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INTERPRET DURBAN VIRGIN

by Robyn Perros / Images by Marcello Maffeis / 14.01.2015

Interpret Durban, the words had been on pierced lips for weeks. I eventually found a gap to ask the local cool cats: “What’s Interpret Durban?” Faces went limp… Oh shit! I was an Interpret Durban virgin.

20 December 2014: my first time with Interpret Durban – the premier art/photography/video competition where intrepid creatives dust off the dregs of ordinary life, get inspired and explore their city. The theme for this year’s Interpret was ‘Durban DNA’: the people, the ‘vibe’, the sweat, the blood, the tears… everything and anything that makes the salty city shake.

This year’s event was held at Live The Venue. I was initiated at the door with a stamp and entered the orgy of exhibitions, live music and multi-cultural mash-ups… Inside, outside, upstairs, downstairs, to the window to the wall; the place was squeezing Durban out from the end of its cultural paint tube.

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I ordered the cheapest whisky from the bar to accompany me on my snobby art parooze. Just your average Joan, getting a bit tipsy, trying to make sense of art. Upstairs was a sophisticated affair; neat rows of colourful illustrations and vivid A2 photographs. The hours of hard work peered back at the critics, who mostly glanced. Soon I was on a unique tour of the city and its people, being guided on an adventure by the hungriest local arteests.

The theme for the Professional Photography category this year was ‘I am Durban’ and for me was the standout exhibition overall, simply for its diversity and the high quality of the pictures…

First place Pro Photography – Njabulo Maguban

First place Pro Photography – Njabulo Magubane

Second place Pro Photography – Rachel Tiearney

Second place Pro Photography – Rachel Tiearney

Third place Pro Photography – Katy Fedkina

Third place Pro Photography – Katy Fedkina

I huddled into the projector room where the video entries were being screened on loop. This year’s video theme was ‘Durban Atmosphere’. There were some excellent quality videos: captivating shots, crisp sound and immaculate edits. But I found most of the concepts a bit too literal. A bit too appropriate for Ushaka International Airport. But mad respect to the entrants nonetheless. Richard Gorven took first place with his vid ‘Durban Heart Beat’…

Matt Nefdt took second place with ATMOS and Tessa Comrie took third with Interpret Durban. But I think my favourite vid was ‘This Space’ by Steve Jones and Zwelisha Giampietri for its simplicity, clever concept and unique take on Bulwer Park – a living, breathing, thriving communal space.


To be honest it didn’t seem to matter so much about the quality of the work; people were talking and that’s what it’s all about. The screening was packed for most of the night with viewers really paying attention and discussing the videos in non-verbose language – just that casual Durban lingua franca. Yeah man, an exhibition that felt sincere!

I regret missing out on the art/design section; there was a lot going on and a lot I unfortunately missed. Luckily, this is the digital world, where all things great and small are recorded for posterity…

First place Design – Melissa Furter

First place Design – Melissa Furter

First place Visual Art – Nikhil Tricam

First place Visual Art – Nikhil Tricam

I squirmed my way to the balcony for a breather, but was inhaled en route by the b-boys on the dancefloor below. Flat peaks, bling, DC sneakers, acrobatics and up-rock from legendary local crew The Floor Assasins. The crowd was roaring, the people at the bar were panting and the photographers were on all fours fighting for the best angles. It seemed everyone wanted a drink from the hip hope watering hole.

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The safari was getting wilder and I kept trekking for more art…

Outside in the steamy breeze the crowd was heaving around some live graffiti/street art where local artists Pastel Heart, Skullboy and Tessa Mae Hadlow with Jono were splashing up three large canvases. The concept for the live art was that patrons were able to buy a square of canvas just large enough to be fashioned into one of a kind, custom painted Tomy kicks. The completed canvases were to be flown from Durbs to the Tomy Takkie factory in Asia where they would be cut, sewn, laced up tight and then delivered to their new owners. The canvasses/fancy footwear were sold out in no time and will be walking the dirty streets soon.

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1.5litre bottles of Grolsch were being passed around like babies by some beaming socialites. That friendly Zulu Kingdom buzz was out. I took a swig, while some brother lost control of his beer on my foot. “It’s so chilled!” Leather jackets were already sleeping in corners; the surfer boys had started to slurrr and the slicktsters had stopped caring about their pit stains. Less art! More drink! Was the general consensus and local live jams from Mickey Burns, Hours, Existing Consciousness and Nje kept the party people bouncing up in the sub-tropical wicky-sticky.

Mickey Burns

Mickey Burns

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Nje

The Hours

Hours

Existing Consciousness

Existing Consciousness

The drummer smacked the cymbals, breaking the piñata we were all in. And soon, Tomy Takkie stickers fell from the sky like cool kid candy. The partyers scrambled for the stickers on the floor of purple lights and crushed glass while I scrambled to find the groove. It seemed that some of the bands lacked creativity in the same vein as some of the artwork – a more universal message and meaning beyond the Durban DNA aesthetic could benefit the scene (perhaps).

Things were unfolding just as they do at most jols. I watched the evening wobble into chaos from the balcony, still glad to have been a part of the unique, yet all too familiar, celebration of such an exciting city.

Despite the ampedness and the evident local talent; I get the impression that the Durban art scene just doesn’t want to compete with or be compared to the rest of the world. Maybe it’s a lack of platforms and support, but Durban seems pretty happy staying just where it is – at home. Maybe that’s OK too. Local is lekker right?

Local platforms like Interpret Durban, What If The The City, Red Eye and others get Durban artists out there… talking, collaborating, exibiting and engaging. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful and necessary part of the growth and progression of the scene. But it seems there are few local artists taking their work beyond KZN’s borders and interpreting the world.

When Durban realizes it’s ready to lose its virginity to the rest of the world, hearts will be a throbbing for the incredible talent that lies here. Mine sure is.

Second place Design – Mary-Anne Hampton

Second place Design – Mary-Anne Hampton

Third place Design – Shaun Gardner

Third place Design – Shaun Gardner

Second place Visual Art – Ghanisha Bucktowar

Second place Visual Art – Ghanisha Bucktowar

Third place visual art – Luyanda Euwin Zindela

Third place visual art – Luyanda Euwin Zindela

First place Amateur Photography – Kerosha Naidoo

First place Amateur Photography – Kerosha Naidoo

* Images © Marcello Maffeis

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