In late 2015, I had what would turn out to be the first of many nervous breakdowns at work. I had been living hand-to-mouth in Cape Town for just over a year with no real prospect of upward mobility. My job—I was a journalist at the time—demanded long hours and short turnovers.
On a good day, I would manage two meals in a ten-hour day (I often took work home). On bad days—well, let us say there were days I could have used more food than I could afford.
Three years and countless antidepressants later I stumbled upon a collection of short stories by American horror author Thomas Ligotti. The novella, My Work Is Not Yet Done, is made of three short stories (the titular “My Name is Not Yet Done”, “I Have A Special Plan For This World” and “The Nightmare Network”). All three stories have an undercurrent of the supernatural and are about how the workplace breaks employees at the very bottom of the organisational order.
The book’s opening line resonated deeply with me: “I had always been afraid,” says Frank Dominio in the book’s opening pages.
Like Frank, I had always been desperately afraid. Work was more than a minefield of office politics and cooler tank gossip: it was the source of my anxiety and one of the reasons I landed up in a psychiatric clinic in early 2017.
My photo series draws inspiration from Ligotti’s novella. It is a photographic re-interpretation featuring a nameless, faceless character in unsettling domestic environments—an attempt to present some of what I felt in the days leading up to, and following, my first breakdown. It was an exorcism—one I am only too glad to finally see the back of.
Rofhiwa Maneta is a Johannesburg-based writer and photographer. His work has been featured in VICE, Noisey, Mail and Guardian, City Press and the Sunday Times.