Growing up in the east rand in Katlehong, Tony Maake was thinking about studying medicine or BSc human life sciences, but changed his mind after attending a winter school at Tübingen University in Germany. He ended up studying BSc molecular biology and biotechnology at Stellenbosch University and graduated in 2018.
“I arrived at a time when Stellenbosch was not yet transformed, therefore racism was one of my major challenges and I implemented activities that have changed the society and challenged students to come out of their comfort zones and broaden their horizons,” he says.
One of his fondest memories is his visits with Prof Eugene Cloete during his first year. They talked about success, how he could change the Stellenbosch society with photography and challenge the status quo. Tony says Prof Cloete was very supportive of his endeavours outside of academics.
Tony also was a class representative in microbiology and a treasurer in the Natural Science Committee and received a certificate from Tübingen University in Germany from the Tübingen South African Programme. In 2015, he was awarded Best Photographer of the year by the Stellenbosch Photography Society and also received certificates from the Stellenbosch Laser Chapter in Photography at the Department of Physics.
In 2013, he was named photographer of the year by the creative photographic society in Stellenbosch for a photo challenge. In 2015, he was one of the finalists of the photo contest Swedish Innovations South African Interpretations and received an Honourable certificate from Transparency International. And in 2016, he received an Honesty Oscars award as the best photographer of the year.
Tony also founded the Tonys Houz Children’s Foundation, which he registered in 2015 as an NGO. While photographing for the project ‘Behind the smile of an African child’ he became motivated to initiate a children’s foundation for community services. This foundation creates programmes to help communities and schools in townships by empowering them with necessary academic and living tools. Besides being an award-winning photographer and helping to empower children, this multi-talented Matie also sees himself as a fashion stylist and menswear influencer to grow the AfroDandy movement. He says he does this by sharing his passion for dressing stylish every day and everywhere.
According to Tony the change from being a student to becoming an employee was quite challenging, but he enjoys being independent and applying his knowledge and experience. Tony is currently working as a microbiologist. “When you love doing something, instead of giving up, you find solutions. I have faced many challenges to the point that I nearly quit, I have failed so many times and disappointed my loved ones and people that support me. I almost wanted to give up, but I didn’t quit. I tried so many times and failed, but I never stopped trying, because I promised myself that I will not stop this race because I am tired, I will stop when I am done.
“A wise man once said ‘you hang around the barbershop long enough, sooner or later you’re going to get a haircut’.” Equality, freedom of expression, integrity, consistency, perseverance, commitment and honesty are very important values in Tony’s life.
Some of the things this multi-talented Matie still wants to achieve is to build his mother a house, teach photography to children from disadvantaged schools, publish a book about his photography and have businesses where he comes from to increase employment and job opportunities among the youth.
- By Elbie Els -