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Streatham Space Project presents: The Fighting Spirit of South London: Behind the Sport

A new exhibition at Streatham Space Project views its subjects through a powerful but sensitive lens.

Shot between 2019 and 2022, The Fighting Spirit of South London: Behind the Sport, incorporates images of the South London Muay Thai martial arts community.

Photographer Aneesa Dawoojee’s 40 portraits convey a sense of the battles her subjects have faced in life, inside and outside the ring.

Aneesa is a social documentary photographer, working to present themes of victory over loss and strength in diversity.

Having retrained as a photographer in her 30s, she wanted to capture the drama of Muay Thai.

As someone who practised the sport on and off since she was a teenager, Aneesa was able to earn the trust of master instructor Kru Sam, gaining access to fights.

Aneesa said: “Working with marginalised young people in London for a significant part of my life has given me the ability to understand and respect the experience and emotions of the communities I work with.

“The classical lighting and authenticity of the subjects are important to reflect the honesty and historical value of the stories”.

Images from exhibition at Streatham Space Project: Picture: Aneesa Dawoojee

She encouraged her subjects to open up about their personal struggles in a safe space – something she was adept at, having worked as a mediator within the charity sector.

She was prompted to readdress the direction of the project when she began to connect the discipline of training and fighting with the spiritual strength of the fighters.

At this point she contacted fellow photographers Phil Melia and Dr Mark Hall, drawing on their historical work to inform her own.

August Sander’s photographs of ordinary Germans in inter-war Germany, People of the 20th Century, were a strong influence.

Andy McKeane, creative director at Streatham Space Project, said: “The range of experiences offers a way in for so many people – we’re very privileged to share these inspiring stories with our neighbourhood.”

Alongside the main exhibition, Streatham Space Project are holding a live podcast event, where Aneesa will talk with the fighters, in front of a live audience, on the theme of personal victories.


Pictured: Images from exhibition at Streatham Space Project: Picture: Aneesa Dawoojee

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