The Next Generation

Human Stories is an annual series of exhibitions in which NOW Gallery’s Head Curator, Kaia Charles, brings together trailblazing talent from around the world, with previous editions celebrating Nadine Ijewere, Stephen Tayo and Thandiwe Muriu. This year, it welcomes six South African image-makers who document the varied and vibrant youth culture of their home nation. The show comes at a moment when African creatives are receiving long overdue recognition at UK institutions like Tate Modern and V&A.

The “Ama2000s” is a generation of young South Africans defined by a sense of self-expression and political awareness. Despite facing issues such as increased youth unemployment, which was 60.7% in mid-2023, they are pushing the country’s global cultural scene. Fashion designer Anita Hlazo, for example, is a pioneer of Black alternative style, displaying ripped denim and bright corsets with her label Afrogrunge. Elsewhere, Johannesburg-based photographer Karabo Mooki introduces us to a skateboarding crew made-up of Black women. In Island Gals (2022), they pose confidently holding their boards.

Featured here is Johannesburg-based photographer Nikki Zakkas, whose process involves co-creating each image with her subjects. In Lisle, the face is the focus of the shot whilst the rest of the body and surroundings are obscured in deep blue. Zakkas often chooses meaningful environments, in this case a bending road, which include symbolic clues that hint at personalities and cultural backgrounds. This is a stand-out example of the striking beauty and ingenuity of the vanguard of South African art today.

NOW Gallery, A Young South Africa: Human Stories | Until 19 November

Words: Diana Bestwish Tetteh

Image Credits:

  1. Nikki Zakkas, Lisle. Image courtesy of the artist.
  2. Anita Hlazo. Image courtesy of the artist.
  3. Anita Hlazo. Image courtesy of the artist.
  4. Karabo Mooki, Thato Moet. From the series Island Gals (2022). Image courtesy of the artist.
  5. Karabo Mooki, Harmony. From the series Island Gals (2022). Image courtesy of the artist.