At times it’s hard to tell where in the world you are when standing in a fast-food restaurant or shopping mall that looks identical in every city you go.
Sure, homogeneity isn’t a new phenomenon and many of us have grown accustomed to it. But if you look hard – sometimes it’s so blatant and obvious – you’ll find traces of a city’s individuality on street corners, plates of food or on the garments that its people wear. And those elements make cities or towns unique.
In the case of South Africa it’s in our dusty townships and ghost-like dorps; it’s the hairstyles we wear and the shopping bags or water buckets some women carry on their heads. Other times parts of South Africa are indistinguishable from neighbourhoods in America’s Midwest or its people could be mistaken for the brown faces seen on the streets of Brussels, and that’s okay.
Inspired by OkayAfrica’s list of Instagrammers “chronicling life throughout the black diaspora”, we list some of our favourite IGers documenting life in South Africa … telling the story of Mzansi on the photography-focused social network. From kids skateboarding in Cape Town to fashionistas in Jo’burg’s Soweto, here’s our list of top IGers in alphabetical order.
1. Adam Bentel
The Johannesburg-based cinematographer’s single-source lit photographs are moody, sometimes awkward, but mainly intimate.
2. Anatha Black Artist
Black-and-white portraits and colour nudes make Thato Koketso Mohuba’s Instagram account bold and sexy.
This Johannesburg Instagrammer’s frames are simple and his grades are subtle. Yet there’s something commanding about Lindani Ndlovu’s whimsical shots of where he finds himself in and around the city.
4. Bee Diamondhead
Bee Diamond’s photographs of her Cape Town life are nothing but raw self-indulgence. Fur coats, fashion shots and phly selfies make this creative consultant and fashion stylist’s IG important.
5. Cool Cool Beverage
“Street-style photographers” capture more than just style. They highlight culture and moments, and tell a story of a people and a place. And that’s exactly what Johannesburg’s Chisanga Mubanga’s cool, arresting photographs do.
6. Eugene Alberts
From Cape Town’s rainy, graffiti-ridden streets to dusty Mpumalanga townships, this “Khoisan nature lover” offers glimpses into many parts of the country.
A third of South Africa’s photographic collective I See a Different You from Soweto, and one half of the Mukheli twin set, Fhatuwani’s clean, feel-good images transport IG users to his remote destinations.
Cape Town-based artist Greer Valley’s Instagram account reads like an art portfolio. It’s an online exhibition; and sometimes it’’s strange but it’s always beautiful. Her image “all Alone in the University cinema, waiting for the film to start” epitomises this.
9. Kabelo Kungwane
This Instagram account is a perfect blend of fashion and Johannesburg’s urban life. Kabelo Kungwane, who – according to blog Trends Beyond Threads is a “Johannesburg-based journalism student and stylist” – brilliantly captures Alexandra Township’s bustling streets or quiet spaces alongside his fashionable friends in vintage or designer outfits. Definitely one of my favourite IG accounts.
10. Lucy Cant Dance
… but she sure can take photographs. Fashion editor for Sunday Times Fashion Weekly Roxanne Robinson’s Instagram account is fresh and fun, and kind of a foodie-fashionista dream too. With soft lighting and colourful, pop-inspired images, this account is a great way to escape the mundane.
Photographic artist Ross Garrett creates images to move people. Similar to his work in magazine Dazed and Confused or shoots for Die Antwoord, Garrett’s IG account is just as striking.
Yes, she’s my colleague, or rather one of my bosses, but I give props where props are due. And in the case of the Mail & Guardian‘s arts, culture and entertainment editor, they are long overdue. From images of her daughters to fashion weeks and her trips around the country, Zodwa Kumalo-Valentine’s IG timeline is a photo-lover’s dream.
M&G arts, culture editor Zodwa’s top seven IGers in SA
Singer Nonku Phiri’s IG feed is a gorgeous travelogue. This is a South African artist who’s clearly living her best life.
• The Expressionist
Professional photographers are usually not the best Instagrammers … except for Johannesburg-based Anthony Bila. Through his fresh images, all we see is the beauty of South Africa.
• Scott The Girl
There’s no shame in Zama Mthethwa’s selfie game.
• Suburban Zulu
Rhodes student Lelo Macheke’s images are full of life, love and energy.
• Kelly N Fung
A wicked sense of humor and crisp clear snaps make you wish you lived in Marie Claire SA’s Kelly Fung’s IG feed.
• Trevor Stuurman
Fashion photographer and blogger Trevor Stuurman’s black and white snapshots give us a glimpse into the country’s stylish crowd.
• Chu Suwannapha
Fashion director Chu Suwannapha doesn’t just take pics of what he observes; he places himself in every. single. shot or regrams images of himself others have taken of him. I love the self-love, and the clashing prints.