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1/12 — What was once a powerful and cultural home to many people of colour, Bo Kaap and District 6 holds the last of the magic of what was alive in many parts of Cape Town before Apartheid force evicted. My family used to live around here but most were force removed because of land areas act - I love the community here, always full of life and will respect you if you show respect.



Artist Imraan Christian & His Crew Show us The Best of Cape Town

It’s a well known reality that many visual artists shy away from posing in front of the camera. Often too busy working behind the scenes or off the grid, the opportunity to appear as themselves in others’ works is fairly unappealing. However, in the case of Imraan Christian, part of his work as a sociopolitical filmmaker, photographer, and all around visual artist, has made the addition of a voice and face to his work a necessity. Because of that, every hour or so Imraan’s face appears on television stations throughout South Africa in a commercial where he encourages its watchers to continuously find positive channels to express themselves, even within the economically deprived townships the commercial was shot in.

Imraan established himself as an astute visual social commentator in 2015 after capturing widely circulated visuals of University of Cape Town’s Fees Must Fall Movement. Since then he has continued to drive important dialogues with his work through various artistic mediums. In addition to his sociopolitical work, Imraan has collaborated with lifestyle and fashion staples Adidas, Nike, and even Highsnobiety for a project that highlighted a sporadic urban golf movement in the hills of Table Mountain. The simultaneous role his work plays as both an artful imitation of South African life and a vehicle for political truth are what make his contribution to the country invaluable, and his artistic presence extremely visible.

Imraan took MILK.XYZ on a tour of the city’s most creative and historic areas; check the gallery above for visuals and our quick Q&A below to find out more about this South African artist on the rise.

As a multimedia artist which storytelling medium do you prefer?

I found that each medium allowed me to express different parts of myself. Photography really allowed me quick engagement with sociopolitical issues on the ground that were very easy to then translate and kind of report. Whereas filmmaking, I found was more of an artful process for me and a longer term thing. With filmmaking I’m considering concepts and then packaging it into a bit more of a considered conversation.

How do you develop concepts for your projects?

In terms of visual activism a lot of it is driven by the current energy and the current sociopolitical standing that I find myself within. So especially with the student movements and student resistances, a lot of it was engaging in what was happening. In terms of the more art side of things, I’m really guided quite deeply by my dreams and visions. Quite often I sit with this very intense energy and vision. There is almost a need to express it in art form.

What type of dreams?

I have extremely vivid dreams. Quite vast landscapes. Also there’s an interesting thing happening now in Cape Town where people are rediscovering identities and rediscovering their roots. My roots are deeply Malay and I also identify as a Sun of the Soil, which is related to Khoi identity and indigenous people identity. A lot of that is about translating your dreams and the things that aren’t necessarily at the forefront of your consciousness, you know. Especially when your in a country dealing with so much trauma because of apartheid.

What is the most fulfilling project that you’ve worked on?

It’s the first film that I made. It was my graduation film. It’s a film called Jas Boude. It’s about skateboarders who move from the wood into the city in search of a space that they feel represents them and a space that encompasses all that they see themselves growing in to as well, a space that represents their potential. It’s a film essentially about the way Cape Town was designed to exclude people from certain areas and the way that clashes with identity currently as ‘Born Frees.’ I have a deep appreciation for that film because it connected me to a lot of really great people who are doing a lot of social good and who don’t necessarily have visibility.

Can you tell us about your project ‘Black Whole’?

‘Black Whole’ is one project that forms part of a greater body of work that I’ve been working on for the last three years. We were trying to imagine what a free mind would express itself like if we were now to create our own identity and create an image of what that would be. I’ve been collaborating with many people around this idea of what does a free mind express itself like. What does that look like? What does it feel like? How does that engage with one another? It’s a long form project where we’ve been working on portraits and these things over the last two years.

And you made a video with Lil Simz a while back too, right?

Yeah, “Gratitude.” It was about the student protests and we kind of linked it with the diaspora from the rest of the globe. It’s all about bringing an idea of humanity to resistance and kind of negating this narrative of posing protestors as savages. It’s becoming a world thing now but it was very intense during the student resistance here. They kept posing peaceful protestors as savages and all of these things and once you remove the humanity away from someone anything can happen to them and it’s okay. I think that one was really about bringing the humanity back to resistance. We’re all humans at the end of the day.

How did growing up in Cape Town shape your identity as an artist?

I was raised by the Cape Flats. What the world has come to know of the Cape Flats is gangsterism and violence, but what I know is that fight is part of our soul and our energy, we are a fighting people. If there are no channels for that energy to be expressed, fire will just consume itself and that’s pretty much where the world is right now, its eating itself alive. I’ve been privileged enough to be educated and afford a lot of opportunities that others aren’t, so for me that fighting spirit has translated differently into the world. It’s translated into art and music and creative natures. Kind of platform building for others.

Images courtesy of Amira Rasool and Imraan Christian

Special thanks to 

Justin February 
Haneem Christian 
Thandi Gula
Waseem Noordien
Kamva N
SeeFlex the artist
Antonio’s takeover
Shuaib Philander
Siya Biyela

Stay tuned to Milk for more from South Africa’s artist community. 

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