Siyasebenza, Siyathenga, Siyaskima, Siyaphi iStina?

By: Sinalo Mkaza

This title directly translates to “We work, we buy, we swank, where does the money go?” A question that has been hanging over me as I began to unpack the fiber of my deep rooted urban consumer politics. As a young girl growing up sandwiched between  township and suburban culture, one thing remained consistent with black youth culture, Impahla ze Chrismesi are a definite every festive season with youth gearing out in a trending style aesthetic.  Now this realization got me questioning who the gate keepers are of these annual trends are, when are these trends decided? Is it perhaps rather a matter of the kids in township South Africa responding to what’s is readily available to them?

According to Audrey Wipper, African nations – having only recently freed themselves from colonialism – are in search of self-definition and self-identity. At this time when cultural nationalism is highly self-conscious, foreign products, particularly those associated with former colonial nations, are anathema to some Africans. Audreys notion then brings to the forefront the weight of cloth as a code of meaning and one’s interpretation and presentation of self. “Fashion is ambivalent – for when we dress, we wear inscribed upon our bodies the often obscure relationship of art, personal psychology and the social order” This stylistic eclecticism in fashion parallels a cultural indeterminacy that asserts itself in a context of choice, fragmentation and imagination. Symbolic interactionism, Like the more utopian applications of post- modernism, invites attention to issues of human agency for purposes of creating novel appearances as well as new ways of seeing, interpreting, and understanding these appearances-ultimately resulting, perhaps, in new cultural constructions.

Appearance and fashion offer tangible means for examining the dynamics of form and content across the contexts of self-understanding, social situations, and cultural categories. So what does a head to toe army outfit from Chinese manufacturers say about the spirit of the time? These trends are also quite fleeting considering that there’s a new style every year; but maybe there should be a fresh, new style ever year but maybe a solid percentage of the combo should be locally sourced and procured. Whoever has the tender needs to share the specs!

We are trapped in the culture of “being” oneself but of “producing” oneself (Baudrillard 1 975: 1 9) which is certainly a matter of concern because we as the youth need to redefine African Fashion whilst ensuring the marriage between modern and tribal aesthetics in this present era as a collective people. Where we are creating our own trends, perpetuating our own culture and making money off our own “Big Days” Outfits. According to Business Tech wholesale and retail in South Africa activity currently accounts for around 15% of GDP while spending on textiles, clothing, footwear and leather goods spiked by 47.4% month on month to R21.9 billion in 2016. Black South Africans contribute a whopping R5.5 billion over the festive season, iyaphi imali?

I think kids should be wearing local streetwear labels instead of imported items or mss retailers or create their own merchandise to adorn on cousins and friends. Imagine having different hood aesthetics where kids wore their local brands from their local hoods and neighbourhoods!? It starts with us, I guess I’ll be shopping for some tee’s for the young homies back home this Dezemba and others to come.

 

Translations:

Impahla ze Chrismesi – a term South Africans use to refer to the new clothes purchased over the festive season. They are seen as an indication of a fruitful year and often a status symbol in black communities.

iyaphi imali – “where is the money going?”