The “streets” (as in “street culture”) are locales where the consciously stylish congregate – not the locations Nineties rappers referred to with adjectives such as “raw”, “grimy” and “gully”.
Those streets bred the underground, another term in hip hop parlance that reflected the progressive music, styles and thoughts of the day. Today’s streets (where Hamese operates) are clean and safe, and serve as the exhibition space for the young to curate their existential aspirations. These can be found on weekends in Braamfontein at Kitchener’s or Neighbourgoods Market or in the gentrified cosmopolitan surrounds of the Maboneng Precinct.
As part of the Khumbula Fashion Collective, Hamese is the designated photographer (self-taught) tasked with documenting the collective’s projects. Style is the overarching form of expression for Khumbula (“Means to remember”) and each member embraces the ethos of respect communicated in their choice of vintage garb.
“We use fashion to tell the African story from our own perspective,” Hamese says.
“Fashion is easily recognisable and it is the first point of contact for a person before any other aspects about themselves is revealed. We also use photography as a medium to communicate and immortalise what we stand for because that is what people from abroad use to immortalise their own perspective on Africa.”
Andile Biyana is the belle among the stylish brutes. As an LLB student, her current tastes suggest that the halls of justice are destined for a splash of colour and vintage sophistication in the future. Biyana already referrers to herself as ADV, an abbreviation for advocate, a career path which she believes is as important as the Afrocentric ethos of Khumbula.
“The name is very important for us because it is a reminder of where we come from,” Biyana says.
“When you see us you get the feel of the Fifties and Sixties and think of people like Nelson Mandela and Steve Biko. As much as we embrace our style as a form of expression, we are influenced by where we come from and what it took to get us to where we are today.”
No other member of the Khumula group has channelled the essence of their fashion roots as directly as Alexandra township’s David Maledimo. Maledimo’s threads pay homage in part to the swanker tradition among labourers in hostel dwellings. Maledimo is a fashion student and is fond of the poses that the swankers copied from old Bona and Pace magazines.
“We believe that style is a very personal thing,” Maledimo says.
“People like to use the word ‘vintage’, but it’s really all about how we put it all together. Sometimes with our clothes, we take pieces that can be considered modern and fuse them with older pieces. Khumbula is basically our idea of self respect and sophistication with a touch of imperfection and class.”
Khumbala’s resident scribe Phirima Motaung does not adhere to the fashion consciousness of the rest of the group. He is an important part of the ensemble as he puts into words the various initiatives and projects that Khumbula undertakes.
“The last project we worked on was called ‘Street Bullies’ and I provided the words that enhance the photography and the concept,” Motaung said.
“The concept was about looking at how, in some parts of town, you can be mugged at any time and always have to look at your own shadow. I’m a storyteller and for me it’s about artistic expression. The others express themselves through fashion; I have my own way. I don’t know much about fashion, but they accept me for who I am.”
Bafana Mthembu looks a bit too hip to be a bean a counter. He is the dapper don of the collective with a smooth tongue and zest for life. As a future accountant, it is certain he will encounter stiff types who don old dice-adorned Christmas jerseys. He will conform to the corporate etiquette requirements, but will add a little personal touch.
“Comfort is key and it is very important to dress up in clothes that you are comfortable in at all times,” Mthembu says.
“It’s not just about looking good but also feeling good about yourself as well. It’s not about trends, but about feeling good. And as an accountant, I will be wearing suits that include a lot of blacks, grays and navy blues. But I will find a way to add my personal touch and style.”