to respond than to explain sometimes,” she laughs. “i think it’s especially because she shoots a lot of people. The fact that we live in two different cities means we experience life in different ways; she works in Cape Town as a photographer so her days are so different to my days because i work in a jewellery studio. And she’s married, I’m not.
This is what they had to say when i asked whether they feared that their project would make them more vulnerable to the very comparisons they’ve tried to avoid their whole lives, given the nature of the online space today:
“Yes, but not really. We’ve gotten to a point where it doesn’t affect us anymore because we’ve become so grounded and we understand each other and our weaknesses.”
As more and more people got word of their project, they started getting volunteers for photo shoots and have now expanded beyond just shooting themselves but other twins too.
(images via carboncopytwin.tumblr.com)
“Since talking to other twins and doing our research, we’ve found that there’s a lot of different stories about twins because there’s different types – some who have lost their twin, those don’t who aren’t identical and some of different genders. A boy and girl wont relate the same as two girls…so it’s getting bigger than what we anticipated when we started the project.”
It’s quite a unique project they’ve got going, attractive to the eye of someone who’s simply taking in the fascinating images of ‘clones’ that actually exist outside of sci-fi films. However, they have a more meaningful motive that involves discovering the scientific and cultural theories that surround the existence of twins.
“It has to be more meaningful than just taking pictures. We’d really love to go to Nigeria because they currently have the highest population of twins. Apparently there’s a study where they were trying to research if it has something to do with the food they consume that is causing a high twin birthrate. It’s just a matter of getting the funding we need to travel and explore all the possibilities,” says Noncedo.
“We’re hoping to get an understanding of the rituals that take place when twins are born or when they die, the rites of passage and so on,” Nonzuzo added. “We are Xhosa and in our culture, there’s a ritual called ‘Intonjana.’ Our dad explained to us that a girl gets a cow and a goat [sacrificed], whereas twins have to share one cow and one goat between the two of them. We want to understand why twins can’t be represented as individuals when we are clearly two different people”
(images via carboncopytwin.tumblr.com)
View the exceptional project and follow their journey here carboncopytwin.tumblr.com
The “i” small cap is a conscious imagery of not being bigger than the group.. The Cartesian principle is “I think therefore I am.” In Afrika we say, ”i am because we are and since we are, therefore i am.”