Dr Christine Checinska
Associate Researcher, VIAD, University of Johannesburg
Founder and Convener of the Clothes, Cloth & Culture Group, Iniva, London
Groundbreaking, energetic, innovative, vibrant, robust, boisterous, vital…
All words that could be used to describe the University of Johannesburg, Visual Identities in Art and Design Research Centre’s, (VIAD), recent series of ‘Encounters’ designed to examine the refashioning of masculinities within contemporary black cultural movements in Johannesburg.
Under the title (Re)-Fashioning Masculinities: Identity, Difference, Resistance, the ‘Encounters’ took as their departure point the concurrent exhibition ‘Hypersampling Identities: Jozi Style.’
The exhibition showcased the work of young homegrown male designers and design collectives as well as that of photographers, sartorial groups and ‘trend setters’. The Isikothane were amongst the featured groups, whilst the Sartists and the Khumbula were amongst the prominent design collectives on show. The cultural practitioners included Jamal Nxedlana. Many of the contributors referenced the Pantsulas and the Swenkas; more established black cultural movements.
I was invited to deliver key lectures and a performative response. Since the
work that I have been engaged in over the past fifteen years, including the
setting up of the Clothes, Cloth and Culture Group here in the Stuart Hall
Library, has been concerned with the relationship between fashion, textiles,
culture and race, I was only to happy to do this.
Our three-day debate wrestled with the concept of ‘hypersampling’ itself, the performance of masculine identities through the intermeshing of music, dance, gesture and dress, the ever-present hierarchies of power and value based primarily on race and culture, self-representation by referencing the past and by referencing an imagined future, the consumption of (global) African styles, critical ‘whiteness’/critical ‘blackness’, i.e. positionality and mindful analysis, and the notion of the Black Dandy. As expected, and indeed as I had hoped, we raised far more questions than we were able to answer.
The astute facilitation of the VIAD team –Leora Farber, Claire Jorgensen, Maria Fidel Rigueros – ensured that the tensions between voices, that at times clearly sat on the opposite sides of a given argument, were held and used to creative effect, generating un-familiarly rich intellectual discussions. Particularly refreshing was the insistence on the foregrounding of the work produced by the practitioners. This calls to mind the artist Sonia Boyce’s recent critique of the confounding brushing aside of certain artists’ work in order to solely focus on issues connected to race. The two must be addressed; the work itself and the political debates emanating from the work.
Ó Christine Checinska, October 4th 2015
 ‘Hypersampling Identities: Jozi Style’ was produced by VIAD in association with VIAD post-doctoral fellow Daniela Goeller and Lifestyle and Pop Culture Trend Analyst, Nicola Cooper.