031 reasons why Durban is the underrated birthplace of many of the new wave of creatives influencing culture
By Phendu Kuta
It's crazy how when you start looking deeper into it, many diverse culture tastemakers originate from Durban or KZN. Although they had to move to Cape Town or Joburg to establish their careers, it's uncanny how although these individuals come from different creative fields, idiosyncratic style is their commonality, whether expressed through their music, brands, content, or personality.
Churning out creatives as frequently as it does culture-defining music genres (perhaps you've heard of a wave called Gqom? If not, meet the Gqom King), it's not just the Durban July or the Durban International Film Festival that put Durban on the map. And it would seem that its the underrated birthplace of many of the new wave of creatives influencing alternative and mainstream fashion and culture. Here's a pick of our favourite Durbanites right now...
Writer and one-half of art, music and performance duo FAKA, Desire Marea, real name is Buyani Duma, is from a village called Amandadwe on the South coast of KZN.
FAKA represents queer voices and challenges societal gender norms and since its inception the duo have done just that. Most notably, this year where they changed the game, not only for the queer community but for young Africans in general when their music was the official runway soundtrack for Donatella Versace's menswear show. From one win to the next, next was performing at New York Fashion week.
FAKA's music varies from Gqom, to Gospel, to African spiritual music and whilst this is ground-breaking enough, it's their visual language that makes them the full package. To call their style unique is an understatement, and we highly recommend you follow Desire Marea on the gram where he often shares his daring fashion and hair choices, which range from Rick James to Brenda Fassie vibes.
We were first introduced to Melissa Kieser as Miss Molly through her fashion blog of the same title, which she launched whilst living in her hometown of Durban.
Fast-track to today, Melissa runs OSC (Orphan Street Clothing) with her husband Mathew Kieser, the innovative Cape Town based store which houses their homegrown streetwear brands Maylee and Sol-Sol.
Her womenswear brand, Maylee consists of classics modernized with a street-chic sensibility and rendered in quality fabrics.
From leading the way as one of the first style bloggers in South Africa, to pioneering one of the first local women's streetwear brands, Melissa's ability to give the culture what it wants has kept her relevant and in demand with those hungry for the next.
Rapper and producer Riky Rick was born Rikhado Makhado in KwaMashu township north of Durban, after which he subsequently grew up in Durban, Cape Town and Austria before settling in Joburg.
Riky Rick challenges the normative perceptions of what a rapper, especially within South Africa, should dress like and seesaws between backlash from the public to appreciation from style and media platforms. Yes, we're definitely talking about his highly controversial SAMA awards 2018 ensemble, a non-conformist and innovative style choice that resulted in his SA Style Award.
After hit single 'Nafukwa' kicked off his music career the rest was history; leaving behind a legacy of inimitable style, hence the title King Kotini, which is quite fitting in terms of his fashion influence in the streets.
Digital Maskandi pioneer Mashayabhuqe KaMamba was born Nsikelelo Christian Ndlovu. His groundbreaking genre, a fusion of traditional Zulu folk music with the electronic, 808-infused and auto-tune sounds bridges the gap between heritage and the digital age. (If you're interested in listening to what that sounds like exactly you may download his mixtape here, free).
Growing up in eNkandla he made his heritage and culture key aspects of his brand – style-wise, musically and his overall aesthetic.
His debut EP The Black Excellence Show introduced his sound to the world, and the follow up Nguniversal was just as well received. And with more maskandi-influenced artists slowly emerging, this digital maskandi pioneer has done what all pioneers do, open doors.
Hailing from Port Shepstone is actress, presenter and Superbalist magazine cover-star, Nomalanga Shozi. Among her various talents, Nomalanga is also a model and digital media influencer whose effortlessly retro style and natural hair distinguish her from the pool of up and coming talent in the entertainment industry.
Her role as Nomalanga in E-tv's Rhythm City followed a gig as a radio presenter on Gagasi FM in Durban, but it's her head of natural hair that's the largest contributing factor to her resonance and relevance. Nomalanga's preferred form of self-expression represents hair and beauty ideals that reflect many South African women, ideals that are not yet widely visible in mainstream entertainment.
Nwabisa Ntlokwana (Nwahh)
Digital influencer and founder of Instagram online shop Denim Palace, Nwabisa Ntlokwana (widely known as Nwahh) had amassed and established visibility for both her denim brand and personal brand in her hometown of Durban before moving to Joburg last year.
Via a passion for thrifting and remixing her denim finds, Nwahh noted a growing interest as well as an opportunity to launch her brand in 2015, which has been growing considerably ever since.
As a digital influencer, Nwahh's style and aesthetic are much like her denim brand: timeless where minimalist meets clever detailing and with a hint of edge.
Multi-disciplinary cultural entrepreneur Jamal Nxedlana is co-founder and creative director of Bubblegum Club, a founding member of the digital art collective CUSS Group and has released several collections under his fashion label Missshape, which he launched in 2012. There's also his project-based label MS3).
Adding to his design savvy, Jamal is proficient in creative directing, filmmaking and digital art – as well as styling and photography, flexing this via Bubblegum Club's editorials. The result is an unparalleled creative portfolio that is driving how the youth consume trends digitally and beyond.