The work depicts two boys from the Shembe Nazareth Baptist religious community, a denomination that blends Christian and Zulu traditions.

Its young male adherents adopt special costumes based on the kilt for religious ceremonies (the boys refer to themselves as the ‘Iscotch’). The influence is drawn from Scottish regiments that were present in Natal in the late nineteenth century. The artist’s concerns lie less with religious questions per se, than issues of adolescent identity expressed through religious rites of passage. His series contributes an African dimension to a well-established European and North American tradition concerned with representing teenagers at moments of transition to adulthood. Stunning on a large scale, the photograph makes a complex historical point in an accessible way and it will mark the opening of the National Galleries of Scotland’s first purpose-built space for photography.


The artist.

Scottish National Portrait Gallery

1 Queen Street, Edinburgh, Midlothian, EH2 1JD
0131 624 6200

Opening times

Daily, 10am – 5pm. (6pm during August). Open from noon on 1 Jan. Closed 25 – 26 Dec.

Exhibitions at Scottish National Portrait Gallery

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