While the rest of the world seems to be hurtling in the wrong direction, throwing up barriers and redrawing the borders with their neighbours, South Africa has been becoming a multicultural and vibrant creative hot spot that is making the rest of us take notice
The new generation of artists and creators that has sprung up around South Africa has been fuelled by the mix of cultures that has been fermenting since the dismantling of apartheid. The result is an exciting music and performance art scene that is, in turn, inspiring the rest of the world – including the Swedish minimalist fashion brand Elvine, who chose to dedicate their joyful and colourful SS17 collection to this new vanguard. The Forumist met some of the artists ringing the changes.
The dynamic and colourful duo FAKA, or Desire Marea and Fela Gucci, use music and performance art to promote young, black, queer voices. How do you refer to your South African heritage in your artistic work?
“Our work is our South African heritage. We do not see heritage as a thing stuck in a specific era. There are many aspects to our heritage that have evolved and influenced the way we live and the way we work in different ways. Therefore, the two are not separate.”
Tell us something about the current creative culture of South Africa.
“There are many movements and subcultures, so you cannot really reduce it to one concept. One common thing, however, is that the aesthetics are authentic, created out of resistance and brilliance. Right now, the whole creative scene is quite complex. We are entering a new era, where young, black, marginalised artists have a voice. For the future, we would love to see more work being created, and more opportunities coming from this.”
And for you? What are your future plans?
“We want to continue creating important and meaningful work. The ultimate plan is to develop platforms for black/brown, queer/trans creatives, because there are not enough forums for us to express ourselves and validate our experiences.”
Nonku Phiri and Dion Monti
With their focus set on finding interesting ways to explore reality, Nonku Phiri and Dion Monti are a musical duo with a very personal and mystical approach. Tell us about your artistic work and your inspiration. “We are inspired by things like everyday life, African culture, storytelling and mysticism. Our current setup comprises mostly electronic instruments, coupled with vocal looping. It focuses on blend dance music, with South African genres such as kwaito and shangaan electro. Even though our music is very electronic, it is also very organic and intuitive, especially from a performance perspective.”
What can you say about the South African creative scene of today?
“It’s thriving in all directions and disciplines at the moment. And many artists are taking their work all over the world. And the world is also looking towards South Africa, because artists here work with a very personal and somewhat spiritual approach in comparison to the very conceptual approach we have observed in Europe.”
What is your next step as artists?
“We are currently embarking on an Asian tour and will hopefully also be able to spend more time touring in Europe over the next year. And, of course, we are looking forward to sharing our new sound, which we have been developing during the past year.”
For young rapper Sho Madjozi – whose given name is Maya – the ultimate goal with her art is to use it to lift her childhood village out of poverty.
What inspires you as an artist? And how do you involve your heritage in your work?
“Making art is a powerful urge that I have. And it is the only way I can live my life. I have a deep desire to be understood, and this is the reason I got into writing. In my work, I just try to be as honest as possible about my life – and my life cannot be divorced from my heritage. I wear my traditional skirt and I rap in my own language. Because that is who I am.”
What is your relationship with Sweden? Do you see any connection between Sweden and South Africa?
“My father’s mother is actually Swedish and I visited once or twice as a child. My Swedish grandmother lives in the forest somewhere in Sweden. She keeps chickens and uses firewood and an outside toilet. My other grandmother lives in Limpopo, South Africa. She also keeps chickens and uses firewood and an outside toilet.”
What do you think about the Elvine clothes in this shoot? Do you think that they represent South Africa in some way?
“I like the colours of the Elvine pieces that I wore. I like it when wax prints are transferred to lighter fabrics. With regards to the connection between the garments and my country, some of Elvine’s prints are afro, while some of the cuts are very Western. What country could better embody that clash of those cultures than South Africa?”
A musician and artist, Big Space is also known by the name Montle Moorosi, which he uses when performing his other creative passion – writing.
Tell us about you and music making.
“I started making music in high school and the focus of my work so far has been to find my own voice or sound. At first I tried to copy all my favourite producers, which left me feeling utterly frustrated with my style. But then, at some point, I realised my style was right in front of me the whole time. I just needed to nurture it properly.”
What is your relationship with Nordic countries?
“When I was about 16, I always had this weird fantasy that a tall, blonde Nordic girl, dressed in camouflage pants and Timberlands would take my hand in marriage and we would elope to Norway and make a living there. Today, I know a few creatives from Scandinavia. And I do have a friend in Sweden. He is from South Africa but lives there now, working as a rapper and a model.”
And what are your future plans?
“I will be focusing on my record label – Wet Dreams Recordings, or just WDR. We have a lot of great releases coming up this year. First out is the official WDR Compilation, which is a collection of some really good underground producers from South Africa. I also see myself acting in movies one day, or maybe hosting a daytime talk show.”
A creative collective consisting of Manthe, Tebogo and Kokona Ribane, Dear Ribane is known for building strong, timeless narratives through photography, film, set designs, fashion design and theatrical performances.
Tell us about the South African creative scene of today.
“It’s courageously consistent and has been growing strongly lately. Thank God also for the internet. It gave us a voice to start new conversations with the world. There is a strong energy here for creating job opportunities through art and culture. And for having financial freedom through your craft.”
What do you know about Sweden? What are the main similarities and differences compared with South Africa?
“We have only been to Sweden for a short stay, but our impression was that the Swedish are stylish and not afraid to explore their fashion statements. We think our two countries consist of similar, cool, fresh-driven minds. The Swedish government is investing a lot in art and culture and we would love to see the same investments here. Also, Swedish schools are more advanced. South Africa is getting there!”
What do you think about the Elvine South Africa-inspired collection? Do you see a connection with your country?
“We love the simplicity and quality of the collection. It is settled and very concentrated. We just wish there were dresses for the ladies, too. The printed clothes are the most interesting pieces and they remind us of the Durban Zulu taxi drivers.”
Words by Johanna Bergström
Photography by Hanro Havenga
Styling by Jamal Nxedlana
Special thanks to Elvine
2. Jacket – Billy
3. Jacket – Billy
4. Jacket – Zoe, Tee – Allan
5. Jacket – Milla AOP
6. Dress – Tuva AOP
8. Jacket – Dan
Everything from Elvine