Photography, farming both part of picture

Edwin Mabonga, of Otautau, combines his two passions, dairy farming and photography. PHOTO: EDWIN...
Edwin Mabonga, of Otautau, combines his two passions, dairy farming and photography. PHOTO: EDWIN MABONGA
Photography and farming provide the perfect mix for Edwin Mabonga.

The Zimbabwe-born dairy farmer loves the ever-changing rural landscape of Otautau in Southland, where he has earned a reputation for his photography.

"I always have a camera with me.

"Your canvas is right there and your garden is a 200-hectare garden, and your cows are your models. They’re quite inquisitive. They’ll come to you."

Mr Mabonga and his family moved to New Zealand in 2003.

They came from the Midlands province of the southern African nation, which was not all that different from Southland in terms of climate, he said.

"It’s cold and high up with the odd frost — in fact, we were near the coldest city [Gweru] in Zimbabwe."

He’d always been attracted to capturing landscapes.

"My dad was into photography, so I sort of got into it that way, by looking at Dad’s photo albums."

He grew up on a farm that was a mixture of dairy, beef, vegetable growing and cut flowers for export.

The family came here to escape the land invasions in Zimbabwe that targeted commercial farmers. He had a college friend who studied journalism while he was studying horticulture who’d come to New Zealand and encouraged him to migrate.

The family started off in the North Island, and made their way down the South Island via Christchurch and the West Coast before eventually ending up near Otautau in Southland in 2007, where Mr Mabonga and wife Fungai are in their eighth season sharemilking in equity partnership on a dairy unit. He took photographs all the way.

"It was so beautiful. I had a disposable camera, a point and shoot, but when we got to Christchurch, I knew I had to get a real camera. So I walked into Harvey Norman’s and bought a Nikon D40 in 2007."

Thousands of photographs later he is still happily clicking away, and for the past three years has made calendars featuring his work.

"I really enjoy showcasing the beautiful South Island. I take a lot of landscapes, but most of them are farm-related.

"People think of dairy farming as work, work, work and as hard-working stuff, and yes, it is hard work, but it’s also beautiful. Sometimes it’s a matter of just stopping for a moment to appreciate it. Most of my pictures come from just stopping for five minutes.

"People accuse me of taking more photos than farming."

The 48-year-old father of three counts his blessings to be in such a beautiful place. He diligently captures images of the farm, which borders the Aparima River, in its various appearances.

"I am so lucky to be here. Photography is a great hobby to take my mind off the farm stress."

He was quite content to stay put while his children were still at school, he said.

"We’re comfortable. I’m having a couple of health problems. I’m really involved in just making the environment better for the next generation."

He had some concerns about regulations around farming in the future, but was glad the family had made the move.

"I’ve got no regrets. New Zealand’s been good to us as a family."


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