Get that Bum a Cravatby Montle Moorosi, images by Jamal Nxedlana / 01.03.2011
“So Montle what the fuck happens in Joburg hey?”
“Well, during the week I work in advertising and Google Basquiat pictures and Grace Jones lyrics all day. On the weekends I go to town, making sure my car doors are locked and my manbag is held tight, then I strut and sing and look at models parading around in their panties. I love fashion!”
This is the third time I’m writing about Johannesburg Fashion Week, and what has changed you may ask? Nothing, absolutely nothing. Maybe you should stop reading right now, or maybe you should realise that the hidden secret of Joburg, and life in general, is that everything is shitty and that it never changes that much. Like my second favourite Jew Albert Einstein once said, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” And only the truly insane can thrive in a city like Johannesburg. I once spent three weeks in a mental institution, and Johannesburg Fashion Week made me feel really “sane”. Being around real crazy people can do that to you.
Jozi’s inner city has taken on dizzying new heights. Within the past months I’ve read and seen countless articles in the lifestyle sections of various newspapers about Johannesburg’s urban revival and how it’s fast becoming a hub of fashion. Soon we’ll have the best dressed displaced Zimbabwaen refugees scattered all along Pritchard street in this the Fashion Kapitol of Afrika. Somebody get that fucking bum a cravat and some moccasins before he dies of kwashiorkor.
“Somebody do something about all these vagrants, were trying to eat some canapés over here!”
Call me a dick but I don’t like it that the Mandela Bridge, a place that is synonymous with WITS student muggings, has now become a fashion ramp. I used to be on the inside of the fashion industry, my ex-girlfriend was a semi-famous stylist living in one of those obscure new apartment blocks in Jeppestown. We drank with the stars, slept on a tiny cot bed in a room without curtains. I peed in bottles because the bathroom was in the neighbour’s apartment. The curtain-less room cooked the bottles of piss and woke us up at 5am every morning. Everywhere I went I was told “you dress really well”. This used to make me feel good. But now, when I think about it, I’d rather get some pussy than a fucking compliment. Fashion is an illusion which shouldn’t even be an illusion. It’s a gnat sitting on your forehead while you’re trying to talk to someone significant. After my girlfriend left me, the stars, fags and fag-hags stopped pretending like I was stylish, even my illegal alien Ugandan barber stopped speaking to me. That hurt the most. I immediately started getting rid of all the clothes I bought when I was with the stylist woman in exchange for a litter of Delgado, some construction hard hats and a new lawyer.
On the bridge, I smelled a dead cat from the outset. I won’t deny trying to enter the venue illegally by using someone else’s VIP tag, but the bouncer had it in for me when he saw me dressed in some black jeans, a white t-shirt with various cigarette burns, worn out black sneakers and a new era fitted hat. He immediataely stopped me and told me that I cant come in, in Zulu.
“Sorry, I don’t understand.” I begged. He carried on speaking in Zulu, I understood half of it, he was saying my tag was fake. He kept talking and soon I couldn’t understand a word he was saying.
“Sorry dude, I don’t speak savage, hey!” I said in my poshest private school accent. Every black person in Johannesburg thinks that every other black person understands Zulu. I eventually got tired of arguing with the gate-keeper and headed to the media booth.
“I spoke to Michelle, I need two passes, I’m here with Mahala.” The fashionable white man behind the counter gave me two passes and a handshake.
As I walked in, I flash the tickets in the Zulu bouncer’s face like a bum who had just won a R500 buck scratch card, throwing R5 coins at a stripper. He said something in Zulu.
Later on, Patrice Motsepe was in the courtyard of the Johannesburg Art gallery, standing up but slighty slouched, back resting on the wall, his feet covered in expensive leather tapping to the sound of the house beat. Wow, maybe I wasn’t the only one who was trying to be rock ‘n roll. Unfortunately for me, I have to go and pass out in a shitty little room afterwards. I went to smoke a cigarette next to him just to see what would happen, he didn’t surprise me. He walked away. The buzz word was David Tlale.
“Who is David Tlale?” I asked some girl.
“Are you serious?” She curled up her nose like she was sniffing a fart, then sipped her white wine and looked at me with her pretty but heavily made up face.
“Will you kiss me if I take off my hat?” She rolled her fake eyes and walked away.
My ex-girlfriend was there. She ignored me as I stared at her holding hands with some white man. I never saw his face or the rest of his body. But for the first time in a long time, I wasn’t bothered. Yes, a little part of me wanted to see a couple of folks drop dead of cancer or meningitis, but what’s done is done. I no longer pee in bottles in hot sunny inner city rooms, instead I stalk and prey on young Malay queens in internet chat rooms. I stay in the North where pretensions are limited to what kind of life insurance you have. Over here a garden boy is a garden boy, and a millionaire is a millionaire. Sol Kerzner doesn’t have parties in his maid’s shack out back. Those sif, disgusting, Ed Hardy wearing, Mini Cooper driving, mohawk having, True Religion jeans worshipping white folk who never leave the North actually keep it way more real than Uyanda Mbuli or David Tale could ever imagine.
Hipsters, stylists, designers, publicists, Zulus, Jews, Nigerians, Niggers, zimbos, rappers, actors, bartenders, maids, rapists, thieves, vandals, photographers, loiters, goiter lovers, they were all there. They can all afford louis Vutton but they cant afford cigarettes.
“Hey, my name is Alicia, I just wanted to tell you that that is such a nice jacket. Wow! Oh my god… do you have a cigarette I can bum?”
*All images © Jamal Nxedlana.