THE FASHION OF PANTSULA

THE FASHION OF PANTSULA

How the style of a movement has evolved to match the subculture’s ever-changing orientation

Pantsula, the South African subculture originating in the early days of apartheid, has always been the subject of fascination for cultural observers the world over. This has become more so over the last two decades since apartheid fell, and the country opened up to the world, becoming the source of inspiration for artists such as the likes of Beyonce, who referenced pantsula dance in the music video for one of her biggest hits “Girls (Who Runs the World)”.

While, of course, Beyonce does not turn up in the video dressed in what has become the traditionally accepted slacks of the pantsula – Converse All-Stars, bucket hats and often loose cut clothing – South Africans quickly recognised the foot shuffling dance she mimics, alongside two Mozambican dancers she found online, as being our own.
Back home, Pantsula has always found cultural relevance through various contemporary interpretations in dance, photography, and fashion. The Sartists collective, consisting of designer Wanda Lephoto, Kabelo Kungwane, and Xzavier Zulu, along with photographer Andile Buka have been known to reference the subculture in their work with the aim of highlighting its aesthetic expressions, as seen in their 2015 short film titled “It’s Not About Us”.

OURSEARCHOF by @wandalephoto 📷 @justicemukheli

A post shared by Kabelo Kungwane® (@thesartists) on

Said Kungwane, in an interview at the time: “Pantsula is an expression of cultural roots for many South Africans – from fashion, to music and dance. We wanted to celebrate it as a strong story of our country’s style heritage. We took that pantsula aesthetic and added them to deconstructed Adidas garments to pay tribute to our culture.”

A look at Wanda Lephoto latter collections, including the designer’s AW 17 fashion collection Sunday Best, although inspired more by the Zion Christian Church, as per the designer’s statement, still suggests further referencing of the dapper inclinations of early pantsula, far less casual than what we’ve come to expect, as seen in photographer Chris Saunders’s work where he shot dance crews including Real Actions Pantsula from Orange Farm, and others, for his Pantsula 4 LYF exhibition at UCLA’s Fowler Museum early last year.

There, we see what contemporary pantsula has become: gone are the sharp suits, polished shoes, fedoras, and Marabi music of the Sophiatown era, and bubblegum music of the late 70s and 80s. The dancers now rock Dickies brand work pants and Converse All-Stars, or other colourful garb in similar cuts, and the omnipresent bucket hat, dancing to increasingly diverse genres like house, kwaito and, today, even Gqom.

Mx Blouse / RedBull

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Nigerians in South Africa
Nigerians in South Africa 1683 posts

We are about democracy, human rights, public opinion, political behavior, civil rights and policy aimed at improving the human condition, with a focus on African countries.

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