We’ve talked about consumerism and the rise of materialism in our culture before, but our brothers and sisters in South Africa are taking stunting to a whole new level.
A new subculture called “Ukukhothana,” which is loosely translated as “lick,” is the latest trend to come out of Johannesburg and its surrounding areas. Apparently, young folks in Jo’berg form izikhothane (cliques) and engage in swag battles to show off who has the dopest (and most expensive) wardrobe, the fattest bank account, and the most all around style.
One of my favorite blogs, AfriPop, explains:
Izikhothane are expected to go to extremes to show their swag — anything from burning a pair of brand new designer shoes or wads of cash. The reward is fame. Fame in the neighborhood..fame in the izikhothane culture.
While American teens might not go as far as burning shoes and money to prove that they’ve got more than enough cash, we have seen instances of people “making it rain” and spending thousands (and if you’re Diddy, millions) in a club just to flaunt their wealth.
Boasting and showing off has long been apart of human nature, and apparently Ukukhothana is similar to another South African tradition, Swenking.
Jamal Nxedlana of Cuss Magazine explains:
To put this current phenomenon in more context you only have to look back to the Swenkas, a group of working-class Zulu men who took part in amateur competitions that were part fashion show part choreography, with the purpose of “displaying ones style and sense of attitude”. The similarities between Swenking and Ubkhothane are remarkable. Like Swenking, Ukukhothana is competitive it is a spectacle involving performance and dance, and in both cultures flashy clothing is one of the main symbols of distinction.
While youth in Johannesburg continue to embrace this trend as a means of expression, which includes dance battles, matching outfits, and outright flaunting, others find it disturbing.
Many poor youth in the townships are taking part in Ukukhothana using their parents’ money to keep up with the expensive lifestyle. According to a special report by investigative journalist Deborah Patta, one young man even committed suicide because he could no longer afford to participate in the battles.
As in America, those with flashy lifestyles full of designer clothes and cars are also idolized by the youth involved with Ukukhothana, while education and hard work are not seen as valuable. Cash is king and many wonder what type of affect it will have on South Africa’s young people.
While there’s something to be said about the creativity and resilence of youth culture, I’m a little worried this celebration of excess will do more harm than good.
What do you think?