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Art, Culture, Social

Ghetto Fabulous

by Samora Chapman / 14.05.2014

What If This City rocked the bells. It blew cats’ minds like sex on the beach. Seriously. This was one of the dopest events to happen in Durban in the last decade. And that’s not just coming from me. I am nothing but a vessel – carrying the messages I gathered from the hundreds of smiling faces I encountered this past Friday night.

What If This City is a multifaceted art project that aims to renew the sense of artistic community in Durban town by providing a free platform for artists to exhibit, collaborate, generate dialogue and otherwise grow the scene. In doing so, the initiative is fighting against the mass exodus of brilliant local artists, by giving them a good reason to stay.

The first art/dance/music event was held at the Durban University of Technology Art Gallery on the weekend. The free entrance meant it was packed, to the rafters: a ghetto fabulous jol like never before.


The crumbly, slightly decrepit building was all up in lights. Every corner of the building was packed with artists and public alike scribbling away on any available surface. A nude man lay sprawled in one corner as kids strolled by, assumed the position at an easel and started channeling Picasso. Some cats were painting on the walls, some were painting on makeshift boards, some art hung on the walls, some art lay on the floor. It was a beautiful mess.

I moseyed down a stairway and caught the furtive stare of Les Demoiselle d’Avignon – except it was a man, with a huge package in a mini skirt, pouting, inviting. In the lobby, a girl was getting a live tattoo – all bloody and drippy – the subtle smell of burning skin wafting. I escaped the fleshy, heady concoction for a sip of fresh air.


Outside, Mook Lion and his posse (Kev 7 and Tyrone) blasted a weird and wonderful hybrid van Gogh graf/mad-art wall featuring Queen Victoria and a monkey.

mook lion

Beyond them, some eerie interpretive dance (compliments of The Flatfoot Dance Company) started busting out on a stage decorated with pools of spooky blue light. I’ve never been a fan of interpretive dance but yo, that shit was emotional.


Then the b-boys (the mighty Floor Assassins, of course) usurped that stage and the balcony filled with people and we were all transported to the Bronx, circa ’79. Break-beats filled the air, windmills and fancy footwork cracked the stage and the crowd went buck wild.


As the last skull-crunching head-spin came to an end, musos picked up their instruments on the opposite stage. The crowd surged across the courtyard to be serenaded by the beautifully folky jams of Iris And The Tokoloshe, who I’m totally digging right now.


Beard then jammed a set with Wren, followed by Nje who belted out their hip hop/soul/rock fusion. Their Fugees cover got the crowd bopping and prepared us for the strange ingenious guitar hero who was all hair and no face. Ewok and big Raheem then killed it on a couple tracks with The Nutscratchers who turned the whole jam into a sweaty, sexy raga love-pit. I ditched the camera and went dancin’.


Shout out to organisers (who wished to remain anonymous in this here piece) for making it happen. Lets do it again.

creamy eCreamy E and Raheem, the Godfathers.

nuttyThe Nutscratchers going nutty.

desmoiselleLes Demoiselle.

guitar manIngenious guitar hero with wild ‘fro.

drawShaping up?

njePortia from Nje gets loose.


scribble jamScribble jam.

tigerCrouching tiger, hidden lion.

050914_3260Bob Dylan and Young popped in for a jam. Jokes… Wren and Beard resurrecting the greats!

hip starsHip-stars muse. “Ya it was okay I guess. For Durban!”

wildB-boys win.

Images © Samora Chapman

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