A frequent sight on Soweto, South Africa, streets recently is crowds of 12-to-15-year-old boys known as "izikhotane" ("boasters") who hang out in their designer jeans, "shimmering silk shirts, bright pink and blue shoes, and white-straw, narrow-brimmed fedoras," according to a February BBC News dispatch. Flashing wads of cash begged from beleaguered parents, hundreds may amass, playing loud music and sometimes even trashing their fancy clothes as if to feign an indifference to wealth. Since many izikhotanes' families are working-class survivors of apartheid, they are mostly ashamed of their kids' behavior. "This isn't what we struggled for," lamented one parent. But, protested a peer-pressured boaster, "(Y)ou must dress like this, even if you live in a shack." [BBC News, 2-1-2013]
...They bill themselves as street performers, but their art consists of little more than branded clothing and face-offs with rival crews who compete over who has more money. The trend called “ukukhothana”, loosely translated as dissing, is a money-conscious South African version of the USA’s diss battles, but where the American jokes would begin with: “Yo mama is so…” these kids start theirs with: “I’m so rich I can…” And then proceed to demonstrate how much money they have by engaging in wasteful behavior. Starting in the smaller black communities of Gauteng’s East Rand, the phenomenon quickly filtered into Soweto. In a recent incident, a boy from Pimville bought a bucket of KFC chicken, threw it on the floor and then stomped on the chicken pieces, using his R2000 pair of loafers to grind the white meat into the ground before setting the food alight – and then the shoes.Are these south african youths riffing on consumerism, asserting their liberation from the material, exposing a personal conundrum, heavily conflicted, working it all out, what the hell gives? Buy the coolest shit and then destroy it. Sounds like a big goof to me. Making fun of us perhaps?
In the 1950s, a similar trend arose amongst migrant workers and mine labourers who were subject to the cramped and confined conditions of hostel living. Men, separated from their families and forced into a perfunctory sense of congeniality, would hold contests in which they would trade their grimy overalls for the finest suits and flashy two-toned brogues. Called oSwenka, the winner would receive a goat or blankets and maybe some extra money to send home to their families in the Bantustans. For the izikhothane, there is no tangible prize; but the admiring glances from girls in the crowd seems to be sufficient reward.
Word spreads quickly. In a few minutes, a group of over sixty school children have gathered in the park awaiting the next izikhothane battle. The boys arrive in a loud, colourful fashion. Luminescent Nike Dry-fit T-shirts, multi-coloured tracksuits, ostentatiously branded shoes and mismatched soccer boots, their bright attire is in stark contrast to the environment. ...“Everyone knows The Exclusive Italian Konka’s are the best,” says 16 year old Lesego. “It’s all about bragging, being better than everyone else. You have to show that you are the number one cheese boys.” Claiming the top spot however, reaches some ridiculous extremes.
Collateral damage that may have arisen when the poor and dispossessed watch their international peers on television driving nice cars and living the good life. People with nothing hungrily staring at those that don't appreciate having nearly everything. Maybe they are merely crudely imitating the entitled.
Hey, where's my slice?