Generation Me: An Exploration of SA Youth Culture.
A snapshot of South Africa’s new youth underground from Windeck Productions
For decades, culture has birthed diverse youth that suckle and nurture from the mother of influence. Influence feeds and guides them until they are full of ideas and notions of who they are and where they could belong. Eventually they drift off and launch into a continuous pace of exploration and discovery, grasping and swallowing everything that sweetens their state of mind.
The General Generation: Y and Z
Most of us reading this are classed alphabetically by market researchers who aim to dissect groups of people and define them.
Meet Generation Y, Echo Boomers or Millennials
Generation Y members are much more racially and ethnically diverse and are segmented as an audience through the rapid expansion in cable TV, satellite radio, the Internet, e-zines, etc.
Meet Generation Z, iGen or Post-Millennials
Generation Z kids will grow up within a highly sophisticated media and computer environment and be more Internet savvy.
Youth are often defined as males and females between the ages of 16–24. It is in this time that they are at their most observant, ready to explore and dissect everything they were ever told or the things they have seen. They emerge supple; ready to be moulded by multicultural influencers like friends, trends, dress codes, public displays of self-identity, consumption of cultural phenomena, history and heroes, and of course, the media being the most persuasive of them all.
I call them that because while they fit inside the mould of culture created by more recent generations, they aren’t confined to it. They move in and out freely because they have an innate need to understand who they are in today’s modern world. They want to redefine what culture, fashion, art and South Africa means to them today. From textures and wearables to food and sound, these artists craft in a way that stands out amongst the saturated creative atmosphere.
They ask questions like, “Who am I to someone else?”, “Who am I to me?”, “Why am I here?”, and “What do I do while I’m here?”
In recent years, being an influencer of trends has become more appreciated than being a follower. While brands and celebrities are still fed into popular culture, the youth pride themselves on being popular by either creating or following trends. With social media and the access to and need for it growing in South Arica, it opens up to different cultures and practices from all over the world which we can tap into every minute of the day.
South Africa is so rich and full of history and culture that we have been mulling it over for the past 20 years.
Some view the new cultural wave as misguided, superficial, and have even gone as far as to call it hopeless. Do I agree? Largely, no. But I am aware of the desperation the youth have to be famous and validated, even if it’s just on an Instagram account.
In my exploration of the youth that are emerging today, many are honing their place in modern society by dabbling in global trends fused with their rekindled love for local culture. It comes together, almost seamlessly, to create an idiosyncratic nature to play in.
Some of the most recognised artists have mastered the art of redefining themselves and have become influencers and trend setters, locally and importantly globally.
Some of these people you may know, others you should. These are just a few of my personal favourites:
I See a Different You,
a trio collective of brothers from Soweto
photographer and artist
graffiti and tattoo artist
rapper Nicci St Bruce
Huge brands and global entities have taken notice of creators like these and have helped establish their art through collaborations and exhibitions. The past two years has seen a large promotion of art and music and a coming together in the marketing space to explore and shed light on South African youth and the culture.
It is important to hone our identities and find the unique spectrums in which we can tell our stories. Tomorrow is open and has a hunger for self-expression with youth taking the lead on what that truly is. Without it, we are an ocean of ripples instead of waves of change.
Annie Raman is a Creative Director at The Fort.
Reference and image credits: Between 10&5, Anthony Bila (The Expressionist), DIRTY PARAFFIN in collaboration with CUSSMONTHLY