Nokana Mojapelo is the poster child for those forced to create out of necessity
Words: Hakim Malema | Photography: Andile Phewa
Nokana “Dodo” Mojapelo frequently tweets how girls should not fall in love with him because his surname literally means “to eat hearts.” This is where we must begin our story – about a boy whose toothsome aesthetic has hungry onlookers eating their hearts out.
An enigmatic character shrouded in mystery, Nokana dresses in a way that's always able to turn heads – or in the case of those who aren’t ready yet, have heads scratched. On the day of our shoot we find Nokana in Rosebank wearing an oversized red scotch tweed shirt, clean Nike Flyknit AF1s and dark-rimmed frames.
We had to know what was on his mind this time around…
“I come from four generations of seamstresses where my grandmother was able to build a 9-bedroom house and raise four children by being the best seamstress in the township. She's in her late 80s now and old age has taken its toll on her, yet she's still behind her machine every day, regardless of being paralyzed at the age of 20.”
Influenced by the matriarchs of his family and intrigued by their skill, Nokana now forms part of a collective known as the Spova Gang, who have become one of the most spoken-about online tastemakers and fashion tribes over the last year.
“Spova Gang is a group of friends from different walks of life who share a bond and similar interests. There’s a love of shoes, clothing and a desire for personal growth. It's a movement, and we find ourselves a part of this because of our love of these things, especially shoes.”
Scroll through Nokana’s Instagram, Windows 2000, and you’ll see proof of this love, best captured in a photograph of Nokana literally bathing in fresh kicks.
Rapper Okmalumkoolkat reposted that photograph with the caption “Never needed a stylist my whole career. This kat @nokanamojapelo appointed himself. He also raps as Windows 2000 follow that laaitie!”
The Spova Gang title was coined by Okmalumkoolkat whilst on his 100k Macassette tour, with attendance by Slice Freddy, Didi, uSanele, Benzo and Nokana, who went on to tweet that if you’re about positive vibes and contributing to a better future then you’re already a part of the crew.
Nokana is quick to say what it isn’t - the new Boyznbucks.
“There's only one Boyznbucks. Though I guess we’re similar because of how the relationship of Boyznbucks was established and how they moved around together. Which is how Spova Gang is.”
A poster child for DIY, rebelliously inspired cultural entrepreneurs who are forced to create out of pure necessity, Nokana is from that generation of youth who view the world as a playground. It's also ground he's looking to conquer, and by embodying the energy of his surroundings and accessing his past like an archive, he's about to steer his aspirations into the future.
It’s humbling to see how he could’ve thrived in so many different realms: having grown up in the townships of Pretoria, Nokana was once one of the area's most talented footballers.
“I played for the SA junior soccer team at the time, and was able to attend grade 5 in Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil.”
Privileged enough to have been born in an era where he has the opportunity to pursue his dreams, whatever they may be, Nokana expresses a deep obligation to his heritage and feels a sense of responsibility to take his gifts to places his predecessors never could.
“I daydream about all sorts of designs from eyewear to furniture to women's shoes… These are things I don't specialize in but I'm highly confident I could make them more appealing to consumers. These are the types of collaborations that I'm interested in. Those that allow you the opportunity to grow in different areas. If it doesn't make my stomach twist with excitement then it's not real.”
Collaboration is a part of any creative’s process and journey, and it's no different for Nokana who had Anthony Bila shoot and art direct his DOCC clothing range last year, which was inspired by a breakup, and dealt with how a lover can go from a girlfriend to booty call. It doesn’t stop there though, and Nokana's even worked with a construction company in order to design customised fashionable workwear.
“I've had a lot of offers for collaborative work, but my motive behind any collaboration is personal, more strategic, where I prefer not to work for the sake of commerce or creating hype, even though that's an important piece of the puzzle, and prefer more organic collaborations.”
Seeking to work with people from whom he can learn, Nokana is a sponge wanting to soak up as much skill as he can in as short a time as possible.
“I can't do a collaboration if we’re penetrating the same market. Where's the growth in that? Especially in South Africa where we like being on the waiting list of making history artistically.”
Instead Nokana would much rather collaborate with artists who specialise in fields that he is not familiar with.
“For instance, I don't specialize in staff clothing but I was able to create fashionable staff clothing for a construction company, while still keeping the designs professionally appealing. It’s formalwear meets streetwear – beautiful.”
Musically, Nokana’s last collaboration saw him team up with audiovisual performer Tra$h Godd on the Booty Call EP.
“I was always curious about making music but every rapper or producer I spoke to didn't take me seriously. They'd always laugh it off and assume I was joking. Even when I’d show up at their studio sessions and suggest that they record me they'd still not take me seriously.”
This changed when Nokana met musician and producer Tra$h Godd where small talk about wanting to make music for a clothing collection inspired by a breakup quickly resulted in something tangible.
“A few weeks later we bumped into each other and the conversation lead us to his home studio. Four months down the line we’re now creating a new genre of music for an audience that was never previously catered to. In four months we’ve created a collaborative EP, Booty Call.”
Nokana’s next project is a solo gig based on his first love, design, apparel which you can see him modeling in the photographs we took of him. Phone Home by DOCC, an acronym for Dream Of Causing Commotion, is a worthy follow up to the bold debut range inspired by the aftermath of a relationship.
Whatever he puts his mind to, Nokana is sure to be a galvanising force, and whether that’s fashion design, styling your favorite rapper, or trying to become your favourite rapper, Nokana’s effervescent vibrations will always get him noticed wherever he is and whatever he does.