'Imbokodo 2065' Photography by William Hindle

Papa Gunch // Tokoloshe Consciousness and Pre-Colonial Fantasies

“I think the series serves to tell Africans that we’re fucked. But always fighting, always hopeful, because soon we’ll rise above.” – Gunch on how his upcoming trilogy series addresses issues of contemporary Africans.

From starting on a whim of writing and selling comic books during lunch breaks in primary school, to picking up jazz and ultimately writing and playing music, Joburg based Papa Gunch is an effervescent force of creativity whose writing prowess and vivid imagination know no bounds. “I started playing percussion instruments when I was 16. I had the pleasure of recording for the first time with jazz legend, Bheki Khoza. It has taught me a lot having this influence as a musician. Right now, it’s about maintaining my crafts; being multi-instrumentalist, multi-disciplinarian.”

“Art has always been important for building consciousness. I write about the discourse of decolonisation in a fantastical way to reflect on the relevance of the topic in art. The message is that we become liberated by the same process we use to free ourselves”. The series takes one on a trip through the valleys of pre-colonial African Studies and the kaleidoscopic African folklore of Credo Mutwa, and was greatly influenced by the artist’s own consciousness and heritage. Seemingly a cocktail of utter genius, the project is comprised of a narrative for the photo series, a poem for the film, as well as a double EP. Gunch notes that he “began working on the EP, experimenting with different hardware and instruments. Now that I’ve found the sounds there’s a soundtrack to the visual”.

‘Imbokodo 2065’, the first part of the trilogy series, is painted as the adventurous part of the story, as it embodies mystique. Gunch says that he envisioned an African dystopia, something along the lines of “a matriarchal tribe in the discourse of decolonization. Conditions are tough, hence the name ‘Imbokodo’, meaning a rock – but revolution calls. I soon imagine this rock as a great kingdom like that of Akam or Mapungubwe.” The young visionary further elaborates that “the inspiration for the characters you see came from pre-colonial West African studies on the history of the matriarchate and the role of Queen-mothers and priestesses. The Amazons of Dahomey were a 17th century West African tribe which boasted armies of warrior women. I liked these ideas but used my own heritage to inspire the looks.” Shot through the lens of William Hindle, the creative notes with admiration that he is “the best nature photographer I know.”

‘Creatures are living there’, is the second instalment of the series which aims to portray mythology through performance art. Taking me through his creative process, Gunch recounts that he wrote a poem titled ‘Sisele Nani’ – loosely translated as ‘what did they leave us with?’- With help from his dad who was a drama teacher, to conceptualize this into a short film. He notes that he also used to be a dancer, which acted as the influence behind incorporating ballet through movement artist, Evelyn Mabikwa, as the lead.

“As I wrote more of the story I tried to see if I could transcribe the new parts into different mediums. It tells a story of us as black Africans, the damned. I reflected on ideas about the effects of imperialism on race and cultur[al] identity. Stigmas, stereotypes, assimilation, bodily consciousness. It deals with very specific aspects of our negritude like spirituality. I can exaggerate, create my own witchcraft and tokoloshe. This is the inspiration behind the name ‘Creatures are living there’.”

The film was shot and edited by creative house, Bushkoppies, and Skippyvee on BTS photography duty. “It’s my team at Chaf Kozy who help with materialising my ideas, D2Dyourdad was my co-contributor and everyone lent me their resources. By collaborating in house and with other houses like Bushkoppies we want to show the strength of collectivism in these spaces.”

The series is portrayed as a progressing story, with every part embodying its own significance and still maintaining synergy and growth at every part. I for one can’t wait for the project to drop, but for now feast your eyes on the trailer to ‘Creatures are living there’ below.

Credits in order of series:

Imbokodo 2065’ Photo Series Credits:

Written/Direction: Papa Gunch

Photography: William Hindle

Costumes & Styling: D2Dyourdad

Models: KIAAlicia Batidzirai & Mudzunga Muluvhahothe

Hair & Makeup: Mirage Hair SA & KIA


‘Creatures are Living there’ Short Film Credits:

Written/Direction: Papa Gunch

Shooting/Cinematography/Editing: Bushkoppies

Scoring:  Papa Gunch

BTS Photographer: Skippyvee

Costumes & Styling: D2Dyourdad

Protagonist: Evelyn Mabikwa

Models:Joseph NtahilajaThapelo

Makeup: Jessica Goldberg
Shot on location: NIROX Sculpture Park

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