Hot African Lifestyle Trends in 2016: Tattoos

Posted by Patrick Gaincko | July 13, 2016
Dragon Tattoo, Pointe Noire

Tattoos are seriously entering Africa. I came face to face with a huge roaring dragon whose home is the back of a Congolese lady. I spotted the Brooklyn Bridge tattooed on the neck of a Marrakesh resident. I kept on meeting tattoos in 2016 from Johannesburg and Kigali to Kinshasa and Casablanca.

In the African context, can we see the tattoos and body painting as a reminiscence of the scars or scarification that used to define and distinguish various tribal groups, from the Congo to Ghana, from Mali to Ethiopia? For sure, tattoos look less dramatic than the scarification that entered my life decades ago. At the age of 8-10, I visited a couple of times an uncle who had the face fully covered with scarification. It was literally linear trenches dug into his skin. I used to stare at him at length while he was conversing with Dad. “He must have suffered atrociously as he had these scars put on his face. How can he smile and laugh with these painful things on his face?” I used to think. One day I dared to ask my father about scarification.

The Brooklyn Bridge Tattoo, Marrakesh
The Brooklyn Bridge Tattoo, Marrakesh

 

Dad said that scarification stood for both symbols of a high status in the social hierarchy in his tribe – like in other Bantu tribes – and for proof that the bearer had passed certain rites. “But that was long time ago” he concluded.

Today’s tattoos recurrently appear in the upper middle class and urban youth. They appear as a colourful coquetry or expensive accessories.  Almost all the tattooed women I met, live in megacities, they drink imported beer and Coke Light, they are well connected and live active professional and social lives. Tattoos are in social circles where they are accepted, valued, even sought after. So far, apart from certain pieces, they are small or medium, they are to be discrete and visible at the same time. They are on hips, wrists, ankles, breasts, forearms, necks. But just to be clear, they are regarded with suspicion, even banned in corporate, established, powerful social circles. I actually have yet to see a mature, middle-age man with a tattoo.

The force behind the growing tattoo trend is urban youth, particularly those aspiring to be influencers and personalities. Many rising stars of the modern Congolese, Ivorian, and Nigerian music proudly show and brag about their tattoos. Like hip hop artists in the USA, modern African artists and personalities are tolerated but seldom qualified as role models. It therefore remains to be seen whether tattoos will outlive the hype and go beyond strictly identified borders in societies.

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ACROSS AFRICA, TRENDS WATCH

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What African Millennials Want: in Jo’burg South Africa

Posted by Patrick Gaincko | May 27, 2016
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Maria McCloy is a fashion designer who creates Africa inspired accessories, such as shoes, bracelets and necklaces. Her shoes, clutches and jewellery pieces are brought to life by her creative team who operate in Johannesburg. I met her 10+ years ago and followed her since as she made her progression in South Africa’s urban culture, wearing many hats and developing her network in a variety of sectors from journalism and public relations to the music industry and fashion.

“Why copy Europe or America when we have all this amazingness here” is a statement she made as a speaker at a recent conference about entrepreneurship. I take it that she has a broad vision touching art, music, cinema, fashion, and interior design in which aesthetics is original, capturing the essence and diversity of African cultures.

Having attracted international attention, among which a feature in CNN’s Inside Africa show, Maria is well positioned to develop her influence, capabilities and outreach as I see ethnic design, original creations, ethical fashion making headlines in the mainstream press and accessing the global fashion marketplace.

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SOUTH AFRICA, WHAT MILLENNIALS WANT

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What’s Happening in Johannesburg South Africa

Posted by Patrick Gaincko | May 11, 2016
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SOUTH AFRICA

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What’s Happening in Jo’burg South Africa

Posted by Patrick Gaincko | April 13, 2016
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FASHION, SOUTH AFRICA

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What’s a Fashion Trend in Kinshasa DR Congo

Posted by Patrick Gaincko | March 11, 2016
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DR CONGO, FASHION

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Experiencing Avenue Nelson Mandela, Brazzaville

Posted by Patrick Gaincko | January 15, 2016
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CONGO BRAZZAVILLE, FASHION

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Profile | Mike Newman Bags, Johannesburg South Africa

Posted by Patrick Gaincko | December 6, 2015

 

Durability and functionality used to be the traditional key selling points of backpack manufacturers. But faced with new trends in the usage of backpacks in recent years, some of them have shifted to a different sales pitch. As laptops lost weight, they migrated from laptop bags to backpacks, which then became multi-purpose and captured a new clientele. Backpacks are no longer confined to schoolboys and girls and globetrotters, they are now also carried by the corporate crowd and creative professionals. As these “new” backpackers regard durability and functionality as mandatory characteristics, they look at receiving non-material benefits such as style and design.

These days Johannesburg sees a dynamic, recognizable wave of young professionals, students, commuters carrying stylish and sophisticated backpacks. Some are in full genuine black leather with small details standing out, such as beige strappings or flashy plaques; others are colourful with corduroy or canvas fabric and minimalist, sleek design.

There is a sense, as this trend takes off, that adopters are using all spaces available to place a statement about who they are, what they stand for, where they go. Some are using the backpack as a space for experimenting or edging their style, others just want to reflect their mood or fortune of the moment.

Undoubtedly, this is a trend poised to grow and change the SA urban landscape.

Firstly, it is gaining traction and winning adopters among a diverse range of audiences, from the busy streets of Braamfontein, where university students, flamboyant hipsters and artist sensations congregate, to the tree-lined alleys of Illovo, the hub of tech entrepreneurs and corporate executives.

Secondly, many backpacks are handmade by independent artisans, self-taught designers. With an overwhelming ambition sparkling in their eyes, they say their deep knowledge of what’s shaking and moving Johannesburg streets, helped them fill a void in the market.

Combining style, flexibility and sturdiness is precisely Mike Newman’s mission.
He is a young entrepreneur who sees himself as a pioneer. He launched a handful of backpack lines and a handbag line late 2014. He prides himself for labelling his products “Made in South Africa” and making them entirely by hand, in his apartment, located in the heart of the CBD (Central Business District). He relies on word-of-mouth for promotion and sales. Each product is carefully handcrafted, each order is delivered in person, and each sale is the beginning of a relationship with a customer.

As I am following him across Maboneng, one of Johannesburg’s most vibrant and trendiest neighbourhoods, he takes a call from a client who happens to be shopping for groceries nearby.

A few minutes and a short encounter later, we are at the corner of Commissioner St and End St, Mike lets the customer go with the last available item from one of his backpack lines. “It’s about mutual trust” he says, “she owns a beauty salon and apparently the handbag she bought the other day is a sensation among her clients. She will come back with orders from her customers. I will have to react fast”.

 

FASHION, SOUTH AFRICA

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