The Culture Crush

Alternative Kidz

Photographer Musa N. Nxumalo explores issues of youth culture and identity in his native South Africa through documentation of the world he inhabits. We pulled together this portfolio of Musa’s work from the townships of Johannesburg, which he calls Anthology of Youth.

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 "Usually I shoot at night and I do a lot of club hopping so that I can find whatever it is that I am looking for. I photograph on this point and shoot film camera, and the reason for that is shooting on a point and shoot, which is analog, people don’t take you that seriously. Every time I try to come with a big digital camera like a 7D, they start getting…not intimidated, but they notice you a lot, and then you get the irritating stuff where people pose. So I find that when I work with the point and shoot they don’t care about me and they continue doing what they do."

"Usually I shoot at night and I do a lot of club hopping so that I can find whatever it is that I am looking for. I photograph on this point and shoot film camera, and the reason for that is shooting on a point and shoot, which is analog, people don’t take you that seriously. Every time I try to come with a big digital camera like a 7D, they start getting…not intimidated, but they notice you a lot, and then you get the irritating stuff where people pose. So I find that when I work with the point and shoot they don’t care about me and they continue doing what they do."

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 "With my work, patience, or waiting, for me is very important. I could get these guys anyway, I could visit them in their homes when they are dressed up and preparing to go out, and then we could make photographs, and put them on Instagram, and then get likes. But I'm waiting, and then understanding that what I am looking for is when they are not aware of their Louis Vuittons or whatever. I want to get them at that moment when they have lost themselves. When they are back and they are human again."

"With my work, patience, or waiting, for me is very important. I could get these guys anyway, I could visit them in their homes when they are dressed up and preparing to go out, and then we could make photographs, and put them on Instagram, and then get likes. But I'm waiting, and then understanding that what I am looking for is when they are not aware of their Louis Vuittons or whatever. I want to get them at that moment when they have lost themselves. When they are back and they are human again."

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 "The culture that is dominant in the townships in Johannesburg, people want to flex a lot, especially the black middle class that drive expensive German cars. I feel like they are always big shots, with Mercedes and BMW’s, and then when they go out to a club, they go and sit in VIP sections with bottles of champagne and pretty girls.  A lot of young people from the townships who are not exposed to the alternatives, they aspire to it! It’s what’s on TV, it’s what they see in magazines. You never see an alternative, where people are people, or kids are kids, and they go to a club solely for the purpose of dancing, or meeting a girl, without having to show how much money you have in your bank account, or whatever it is that you’re driving. And so I think, for me, with the way I photograph and the people I photograph, it’s like wanting to show that alternative."

"The culture that is dominant in the townships in Johannesburg, people want to flex a lot, especially the black middle class that drive expensive German cars. I feel like they are always big shots, with Mercedes and BMW’s, and then when they go out to a club, they go and sit in VIP sections with bottles of champagne and pretty girls.

A lot of young people from the townships who are not exposed to the alternatives, they aspire to it! It’s what’s on TV, it’s what they see in magazines. You never see an alternative, where people are people, or kids are kids, and they go to a club solely for the purpose of dancing, or meeting a girl, without having to show how much money you have in your bank account, or whatever it is that you’re driving. And so I think, for me, with the way I photograph and the people I photograph, it’s like wanting to show that alternative."

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 "If you look at my images, I hardly photograph people flashing jewelry. It is just people dancing and being in a way that shows an alternative image to what you will usually see in the news about the townships. It is always about being down and out, and the townships being devastated, and young people being unemployed.  When the government is campaigning, they always say that the people in the townships are struggling and we have to save them. So in a way, the townships are always on the negative side of things, and they always have to be down and out, and they always have to be saved. We are governed by a black government and they still use the same tactics that the white supremacy used." 

"If you look at my images, I hardly photograph people flashing jewelry. It is just people dancing and being in a way that shows an alternative image to what you will usually see in the news about the townships. It is always about being down and out, and the townships being devastated, and young people being unemployed.

When the government is campaigning, they always say that the people in the townships are struggling and we have to save them. So in a way, the townships are always on the negative side of things, and they always have to be down and out, and they always have to be saved. We are governed by a black government and they still use the same tactics that the white supremacy used." 

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 "And so it is like when you are in the township everybody wants to save you. The stereotype is that you want to be saved. I HATE THAT. Even when I was still in school, not having an idea of what was happening in the world politically, I hated when someone wanted to save me or help me. I was like, 'Fuck it. Let me just be here and then I will find a way and I will get out.'   That is the attitude that I see in my images when I look at them. It is this idea of not wanting to show young, black youth as down and out. It’s like, 'Fuck it, I can do it, just give me a bit of time. Or let me be in this process where I am down and out, and then I am going to find myself, and from there I will do what I am supposed to do."

"And so it is like when you are in the township everybody wants to save you. The stereotype is that you want to be saved. I HATE THAT. Even when I was still in school, not having an idea of what was happening in the world politically, I hated when someone wanted to save me or help me. I was like, 'Fuck it. Let me just be here and then I will find a way and I will get out.' 

That is the attitude that I see in my images when I look at them. It is this idea of not wanting to show young, black youth as down and out. It’s like, 'Fuck it, I can do it, just give me a bit of time. Or let me be in this process where I am down and out, and then I am going to find myself, and from there I will do what I am supposed to do."

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 "The fact is that our people think success is, like, living in mansions. And the media, who they portray as the people who are important, are the people who are flexing and have money. It’s not creative. So I am tying to create an alternative to that.”

"The fact is that our people think success is, like, living in mansions. And the media, who they portray as the people who are important, are the people who are flexing and have money. It’s not creative. So I am tying to create an alternative to that.”

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