Sipho Gongxeka’s Skeem’ Saka: Composing Masculinity and Protest in Contemporary Soweto

Julie Bonzon

Abstract


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Skeem’ Saka, a series of photographs by Sipho Gongxeka, reflects upon contemporary young black masculinity in Soweto. Produced between 2013 and 2014 under the umbrella of the Market Photo Workshop in Johannesburg, these photographs of South African men posing for the camera challenge an essentialist reading of selfhood. Incorporating musical and cinematic references, Skeem’ Saka questions masculinity and its representations.

Simultaneously nourished by music, cinema and a contemporary feeling of nostalgia, the kwaito singer and the figure of the gangster appear as two paradoxical masculine tropes shaping the content of the series and its ‘compositional’ character. Their celebration in the series Skeem’ Saka opens up the question of formation of subjectivities, as well as the compound inflexions surrounding authenticity, homosociality and social mobility in Soweto.

South Africa’s socio-political climate and contemporary visual culture have primarily been apprehended in terms of divisions. This paper will offer an alternative reading of masculinity and rebellion by highlighting Skeem’ Saka’s multiple fields of representation. Considering the cultural and political landscape in which this photographic series operates, I will argue that the figuration of masculinity as represented in Skeem’ Saka is intrinsically embedded in a generational claim.


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