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Lives of Deckadence

Lives of Deckadence

by Samora Chapman / 22.06.2011

It’s Friday night. An orange moon rises over Durban city, as I free-wheel along Umgeni Road with my head out the window looking for gallery 415. It wasn’t hard to spot, as a two story projected image flitted on the side of a building lighting up the industrial glum that borders the central train yard and the inner city… a 15 foot skater kick-flipping in slow motion… it’s the aptly named “Deckadence” exhibition opening and the ‘it’ kids are flocking. The projection works its magic drawing hundreds to the place. Glory to the anti-heroes!

Inside, skate shoes hang from the ceiling cos we cool like that and a speaker emits the iconic sound of a skater rolling for the authentic ambiance. The clickety-clack of the olly and the ‘sword out the sheeth’ schwing as the axle kisses steel. Someone let a wayward graffiti kid get loose with fat-cap tags…but hey it’s all art.
The walls are graced with a selection of pics from SA’s top skate photographers. Gavin Morgan, Tyrone Bradley, Wayne Reiche to name a few. Images from the lives of the dirty yet decadent… cigarettes for breakfast, roaming the streets on a mission with marmalade grazes and a hunger to find that next epic spot. Insert pics.




In the next room is a collection of skate decks painted by the likes of Skullboy, Senyol, Tokyo-Go-Go, Kronk and other Verb designers. A middle-aged man with purple-wine teeth broke the fun by shouting “does anyone want to buy some art” in a threatening, boisterous sort of way. This was followed by silence. “If you do, then speak to this lady of here,” he continued pointing at a coy lady in a black dress. People don’t have money for art man, there’s a recession, but the bar is so crowded I can’t get a drink.


Anyway, time was ticking and I got sucked into an in-depth, one-sided conversation about these new drugs kids are taking now day. Jeez, I’m 26 but sometimes I feel like an old man. My young friend was enlightening me on all these great new developments and psychedelic dimensions. He was wearing a satin red bomber jacket with original weed leaf symbolisms and loosely referencing The Teachings of Don Juan, peyote, ephedrine and some danger danger new shit called… fuck I dunno but it it’s the shit dreams are made of. I mean your brain makes it when you dream and now it’s being packaged and sold to kids like candy. You have several lifetimes worth of dreams in half an hour. “I dunno if I’m ready for that yet man,” said the young astronaut. “I’m just loosening up my mind with acid and shrooms to get it onto that spectrum.” Jesus. I disappear off the scene for three months and now there’s ‘dream drugs’. I told him to go check out those vittokes that beg on the corner of Umgeni and Argyle. They’ve got the thousand yard stare and they never stop dreaming.

Funny how skaters get on the tip to get more trashed than anybody else. I guess it’s the Deckadence. Skaters and rockstars. It’s a culture of pain.




*All images © Samora Chapman.

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  1. Bob says:

    Ugh. Really? Another article talking about drugs rather than the subject. Sigh. What was your favourite photo? Favourite print? Dig any of the deck designs? Are you not stoked that skating has found it’s way into a Durban gallery? No, you’d rather be “old” and jaded. I’m 24, and if being 26 means going to a sick exhibition and bitching about the kids taking drugs, then I’m killing myself next year. And yes, it is a culture of pain, but it’s a culture of getting back up and trying again no matter how much it hurts.

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  2. luke says:

    well fuck, now i feel old. here i always thought it was the punks who wanted to prove their ‘punkness’ by getting fucked up. skaters are doing that too? goddamn the man. goddamn.

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  3. Getting.Over.Mahala says:

    I agree with Bob.

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  4. mick. says:

    agree with Bob…fully!
    Art exhibition write up and 2 lines on the art and the rest on kids who irritate you and drugs…..

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  5. mahalakak says:

    agree with first comment. When will mahala writers start writing necessary things

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  6. fathima says:

    Why so cynical, dude? Totally lost the plot. How ’bout some positivity about the fact that it’s great that there’ve been so many rad exhibitions in Durban lately and how there’s so much talent in our little city? Take off your doom-shades, guy.

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  7. popskiet says:

    pic # 2 looks awesome.

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  8. dudie says:

    maybe the writer should have elaborated on why he feels like this – i get the melancholy, but the article is a little short. its the internet after all, write as much as you can, dont be lazy.

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  9. Billy says:

    I enjoyed the doom tinted tone man, but agree with bob. I wanted to hear more about the art, which looks pretty sick btw.

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  10. Shan says:

    Nicely written! Just would have liked to hear more about the art.

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  11. Joegs says:

    Dammit Andy I love you but that last line ‘its a culture of pain’ is not mine!

    Point taken, more of an art crit would have done the article a whole lot of good.

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  12. Lewis says:

    Hey I’m a skater from Toronto,I was in Durban for 2 weeks in April, I saw nobody skateboarding downtown, in fact there were no white kids downtown. The only skaters I saw were at the park at the beachfront. I also have to say these companies from SA, Verb, and Familia while kind of sick, don’t really comment on or reflect their own culture. They seem just like any other generic North American companies.

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  13. Sven says:

    hey lewis – I think if you go through familia’s archive of art, ads, videos alot of south african culture is relected. what you see at one exact point in time is not a reflection of what they have been doing for a long time.

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  14. The Noon of Night says:

    Here is a question – What is South African culture?

    Is it malls and gated communities?
    Is it shanty towns?
    Is it game parks?

    South Africa is all of these and yet none of these at the same time. The individual experience is what defines your reality. I think it’s a cliche to try and align a board company around what South African culture ‘should be’. The different board companies all have their own take and at different times the graphics reflect a range of themes and issues, both local and global. Global issues can be locally relevant and vice versa.

    I don’t think one should confine themselves to one box with one label. Skateboarding in SA is undertaken 90% of the time in mall skateparks which makes the culture seriously sterile. It is good to have exhibitions like this in order to promote the wider culture. It may be similar to what happens overseas but individuals need a platform to build off of in order to have the confidence to create their own unique style.

    Durban city skateboarding is ruled by skateparks predominately, in Johannesburg and Cape Town there is more of an emphasis on hitting the streets. The spots are really rough and difficult and the bust factor is really high because of cheap private security guards and Police in Cape Town for example, are relentless. In downtown JHB on any weekend you can find a ton of skateboarders cruising the streets.

    In the end, if people are making art, taking photos and skateboarding it will always be better than trying to screw over the next person like most people are consumed with doing today. Public space is virtually non-existent and society here is still rather conservative. You have to struggle to make the best of what you have.

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  15. FUCKMAHALA says:

    what a fucking pointless article. you fucking kunt. no one cares about your conversation, talk about the work!

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  16. Lewis says:

    I agree that it could be a cliche to align a board company around what South African culture ‘should be’. It depends on how the ideas are executed. There is great art all over the country from food packaging to haircut paintings, music etc. that could be used as a basis for interesting graphics. I think skateboard decks provide a unique way to comment on issues, they don’t always have to, and it doesn’t have to be obvious either. Think of Blinds’ classic fucked up kids graphics, on the surface they are just funny, but if you choose to read into them they also say something about American culture. Many old World graphics were like that. Something like this could be done with kids on tik. Zoo York, while generic these days, in the 90’s was amazing because it represented urban life specific to its geographic location in a way no other company could through its graphic design and local slang.

    I just think in country with such rich a visual iconography and melding of different peoples and ideas, it is a shame for these companies to put the blinders on and, as I see it, ignore the environment they are part of.

    Too bad about the police, though it seemed like you could do whatever you wanted when I was there. Lots of spots too, the ones in Cape Town didn’t seem as rough. I was always thinking, ” Man, if I was at home this ledge would be waxed up!”

    I gotta get back there, I miss it!

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  17. Trevor says:

    Whoever wrote this is completely disconnected from the event and the culture they’re attempting to cover. The work on show was all good and it was an excellent event. Why not give credit to some of the artists or to the organizers? Why talk about about some boring, second hand drug conversation? Why the sweeping generalizations? I’ll hazard a guess. Lack of imagination, alienation and an inability to recognize something good when it stares you in the face. Mahala do you not have an editor to sort the wheat from the chaff? Sheesh.

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