Pantsula 4 LYF: Popular Dance and Fashion in Johannesburg will feature a series of photographs and videos taken by South African photographer Chris Saunders that examine the township culture of pantsula. Known predominantly as a youth movement, pantsula is characterized by crews of men and women who perform energetic, acrobatic, virtuosic dances. These performers dress in a distinctive style that favors American-made brands such as Converse All-Star shoes and Dickies brand work pants. This preference for American-style clothing harkens back to the 1950s, when the first pantsulas looked to American jazz records for inspiration in their dress. At that time, pantsulas were recognizable by their sharp suits, polished shoes, and fedoras. As the first American exhibition on the subject, Pantsula 4 LYF will introduce this distinctive South African hip-hop style through an exploration of the movement’s beginnings in 1950s Sophiatown, the nuances of the fashions worn, and a detailed look at the dances themselves. A series of Muybridge-like contact sheets will break down the components of the dances, allowing for a closer look at the movements themselves and a deeper discussion of the stories the dances tell.
Organized by Erica P. Jones, Assistant Curator of African Arts, Fowler Museum at UCLA