Investigating: IZIKHOTHANE

Zikhothane is street slang, derived from the Zulu word ukukhothana, which means “to lick like a snake”. The slang term originally referred to playful competition between various “crews” whose members see themselves as icons of street fashion and kings and queens of the latest dance moves. This youth craze began on Johannesburg’s East Rand and is now sweeping through the city’s townships. In the early days, in 2008, the craze was simply a South African version of the “dance battles”, popular among urban, black youths in the United States. But there is nothing playful about izikhothane’s latest incarnation.

These days, such gatherings often culminate in the burning of expensive designer clothes and even money. It is about standing out from the crowd: proving to your mates that you are so rich that expensive possessions mean nothing. And it doesn’t stop there: sometimes izikhothane also involves the destruction of food, such as KFC, which the dancers stamp into the ground as other kids look on.

The battles are usually held at a local park or other open space. The news of the gatherings is spread by word of mouth and the crews are mobbed by hundreds of admiring children and teenagers as they arrive. It is instant celebrity. To be a member of the group, one should be prepared to wear a pair of shoes like Carvela (costing not less than R 1200 – R 2000), Sfarzo Couture jeans, Nike, Adidas, Versace etc. In the 90s, Carvela shoes were admired by everyone in the townships; today, but you have to be prepared to destroy them in public to show how rich you are.

Zambia’s Defence Minister’s comment in The Post - 23rd May 2013. 

Zambia’s Defence Minister’s comment in The Post - 23rd May 2013. 

Please take the time out to support fellow Africans with the premiere of a new lifestyle magazine and website Africlectic.com, dedicated to the beauty of the African continent by providing positive images and stories, and engaging debate with our community - the African Diaspora. We examine our many cultures through looking at current topics addressing Blackness, photography, cinema, fashion, and lifestyle. Please share and join the movement!
www.africlectic.com
www.facebook.com/africlecticmag

Please take the time out to support fellow Africans with the premiere of a new lifestyle magazine and website Africlectic.com, dedicated to the beauty of the African continent by providing positive images and stories, and engaging debate with our community - the African Diaspora. We examine our many cultures through looking at current topics addressing Blackness, photography, cinema, fashion, and lifestyle. Please share and join the movement!

www.africlectic.com

www.facebook.com/africlecticmag

The West’s lazy reporting of Africa

Straight from The Guardian:

These days no self-respecting western reporter dares to describe anything potentially “primitive” in Africa without a sophisticated disclaimer. John Humphrys’s warning, as he dispatched the Today programme from Bong county, Liberia – was: “You can’t come here with European eyes.” Christopher Hitchens’s 1994 essay on his trip to Zaire, and current editions of the Economist – still reeling a decade on from its"Hopeless continent" front page on Africa – are examples of similar introspection.

And with good reason. Western eyes do not have a good track record of seeing what is really going on on this continent. In 1963 the historian Hugh Trevor-Roper – made a life peer by Margaret Thatcher – captured the still prevalent tone of western thinking. “Perhaps in the future, there will be some African history to teach,” he wrote. “But at present there is none: there is only the history of Europeans in Africa. The rest is darkness.”

Much has been said, written and done to prove that western reporting of Africa has moved away from this paradigm. Most international news outlets now have programmes specifically designed to champion positive news stories in Africa. The BBC runs African Dream, a series about successful African entrepreneurs, CNN has African Voices. They are stories that I, for one, enjoy reading. They capture a reality about the African continent, which is one of rags to riches, wheeler dealers made good, and steady economic growth.

But in a parallel development to the fashion world’s infuriating tendency to trend on “tribal” prints and “ethnic fashions” (ie African) for the occasional spring/summer collection – before reverting to a world where Africa has no fashion bearing and African models barely exist – the media’s tendency to run an “Africa season” has its own flaws. After the season is over, little in the mainstream coverage has changed. And the BBC, in particular, has its own Africa service that delivers excellent news coverage of the continent by local journalists and a mainly African-staffed team in London. Yet instead of driving the decision to have and produce a BBC Africa season – two of which the BBC has now held – they are confined to a “research” role.

Even worse is the situation when an impromptu Africa season is triggered by newsworthy events in Africa. A dramatic climax in a long-running war, preferably with the close involvement of a western power, usually leads to an African country being “discovered” by the international media. At the height of Liberia’s civil war in 2003, for example, as rebels surrounded the capital Monrovia and US troops were drafted in, Liberian journalists looked on from their shelled out offices as the complex conflict they had spent the past decade covering was scooped up by western reporters. In Mali, the same thing is happening now.

The result of the continuing tendency to ignore Africans is a lamentable lack of specialist African coverage in the world’s media. An academic debate about this problem has been thriving for some time. In the meantime, however, informed consumers of African news have adopted a more proactive approach, using social networking to vent with immediate effect.

CNN was a recent casualty in this offensive. Last month it broadcast a not-uncharacteristically sensationalist report about grenade attacks in Nairobi, with a large on-screen banner screaming “VIOLENCE”, implying a wave of violent disturbances when in fact the attack was a one-off incident. Kenya’s abundant Twitter users created a "#SomeoneTellCNN"hashtag with such success that the US news giant was eventually pressured into something closely resembling an apology.

Celebrating these victories against the still-bigoted status quo is not the same as advocating sugar-coating of African news coverage. Yes, there are food crises, wars and coups. In west Africa, the region where I report, two democratically elected governments – in Mali and Guinea Bissau – have been toppled in the last month. The latter is essentially a narco-state and the former has a conflict that has triggered a refugee crisis. Bad stuff, obviously, happens in Africa just like everywhere else – and no one is denying that those issues should be reported, but their coverage would be greatly improved if it were led by journalists whose mentality were not shaped by the Hugh Trevor-Ropers of this world. Africa is not, as the New York Review of Books reported recently, “plagued by countless nasty little wars”. Nor can aviation within the continent, as Condé Nast Traveller recently suggested, be summarised by a “combination of political corruption, civil wars, numerous rogue carriers, airplanes at the end of their life cycles”.

There is a laziness applied to media coverage of Africa that is seldom seen elsewhere. Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina brilliantly captured this in his Granta essay “How to Write About Africa”. “You must always include The Starving African, who wanders the refugee camp nearly naked, and waits for the benevolence of the west,” he wrote. “Her children have flies on their eyelids and pot bellies, and her breasts are flat and empty. She must look utterly helpless. She can have no past, no history; such diversions ruin the dramatic moment. Moans are good.”

There are still too many journalists unwittingly following his advice.

African fashion: three names to watch

Following in the footsteps of internationally renowned African designers such as Duro OlowuXuly BëtAzzedine Alaïa andJoe Casely-Hayford are three emerging talents who are next in line for fashion greatness. Helen Jennings reports in the Guardian.

The western media can depict the people of post-colonial African nations as victims – whether of poverty, natural disaster, corruption or all three. This casts the people of those countries as perennially, even innately, passive – those to whom life happens. It accentuates the negative in a way that, for all the press's attraction to bad news, does not happen when the west discusses itself.

In relaying short stories of character this blog aims to dispel such notions of passivity, in a bid to challenge some of our mis-laid preconceptions.

To quote from Kapuscinski, however, these stories are not "about Africa, but rather about some people from there.. The continent is too large to describe. It is a veritable ocean, a separate planet, a varied, immensely rich cosmos. Only with the greatest simplification, for the sake of convenience, can we say “Africa.”

Stories will not always be good. That too would be condescending. The challenge will be to provide a whole picture – good, bad and ugly.