These images depict the unique and aspirational subculture surrounding all-female teams of drum majorettes in South Africa, affectionately known as ‘drummies’.
The sport has a long history in South Africa, and became popular across the country in the early 80s, but participation in the sport has since dropped dramatically. In contemporary culture there is a strong sense of nostalgia linked to drum majorettes; it is viewed as the pursuit of a bygone era. However, in many marginalized communities across the country, it is still taken seriously and is considered a highly competitive sport. For the girls and young women involved, being a ‘drummie’ is a privilege and an achievement, indicative of success on and off the field. The notoriously demanding practice schedules are representative of the girls’ commitment, and their ability to work hard.
While there have been various debates around the archaic sense of discipline and idealized notions of femininity associated with the sport, being part of a team offers girls a sense of belonging and emboldens their self-worth. The significance of pride and confidence is stressed to the girls, which is vital in communities where opportunities for young women are often severely limited. Being ‘drummies’ allows these girls to excel, and their distinctive uniforms serve as a visual marker of success and emancipation from their surroundings.
This is part of Alice Mann’s on-going work exploring notions of femininity and empowerment in modern society. With her continued investigation into this subculture, she hopes that these images can communicate the pride and confidence these girls have achieved through identifying as ‘drummies,’ in a context where they face many social challenges. She wants these images to function as a testament to the commitment and determination of these young female athletes, in a world where so many sporting opportunities are still focused on men.
Mann (b. 1991) is a South African photographic artist whose intimate portraiture essays explore notions of picture making as an act of collaboration. She aims to create images that empower her subjects and creates projects over extended periods, allowing for engaged and nuanced representations. Her award winning series Drummies has been selected as a winner of the Lensculture emerging photographer prize (2018), the PHMuseum Women’s ‘New Generation’ prize (2018) and was awarded the Grand Prix at the Hyeres International Festival of Fashion and Photography (2019). Four images from the series were awarded first place at the prestigious Taylor Wessing portrait prize (2018). Her first solo exhibition of the work was at the Kunsthal Rotterdam in 2021, when she also released her first monograph Drummies with photobook publisher GOST.