Featured: The Sartists | Responding to and Creating Culture

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The Sartists may have been quiet for the past few months, but they’ve certainly got a lot going on under the radar – a particularly exciting project that has just bubbled up is their newly unveiled collaboration with adidas Originals for the South African launch of the Supershell Superstar. This collab is a rather poignant one for the trio, who say, “In hindsight this has been years in the making, as many of our personal projects have led to this very moment.”


The Jozi-based creative collective began with Wanda Lephoto and Kabelo Kungwane; they met in high school and started working together out of a mutual love and respect for each other’s style and personality. In 2013 Xzavier Zulu joined the Sartists as their art director and his vision has played a major role in structuring their output and enhancing their creative outlook ever since. With one big collab just launched and many personal projects due to be released soon, we caught up with The Sartists to chat about the local creative scene, the value of collaboration and creating culture.


What does it mean to be a Sartist?


There is no definite meaning, we’re just trying to fulfil our respective purposes and to have our voices heard through each of our chosen mediums.


Did you grow up with a love for fashion? Or what sparked this interest?


Individually we have always had a love for fashion as it was and is the most accessible art form we could get our hands on. In each of our lives we’ve had experiences that steered us in towards forming a collective, which has become a platform to communicate our identities and voices.


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What lasting impact does your background/upbringing have on the work you’re producing today?


Our upbringings have played a huge role in the way we work today. We believe we are responsible for communicating other people’s stories, as well as our own stories, so as to contribute back to the culture we have taken so much from. Our backgrounds have shaped our mental landscapes, and we feel compelled to see beyond our circumstances to produce beautiful bodies of work.


You’ve described what it is that you do as documenting conceptual cultural reflections of your personalities. Could you tell us a bit more about this?


Individually we all have cultural references we’re inspired by that we would love to communicate. Those references shape our personalities and our identity as a collective, so we try our best to communicate conceptually the way we see ourselves and the way we see cultural progression happening around us.


Is being a Sartist a full time gig, or do each of you pursue something else – work/study wise – on a day to day basis?


What we do individually can exist on its own outside of  being part of the collective, so who and what we do is something we do every day. It’s the way we live. We do study and work, but this – The Sartists – is all we have.


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Andile Buka is the photographer for many of your projects. How has his vision contributed to your development as the Sartists?


As a photographer working on film, his vision has helped execute and tell precisely the stories we wanted without feeling like we have compromised anything.


What is your work influenced, informed and inspired by?


We do a lot of research on the history of fashion, photography and film that gives us a basic foundation of knowledge to build on, and this influences, informs and inspires the work we create. Our work is heavily inspired by the need to create and to fulfil our individual purposes.


What do you enjoy about the creative scene in South Africa?


Cultural progression and transformation.


Who are some of the local young creatives on your radar?


Tony Gum, Lazi “Greispaces” Mathebula, and Hanro Havenga.


Over the years you’ve been involved in many collaborations, both with brands and fellow creatives. What value does collaboration hold for you? 


The ability to reach new creative heights which, as an individual working in isolation, you are not able to reach. Collaborations offer a better end result in terms of the quality of the work being produced. They also bring different art forms together as well as audiences.


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On that note, can you tell us about your current collaboration with adidas Originals? What have the highlights of this experience been?


In hindsight this collaboration has been years in the making, all of our personal projects have led to this very moment. It’s definitely been a humbling experience, and one we have learnt a lot from.


What else are you currently working on or working towards? Is there anything we can look out for?


Over the last 12 months we have refrained from posting most (if not all) of our work and have spent time refining our crafts and building relationships behind the scenes. We’ve realised that it is so easy to drown in the hype of social media likes and followers but things like that don’t necessarily amount to value.


All of our projects will be released in the coming months and involve personal brand work. We are also exhibiting in Nigeria at the Lagos Photo Festival and Andile will be showcasing his self-published photo-book at the Tokyo Art Book fair as well as his solo exhibition in October.


And finally, what is the most valuable thing you have learnt throughout your journey so far?


Learning to appreciate everything you experience – good or bad; there’s growth in what one experiences daily.


Follow Wanda, Kabelo and Xzavier on Instagram.


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Sartists x Adidas Collabo by Khotso Tsaagane (1)

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Photographs by Khotso Tsaagane at the adidas Originals Supershell launch at AREA3.


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