Skapadiya (n): A term used in South African townships to describe a stylish and vibrant individual with impeccable fashion taste. A Skapadiya in the 80’s would normally compete in style contests. From the most colourful suits, ties, socks, to their individual styles and special walks, a winner was crowned.
Our subject for this series is Lutendo Benson Mametsa, a 21 year old with a passion for fashion who describes his style as raw and authentic. In the competitions that started in the 50’s, the American snazzy style was very popular amongst competitors for the crown of the snazziest dresser. Benson goes on to say that the Snazzy American suit style influenced his look. He further adds his own flair that proves his own uniqueness and authenticity to the style. Residing in Diepkloof, Soweto, with his mother and two sisters he had access to a plethora of style magazines and spent much of his time thrip-shopping through the corridors of Downtown Jozi. Places like Dunuza (where one bends over to look for the best deal) became his second home.
A family altercation in 2011 coupled with the throes of city life almost caused our protagonist to give up on himself. Benson says he was nearly shot once while walking the streets of Jozi, he saw his life flash before his eyes and started to value the gift of life. “I could have easily decided to quit school and just allow my surroundings to hinder me from pursuing my dream, but then I had to stand up and rise towards my higher self,” he adds.
Benson wants to study videography because he dreams of being in a film crew which he saw while walking through the City of Gold.
He knowingly accepts that his love for fashion has changed his life. “Fashion gave me direction” He says, and he hopes that through his work, he will show other people that, “It doesn’t matter where you come from; your story doesn’t determine where you are going.”
Written by: Kelebogile Phenelop Imani Phalatsi
Photographic series by: Lutendo Malatji
“Mantshingelani” is a Zulu term used colloquially to describe security guards in South Africa. Derived from the English phrase, “march in a line,” this derogatory term creates a number of negative connotations that come with being a security guard in our country. Sadly, a lot of their efforts go unnoticed. These include the old lady whose handbag was retrieved after being stolen, the car radio that was almost jacked, the serial shoplifter who got caught and the damsel in distress who safely got home.
Photographic series by: Siboniso Mncube
Written by: Siboniso Mncube
ART – An undermined expression of beautiful human creative skill and imagination, appreciated in many forms of visuals, paintings, sculptures, music, literature and dance.
In a world ruled by imposed expectations placed on us merely by the wide spread biological differences in human skin colour – one would challenge who really runs the power dynamics and how relevant is that power today when everyone is fighting to be heard.
From your white collar communities of well-mannered, educated and proud elites all the way down to the blue collar labourers and the common outcast rebel creatives, it’s anyone’s game really – or is it?
In a society driven by technology and innovation, getting a message across has never been simpler. However, what really needs to be said in a time like this is debatable. Peerless expressions of trials and tribulations of the modern black experience have found a greater voice than ever before through many disciplines of art.
As the new age ‘urban cool’ generation of change, we have witnessed the power of art and how deeply influenced it is by contemporary pieces rooted in African culture. This has been obvious, especially in music – where the urban pioneers we look up to are black, powerful, liberated and full of relevance.
The conscious driven project by Beyoncé in her latest ‘formation’ music video created a stir online. Tweet after tweet, her time feed was flooded by online debates, trying desperately to decipher this ‘new’ proudly black Beyoncé that supposedly surfaced out of nowhere.
‘Unapologetically black’ is the message that art is enforcing these days, a theme that rapper Kendrick Lamar seamlessly highlighted in his recent Grammy awards performance. “This is for hip-hop. We will live forever. Believe that,” Lamar said when accepting his award for best hip hop during this year’s Grammy awards.
The premises of the world right now seems to weave together a tale of confrontational black love – For Black Girls Only that took place in Johannesburg end of January this year and Beyoncé’s Super bowl performance depicted this effortlessly. The narrative is changing and one can easily insinuate that there has never been a greater time to be alive as a young black African creative
The face of influence has been constant over the years, dominated by privileged elites now trying to keep up with the ‘new school’ suddenly empowered art sphere of urban culture. There is no more room for turning a blind eye to the evident new diverse voices echoing at us, begging to be taken seriously without hindrance.
The time is now, find your feet as a young creative and keep on walking because something tells me the journey is sweeter than it’s ever been.
By: Janneth Mazibuko
Photographs: Lutendo Malatji
“If only I believed her, I wish I did not ignore that Facebook status message I thought she just wanted attention.”
“He has been very aggressive lately, but I just couldn’t relate it to suicide.”
These are the kind of words often repeated by the black community and society remorsefully after having lost their loved ones to a symptom of Mental illness.
When Nhlakanipho Nhlapo conceptualized the #ALONE series it was his conscious silently gnawing at him. He questioned how it is possible for human beings to live amongst each other without concern when abnormal changes materialize in their peers and communities. The proverbial question was “why is depression – which is a serious mental illness – considered an illusion and taboo for dialogue in black communities?”
With this evocative docuseries Nhlakanipho is planting a seed for dialogue and wants the black community to understand that depression is a mental illness. It is not a “state of mind,” you cannot ‘’snap out of it.’’ Better yet, it is treatable. You can live a healthy and bearable lifestyle once the root of the course has been established. There is no witchcraft here and you cannot beat the suicide out of a dead body when such an illness ensues, eventually leading the [patient] on a destructive path.
The #ALONE series relates the daily struggles and last moments a sufferer embodies just before they slit that wrist to drown in their own blood, or right before they overdose on their sleeping medication, or throw themselves onto the path of an oncoming train. These are the haunting stories of a [patient] left untreated. Mental illness is not class associated or privilege prone. The statesman, Winston Churchill suffered from manic depression, a subject that has been explored by the media and artists in a number of occasions.
The next time you are in your working space, taxi or just taking a walk home, be conscious of the souls surrounding you, are they ALONE?
You don’t want to be on the receiving end of that suicidal call. Let’s not be the recipients or the bearers of the news of a high school mate that has passed on as a result of being buried in mental isolation, ALONE.
Written by: Mogau Ntsoane
Photographs: Nhlakanipho Nhlapo & Kgomotso Tleane
Video: Nhlakanipho Nhlapo
A modern day township ode to love of all types, portrayed in a series of scenic themed photographs simply themed The Honey, is the work of Rendani Nemakhavhani.
We were first introduced to The Honey through a photograph of Rendani’s character adorned in shades and izimbadada while toting a taxi driver-sjambok. Before we could get used to this seemingly intentional portrayal of a cultural repositioning in surbubia, The Honey was on her next installation, playing a completely different character. She fittingly named her next series Aus Honey, perhaps reflecting on the widely used moniker [Aus] for older women, especially in the salon. In this series, The Honey reflects on the persistence to be beautiful, no matter what condition one may be in. The character, still adorned in shades and izimbadada, finds herself center-stage inside an empty salon, the emptiness perhaps an allegory for the self-imposed reflections of what beauty means to the outside world.
The third installment follows in the photographic-essay styled rendition, this time with the introduction of a male character named Gavini “played by Kgomotso Neto Tleane.” Here we live vicariously through the eyes of The Honey and Gavini as they explore a juxtaposed romance [slash] gangster love story set in a dusty township. This collaborative piece places love in the epicenter of conflict and chaos, confronting once again our ideology and placement of archetypes. We find ourselves as viewers almost trapped in the middle of this Bonnie and Clyde-esque township scenery with no exit signs. The story avoids a conclusion allowing the characters to live in our minds for as long as we are trapped in the scene. Whilst the visual narration is consistent and cohesively etched, The Honey entices the viewer into a state of further introspection on the chronicles of this ever-morphing character feasibly questioning the viewer’s own “projection” of black-life in SA.
The Honey is more of a canvass of conversation rather than a one-way installation, speaking authoritatively about the many faces of life in SA, but more than that, it is a tale told through the eyes of a character that we can see ourselves in while giving us the space to detach from the very same characters.
Rendani Nemakhavhani is an illustrator living and working in Jozi. Her collaborator for the third series Kgomotso Neto Tleane is a photography recruit at Umuzi Photo Club. Both creatives have remarkable talent worth looking out for. The Honey was nominated by Nestling Awards under the Young African Collaboration of the year 2015.
Written by: Mswazi Keith
Photographs: Khotso Mahlangu and Kgomotso Tleane
Video: Nhlakanipho Nhlapo
For more Media coverage on The Honey:
Guess who dropped by the studio? Yep! The founder of Umuzi David Dini, came to talk with the recruits about his journey. David was inspired by how Umuzi has grown in becoming a magnet for creativity.
Looking at Jeppestown, the area sends a good message to South Africa about Umuzi’s commitment in developing creative talent in communities that lack infrastructure. David was impressed with the photographers and their natural cool. “I saw all these pockets of expression and creativity when the photographers were taking pictures.’’, he said. He also mentioned that shooting with the recruits was energizing. He loved the way they approached the community and how well they collaborated with each other.
The pictures taken were printed immediately using an instant scanner and given back to the community as a simple gesture. Abigail Zikhali, a photographer from Umuzi always wondered how she would contribute to the community around her without exploiting people, this was an opportunity for her to do just that. “Giving back to the Jeppe community at large made me feel like I was living up to the expectations of being an artist in South Africa. Reflecting on the time at hand and giving back at the same time.”
Our photographers had a blast, much like Oz Mulungo who said, “The thank you’s and smiles that we got from the people of Jeppestown were priceless.” “The idea of not only giving the product back but giving it back immediately taught me how to deal with future clients and similar projects,” said Keratilwe Lethiba. Zwelizwe Ndhlovu smiled “It was a very great and exciting day of shooting the people of Jeppestown. I wish we could do it again.” The idea was to represent Jeppe in a way that the community would be proud of opposed to how the media paints them. You too can be a part of our awesome photography crew. Let the camera do the talking and the pictures tell the story.
Written by: Grace Zwane
Photographers: Kgomotso Tleane,Nhlakanipho Nhlapo, Khotso Mahlangu, Lutendo Malatji, Zwelizwe Ndhlovu, Abigail Zikhali, Ossmane Mulungo, Siboniso Mncube and Lindokuhle Shandu
This week, we get a little funky with Andrew Levy’s Feel Good Friday Playlist. December is all about the summer vibes and our manager really knows how to get down for a white guy. From Blackstreet’s “No Diggity” to Daft Punk’s “Around the World,” this playlist is euphoric. We get a touch of Andrew’s chilled hippy side with Damien Marley’s “Welcome to Jamrock,” and the classic “How High,” by Method man and Redman. In honour of his birthday, we hope this jam packed selection of music will get you all in a party mood. So in his high pitched annoying voice, I quote, “Ke December Boss.”
Written by: Janneth Mazibuko
Poster Design: Sifiso Mamabolo
As the year comes to an end, we celebrate our recruits by reflecting on their personal experiences. Self-proclaimed, “creative hustler” Ossmane Mulungo takes us through his picture perfect Umuzi journey.
“I’m more confident as a creative now than I was when I first walked into Umuzi,” the 25-year-old photographer from Ekhurhuleni confessed.
“I grew up as a hustler but fell in love with creativity,” he said. Now he uses his hustling skills to book jobs as a photographer and it’s paying. It’s a far cry from his high school days where he’d sell just about anything for lunch money. Oz as he’s famously known is definitely a promising entrepreneur on the rise.
Having worked as a Production Assistant at Bioscope Films during his one-month internship, Oz developed a deep love for videography and film, which are both a big part of his future plans and passion projects.
Going forward OZ wants to pursue his personal projects in business and eventually work for himself as a freelancer.
Traditionally rooted in his Shangani heritage, Oz is inspired by life and his family whom he absolutely adores. As a middle child in a family of five, it’s no wonder this young man is filled with humility and a deep love for people.
“Sometimes, we don’t get to fully explore our potential as creatives because we have limited resources,” he mentions. “That is the biggest challenge we face as young black creative professionals,” Oz passionately states. Umuzi has been the perfect platform for him to truly groom his skills and explore his potential.
Having exceeded his expectations this year, this photographer is still finding favour. He recently got featured in the October issue of The Go Getter Lifestyle paper, where he spoke about his life as a photographer trying to find his path. There’s no doubt, Oz is heading towards greatness. That much is evident in his craft.
Written by: Janneth Mazibuko
Poster Design: Themba Tswai
Photographs: Ossmane Mulungo
It’s Friday, plug in your earphones and blast the music! your playlist for this week has arrived with a retro twist. It seems the week at Umuzi has been about remixing things and that will definitely reflect in these awesome tunes we’ve selected for you. Some of these songs are a mash up between different genres. Others are a fascinating mix of the old and the new. Whatever your tastes, we rate you’ll probably get lost in these tunes and maybe even start boogieing from the office all the way to the club.
Written by: Motshewa Khaiyane
Poster Design: Themba Tswai
Umuzi Photo Club celebrated its Family Fun Day on Saturday the 21st of November at the Friends in Sport Arena, this was an opportunity for the current recruits, alumni and managers to know each other beyond the studio, and the coolest thing about this was having them bring their family. The event was further used as a tool for integration between the Umuzi family and the recruit’s families.
The Umuzi family were treated to good music with some recruits playing their favourite songs for the crowd and 5-a-side soccer was the order of the day. Not only was there music, laughter and soccer, there was also plenty of food and drinks. Everyone was treated to a hearty feast prepared by Digital Community Management recruit, Remofiloe Mogashoa, who made sure that every dietary requirement was catered for.
The Umuzi family is known to be big and the gathering was just confirmation of this statement. Not only did the recruits get to chill with each other they also got to see their brother’s and sister’s blood brothers and sisters. Umuzi made sure that the gathering was memorable enough for everyone to talk about for days and months to come.
Umuzi not only develops young creatives from eKasi, it also makes sure that the family unit is strong and long lasting. Saturday was the day for the big Umuzi family gathering with no drama just laughter, dancing and soccer. Okay! OKay! Fun was really had.
Written by: Kelebogile Phalatsi
Poster Design: Sifiso Mamabolo
Photographs: Lindokuhle Shandu