THE NOW, THE NEW, THE NEXT
What a strange year 2020 has turned out to be, right?
But “unprecedented” times really force you into evaluating what’s actually important and what’s actually just static. Here at Africa is Now, we took pause to think about what elixir is needed in times like these.
Our view? In a world that is constantly in flux and a society that constructs power structures as a way to control life’s natural chaos, the most powerful magical spell is unashamed, unabashed authenticity to self. It’s these authentic souls that will define the 21st century’s roaring twenties.
This world has outlawed (often literally but more often and more ominously socially too) the individual’s right to live their truth. It is in this world that the bold bravery of authentic living breathes life into the now, the new, the next.
In this spirit, we set about collaborating with some in the Mother City’s LGBTQIA+ community, providing a platform for a conversation about the commitment to oneself.
Championed by our magazine Creative Director, Chrisna de Bruyn, with styling, casting and curation by Gregory Russill, Cape Town based creative consultant, OUTLAWS is that conversation.
In partnership with WeAre_Creative, a local production company, and photographer Michael Oliver Love, we’re proud to release OUTLAWS, featuring Music Direction by the beloved artist Queezy and Movement Direction by the much-loved performer Chester Martinez – both also prominently star in the piece, alongside proudly queer models Michelle Drake, Fernando Denté, Ramsey Lewis, Jeremy Pelser, Olivia Sang and Chad-lee van Wyk.
It’s a celebration of authenticity that demands you stand up and take notice. In the now immortal words of ‘Pose’ star and LGBTIQIA+ activist, Dominique Jackson: we “will never, ever ask any of you for respect – [we] will demand it!”
To those who live their truth, we see you and we respect you.
To those who look down at anyone living their life, we can no longer see you – you belong to yesterday. Today belongs the outlaws – the now, the new, the next!
PHOTOGRAPHER: MICHAEL OLIVER LOVE @HERO
STYLIST & ART & CAST DIRECTION: GREGORY RUSSILL
ASSITANT: WESLEY JVR
WRITTEN BY KYLE BXSHXFF
SOUNDTRACK BY QUEEZY
PRODUCED BY AFRICA IS NOW MAGAZINE
MAKEUP SPONSORED BY MAC COSMETICS AFRICA
MAKEUP ARTISTS: GARETH COLEMAN & MICHELLE-LEE COLLINS
MODELS: QUEEZY, CHESTER MARTINEZ , FERNANDO DENTE @MYFRIENDNED, JEREMY @BOSSMODELS, OLIVIA SANG @BOSS , MICHELLE DRAKE @MYFRIENDNED, CHAD-LEE VAN WYK @TWENTYMODELMANAGEMENT
FASHION DESIGNERS: LARA KLAWIKOWSKI, THEBE MAGUGU @MERCHANTSONLONG, GAVIN RAJAH, CHULAAP @MERCHANTSONLONG, W35T, CRYSTAL BIRCH, GITHAN COOPOO @AKJP, LILY LABEL, PINA JEWELRY @AKJP
LOCATION: INFINITY STUDIOS
FILM BY: DILLON BUIRSKI & CHRISNA DE BRUYN & GREGORY RUSSILL
DOP: PATRICK QUINN SPILSBURY @WEARE_CREATIVE
STEADY CAMERA OPERATOR: RICHARD BELLON
1ST AC: THAAKIR ACKERMANN
2ND AC: NICOLAS SPILSBURY
PRODUCTION: CALVIN SHUSHU @WEARE_CREATIVE
ANJA MARAIS @WEARE_CREATIVE
EDITOR: LUKA SCOTT @WEARE_CREATIVE
GAFFER: JOHN MUREYMI
SPARK: JOHN NDAKAKMA
SOUND TECHNICIAN: NICK RUHOFF
AIN: Let’s start with an easy one: who is Tamara?
Laughing: That’s the hardest question of all!
Let’s start with hi. I’m Tamara Moeng: I love to create and tap into expression through various avenues, like modelling and dancing. It’s hard for me to box myself up into only one thing.
I’ve recently started to really enjoy being behind the camera, for example through styling. Besides co-directing shoots with friends, I’ve also been fortunate enough to assist and learn from a few fashion directors and designers, who’ve really opened their arms to me in encouragement and support.
I’m really excited to see where I can take myself with this – more importantly, I’m excited to keep growing. The goal is to produce work that I can fully stand behind – like with real representation for young people, like myself, who are part of a ‘sociological minority’. And to sustain myself through creating, of course!
AIN: So Tamara, how’s your ‘house arrest’ going?
Lockdown has been… interesting, for lack of a better word. I’m currently with my mom at home, while my dad takes care of a plot we’re invested in. If anything, it’s been a pleasant adventure with my mom – we’re have many chats that I didn’t’ think I’d ever be able to actually have with her.
I’ve been spending a lot of time in the kitchen cooking – and snacking! I’m even pretty sure I’ve mastered how to make the perfect crêpe, I admit.
But, Lockdown hasn’t been all rainbows and sunshine. On top of the constant anxiety, I’ve been forced to really spend a lot of time with myself – I haven’t done that in a minute, so you can imagine the kind of spiralling that leads to.
AIN: Productivity or pause, during this pandemic?
I haven’t been productive whatsoever. Sometimes I feel really bad about it – but then, I just come to terms with the fact that it’s okay to feel whatever I’m feeling. If anything, this will probably be the only actual ‘down-time’ I’m going to have for a while, so I’m soaking it up. I’m also really trying to avoid my phone as much as possible. I’ve even turned the internet off most of my apps.
AIN: How are you staying sane, while staying home?
Colouring in! I don’t think I’d still be sane without it. It keeps all my anxiety at bay and helps to pass the time. I’ve also been doing a little bit of yoga and a workout, most mornings. But, I think the cute vide calls with my friends is at the top of the list!
AIN: It can feel awfully tough to get creative with all that’s going on. How do you keep creativity alive in the time of COVID-19?
Staying creative has been very difficult but, I’ve been tapping into a bunch of new music, which usually sparks my creative process. I’m also watching all the movies and series that I never had time to watch, which has been a great source of inspiration.
I also recently found myself writing down random thoughts. I don’t want to call it journaling, because it’s far too sporadic and incoherent for that. Laughing.
AIN: What are you looking forward to after lockdown?
Seeing my homies and giving them the biggest hugs ever – if hugs will be allowed “oop”. I can’t wait to sit at a table with loved ones and share a meal. After that, I can’t wait to collaborate and create.
AIN: Describe your lockdown-look: is it all sweats or are you still getting dressed, with nowhere to go?
It’s been sweats and sweaters, all the way! I’m pretty sure that hoodies are the uniform of Lockdown. Laughing. I saw a tweet that said, ‘I think my shoes think I have died’ and I couldn’t relate more. I specifically wore corduroy and a pair of sneakers when I went out for groceries for the first time in 4 weeks, just so I could feel the closest thing to ‘normal’.
AIN: What do you think we can all learn during this time? Should we go straight back to business as usual – or are there ways that we can evolve from this?
I think that working spaces are going to change, because this pandemic has made us realise that some methods are just not very efficient. Personally, I’m definitely going to appreciate experiences and interactions way, way more – really live in the moment, you know? Hopefully, we’ll all be inclined to make this change.
Style is a form of self-expression to me which articulates my inner thoughts. Editorial fashion is all about breaking boundaries and finding the highest pinnacle of telling your story, which is something I’m totally in love with, Soft touches, attention to detail and a bit of feminism is how I love to tell my Narrative. I prefer the high end dramatised fashion but not losing focus on the perfection of the garment, also having my own fashion studio I’m able to create looks and take my time to perfect every creation until I’m satisfied. I’m also blessed with having a brother that is as creative so that helps drastically because two heads are always better then one.
I channel my style through feelings, surroundings and adding a bit of personality to the pot for the perfect recipe. Styling is more than just putting clothes together; you need to develop an inner relationship with one-self and be able to express all those wild thoughts, feelings and imagination to life. I personally have a simple dresscode, you will never see me in any colour besides black but my work is totally opposite. I like to merge when it comes to styling, dramatic garments and loud colours, I’d describe my work as bold but understated, not too much but not to simple, I put the right balance to catch the eye. I have a very feminine dresscode style and I display that in my work, from accessories to garments. Like Kenzo Takada would say “Fashion is like food, you shouldn’t stick to the same menu “ you should always test the waters, always push the work to the edge, the best part about fashion is that your thoughts can never be wrong, if its right for you then go ahead with it. We’re not here to follow trends we are here to create the new and that’s why I love fashion and styling, I get to express how I feel through others. Expressing my art without even saying a word. Fashion is a language we all understand, fashion is my confidence, fashion is my life as well as my imperfections which makes my fashion perfect.
Kasi Vogue which means the prevailing fashion or style at a particular time in the township, and is soon to be one of the biggest movements of our century, where we provide a platform to tell our stories of where we come from using fashion and creative direction, we’ve learned alot from growing up on the streets. This concept fashion series will focus on the merge of modern photography and fashion infused together to explore a dynamic spectrum of idealism and identity of the culture the township has inherited through its people.
This journey will unfold the out-layers and the foundation cemented by the creatives that come before us, that have paved the way for us to nurture the skill and provoke awareness about the tales that lay within the soil and the grounds that we walk on. The narrative of our story is told through the focus of our lenses that capture the raw contrast that navigates through environmental barriers that have allowed fashion to dominate as a source of self-expression.
Often and most of the time we hear about the notorious lifestyle about the township which changes our views, perspective and judgement about the life that is lead in South African townships, this is what happens when we allow the outside world to narrate our stories. Kasi Vogue is a personal journey that has manifested drastically over the years, but now has come to life merely because we believe that we have a lot to share. We express the voices that echo through our subconscious, the feeling that invades our bodies with suspense and the irresistible urge to create that pounds through our hearts.
The mist of the dust that blinds us to the truth that is left untold, is exactly what we are meant to incorporate in our tales to highlight the fundamental structure of the history and the background of township creativity. This journey not only represents us but also the people that lack the ability to express themselves because of financial barriers and the poverty. We try to eradicate this by providing a voice and telling the stories of all our people oppressed by physiological and the mental mindset, being judged for being different. We aim to eliminate the fear that has us drowning in our own thoughts, and evoking us from reaching our full potential. Kasi Vogue is for the people.
Seeing young black people come together to occupy space unapologetically is exactly what keeps me going to Afropunk.
On its third festival in 2019, Afropunk Joburg has finally found its footing as a great way to close off your year and to welcome the New Year. I’ve attended all the Afropunk festivals since its initiation in 2017 and with each iteration, Afropunk keeps getting better and better.
Perhaps what sets the 2019 festival apart from previous years began with the uncharacteristic lack of summer thundershowers, allowing our outfits to stay intact from day into the night, and especially for Afropunk, this is a blessing as the fashion is always the gift that keeps on giving. The festival became has become more organised with the use of the Howler cashless payment platform, which they continued on to this year, and also was more considerate by offering rain ponchos so that rain or shine, the party could keep going.
HBO’s hit show Euphoria clearly inspired the makeup looks, with everyone dazzling, shimmering and shining with their jewel and glitter accents. If you didn’t already come with the Euphoria style, the beauticians at the Hair and Beauty village tent applied some jewels to enhance your look. Bold statement headdresses, hats and hairstyles dominated the fashion choices, with references to Lil Nas X, and Moonchild Sanelly faux locs and Sho Madjozi braids had attendees stepping out in bold colours.
Although Burna Boy pulled out just before the festival, the line-up still delivered excellent performances from local talent to bands from the diaspora. The Doberman Boys came through with the classic punk rock sound. Umlilo captured my attention with their invigorating Afro-pop songs and exquisitely styled performance outfit. I’ve never been much of a Masego listener, but after watching his Afropunk performance, I just might be a fan. His stage presence was infectious, you catch on to his sense of joy – live performance is clearly his strong suit. Masego daringly composed some new song mixes on the fly with us, a very impressive feat.
For the first time, Afropunk Joburg completely sold out on the 31st and the main pull was Solange, the headliner for New Year’s Day. With a minimalist stage set and carefully composed choreography, Solange delivered a solid, gripping one hour and a half set to usher in the new year.
Throwing a little shade, Solange advised that “practice empathy” as we enter into 2020 because some of us were calling into question the legitimacy of her illness when she had to bow out. Solange, due to medical reasons, was unable to perform at the debut festival in 2017 and she was definitely worth the wait.
With the success of the 2019 festival, it’s clear that Afropunk has solidified its roots as a pro-black scene for the fashion conscious. I will definitely find myself at the next one; maybe Lizzo can headline next time?
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.
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.