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The Portfolio: Manelis

When I linked up with Rogan Ward for this shoot (which accompanied an article in the Mail & Guardian), he didn’t really have a preconceived idea of what to do. 

A day before, I had fetched the poncho I was wearing in anticipation of the shoot. It was going to be part of my promo package for the album. 

The type of music and messaging I’m trying to get out there is not very brand or high-fashion orientated, so it makes it difficult for me to wear branded clothes. I try to focus on the type of thing I’m trying to say, instead of going for high gloss. 

I have been working on how to incorporate the clothing into being part of the image the music conjures. The poncho creates a silhouette effect: you make up your own mind about what it is you’re seeing. 

Rogan arrived in the afternoon; we went across the road from my house, where there is a football field with a pavilion. From the pavilion, you can see the landscape and the neighbourhoods below. You don’t see roofs that much: mostly hills and the sky.

The underlying theme in Aircuts, my album, a sonic gumbo with sci-fi tones, techno and electro-inspired flavours, steers the listener into a lush portal of Afrofuturism. I didn’t really say that to Rogan, because the idea of a sci-fi appeal translated into a Zulu music medium is a little difficult to explain. My thought process can be abstract and the absence of props can pose challenges. 

Underneath the poncho, I was wearing limited-edition Dickies trousers I got in Asia (perhaps an ode to taxi drivers), with an off-colour leopard-print sweater. The transport space can easily be viewed as primitive but it is tech too. The levels of connectivity it brings about can open all sorts of futuristic possibilities. 

My hope was to be able to communicate transcendence: that superhero-with-a-cape look, but in typical local work and leisure clothes. 

The commitment and discipline involved in the art of rapping are martial-arts-like and the poses subtly suggest that point of view. Perhaps iwisa would have articulated that a little better.

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