Culture, Reality
Izikhothane

Burn Swag Burn

by Lindokuhle Nkosi, illustration Trevor Paul / 04.08.2011

Two young boys in school uniform tentatively approach the car. Voices settling into manhood, faces broken out in swollen signs of puberty, they pass a cigarette between the two of them. “We’ll be performing in the park,” they inform me. “We are waiting for people to get changed and then we can begin. They shouldn’t be long, boma-ten minutes or so.” Their English is more telling than the words that they speak. An unnatural, broken flow of prose. Staggered. A smorgasbord of the bare minimum, core words that when strung together in conversation, wobble and buck under the pressure higher-level competency. The skeletal structure provided by hood public schooling where a good percentage of the subjects are taught in their mother-tongue.

The park is less than a minute’s walk away, yet the boys insist on getting in the car and riding to the rendezvous point with me. Car windows rolled down; they turn the sound on the radio up, waving at their peers in the street and ensuring that all and sundry have seen them.

I’m still unsure of why I’m here. Two weeks ago, a croaky boyish voice on the other end of the line promised me a good show (providing I bought them Ultra-Mel custard). They bill themselves as street performers, but their art consists of little more than branded clothing and face-offs with rival crews who compete over who has more money. The trend called “ukukhothana”, loosely translated as dissing, is a money-conscious South African version of the USA’s diss battles, but where the American jokes would begin with: “Yo mama is so…” these kids start theirs with: “I’m so rich I can…” And then proceed to demonstrate how much money they have by engaging in wasteful behavior. Starting in the smaller black communities of Gauteng’s East Rand, the phenomenon quickly filtered into Soweto. In a recent incident, a boy from Pimville bought a bucket of KFC chicken, threw it on the floor and then stomped on the chicken pieces, using his R2000 pair of loafers to grind the white meat into the ground before setting the food alight – and then the shoes.

In the 1950s, a similar trend arose amongst migrant workers and mine labourers who were subject to the cramped and confined conditions of hostel living. Men, separated from their families and forced into a perfunctory sense of congeniality, would hold contests in which they would trade their grimy overalls for the finest suits and flashy two-toned brogues. Called oSwenka, the winner would receive a goat or blankets and maybe some extra money to send home to their families in the Bantustans. For the izikhothane, there is no tangible prize; but the admiring glances from girls in the crowd seems to be sufficient reward.

Word spreads quickly. In a few minutes, a group of over sixty school children have gathered in the park awaiting the next izikhothane battle. The boys arrive in a loud, colourful fashion. Luminescent Nike Dry-fit T-shirts, multi-coloured tracksuits, ostentatiously branded shoes and mismatched soccer boots, their bright attire is in stark contrast to the environment. The park is no more than an undeveloped block of land. Dry grass, three barren and skeletal plants, two swings and a slide with faded paint and chipped edges. This is the stage where the teens meet weekly to gain respect and notoriety. “Everyone knows The Exclusive Italian Konka’s are the best,” says 16 year old Lesego. “It’s all about bragging, being better than everyone else. You have to show that you are the number one cheese boys.” Claiming the top spot however, reaches some ridiculous extremes.

It is no longer enough to merely afford the pricey clothing and bling; you have to be rich enough to not need it. This means publicly taking a pair of scissors to a R500 t-shirt, and playing tug-of-war with a R3000 pair of jeans before throwing the scraps to the unaffording, undeserving rivals. To earn an income, this particular crew sells refreshments at Orlando Stadium, but a more sinister rumour speaks of young men turning to petty crime in order to afford this outwardly lavish lifestyle. They indignantly refute this claim. “Ukukhothana actually keeps us away from crime. We work every weekend to get money, and when we do we spend every cent of it on all these clothes. No drugs. No alcohol, just clothes.”

The question remains though. Why do it at all? By their own admission, they aren’t as moneyed as they pretend to be. Why then spend the little cash they do receive on clothing that in some cases will end up tattered rags. The boys provide no answers. In a typically teenage manner, they have paid no thought to the psychology behind the trend. It’s tempting to think of izikhothane as some kind of nihilistic reaction to a rampantly consumerist culture, a negation of the power that “stuff” has over us. But really it comes off as an over-exaggerated homage to consumerism. The desperate quest for individualism that ties its success to brand names and price tags. A shunning of dependency and behavioural expectations that feeds off generic appeal and the admiration of strangers. This is their moment in the spotlight, but unlike Andy Warhol’s prophesized fifteen minutes, this is a search for self-value and not notoriety. When all the romanticism has been sucked out of the ghetto, when history’s lessons have stripped you of what should be inherent self-respect, dignity is inferred. Izikhothane will borrow Armani’s name and Diesel’s reputation, until they can make one of their own.

*Illustration © Trevor Paul.

109   101
321
SHARES
RESPONSES (1,457)
  1. yho swager says:

    tjo those guyz they r hot i wnt 2 date them al n they are al charma thats y thy cal them true charma boiz ama khotha boiz jah on mamelodi east mahube x1 nina wozani siyashoba ngapha

    Thumb up2   Thumb down 9

  2. B3z@ via mini-coop3r says:

    Welele….i coOp3r se li khona lizo chayisa ama rubbish nama cabbage….ngiya zwela nga lo ntobi “O” mubi….any comment nge coop3r ngi vimbe gu mxit @ bezacooper
    dlega sitha sam uzoba +STroNg+
    R B
    E O
    L Z
    A Z
    X A

    Thumb up2   Thumb down 0

  3. Anonymous says:

    Ya qwala skhothane se ke fitlhile Sexy wana ROCCO BOYS follow me on mxit nd whatsap mxit mr.sexy4731 ya sexy rocco boy

    Thumb up1   Thumb down 3

  4. V.R.A aka VARARA boys says:

    Welele nges’khothani kodwa hhayi esisakazekile njengomasaka sizosisa emsakazweni siyosakaza ukuthi singumasaka sona asigcwali ngomasaka thina ma V.R.A

    Thumb up1   Thumb down 3

  5. 14 boyz siya mosha nd si fulisha izgagamiso says:

    Vele

    Thumb up2   Thumb down 3

  6. VISTRO DONTSALARITO wama Chikita Collectors vele,,,welele says:

    F.b.i nyana yamasimba ufuna ikokota on lo mlomo nyana wakho wok nuka…….ngik vale 4eva…….mina ngith do u D.2.K?? Nah uya banda ne cherr yakho iya cava vobe!

    Thumb up1   Thumb down 1

  7. VISTRO DONTSALARITO wama Chikita Collectors vele,,,welele says:

    Le yama C.L iringa kakhulu….ntwana sizok pro ceta………..entlek nina nonke ni ya banda..ni phaphiswa yi lempahla nyana zenu ze christmas……evry1 wil be cln emslf iskhothane decemba..thina ugasiphapheli ngoba uzo dumba nd ngeke u dume….zok-kokota mkokotelo ndini.

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 2

  8. nhlaNHLA 4rm tlakula high says:

    yo zikhothane u rock plz invite me on babygal40101 boyz only if u uyisikhothane phelow

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 6

  9. Amstel boyz>olundi says:

    You will feel like kool-aird in a wine glass once u see Amstel boyz,they are realy deal if u know what imean,we are from Olundi,we are young,fresh,hot.watch da space house party is coming so soom,we rubs hands like birdman,TUNECHI

    Thumb up1   Thumb down 2

  10. F.B.I (fully blooded italians) says:

    Ama FBI aya buya in fire indeed so watch out fr ana FBI

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  11. Anonymous says:

    Ma bf is 1 of da izikhothane nd we hv a bbygal hu is 3mnths nw he is gone 2 tembisa keletso

    Thumb up4   Thumb down 0

  12. K@n@n3lo @ m!n!-coO¿3r says:

    Hin ngathi i khothani za lar zi phila nge mxit nd cell.c.,……i khothane zama E2cheap(E250)….anina ma phone azi begile eg…black berry,lumia,galaxy hai pocket i s3 note or S4…sies nonke niya dlega zinja zase mi khukwine e zola ama 18 rats….fsek nonke…

    Thumb up2   Thumb down 7

  13. K@n@n3lo @ m!n!-coO¿3r says:

    C money
    O spenders
    O not
    p hustlers
    3
    r vele

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 1

  14. Anonymous says:

    Wel cm bck ama n.p.d the return baba gd lck on ur khothing way even ur all buyed R.M LA ROCKA mos I.S.C F.B.I

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 2

  15. THE FUCKEN FOUR FRIENDS(sosha boys) says:

    DONT MESS WITH THE FUCKER B4 THE FUCKER FUCKS U, niya banda nonke, fuck yall waner-bee SKHOTHANES

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  16. King shacool says:

    Kingshacool is the bst in the game I spnd
    More thn I earn Imali I khona masaka xem
    Any cmmnt what’saap 0761071632. …..

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 1

  17. M,c Boys says:

    M,c boys for life

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  18. Slebzarbiter says:

    Come to tembisa via bo ma mainline uzo bona.. We are the PONTRO’S. Cum and be corrected.

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  19. wandi a.k.a wanderboi says:

    M.x.m thy cal thr self bu khothane bt thy ddn,t go 2skwl.ni mosha mahala boma lambani ndini niya hlupheka nihlala em ku kwini.

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 5

  20. abicah soul a.k.a ximba says:

    Mina I play da droshka moshka pentra lendra.mina baba I’m italian khathaza.any comment cal me @0848091918 or search m on casa di arbiter277142463871 mi mxit numbrz.

    Thumb up9   Thumb down 1

  21. a.k.a lebza says:

    Di khothani halina style neya hlupheka abanye ba hlala em ku kwini mra ba busey baya khotha any comment cal m @0733556450.

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 2

  22. katish~Malaya says:

    Mxm skhothane hey hey skhothane hey hey,,I’m the king of all khatazas wena maskantara vombe a u na mali so shut up nd stp realyg ku mali ya ma groceries uthi u zo khompitha nam ngi legend

    Thumb up1   Thumb down 0

  23. Anonymous says:

    u guys are nothing mina and ma crew each of us have 16 pair of carvelas wena.DTK CREW

    follow me on twitter snoopkhomotso
    invite me on mxit mom3061
    facebook denzel bafedile
    u can gve me ur whatsapp number

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  24. Yash0 B0rN AGAINS mEmbERz fr0m aLEx aT 17 nAmaNjE says:

    YASH0 phELa nIna N0nkE La nI yas bandELa nI banda njE ngE JUnE If U wnT us c0nTaCt: 0744995530 nd memberz cLIFF stumza n0si sg0b0 kk p0rter happy nd ThuLanI yaSh0

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  25. Yash0 B0rN AGAINS mEmbERz fr0m aLEx aT 17 nAmaNjE says:

    YASH0 phELa nIna N0nkE La nI yas bandELa nI banda njE ngE JUnE If U wnT us c0nTaCt: 0744995530 nd memberz cLIFF stumza n0si sg0b0 kk p0rter happy nd ThuLanI yaSh0 we r fr0m ALex

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  26. Masakhane Mpanca says:

    hey guyz i just want to tell you that dont kill your self only becauase your mother z not interested in this thing of izikhothane!! and i want to tell you guys all of those who are using their parent’s money to “ukukhotha” they must not come here and claim that m aSkhothane! please use your money that you have worke for it!!!

    Thumb up1   Thumb down 2

  27. Scott says:

    IZIKHOTHANE RULES: woza general dra mida la vovo ras ca tezz casa dia! Lol haterz i’l make u fil depressed nd cause u a restless hopless stress den u’l fil rockless i’l even turn u in2 ma mistress mxm u even tokin kak nge phne e cheap nokia xpress music

    Thumb up2   Thumb down 0

  28. XP wama v.r.c says:

    Aziiiiyeee “ngabo mawele “cm vst 1632″at conquer land”uzobona si rockr boma zakada

    Thumb up2   Thumb down 0

  29. Scott says:

    Watsapp 0722496869 mxit 0848687196 mxit id nafftally666

    Thumb up1   Thumb down 0

  30. fashion killa says:

    AE Nina nifile nonke ngoba abo mamenu ama pornstar n ubo babanu ama rastar n mina umamami WI rock star n ubabami WI all star wena uthini

    Thumb up1   Thumb down 0

  31. White man says:

    All that money could have been used to further studies or build a business. How far we have come…

    Thumb up1   Thumb down 0

  32. Creation+ //@@@#3odds/ says:

    Mara mina angringi 2 much mucabang ukuth ungangkhotha san faka ichallenge kuwhatsapp @ 0724805843, ntwana yasedubane nom ngab ukuph ngingathath iflight phel ngya afford gazi

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  33. Thokozane says:

    IZIKHOTHANE WE MAKE IT RAIN.

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  34. ya neh says:

    ay kabelo a.k.a torp san ubaselekile ama mexican guitar

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  35. yah torb san ngiyakubasela neh lol...mthimbane,nkosana,cooper,shode,siya via m.x.g. says:

    .

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  36. Queen ultranova says:

    Invite mi only if you are skhothane…on queen destroyer or whtsapp mi on 0720115987…..salute am cute masaka….

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  37. Love them.. says:

    Awe people, i’m 19 from tembisa and i’m a guy, I would luv 2 date a skhothani guy also.. Add me on mxit if u would like to try 084 540 11803… Only skhothani

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 1

  38. Anonymous says:

    Mtana kajimi ongajimanga ongenajokhi ndizakugibela by step by step njenge adidas ndikujasmpe nje nge puma uyowa eirakhi angaz xa ungena superman uzobuya ngan,,2 u fke zezikhothane ngiya afforda mina iiRM zikhona iiMuracchini zikhona gcwala kaw

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  39. tshepo stk says:

    Yasho STK are back ARBIER its my home shoes R3000 mxm yizo from lenasia

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  40. King of khotha says:

    Mina dingu Tshepalicious ndla delicious njola no Mellowlicious unama lipz a licious futhi u flavours dats y am famous

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  41. #SArBiTe®!!! says:

    $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$U smila nge malleen lapo!………Ma u so smila meel u te neeEeeeeeeNg$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ T_S_B top spending boys Via milano baba!Gold nd platinum smile!!!!!!%clipa’s

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  42. Troshkalito wama S.M.S says:

    Super Money spenders hstng a bday bash olievenhoutbousch ext 13 parkeng siyo hlangana khona

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  43. Troshkalito wama S.M.S says:

    22 march venue 13 parkeng time 4:30 for more info call m 0847401687 ke Bday bash

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  44. cwezzy biisshhes (C.B) says:

    …..HOSTING TIDI AND GILLY’S BIRTHDAY PARTY….. AND 1YEAR ANNIVERSARY…
    DATE : 29 MARCH 2014
    VENUE : CORRONATION PARK
    TIME : 13H00 TILL UW TAP OUT

    LEE-PHONIC= 2B2F7495
    TIDY_LAH_TEE= 25BED69D
    LAH-PHONIC= 2B6CD66B
    ITUBIISSHH= 23B1A897
    TSHOLZA= 261DB7CC
    CHUBBY_BEAR= 29939041
    ****KE MA CB VELE***
    #DONT BE SLOW KULE SHOW MA UNGANA GLOW IPUNCHLINE YAKO NGEKE IBE NE FLOW NGOBA UZOBANDA NJE NGE SNOW#
    ;)

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  45. monka pitsi (dee jay) says:

    entlek maskhothane keng hakana ppl tlogellang ho senya zaka so lag some of u ba skhotha ka nike ya r300,00 iyoh keng ho thata ho kena shopong o reke tlogella ho pota shopo kamorao mahn bt nna lantlatsa mare otlo skhotha ka twizza tsek mahn…….. Ke monka pitsi ka hi ka smithfield if ompatla u cn also cll mi ho 061 396 5817

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  46. general castro says:

    dats useless boys nd gals i hv asked my self uguthi y i ws doing dat bt nw i am a free man nd i am happy shayela phantsi booza grow guys plz maaan

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  47. carvela chaes money crou says:

    Was using develas to got craud

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  48. Madala khanya says:

    Ale umadala khanya wali LND loo bheka siyi zinja zelyf ungasi zondi ngoba unga affordy ai ngathi o dope u cnt even jump a rope go vote for cope coz u are hopeles punchles ai suka u useless… Aush here am avaiilable try if u are able lento e disable u are not stable u sleep under a table this is unbelievable u always carry a bible mara u steal ama cable

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  49. king says:

    mosh kadochka dis iz king mosha wama D.2.I e bal4 aka bhasofa, gcwala ngale prc

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  50. N.s.b=national skhothane boys says:

    If u wnt sum challenge cum gt us mare always knw hao no fita boss re besa 2 cum nyc. We dnt deal wth less spndrs bt we only spnd welele (0611682685)

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  51. olwethu aka style says:

    Am styliano entlek from p.e joe joe I stay in a green hood cz vele my life is good ngiphuza mellow wood that’s y I’m in da mood I’m not rude wena ukhula kwi poor childhood kwini there z no food the reason y ukwi bad mood … Invyt mixit urban440, BBM pin 2AFAFAF5 , watsaap 0735116951

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  52. Romantic wama Net-so says:

    Whatsapp me 0725347017
    Im a skothane but i dnt go around showing of the are other people who in-need of clothes & food … ubukhothane is a great culture bt the only annoying this abt it is waisting

    Thumb up1   Thumb down 1

  53. thAndo(doshkA)dieSil says:

    Eish cum on piPle hay its to0 much manje_yabonA minA angiyiso iskhothane but I gat the clothes_am jct hungry for education kuphela_i gat a big dream_so dnt think uzokhothA 4 the rest of ur life(we|ele)

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  54. Ernest says:

    Eish guys i tried to be skhothane boy,bt nw am broke coz of money an clothes,so plz help me guys.I wnt eatlest any kind of job dat i cn hav more mani again to make my styl again guys plz i nid ur help.0716150557.is my cell numbr,if u wish 2 help.

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  55. malusi @ ITL says:

    Ha nena abo skothane base jozi niyangi bandela mahn. Coz. E ITL rules. Bloem ..ama punchline ase jozi a common nje nge condom

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

  56. S.k wemkani producer says:

    Any sikhothane guy or gal ofuna uku edithela amafoto ndikhona makandi tasha lapha 0737174100 whatsapp lowo okanye abheke I picture zam ku facebook or invyt on Mxt Muna947

    Thumb up0   Thumb down 0

LEAVE A REPLY

Loading...