It’s a sunny Tuesday afternoon in Braamfontein and I am meeting with Lethabo Rapoo and Noko Malatjie, the founders of Hunt For Melanin, a platform that is celebrating the beauty of being a black woman through profiling, inspiring and giving black women a platform to talk about their stories.
They meet me at Father Coffee looking stylish and well put together. With the formalities out the way we got straight to it and address the elephant in the room, what is Hunt For Melanin about and what is the movement about?
As we started talking about the movement, one thing that stands out is how their faces light up every time they start talking about Hunt for Melanin. The passion they have for the platform makes me even more fascinated about the brothers and what they are doing.
What/Who inspired you to start Hunt For Melanin?
Lethabo: We decided to start Hunt For Melanin because we once went on this trip to Mozambique and when we got there, the majority of girls we saw were dark-skinned, and as I was taking pictures of this one girl who was not confident in herself because she was with friends that were light-skinned girls, I thought she was beautiful, but she just couldn’t see it because she was surrounded by light-skinned girls. That’s when I noticed how most girls in our hoods have a mentality of “I’m dark, so I’m ugly” and are not fully appreciated, that’s when we decided to document black girls and tell black girl stories.
Noko: My little sister is dark in complexion and you know how kids are at school, she was always teased all the time for being black. From there, I decided to start an initiative where we document black girls to help remove that stigma that society has around the darker skin not being attractive. So I wanted to inspire both young and old.
How do you choose the women you profile?
Lethabo: When it comes to the girls we feature, I usually like to go for the ones that are low key beautiful, they are the ones I like to shoot. They know they are beautiful but are just shy to show it because they have certain body features that they might feel is imperfection, that they don’t want to show the world, we go for those ‘cause we want to show them to the world.
Noko: We document girls that are trying to tell their stories because we believe if we can get one girl to tell their story, others will be inspired. Those that embrace their skins and want to spread out the same message so that those that are still aren’t comfortable would find the strength to do so as well so that’s also one of the things we look at.
Why is it important to you for black girl stories to be told?
Lethabo: I think for black girls to tell their stories is important because, looking at the generation we are in now where all we know is Instagram, there is pressure to look a certain way. As Africans we are now lost. And especially to girls because they are told all over the media what they want and mostly their reference points are usually Caucasian women in magazines but if we can feel free to tell our stories, for example, a girl who is Zulu from KZN and one maybe is Xhosa from the Eastern Cape, it’s important for them to tell their stories because nobody can tell their story like they can. So all in all, I believe black girl stories should be told so that we don’t lose our identity or what makes us who we are.
Noko: I think it’s important for black girls to tell more of their stories because when you tell your story, there are two things that happen: either someone is inspired by your story or someone out there has already gone through that but just never had the opportunity or platform to talk about it or have it talked about. So I feel it’s very important for women of colour to tell their stories because I feel they have to empower and inspire other women out there to tell their stories as well.
How have people responded to HFM?
Lethabo & Noko: We recently launched our second website and to tell you the truth on Instagram not everybody is interested yet in what we are doing and what we are tapping into, but we can see growth on our website and I believe for people who are starting out the awareness is out there and we are growing each and every day and we are happy that the message of telling stories and celebrating our black girls and for us that’s enough.
What’s your vision for HFM?
Noko: To inspire and empower women of colour the embrace the skin they are in and to tell their stories. And another thing is awareness, if we can get to primary or high school and in these young girls build confidence while they are still young, in future we will go far because confidence will get us far.
What’s next for HFM?
Lethabo: Because we are photographers, we are currently looking at doing an exhibition.
Noko: And also publishing
What’s your personal message to black girls and women out there?
Lethabo: My message is that as guys can we please protect, appreciate and love our women.
Noko: My message is that one needs to love and appreciate the skin they are in.
Hunt For Melanin: From two boys that care. We say, be bold, black and proud. That is our message to you guys.