Upon returning to his hometown after several years, Ivorian filmmaker and photographer Christian Goue felt an uncertain sense of belonging which would be familiar to most African expatriates returning ‘home’. Being an expatriate can be an amazing experience or the hardest one and returning home is usually going from being immersed in one culture to being in another. We rely on our memories to be our guide in what now seems to be a very ‘small’ place. Christian beautifully captures his complex nostalgia in his short film, BETWEEN LANDS. AFRICA IS NOW spoke to Christian regarding his upbringing, childhood memories and his new film.
Tell us a bit about growing up, at what age did you move to Canada?
The first thing that comes to mind when I reflect on my upbringing is the number of times my parents and I had to move from house to house for different reasons. The priority for them was to find the best environment for the intellectual development of my brothers and me.
‘One thing for sure is that the cultural gap between the two places impacted my ability to connect with people.’
When you moved to Montreal, how was the transition and was it easy or hard adjusting to your new home?
I can’t say it was an easy or hard transition. One thing for sure is that the cultural gap between the two places impacted my ability to connect with people. I think I was a bit socially anxious at the beginning and my life was limited to campus and home.
After a while, I started spending my days discovering the city (Montreal) which pushed me to capture every beautiful area. This helped me develop a passion for photography. Becoming a street photographer was the turning point. I think I excelled at it and things became way smoother and people started reaching out to me, as by this time I was being featured on different media platforms. I have connected with so many great people since.
That experience led me to collaborate with WordPress Photo and The Montreal House of Photography. They invited me to give a photography workshop to a group of young refugees from Syria. The idea was to share my immigration experience which I did and I related to them through their daily struggles in trying to integrate smoothly in a new country. Following those workshops, the group of young Syriaque had the chance to exhibit a series of photographs accomplished over six (6) months. They were able to show and tell their relationship with their new country Canada.
‘I don’t want to nourish the idea of immigrating to Canada as a symbol of success. ‘
How was the reunion with childhood friends and family?
It was weird. People gave me so much attention and respect at the point where I felt so different. You know, like a stranger. Until now, I don’t think I’ve been able to reconnect with childhood friends. The subject that constantly pops up is my experience being in Canada, which I don’t like to talk about. I don’t want to nourish the idea of immigrating to Canada as a symbol of success.
Everything was great with my family, I just felt like I missed so much and that feeling inspired me to write this film.
Have you ever at any point worried that you might forget Ivory Coast and therefore forget a part of who you are?
Forget Ivory Coast? Not really. I still have all my memories intact like it was yesterday. But that’s the problem, things have changed since, but I still have that old memory of home. I missed so many things that sometimes I feel like this was not home anymore or at least not the one I had in mind coming back. Also, people at home don’t consider you as a local. At this point, you have no choice but to question yourself about which place you belong to. Questioning yourself about this is really a struggle.
Something I know for sure is that making art helps me create a space for myself based on these two cultural influences. Every piece I’m writing is a part of who I am and defines the values I stand for.
What did you enjoy most about the making of this film?
Traveling across the Ivorian Coasts with my long-time friend and collaborator Julian Thomas was the most exciting thing in doing this film. Julian is my go-to cinematographer and he is behind most of the great visuals of the film. Then I had the chance to explore Sassandra, the small city where we shot the last part of the film. Sassandra is where my grandparents and my dad use to live.
BETWEEN LANDS will be screened at the Goree Cinema Festival in Dakar on November 16. Visit Goree Cinema for more details.
AFRICA IS NOW catches up with multitalented creatives Marvin Dieterich and Seth Pimentel aka African Ginger.
Photographer and DJ
Tell us about your background.
Contrary to popular belief I’m not from South Africa at all. I was born in Frankfurt, Germany, in ’97. To a drug addict and a drug dealer.
My mother was a beautiful woman from Tanzania and my father was allegedly from Albania. I was the second youngest of the 5 children she had, but I ended up in an orphanage before I really got to know my siblings. The oldest two in Tanzania are nowhere to be found and the other two were adopted into different families.
When I was about 2 years old, I was adopted by a lovely Jewish lady and her German husband, who are now my dearly beloved parents. We then moved to South Africa in 2001 and I’ve been here since.
Where did you grow up in Jozi?
I grew up in Westdene, a semi-suburban area, between Melville and Westbury.
How did you and Seth meet? Was it through skating?
We both skated from quite a young age, but we never really met until high school where we eventually crossed paths due to our shared interest in the arts and our mutual friends.
It’s sad about the Parkhurst ramp…
Many people never actually knew about the Green Ramp behind the Parkhurst Library. It was originally donated by Emerica and used mostly by the older skater generation, but it gained popularity among us, youngsters, once we grew brave enough to drop into the 1.8m halfpipe. It was there for about 8 years I think before it was eventually scrapped by the community, who claimed it was a safety hazard for their children… it was a blatant punch in the face to skating. The people of Parkhurst didn’t like us delinquents hanging out there for hours on end, so they chopped it into chunks and scrapped it.
I haven’t skated a ramp that smooth for a long time and others just aren’t the same. I don’t think there’s really a proper halfpipe anywhere anymore. Only smaller and lumpier ramps, like the skate park on Empire or YBF in Bryanston. Today’s youth also seems to be skating in the streets more than ever. Nobody shows much interest in finding halfpipes these days.
How did you end up with an African Ginger design tattooed on your arm?
Seth had an exhibition at the Sneaker Lab space in Braamfontein one evening, while I was taking pictures for the Juta Street Precinct. The space was covered in Seth’s beautiful illustrations, from bags to shoes, everything was African Ginger that night. There was even a tattoo artist who was translating some of Seth’s smaller flash designs onto the skin of those willing (myself and Seth included).
She only got about 5 pieces done before the tattoo set-up was packed up, unfortunately. By the grace of God, I got slotted in at number 3 and now I have this beautiful African Ginger ski mask on my arm. Of all the pieces, the mask just spoke to me on a different level. It stood out. I guess sometimes you just know, you know?
You fixed my Nishiki bike when the cycle shop was open in Melville… it’s a shame it closed down. Do you still offer the service and what else do you dabble in?
I did indeed fix your bike, a beautiful bike at that. The shop Hunter Cycling JHB was also definitely the best in town. Cycling past the now tattoo parlour just isn’t the same.
I don’t work on bikes much anymore, but I will soon be moving up to Europe for a few months, where I will once again be fixing beautiful bicycles in a stuffy, dark room that smells of grease, detergent and socks.
I’m also very passionate about photography and the documentation of my surroundings and their effect on me. This, however, took a bit of a backseat once I began making music which I am also hopelessly in love with. Oh, and much like everyone else these days, I also like to DJ.
What music are you producing?
At the moment I’ve been dabbling in the more hip-hop style side of things. But I guess I could call my music alternative. It’s really a personal exploration of rhythm and expression, to be honest.
How would you describe your sound?
There really isn’t one name for it. It’s probably best described as a load of sounds in a row that appeals to me at the time of creation. I enjoy challenging my understanding of arrangement and sound engineering, and my music is just a reflection/product of myself and my life.
I came from a very chaotic background and making music is quite cathartic for me. It has become almost like a part of my daily routine now. Music is something I enjoy too much not to pursue in the future, however, I do not have a concrete plan as to how it will be incorporated into my life. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
And are you on SoundCloud?
Yes, under the alias TOKYOKEV.
We love your Insta page @dailymarvin and your eye for taking portraits. What avenue of photography interests you and how long have you been shooting event photography?
Thank you. First and foremost, I really love fashion photography, but I try to bring an aspect of street photography into my work. The spontaneity of shooting on-the-go intrigues me and challenges my mind more than spending hours in a cold studio chasing one image.
I’ve been wielding a camera and capturing my surroundings since the age of 15 and events are one of my favourite things to shoot. I try more than anything to capture energy and emotions which can be quite tricky in a festival environment, where everyone just wants to party-y-y-y-y. But with patience and focus, you begin to see through the veil of hype.
‘I came from a very chaotic background and making music is quite cathartic for me.’
What would you love to shoot and where?
I’d love to shoot people of the older generation (65+) engaging with people my age on a constructive level. It’s not something that’s common these days. Nobody has apprentices anymore and true knowledge is being lost. The separation the internet brought has only gotten bigger every year and I feel as though we, the youth, are becoming too dismissive of our elders. We should be focusing less on institutionalised learning and certification, and more on developing our chosen craft to its full potential. This can be learnt from those who walked these paths before us, not from a standardised textbook.
Which Joburg artists do you respect most?
I have mad respect for some people my age, like Seth and Njabulo Hlophe (Dirty Native Chief). But more than anyone, I respect the tattoo and graffiti artists I always looked up to, back when I was just a skinny kid skating with them. From KevLove to Rekso, all of the really illustrative and expressive painters have always had my heart.
What do you love about Joburg?
I love the rhythm of this city. It runs 24/7 and it waits for no man. It will teach you all the lessons you’ll ever need to survive. It’s the perfect place to hone your skills and meet like-minded people as an urban artist.
‘We should be focusing less on institutionalised learning and certification, and more on the development of your chosen craft to its full potential.’
‘I like being comfortable and I enjoy wearing clothes that can survive whatever the city throws at me.’
Do you prefer Joburg or Cape Town culture and what would you say is the difference?
The only difference I noticed between Joburg and Cape Town is an apparent sense of unity in the creative industry. I see more artists helping one another in Cape Town, but that could also be the power of social media. I could be wrong.
What I can say with confidence, is that both places suffer from a serious case of ‘cancel culture’. Young artists are more interested in boycotting one another by trying to steer the crowd using fear and mob mentality when we should really be trying to help one another become the best versions of ourselves.
We’re all here aren’t we? And on top of that, we all need to eat. Why starve each other out of spite and insecurity? I see so many of my peers engulfed by popular culture and Western trends. There is really no need to focus so much on image, appearance and status.
Acceptance and a positive self-image are the foundations for a happy life. We need to be careful not to skip that step and hide our truth behind trends and money.
Who are your favourite local fashion stores/designers and what style are you into?
I dig Young and Lazy and on the higher fashion side of things, I really like Rich Mnisi. If I didn’t miraculously spend all my money by the time my favourite brands dropped, I would probably be kitted out by now, which is unfortunately not the case.
I guess have quite a unique style. I don’t like expensive things and most of my stylistic choices are influenced by early hip-hop and skate culture in Europe – the more rebellious, the better! Above all, I like being comfortable and I enjoy wearing clothes that can survive whatever the city throws at me. So I try to find a balance between expression and practicality.
However, for those of us with underweight wallets, like myself, thrifting clothes is the way to go. I enjoy the personal aspect of it. It takes hours and you have a choice of so many clothes, it’s crazy.
And for those days on which I might need a solid vintage piece to tie up my outfit, I would source my clothes from informal online stores (some young entrepreneurs on Instagram) such as Klippa Vintage.
‘I don’t like expensive things and most of my stylistic choices are influenced by early hip-hop and skate culture in Europe – the more rebellious the better!’
SETH PIMENTEL AKA AFRICAN GINGER
Johannesburg-based illustrator and multimedia artist
Where does the name African Ginger come from?
I’m a natural ginger and I’m from a mixed race heritage. And obviously I’m African in every sense.
Where did you grow up in Jozi?
I grew up in the south of Johannesburg until 2018, but studying in Braamfontein led to spending much of my academic and social time in the city.
Name one of your favourite haunts in Jozi.
The Royale in Craighall. Go there! It feels like home.
Do you prefer Joburg or Cape Town culture and what would you say is the difference?
Cape Town is refined and focuses on an international narrative, whereas by contrast, Jozi is unapologetically African in all aspects. I love both, but Jozi is home.
What do you love about Joburg?
The creative energy.
Who are your favourite local fashion stores/designers and what style are you into?
My experiences have been humbling and educational. I have met so many incredible creatives within the industry. For Afropunk, I collaborated with Hyundai to create a custom design on a car for one of their activations. For Basha Uhuru, I got the opportunity to paint a mural encapsulating the South African youth 25 years post-apartheid.
‘My work has always had a signature style, I have just grown with it.’
When did you start illustrating and how did you discover your signature style?
I was in my second year at university and I picked up illustration as a second major and through the courses I discovered my aptitude for portraits and tone. I went from deconstructing silhouettes to creating hyper-real portraits. My work has always had a signature style, I have just grown with it.
What mediums do you use?
Ink, oils, pencil – these are my original mediums. But I love working with Photoshop because it’s digital and we live in a digital age, so people get to see my work in its truest form. I’m always excited to experiment with mediums outside my comfort zone.
We see you’re part of a new collective in Braams, BKhz, tell us more about it.
It’s a gallery and studio space owned by a great South African artist and illustrator Banele Khoza. He has exhibited art by Lady $kollie and Matthew Hazel and just recently I partook in a group show in the space and hopefully, soon my first solo show!
Have you ever collaborated with a fashion or interior designer?
Yes, I’m very fortunate to have collaborated with fashion brands Anatomy and DEAD. Other collaborations in fashion include Levi’s, New Balance, Puma, Converse and others. However, I’ve never collaborated with an interior designer, although I have been pondering over it.
Do you still skate?
Yes, I do, although not as often as I did as a teenager, but I’ve been getting back into it with my bestie Joshua The I Am.
What advice would you like to give young aspiring artists?
Three words: Be unapologetically you.
Do you have a favourite of your own artworks?
The piece titled Bultungin. I love the line work, colours and shape of the figure. North African folklore, and folklore in general, is not really discussed in Southern Africa. I loved researching this topic because to know ourselves is to know the narratives of the times that have preceded us.
PHOTOGRAPHER: ALEXA SINGER
STYLIST/PRODUCTION/TEXT: CAROLINE OLAVARRIETA @LAMPOSTSA
ASSISTANTS: WARREN & PRINCE MEKO @LAMPOSTSA @WARREN_MEKO @DRESSCODEEXXL
THE FASHION AGENT: @thefashionagent @_akjp @wandalephoto @thebemagugu @woolworths_sa
COKE THREDS : @rich_mnisi @solsolmenswear @o_s_c_s @maylee_cpt
@sgod_za @superbalist @dipstreetstore @cocacolaza @cocacola_africa
PUMA: @pumasouthafica @puma.select @pumasportstyle
SPORTSCENE: @sportscene_sa @nikesportswear @nikeza @adidasza @adidasoriginals @fila_rsa
Fashion meets dance in this collab between dance crew Golden Spears, photographer Jacques Weyers and designer Tokyo James.
AFRICA IS NOW introduces Golden Spears, the dance crew who say their masked look was inspired by Jabberwocky. Meet DJ TafboY and B-Boys Ima, Kijogoo, Apple, Chichi and Mouse, who joined photographer Jacques Weyers to create this original Tokyo James collab, revealing their unique moves and highlighting the Nigerian-British designer’s distinctive urban style. B-Boy Ima says two of the crew met in Tanzania and when they came down to Cape Town, South Africa, they met the rest of the guys. The Golden Spears, who have been dancing together for seven years now, say dancing is their life: ‘Dance is like a way out – if we’re happy or sad, dance takes us away from that… that’s our dance flavour.’
Photographer James Meakin shot this series of photographs of actor Ezra Mabengeza in Gansbaai after a wildfire had torn through the area. It came about through a serendipitous meeting after the two hadn’t seen each other in 15 years. Ezra had just come out of 30 days of shooting the critically acclaimed Sew the Winter to My Skin. James happened upon him in a café in Cape Town and they began talking about an idea he had for a shoot. Listen to the podcast of their interview after the shoot below.
The photographic shoot was shot over a day and a morning. ‘Wandering out into the dark and the fog, we chanced upon two or three amazing locations,’ says James. ‘When the moment’s right, you just jump in and do it.’ For Ezra, it was about role play and the freedom to explore your character when you’re working with someone who has a clear vision. He says to James: ‘I’m almost on a string and you’re pulling the string. It’s not like I’m a puppet, it’s like, no… I’m willingly surrendering myself to this process.’
That same sense of yielding to the creative process occurred during 30 gruelling days of production on the genre-challenging Sew the Winter to My Skin. ‘I’ve never surrendered myself to anything,’ says Ezra. ‘I decided to commit myself wholeheartedly and to experience all the emotions and not to put up a front or put on a mask or a performance that I’ve got it all under control… I just let myself go there. It was such a beautiful experience and it created a beautiful energy in me.’
Mesmerising in its lyrical pacing and lack of dialogue, Sew the Winter to My Skin tells the story of the legendary John Kepe aka the ‘Samson of Boschberg’, a Robin Hood-like outlaw whose infamy rose in the Eastern Cape in the 1950s. Kepe is said to have lived in the Boschberg caves for more than 10 years, stealing sheep, clothes and other items which he would then dole out to the poor community of Somerset East. The film follows the heart-thumping manhunt for Kepe who repeatedly outruns and outsmarts his trackers.
While it did not end up on the shortlist, Sew the Winter to My Skin was South Africa’s submission for the 2019 Oscars. Nonetheless, director Jahmil XT Qubeka’s film has been well received on the international film festival circuit.
Ezra won Best Actor and Jahmil won Best Director at the Africa International Film Festival in Nigeria. Sew the Winter to My Skin won the award for Best South African Feature Film at the Cape Town International Film Festival. It also notched up 13 South African Film and Television Awards (SAFTA) nominations, including Best Feature Film, Best Costume Design, and Best Sound Design.
Q&A: Ezra Mabengeza
You spoke to James about the challenging physical aspects and transformative nature of this role, which readers can listen to in the podcast. Did you prepare for it emotionally/mentally, as well as physically?
I spoke to the Mpinga clan in spirit and thanked them for the honour since there’s virtually no record of John Kepe’s existence. This is what I felt I needed to do and once contact was made, I asked them what they required of me. They said: ‘just be clean, your vessel must be clean and then we will guide you from within to the man and our nature as oSenzwa’. This meant two years of no sex, no alcohol, and seclusion in Eastern Cape and Cape Town where training began. I ran to my home beach, New Brighton beach. The intensely beautiful thing about this beach is that it was a designated beach for blacks during the apartheid years. Nothing at all has changed. It used to have this incredible smell there and still does due to carbon black factory on one side, which has covered all the vegetation in sticky black goo, and sewerage works on the other side. This smell instantaneously put me into an apartheid frame of mind. I did beach sprints and lots of stretching and cardio and callisthenics on the metal bars, as well as the ones in Sea Point in Cape Town where the promenade has the exact opposite aesthetic – fresh air and beauty – and that contrast, between New Brighton beach and Sea Point promenade, gave me an inner ‘boiling of my blood’ naturally.
In terms of your portrayal, can you give us insight into the psyche of John Kepe as a ‘wild man’?
He is a fun guy who always had a smile on his face, he’s mischievous, but ‘akaqelwa ikaka’… I don’t really know how to translate that in English. If you double cross him, he’ll never forget – there will be spiritual retribution. He’s not at all concerned about the physical… his ancestors will get you plain and simple. He’s also very focused, so once his mind was made up, he did it. As he did, I ran on that mountain with sharp-edged rocks and thorns, spiky vegetation and a whole sheep on my back. He never felt pain, his body was made of steel. His spirit lives on and the mere fact that we did this film confirms his spirit is still alive and I embodied it, and now it has returned to that mountain kwaNojoli. We shared way too much in common me and him… I guess that’s why I was chosen to play the role.
It’s hard to describe the film or pin it down to a genre… if you had to describe it succinctly, how would you describe it?
A Western epic for the ages.
Any special new projects on the go?
The contractual nature of the film industry doesn’t permit me to talk about that, but I’m working on films shooting in Australia, Helsinki and Nairobi. And I’m busy learning French, German and Swahili.
Where can people see Sew the Winter to My Skin, locally or internationally?
It will be on DSTV locally and it’s still doing well on the festival circuit overseas.
Q&A: Artist Lorraine Van Wyk
Using the human form as a canvas is so evocative, like a moving/changing/adapting art form and your photographs capture just one beautiful moment of your art in movement. How do you approach each of your subjects and specifically, how did you approach Ezra and the character he was creating?
Yes, well it is certainly reminiscent of strong memories. To me the colours and fluidity of the paint emblazon the photographs, as strong memories do to the mind. I also like to think of the paint as my own personal photoshop paintbrush.
As with most of my other subjects, I hoped to learn as much as I could of Ezra’s character before the shoot, but as he is so mysterious and perhaps as he was already in character, I had to feel my way through to see who he would choose to channel. I wasn’t sure if he would be himself, the outlaw John Kebe, whom he portrays so brilliantly in the film, or someone else. I started bright as usual. Vivid. Blue. Vast. Contrasts of neon orange. Then I reworked my palette to hues of green and retro colours which seemed to bring up nostalgia. The styling and location also influenced me and I loved seeing his character unfold. I, as everyone else, seemed to also simply observe the process and it is fun to watch it unfold and come to life. Just like a real painting. It was great waking up to the misty weather and reinventing the palette to compliment the styling.
In the viewer’s eye, it seems like this art has infinite possibility and the imagination is captured not only by what’s in front of their eyes, but by what the work could transform into. It makes one think about the past and the future, as well as the present. In this way, it was the perfect expression in terms of Ezra’s character in the film Sew Winter to Your Skin. We are constantly thinking about who this man is, where he came from and where he’s going. How did you evolve into using this particular art form?
Exactly. The movie certainly makes you wonder about the man. But the real-life man intrigues one just the same. I met Ezra many years ago and he is certainly not bland of colour. I spent many years in front of the camera as a model. I also photographed everything in those years and I painted and drew often. I love art. I decided to merge all the knowledge I had of these three mediums which I already found very familiar.
In general, I try to channel an archetype or the essence of my subject. I want to know their spirit. Their favourite story. Something which matters to them. Sometimes they tell me and sometimes I have to feel my way through. Since they may at times be unrecognisable under the paint, I hope to bring out their true colours one could say. These contemplations make it fun for me and I love coming to a vivid picture in my mind of the portrait I hope to create and then I set out to make it just so.
What type of paint do you use and how does the process of creating work for you? Also, what do you love about the mediums you use and the way in which you use them together?
I use safe paint, make up, food colouring and really any safe medium to help create an impasto look. Each shoot is different but I generally try to use many different layers through painting, drawing, styling and finally, photographing my subjects. Anything to bring out the deeper message. My aim is to make it look like a living painting.
In this story, I really enjoyed the challenge of passing control and trust over to James to take the pictures. I know James and his work and even though I was never quite ready, I knew I was in safe hands. Although I was almost a bit unhinged with the freedom to, for once, just focus on the process of painting. Ezra moved and engaged in the elements, while James beautifully captured everything. Effortlessly. New angles. New movements. It was in fact really freeing for me as normally I try to control everything at once which is in itself a great challenge.
It was beautiful to run into the dew of a misty, moody morning; into the fire-ravaged vegetation and dunes; and to rework my palette to more diverse hues of nature. The fluidity and transformation any sitting can go through is what makes it exciting for me. It goes quite fast since I don’t like the paint drying much at all. I love the fact that one needs to check and check again. That it’s a person and a picture yet a painting at the same time. This time the elements merged and became really alive with this brilliant team. Just the way I like it.
Here are AFRICA IS NOW staffers’ stand-out moments from the biggest celebration of African and black culture of the year that was 2018 – all captured through the lenses of Anthony Bila and David Kambwiri.
Jean Luc Niyonzima
‘I went to Afropunk expecting to have a good time and meet some interesting people, but as a first-time attendee nothing could have prepared me for the abundance of colour, culture and charisma that is the lifeblood of the Afropunk ethos.’ ‘Afropunk Joburg was a celebration of the African and black individual in all their glory.
Everyone present understood that it was through the acknowledgement, respect and admiration of the unequivocal uniqueness of each attendee that we all could celebrate as a whole. This message was echoed through the banners boldly displayed across the event venue that stated: ‘NO SEXISM; NO RACISM; NO ABLEISM; NO AGEISM; NO HOMOPHOBIA; NO FATPHOBIA; NO TRANSPHOBIA, NO HATEFULNESS’, and even more so in the attitudes of everyone there.’
‘The second Afropunk festival held at Constitution Hill in Johannesburg was a big success. The rainy and stormy weather did not put a damper on my spirit. The people came out. They came in numbers and in their most creative and eye-catching attire. It was two days of celebration among people of colour. Two days of celebrating the African spirit alongside my brothers and sisters.’
‘The music was like fire in the cold and the artists kept it burning throughout. Even through the rain, Thandiswa Mazwai, Muzi and Kaytranada, among others, kept the fire burning and the crowd couldn’t have been better.’
‘The highlights for me included Flying Lotus and his out-of-this-world, visually unparalleled 3D performance; YoungstaCPT’s powerful commentary on the land reclamation issue currently being debated in South Africa; DJ Maphorisa’s masterful blend of Nigerian Afrobeats and South African house, Gqom; being blessed by the presence of legendary South African kwaito group Trompies; and lastly, there was no better way to end the year and usher in the new than Haitian-Canadian DJ and record producer Kaytranada’s electrifying set.’
‘A highlight was meeting the hip-hop artist Bas at the Everyday People event the night before Afropunk at Shine studios. It was great because I had missed most of his performance in Cape Town two weeks prior. Another one was Moonchild’s Sanelly’s energetic performance which included her getting off the stage and performing in the crowd. Definitely one for the books.
‘I would be doing everyone a disservice if I did not mention the Spinthrift Market which showcased items inspired by African art and textiles. My favourite brand was DOPE Store. DOPE, which is an acronym for “Designer Original Products Enterprise” is a lifestyle store concentrating on world design, music, fashion and art. It specialises in selling unique collections by various designers.’
‘Leaving the event, the only thought running through my mind was that Africa needs more celebrations of who we are like this… the world needs more celebrations like these.’
Creative Director Julien Ntamakemwa on how Die Darkies came about and what’s up next.
How did Die Darkies start and where did the name come from?
We initially started off as five friends who wanted to create a brand. We struggled to find a name, so we ended up postponing the whole idea. Then one day one of the members suggested we create a group chat titled ‘Die Darkies’ (in the Afrikaans sense, not as in ‘die/death’), after seeing an Instagram caption I had posted. We later decided to run with the name as it was provocative and we knew it would capture people’s attention. We then made it more conceptual by breaking it down. Once broken down to its essence, it actually became Dark Key (Darkie). This was symbolic – you are your own key to success as young black Africans – ‘The dark ones opening their own doors.’
Who are the members of Die Darkies?
I’m the Creative Director and photographer. Prince Mukiza is studying film at AFDA. Gandhi Mukiza is an experienced model who recently worked with Gucci. Kevin Mukena just shot an international KFC advert, and Paradis Munyamana is also a creative director and model. As a collective, we are all able to bring our own perspectives towards the brand. We aspire to grow as a brand and together.
What’s different about your parties?
Our parties initially started off as an alternative nightlife option to what Cape Town had to offer. We’ve never really enjoyed the clubs, mainly because it felt like everyone in those spaces tried to be better than the next person. So with our parties, we’ve mainly focused on not having any VIP sections, and allowing people to bring their own booze. This gives people a chance to socialise with others that they might not usually socialise with because there are no barriers, as well as giving people the freedom to drink whatever they want. We also try to focus on providing our crowds with an experience, exposing them to new sounds, DJs and artists they wouldn’t normally ever come across. But we do mainly focus on Trap (heavy bass hip-hop).
What’s next for Die Darkies?
We have a party coming up on 22 September and it will be slightly different. We will be hosting it at the Youngblood gallery. This party won’t have exactly the original feel of a house party since there won’t be any BYOB, but people will be able to say, ‘I partied in an art gallery last night!’
YUSUF ABDUL KARIEM
‘I feel like Africa is Now translates and speaks to the future, as Africa is an integral part of the world’s history and therefore the most quintessential and poignant part of the future. I believe in the ability of the rich African diaspora across the continent to transcend time and space culturally. We are the frontier that everyone knows, globally, is coming, but fear won’t let them conceptualise the depths of culture and ideas that emanate from this continent.
‘It literally is and has been everywhere you look. Everyone is inspired by our art, architecture, music, fashion, dance etc. Picasso knew it (Cubism), Drake (WizKid), Beyoncé (Lemonade) and Donald Glover (Dance). Versace just branded their whole runway show to Fela Gucci, among a host of others, and a black man, who is originally from Ghana, is the head of Louis Vuitton Menswear. On the flip side of that you have an invigorated youth force who look at that and are not there yet and use that energy we’ve always had to elevate ourselves for the world to see. Whether living in Africa or as migrants, throughout history we’re always waiting to set the world ablaze in every sector of art. And this something we’re starting to see as the building blocks of the new status-quo.’
MALAAN AJANG @ MY FRIEND NED
‘To use a South Africanism, Africa is “now now”. This is a huge representation of a journey that is so significant to the fashion industry.’
THEO AFRIKA @ HERO CREATIVE MANAGEMENT
‘To me, Africa is Now speaks for itself. It’s an amazing time to be black. We’ve become comfortable with who we are, we’ve come together, we are embracing. The glow is in undeniable. Africa Is Now.’
GEORGIA KILLICK @ BOSS MODELS
‘To me Africa is Now means that Africa is the future; economically, socially and politically. It is a region of the world that has been previously overlooked, but it is fast becoming a hub for not just economic growth, but also incredible creatives who are already making such a powerful difference in the world. Africa is not a trend, but a very real future that is here and now.’
PHOTOGRAPHER: HYLTON BOUCHER
STYLIST: CRYSTAL BIRCH @ONE LEAGUE
STYLIST: CHRISNA DE BRUYN @ONE LEAGUE @LAMPOST
MAKE-UP: ALICE COLORITI @ONE LEAGUE
IN THE BEGINNING
At the age of 16 my vitiligo condition began to develop, as well as the start of a somewhat new life. Prior to having vitiligo, I was just an ordinary kid, minding my own business and trying my best to make everyone proud by getting good grades. But one day at high school I was in a sports tournament and I fell on my knee and got badly injured. A few months went passed and the wound on my knee was completely healed except for the pigmentation in that area on my body.
When I noticed that I did what everyone would do. I went to my mother and told her that my knee was still white. We decided to wait for some time to see if something would happen. At this point, I already started to feel afraid but I was trying to stay positive. But I sort of knew that this was not normal. One month passed and still, there wasn’t any positive progress.
The nightmares I had become reality. The white spot I had on my knee grew in size and I started to notice more white spots on my hands. My mother and I immediately went to a doctor to seek professional help. We went to a doctor who specialised in skin conditions. After glancing at my knee, he totally shattered my self-perception.
The doctor said these words: ‘Gideon you are going to be white. There is nothing we can do about it so you have to accept it.’
He had a fair point. But I just didn’t want to accept the fact that I had vitiligo. For many years, I tried every possible treatment to at least stop the depigmentation in my skin. I was hoping to return to who I was before. Nothing worked.
So, I was hiding. Wearing long sleeve shirts, trousers or jeans no matter what the season. I felt like I was not normal. After hitting an absolute low, I decided that my skin condition is part of me and I just didn’t want to hide anymore.
LEARNING TO HANDLE IT
I gave myself a mission, which was to educate people on what vitiligo is in order to help others so they never have to reach the lows that I did.
I started a job in a supermarket in my town in The Netherlands and I began wearing short sleeves. At first I felt so uncomfortable because I could feel people staring at my spotted arms. But I carried on and eventually I got a few people coming up to me to ask what had happened. ‘Did you burn yourself? Were you born like that? Are both of your parents black or is one white? Did god punish you? Does it hurt?’ were some of the frequently asked questions. The questions were quite brutal and really hurt me. But these people hadn’t seen someone with vitiligo before so I couldn’t be angry with them.
I took the time to answer all the questions in the hope that they would spread the word. After sometime vitiligo became normal to them and I got approached by a guy in the gym. He knew a popular clothing store owner that was looking for new models for his web-store. He gave me the details and told me to call them. At this point I was afraid. I wasn’t so comfortable putting myself out there. But I also promised myself that I would try.
After a month of self-doubt, I did it. I went to the studio and I had my very first photoshoot. I didn’t know if I would get positive or negative reactions. But I didn’t have to be afraid of anything. The reactions were all positive. Even other people with vitiligo came up to me and told me that I helped them with accepting their skin condition.
WHERE I STAND TODAY
As for now, I am totally comfortable in my skin. I see it as a part of me. It shaped me into who I am right now. It could sound strange to some, but if you gave me the chance to gain all my pigment back, I wouldn’t do it. This is who I am and who I will be and I will not change this for anything.
When you have been through the process of depigmentation, you start to know yourself and your worth. I know who I am and that I am a strong enough to still have a positive self-image. I thought life would only get worse as my depigmentation continued. But life only got better day by day. Vitiligo is partially responsible for the opportunities I have now and the things I have achieved so far. But even more satisfying is how I have indirectly helped those in need without even knowing them.
You have to be strong when you have vitiligo and you may go through times when you feel like an outsider. Just keep in mind, you are unique as you are and beauty cannot be defined by others who are not open to accepting new ways of being beautiful.
PHOTOGRAPHER: HYLTON BOUCHER
STYLIST: CHRISNA DE BRUYN @ONE LEAGUE @LAMPOST
MAKE-UP: ALICE COLORITI @ONE LEAGUE
MODEL: GIDEON @TWENTY MANAGEMENT
DESIGNER: UNKOWN UNION