Looking for self-improvement in the New Year?
This year I will… Get a bikini body! (If you have a body then you there’s already a bikini for you). Learn an instrument! (Why not just appreciate those who play). Stop drinking! (There’s a reason why 92% of New Years Resolutions fail). Save more and spend less! (Ahahahaha). A new year is the perfect opportunity to make some changes in your life, however, instead of feeling obligated to make the same clichéd promises that you’ll inevitably end up breaking come the second week of January, why not take inspiration from some of our most inspiring reads of 2015. The clincher? You can use them to upgrade your life whenever the hell you feel like it. Here’s some real stuff to aspire to and not just for your “New year, new me!” post on Instagram come January 1st.
Ian McNaught Davis bought a bicycle on his lunch break and quit his job the same afternoon. A few weeks later he was pedaling across the country on an epic trip that has seen him camp behind sand dunes, be mistaken for a spy and dine with an African warlord.
“A year ago, I quit my desk job to travel and work on a photography portfolio. It’s been the weirdest, hardest and most rewarding year of my life. I’ve cycled 4 000 kilometres across South Africa, hitchhiked through Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia, wandered around in Turkey and ended up in former Soviet states that I didn’t know existed. I wanted to photograph the idiosyncrasies of daily life. And daily life, it turns out, is fascinating. It’s hilarious, heartbreaking, mundane and inspirational.”
Previously a New York City lawyer, Nathan Sawaya now earns a living from playing with Lego. Instead of going to the gym after work, Nathan would de-stress using his creativity, drawing, painting or sculpting. It was when he returned to the humble Lego bricks he’d played with as a child that he found his niche, and today he’s got over 4 million Lego bricks in his studio where he creates works that travel the world.
“The worst day as an artist is still better than the best day as a lawyer. There’s a sculpture in my exhibition titled 'Grasp' that features a figure pulling away from a wall while several arms pull it back. The piece represents my turning point, my pulling away from people telling him me that I couldn’t follow my dreams. That I need to be another brick in the wall.”
Ballet gave her discipline and painting taught her composition, so when Katinka Bester fell in love with photography she hit the ground running. And although it’s portraiture that she specializes in, not selfies, the tips and tricks she taught us will improve your selfie game infinitely.
“Instagram is great. I love how the average person is using photography as a medium to document their life. And to me documenting your life is so important. Because it’s a memory that in 50 years time you’ll be grateful for. Take that picture. Make a souvenir.”
After Shane Small teamed up with Elan Lee and that dude from The Oatmeal, Matthew Inman and came up with a kitty-powered card-game version of Russian Roulette they never imagined that they’d also be making a record-breaking Kickstarter. Initially they asked for $10 000 and eight minutes later they had their startup money, when they’d received $8.7 million for a card game that didn’t yet exist we called them up and asked them to explain the madness.
“We love the name Exploding Kittens, but we don't want to hurt kittens. We also don't want the kittens to be hurt by anyone else. Eventually we decided to explore the concept of the kittens blowing themselves up. In the end, we realized that everyone understands feline shenanigans, and that could be our solution. Our kitties would not blow up out of malicious intent or negligence, but by doing the things that kittens do, like running across keyboards or chewing on things they shouldn't be chewing on.”
Creative Collective Fly on The Wall left their offices in the city centre for a space that’s like something out of the shire. When not taking dips in the stream in front of their house Bryan Little and Filipa Domingues like to invent new ways of making film and raising awareness for the Leopard Toad.
“We had no internet yesterday. They were fixing the electricity boxes and we were cut off from everything. Our old space was a much more social thing, and now people don’t pop in like they used to. I prefer it. I like being isolated. This is a happy in between where I still sometimes see people but not all the time like before.”
Daniel Ting Chong laughs a lot and his resting facial expression is a smile. You’d look the same if you didn’t have a boss. Working for himself, on his own terms, where he picks his projects and refuses to have meetings if he can send an email sounds like the dream. Who knows, perhaps Dan’s advice will help you to make it rain in 2016?
“Not having a boss is great. Not having to deal with all that. Although working with some clients can feel like working for a boss. They’ll tell you that they’ve chosen you for a particular job because they want your particular style, and then they’re always sending stuff back, telling you to put in more green and gold, asking for more 'wow factor'.”
The world of fashion is confusing as heck at the best of times, which is why we enlisted Danni Diana to decipher what size polka dot we should be wearing. Turns out the polka dot isn’t even a thing anymore and tiny hats and Uncle Pants are. That’s fashion for you.
“Haha. Look at you. Still wearing hessian sacks and using a fax machine like it’s the 1600s or some shit. Listen pal, you gotta move with the times. It's 2015. It’s spring. It’s a new season. Health Goth is over. Little-90s-Tumblr-Sprite-In-A-Yin-Yang-Shirt is over. Which means it is now time to take literally every item of clothing you own and burn it in a fire, because who even wears that stuff anymore? Clowns and losers and people who want to die alone, that's who. But don’t worry, a whole new season of ways for you to be stylin’ as heck is here!”
This was the first story we produced for The Way of Us, which we discovered via the hashtag #102Mill. After we got in touch with the occupants of the home with a hashtag we asked if we could photograph them making breakfast. Instead they were so cute together that we ate them up instead.
“Oh yes, we walk around naked all the time,” says Sanelle, who has no problem doing her morning ablutions while the others are in the same bathroom, brushing their teeth. “We’re totally desensitised with boundaries and stuff.”
“We do everything together,” adds Xia. “We take baths together, share beds... Everything has just fallen into place really quickly. We never fight or have arguments. Everything just works.”
Caroline likens the household to a cult or a sisterhood. “We’re The Lost Girls Club.”
We spent a day making a MTV Cribs style video documentary about romantic Afrikaans rapper Jack Parow and his new Camps Bay mansion. He showed off his studio, Harley Davidson, bakkie and back up bakkie.
“Out at the back, I built my own braai from rocks I dug up out of the ground. Jan Braai gave me the idea. I did it all by myself, though. Carried the rocks up by myself. Everything. Nobody helped me. Obviously I tell everyone about it. Lekker windgat."
Spoiler alert! Suzelle DIY is not a real person, she’s a character played by actress Julia Anastasopoulos who together with fianceAri Kruger, a filmmaker with a background in animation and visual effects, have come up with a character that has not only won millions of YouTube eyeballs and South African hearts, but our inaugural Superbalist 100 as well. Employing a dream team, including creatives from our list, we styled and photographed Suzelle DIY as she’d never been seen before.
“Obviously a lot of thought has gone into this, but it’s also been very organic. It’s definitely evolved. When people responded to certain things, like the flowers in her hair, we picked up on that and now Suzelle always needs to have a flower in her hair.”
Ayo, our boy Max Dylan Lazarus schooled himself in new words and slayed so hard he’s now serving life and is the go-to-guy for which mixtape we should be bumping this week and how the latest handshake goes.
“I genuinely don’t have much of a clue what everyone is talking about these days. I arrive in the office on a Monday and listen to the cool crowd talking about how lit the party was and have you seen how Cassper sonned AKA one hunna percent worse than Meek Mills got it, he so trill – and there I am, lost, confused… So I went around the office and got people to write down their favourite colloquialisms. I didn’t know many of them prior to this, and I struggled to get my head around most of them, but if I can understand them, then by God so can you.”
In her earlier life Khetsiwe Morgan was a Springbok springboard diver, so whenever she wasn’t in swimwear she was wearing shorts, T-shirts and team tracksuits. And it’s a shame to think of Kay like this, having to cover up her head of epic hair with a swimming cap, and devoting her life to performing acrobatics at dive meets. Then she gave up on her Olympic dreams and allowed the bass to lead her into a new life.
“With this second life as a creative I’m not holding back. I think that’s why I'm really going all out in expressing myself through my fashion and hairstyles. I call my creative musical career my second life, and I refuse to let myself down this time round. I have a huge goal of building an empire and leaving my mark, which I shall fulfill now that I am older and wiser.”
At time of interview Lukhanyo Mdingi was slinging coffees at Clarke’s in order to support his design habit. His hard work didn’t go unnoticed though and following our profile on him Lukhanyo has been featured in The Fader, iD and Vogue and started stocking at AKJP.
“I’m a pure minimalist. I really do enjoy basics in every single possible way. That shines through my designs and my home and just how I do things. I like a sense of order. That’s what I’m in to. That’s what I like. Fashion is more than just clothes. I value the importance of clothes. Besides the obvious – protecting you from the weather, or wanting to look fancy, you can gauge a person’s vibe just by looking at what they’re wearing. And it’s more obvious with creatives, as they usually have a more distinct style. I want people to think that I’m put together. To see that I have a sense of direction in my life and how I’m going to get there.”
A house party is cheaper than the club, the people are friendlier, there are no queues, no bouncers and you’re done when you’ve passed out, not when the lights come on and you’re kicked out. Our resident cartoonist, Hugh Upsher, gave us the lowdown in his quick guide to house parties.
“It’s a no brainer to have everyone you like, and then some, in a house with booze and music, right? If it weren’t for neighbours, the clean-up and risk of every single thing in and around the house being broken or stolen, they would happen way more often. The infrequency of them just makes the experience that much more magical.”
2015 was a big year for gender fluidity and along with Jaden Smith wearing a dress to his prom, Buzzfeed announcing that men’s skirts were a thing and Dazed dedicating entire issues to the gender debate, we got creative in studio for our story Neutral About You.
“But this is fashion quite separate from dressing up to discover what it feels like to be a gender that’s not the one assigned to you at birth – it's about shrugging off some of the expectations that the past few decades or centuries have seen fit to place on that identity. And so yes, we do still need to keep saying it: that this is about wearing whatever you want to, rather than letting gender norms tell you what should be kept out of your closet.”
La Petit Mort is a series of occasional dinners hosted by 28-year-old André Sales and 26-year-old Morné Visagie at their home in the Bo-Kaap. The Way of Us was fortunate enough to be invited to one of these dinners where we put on our smarts and tried to keep our elbows off of the table.
“You just have to step into a different persona and be very chatty, warm and welcoming. Then make sure your salt, Maldon sea salt, and pepper, coarse black pepper, is freshly topped up. Exhausted salt and pepper on the table looks like left overs. You should care and pay attention to the tiniest of details. Make people feel at home. I suppose because it is our home, I want to make people know that they’re in our home. I’m not going to give you a Carling Black Label. We’re not going to talk about rugby. It’s all very elegant. Very sophisticated.”
Murray MJ Turpin and Matthew Dean’s gallery for marginalised artists who question the status quo, Kalashnikovv Gallery, has not only been a pivotal player in helping to rejuvenate Braamfontein into the hipster hub it is today, but represent artists whose creative spirits mirror their own and represent the future of South African art.
“The very nature of art questions the status quo. It gives voice to those who cannot speak. It is a platform for those who are not heard or seen. Kalashnikovv challenges the conventions of the art gallery in its manifestation, conduct, audience and motivation. Convention has made art a pastime of the elite. Kalashnikovv is a re-articulated exhibition space, orientated towards the deconstruction of the art–space. This allows Kalashnikovv to be the first gallery to stop asking what art is, and rather answer where it can be found.”
This story was a biggie for us, not just because we’d been fetishizing vinyl for a while, loving the Roastin’ Records parties at The Pit, and then later ended up selling wax from our very own shop, but because after shooting this story our lovely editrix Melanie went for a drink with the guy we featured here, Wentzl, and has now shacked up with him.
“My favourite styles to play are rock 'n' roll, and letting it progress though the decades with some 80s, disco, funk and then, when we get really drunk, hip hop. At markets I like to throw in a lot of African, country, blues and jazz... I now have a big crew of guys that I can pick to suit the party, so I'm basically a DJ pimp now.”
Using a mash-up of tradition and modernity, Simiso Zwane, aka Okmalumkoolkat, aka Smart Mompara, aka Future Mfana, is a man of many names and many games has fused electro, kwaito and hip hop to come up with a Digital Maskandi sound that pushes the boundaries of South Africa’s urban music offerings. Growing up in Umlazi and the post-94 RDP township of Bonela, Kool Kat success stems from dancing his own dance to his own beats.
“Coming from a dance background, a township dance background, everything is township, we all competing, but we competing at a township level. The language we speak, the dances… We would also bust American dances, but we’d fuse it and localise it. It wouldn’t be like a dance I saw in a Janet Jackson video. People would laugh at that. So when I got to the hip-hop scene and the kids there were battling, rapping in American accents, I was like, ‘No, his name is Sipho. That guy, I know him. Why is he a Young Dre now?’”