A Pop of South African Flavour

Timothyna Duncan

Appreciation of Art is not a right reserved for hipsters. It is the norm.

I had visited the southern tip of Africa, expecting to focus on politics, race, social constructs and other buzzwords I used in the essays I wrote in college.  But as I toured several parts of the country including the laid back Europe-esque parts of Cape Town as well as the buzzing, edgy parts of Johannesburg, I could not help but be amazed by the vibrance and soul that run through the cities.

Photo Credit: Jeanne Kuang

I joined a blind man, who had a wide smile and an infectious laugh, singing “Amazing Grace” by the street.

Johannesburg: Western, but with a pop of South African Flavour

Fashion and Art were comfortable residents in Johannesburg. I noticed stylish and artful people and neighbourhoods--rich and poor--everywhere I went. Many homes and neighbourhoods reminded me of  Brooklyn in New York City. They were artfully painted with bright colours and graffiti. Pieces of art could be found in government buildings or in a poor man’s shack.

Photo Credit: Anthony Settipani

These are artefacts I found while touring South Africa’s Constitutional Court


I am from Ghana and I’ve thought of myself as a connoisseur of African interests and fashion styles. South Africans threw me off. The Jo’burg and Cape Town residents I saw infused Western and African designs to create a cocktail of fashion styles I am still yet to wrap my head around. Perhaps what fascinated me was, appreciation of art and fashion was not a right reserved for the hipsters. It was the norm.

I saw a mother walking her children down the mall matching unlikely, Ankara clothes, and I would see the bus driver wearing colourful striped socks and a hat, adorned with colourful  patterns.

Several definitions of Beautiful

Many women in South Africa wore their hair short, and natural or had braids in all shapes and sizes delicately decorating their scalps.

The women in Johannesburg seemed unrestricted by rigid beauty standards. There were different shapes and shades of women in fashion shows and on the billboards: curvy, white,dark skin, thin, light skin....

Photo Credit: Fredrik Lerneryd 

Lipsticks were less of an accessory, and more of a necessity for women in South Africa. They were like house keys in a purse. Every woman had them. Even in the closely-knit “kombies” (informal buses) women touched up on their lipsticks, and skipped the mascaras, foundations, etc.

Photo Credit: Moeketsi Moticoein

The men’s fashion was bold yet simple. Top-buttoned button-downs were very popular among the men.  Several South African men wore patterned shirts and often completed this look with hats. Their fashion style infused Ankara designs and was a masculine chic.

Courtesy of: Modise Sekgothe

Courtesy of: Modise Sekgothe

In a society that was so unequal financially and so different racially, the appreciation of art and fashion was the denominator that seemed to bind the people of South Africa.