Cape Town has been described as a union of culture, cuisine, and landscapes. “There’s nowhere quite like Cape Town, a singularly beautiful city crowned by the magnificent Table Mountain National Park. Human creativity is also self-evident here – it’s one of the things that made the city a World Design Capital in 2014. From the brightly painted facades of the Bo-Kaap and the bathing chalets of Muizenberg to the Afro-chic decor of its restaurants and bars and the striking street art and innovation incubators of the East City and Woodstock, this is one great-looking metropolis. The informal settlements of the Cape Flats are a sobering counterpoint, but these townships also have enterprising projects that put food from organic market gardens on tables, or stock gift shops with attractive souvenirs” reads a description of the city on lonelyplanet.com. The Cape Town creative dynamic is one which holds a lot of weight and to get a clearer idea of how this vista functions I spoke to a number of up and coming artists on the scene to get some insight. Taking into account what I have been told from a number of interviews it is clear to me that there is still underrepresentation within the city, it is still a space in which black and brown bodies often times feel excluded and a grueling hustle to make money takes place within the picturesque city that is usually painted as an idyllic space. Read more to find out what their opinions are.
Sara Lagardien is a young creative from Cape Town that first came to my attention when she modeled for adidas NMD. After this, she did an editorial for adidas Originals at AREA3 sharing the shutter release with Haneem Christian and owning her first editorial with carefully considered styling choices. She explains the editorial in the following words, “Through this body of work I aimed to challenge the perceptions that people have of young Muslims of colour and their Islamic identity which is often viewed through a very narrow and linear lens. I aimed to allow a space where young brown Muslims could exist in the context of Islam and mainstream discourses surrounding Islam and Islamic identity – where their identities and narratives are often erased, denied or delegitimized. Muslims that do not subscribe to the conventional and often conservative mold of Islam exist and we are here to stay.”
At AREA3 Sara built a lasting bond with other young creatives that worked in the space and conceptualized Takeover: Bree Street that she shared the Creative Director role with Haneem Christian for. Now Sara has a lot to say about Cape Town and I would urge you to take note. When I asked Sara if she has seen any change within the scene and who she believes the leaders of the drive is she tells me that recently a vast amount of coloured and black creatives are taking ownership of their stories and showing it within their creative practices. “I think that this representation is extremely important in informing the way that young and aspiring creatives of colour choose to navigate through Cape Town’s creative scene.” Sara expresses that Dope Saint Jude, Imraan Christian, K-$ and Jabu Newman represent a shared reality in their work that she finds deeply empowering. She feels that there has been a shift in artistic direction for Capetonian artists and calls it a space of reclamation and the amplification of representation. She accredits this to young creatives of colour who are actively working towards change.
“It’s easy to say that the new creative wave in Cape Town is more representative of all the voices and people from various backgrounds when your voice is part of that new wave, but in reality – while progress has been made – we still have a long way to go. When we totalise the creative scene in Cape Town as being a definite group of specific people, it becomes easy to neglect so many young creatives out there – on the Cape Flats, in townships and in communities where people haven’t been afforded the access to opportunities and resources that I have been afforded and equipped with to aid me in changing the landscape of Cape Town’s creative scene.” In Sara’s opinion, young voices are being heard more than before but she states that it is a very selective group of people who are being heard.
Justin February was the next young creative I spoke to that came into the public eye by modeling for labels such as Sol-Sol Menswear. Fast forward a bit into the future and we see Justin taking on photography and creative directing with his adidas Originals Editorial produced with AREA3. Justin expresses that he became mesmerized by Cape Town’s creative scene when street wear brands such as Young and Lazy; Sol-Sol Menswear and 2Bop came into his context. He expresses that the creatives leading the way for the youngins are people like Mathew Kieser, Anees Peterson, and Anthony Smith.
Justin, in agreement with Sara, feels that Cape Town creatives are creating work that speaks about their own realities with an intent to inform their viewers of realities that have previously been disregarded. “I think that shift that I’m talking about is because people are sick of not being heard and have found a great way to let people hear them.” Sara, however, feels that many marginalized groups within Cape Town are still not being heard or receiving fair representation in contrast with Justin’s statement that more people are heard through social media.
Darkie Fiction is a relatively new musical duo who recently released their first single ‘Selula’ produced by Jakinda of Siff Pap. The group formed in Cape Town consists of rapper Katt Daddy and singer and cinematographer Yoza Mnyanda.
When asked about ‘Selula’ the group tells me, “Selula is a song about moving forward. It’s a challenge to look at life from a different perspective and realise that although you may not have everything you want, you still have some things. We made the song at a time where we needed that gentle reminder. It also speaks to how people place so much importance on things that don’t actually really matter. The song literally says that all it takes is cell phones, cigarettes, and champagne to make people happy.”
Their collective journey began at the start of 2016 at The Waiting Room where they were both preforming that night. They express that after some failed endeavours as solo artists, they united their talents in May 2017. The story behind the title of their group is one that I thoroughly enjoy. They tell me that the producer of ‘Selula’, Jakinda once said: “doccie fiction” referring to documentary fiction. The two musicians, in fact, heard “darkie fiction” and it was a name that really resonated with them. After growing into the name, it made sense to them as it speaks of a shared frustration with the South African music industry.
“The word ‘Darkie’ has derogatory connotations. What we want to do is reclaim the word and help to bring light to what it really means to be a young, black and proudly South African creative in the 23-year-old South Africa. We want to celebrate the things that nobody really talks about, the little things that make us darkies.”
Valuing their insights, I decided to find out what their views are on the Cape Town creative scene. The duo expresses that the creative scene in Cape Town has changed in recent years and that there is more integrated racially and socio-economically. They feel that more people are finding a voice and challenging various constructs as Justin suggested. They do however state that there isn’t much of a music “industry” within the city and that the only game changers really are visual artists.
In their opinion that correlates with Justin, young voices are being heard more than ever but they attribute it to the digital age and express that is not a phenomenon that is specific to Cape Town. “The days of making meaningless music or taking meaningless images are coming to an end.”
Hana Sho is a young 18-year-old model, photographer and freelance creative from Cape Town. I spoke to her to get her thoughts on the scene. Hana as most of the creatives I have interviewed believes that there is a change in the character of the scene due to social media. She expresses that social media interaction is leading to more collaboration among creatives and that now, more so than before, established artists on the scene are willing to share their knowledge and collaborate with young emerging artists.
When asked about her if she believed that young voices are being heard within this space, Hana leaves me with this “Yes I do, you gotta listen to the kids, cause we know what’s good!” Hana speaks about the shift in artistic direction within the metropolis in terms of young creatives no longer focusing on a niche but instead pushing their creative talents into all of the platforms they wish to explore. She believes that this is aiding in bending certain norms.
“Because of this huge wave of new young creatives in Cape Town, there are more people speaking for those who are yet to discover their voices, and for those who can’t be heard. For that reason, I would hope that there is representation for everyone.” Unfortunately, as Sara noted there are still many artists who do not get to raise their voices due to the lack of opportunities awarded to them.
When asked about the unity that seems to persist within the Capetonian creative vista the up and comers tell me that the scene has a tendency to revolve around cliques. Darkie Fiction expresses that it’s about finding your closed network and working together to reap benefits. “The clique thing needs to be dismantled because if we all, truly, worked together the city would stretch way further.” They express that there is a lot of support and competitiveness within the space, a sentiment that Hana and Sara both share. Justin says that people within the space become like a family and do “a lot of cute shit” together. Sara expresses that having her group makes the space more accessible and less intimidating.
I asked these young artists to explain the immense versatility among Cape Town creatives who seem to be able to delve into various creative disciplines. To this Darkie Fiction expresses that due to the space being so small you are always faced with its versatile creativity. They describe it as mixed veg as many people from various origins settle within its parameters. “It’s a very inspiring place to be, there’s a lot to take in all at once.”
Sara tells me the following on the topic, “The immense versatility amongst Cape Town creatives is also something that has been cultivated and encouraged by the pioneers of the scene and those who are now mentoring the younger generation of creatives. I also believe that it is our responsibility to do justice to the efforts of those who came before us by allowing our own paths to be informed by the knowledge and lessons gained from their paths.” Justin is in agreement with Sara and expresses that as young creatives they are exposed to a variety of creative outlets that they try and master and make their own. It seems to be a case of fascination and intrigue that turns playful exploration into a more serious art form within this space. Hana expresses that it originates from a DIY mentality that evolves into becoming good at various facets of creativity in agreement with the statements above.
When I came to a question formulated from observation regarding why it seems that creatives within the vista cultivate their careers as models I received some interesting replies. Sara expresses “While I can’t speak on behalf of other Cape Town creatives because I don’t believe that everyone’s creative careers start off as being a model, I can speak about and from my experience. For me, entering the creative scene in Cape Town as a model allowed me to enter a multidisciplinary world that I had never had prior exposure to. Modelling allows one access to the worlds of photography, styling, art direction, makeup artistry, set design and the like. It was in this space – being exposed to a broad creative world – that my creative journey and aspirations were birthed.”
Justin feels that it comes from name and face association which aids creatives in already having been heard of by the time that they might feel so inclined to pick up another artistic outlet. Hana again tells me that it is something she has not given a lot of thought to but for her, learning both sides of the lens has thought her a lot and her modeling undertakings help her pay for her camera addiction tendencies. Modelling within this space can be seen as a foot in the door and perhaps not so difficult with brands such as Sol-Sol who scouts young creatives as well as the fact that My Friend Ned is based within the vicinity.
I asked the group about opportunities for creatives within the city and Darkie Fiction tells me that there are not enough and that you can only go so far within that space. “There’s a cap, especially as a black creative.” Sara expresses that opportunities exist in Cape Town but that it is a case of who you know to “get in”. Justin and Hana feel that young creatives should create their own opportunities. I agree and half disagree with the statements received for this question as I can easily believe that there aren’t enough opportunities for young creatives within this space. I do however feel like there are more than before with spaces like AREA3 that is aiding young creatives in their paths and yes, you can make your own opportunities but taking into account what I have been told, I believe that the scene is in favour of visual artists more so than musicians.