25 Aug NOT x Chris Saunders | Macdonald Mfolo
More than anything, the Not x Chris Saunders cross-continent/cross-cultural collaboration has been an exciting journey, even for us onlookers only reporting the details of the creative process. The project began in New York when fashion designer Jenny Lai became fascinated with South African photographer Chris Saunders‘ fashion portraits of The Smarteez. Jenny travelled to South Africa to meet and work with other young artists in the name of fashion and the resulting collaborations were documented by Chris.
Macdonald Mfolo (Mac D), a costume designer and puppet maker from Orange Farm, and Jenny’s collaboration for Not x Chris Saunders is a combination of a paper mache’d puppet, and Jenny’s original designs with added colour blocking Pantsula flair. Manthe Ribane danced in the creation photographed by Chris. The oversized outfit Manthe dances in is inspired by the sub-cultural Pantsula movement emerging from townships around Johannesburg. “Yes, everything that I create I make sure that it’s rooted in our local context, so in a South African form, or even in an Orange Farm township form,” said Mac D.
Having worked mostly from Chris’s studio, the final images were taken at a squatter camp not far from Mac D’s house on an old foundation of a house where Pantsula dancers are said to practice because of the flat surface. Chris experimented with the surroundings and his subject Manthe, the half human, half puppet for the shoot.
On the shot of Manthe holding the mask, Chris says, “I decided to show a shot of Manthe holding the mask to amplify the idea of pride in natural African beauty…She has no make-up or Photoshop in this shot. The shot shows pride in her African identity and the place she is from.”
The documentation process of the Not x Chris Saunders collaboration, the recreations of Jenny’s designs and the choreographed performance will be part of an exhibition at Wallplay in New York next month.
Follow the project here on 10and5 or over at notxcs.tumblr.com.