As anyone who has ever tried writing about South African urban culture would know, finding information is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. I’m talking here about credible, in-depth information and not the fluff that fills the pages of our media. That stuff fails to even engage with the complexities of African identity and often comes across as entertainment rather than real, informative journalistic work. As a source, I often find our media to be inconsistent in its coverage of African urban culture. In the fashion field, it gets worse- reporters often covering fashion don’t care to understand it and neither do their editors. It’s often just a nice to have and that shit drives me nuts to say the least!
This is why Hypersampling Identities, an exhibition of contemporary, urban African subcultures is of absolute importance. Says trend analyst and member of the curating team, Nicola Cooper: “From a personal perspective, as a former Senior Lecturer of Historical fashion studies, Fashion Theory and Trend Analysis, I felt it a necessity to highlight the importance of the documentation of African trends, fashion, identities and semiotics in order to provide a foundation or pose the question as to why we were still ignoring valuable contributions to African society.”
Nicola has worked closely with many young designers and cultural practitioners, as well some of the most recognisable cultural collectives of Johannesburg including Khumbula and The Sartists. “I identified a legitimate and clear problematic gap and general lack of academic documentation of African fashion from key eras or African fashion in general.”
Hypersampling identities is the first exhibition of its kind and serves as introduction to a larger showcase, scheduled to take place in 2016. The opening reception is at 6pm tonight (Monday, September 21) at the FADA Gallery, Bunting Road Campus, University of Johannesburg, in Auckland Park.
What can you expect to see? Nicola gave us the 411 as so: “The exhibition is a combination of photographs, videos, garments, films, archival materials and installations focusing on emergent and established performances by South African subcultural groups. This includes the Swenkas, Pantsulas, Izikothane and amabhujwa; design collectives DearRibane113, Khumbula, the Sartists, the Smarteez; as well as cultural practitioners: Anthony Bila, Tyrone Bradley, Andile Buka, Christian Courrèges, Don Dada, Harness Hamese, TJ Lemon, Mack Magagane, Justin McGee, Macdee, Jamal Nxedlana, Dr Pachanga, Chris Saunders, Jürgen Schadeberg, Alexia Webster and Simon & Mary. We’ve also included works from international style icons and UK-based design duo, Art Comes First (Sam Lambert & Shaka Maidoh).”
The program also includes panel discussions with key innovators, influencers and igniters, a public lecture by Dr Christine Checinska and a FADAFilm Pan-African premiere of the ‘Black Documentary’. The film features interviews with Joburg cultural collectives and aired on French CANAL TV In March 2015.
Nicola presents the exhibition in collaboration with the Visual Identities in Art and Design Research Centre, Daniella Goeller and the FADA Gallery.
By Sandiso Ngubane
Featured image: Kabelo Kungwane and Wanda Lephoto, The Sartists
Image of Nicola Cooper supplied by Nicola Cooper