In Conversation with Manthe Ribane, a Soweto based Performance Artist

Manthe Ribane is a performance wunderkind. She is the muse in the NOT x Chris Saunders fashion and photography collaboration shot in Johannesburg that we’ve recently been featuring, and the last interview to close out the series.

She shares a few thoughts on her inspiration for each of the images shot by Chris Saunders.

The NOT x Vernac character is a global story. How can you define a bag that can create so many jobs around the world, protect so many lives, but still be one with you, still keep your stories and your secrets? It’s just a bag, but it’s not just a bag.  That’s the idea behind that performance. Also it was shot in the Noord, the place that connects you to every place you need to be in Joburg.

For the Not x Floyd Avenue,  outfit that character is someone who could cover the world, like a mother. I will represent, I will fight for you. It’s crazy how an outfit can just transform you. She’s wearing a crown, but she’s still wearing a dungaree. The lips are gold, meaning she spoke gold in the city of gold. For me, the face paint is both playful and powerful. Black is very dark and powerful, aggressive. But the gold keeps it godly and mysterious.

For NOT x Dr. Pachanga  character where my face is painted gold, I really felt golden. You can come from the dingiest place, but it’s about how are you going to take yourself, as trash or as golden? Nobody knows your struggle or what you’ve left behind at home, but it’s how you are going to represent yourself out to the world that matters the most.

The last shoot, the Not x Macdee giant puppet in Orange Farm was an emotional experience for me. I could see the pain in the kids eyes, waiting for hope and faith of steps further. The outfit made people laugh and excited. That feeling made me both happy and sad at the same time. I wish I had a million rand to help them all, create sport activities, art exhibitions, job creation, reading creation centers, to create a powerful journey of hope for them. I hope that the project will make people aware that life is about making a difference, and taking a dream to a beyond extraordinary expectation.

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Images courtesy of Chris Saunders. All rights reserved.


NOT x Chris Saunders‘ is an incredible cross-continent/cross-cultural collaboration begun by New York based fashion designer Jenny Lai and South African photographer/filmmaker Chris Saunders, and grown to include co-creators from across South Africa.

First up is Dennis Chuene, designer of Vernac bags in Bellville, Cape Town. Using deconstructed China Bags, Jenny and Dennis recreated a garment based on Jenny’s Interlock Coat design, with respect to the details of the original bag.