CSA RADAR Star, Imraan Christian is one of SA’s most prominent figures within the new wave of political creatives. So when I asked him to tell me a little bit more about his photography, the first thing he says is that actually, he’s not a photographer.
Imraan is an artist. An artist who uses the mediums of film, photography, visual art and muralism to expertly marry aesthetics with ideals. There’s just no other way of saying it.
Words: Nadine Oosthuizen
Researching somewhat more, I find out that in the last month, Imraan has come off the back of a constitutional awareness campaign for BrandSA – which was already selected by Marklives.com as Ad of the Week – he was featured as one of CNN’s African Voices, and if that is not enough, now counts A$AP Rocky as a super fan.
Hi Imraan, how are you?
Im easy, hella blessed.
What is your idea of South Africa’s underground?
The Youth is SA’s underground. Like seeds, we are gathering nutrients and information, lumming, lurking, scheming about the moment we burst into the sunlight.
Being a part of SA’s underground, you get to document reality and share it with the rest of society – this gives you tremendous power as an influencer. How would you hope your work influences the lives of others?
I hope my work awakens people, to new ideas, paradigms, and ultimately awaken them to their own potential.
“Art as Resistance”, what does this concept mean to you?
There’s a lot of fire in SA, and the world, and historically only certain channels of expression has been seen as resistance, such as protest, mass mobilization, boycotts, etc. There’s still a need for these, however our world is evolving rapidly and either we are going to be on the forefront of that change and lead it or get left behind. Long story short, we need to broaden our conception of what resistance is – and the way it manifests – just existing in your own truth as a POC is resistance and should be celebrated. Creating art that comes from the heart is resistance.
“Educating those around you is resistance. Self Love is resistance.Resistance doesn’t only mean reacting to something political, building your own community is also resistance.”
Following your documentary on the 2016 student uprisings, which was a global phenomenon, what has been some of the most hard-hitting realities you’ve come to understand during this time?
Mental Health amongst young people really needs more support and visibility in our country right now. In most places, we are two years on from when the protests began, and now we are starting to understand the traumas of what has happened, and continues to happen. Conversely, I’ve noticed many activists branching off into other parts of society and affecting local change which I think is incredibly positive.
Would you describe yourself as an activist?
First and foremost, I am an artist and storyteller. Much of my work does fall in the realm of activism, but the channel is art.
What is your understanding of being South African?
I don’t understand all South Africans; we are a melting pot of all kinds – in order to understand the previous generations socio politically you would need radical and far left tools that I no longer keep at the front of my mind.
“Having travelled a fair amount of the world in the last two years I’ve come to have a deep love and gratitude for SA and the potential for us to build a future, which is why I have focussed so much of my work on the youth – we are the builders of our own future – we just need to realize it.”
As a photographer you seen things other people might never see, which are some of your most impactful photographs?
You’ve made documentaries about some of SA’s skate communities, do you skate yourself?
20sk8 have been my family for the last few years now, I skate but not like they do. Im just steezy with it, I skate downhill and imagine its a huge wave.
It’s a very interesting circle of friends, what’s your take on skate culture?
Skate culture is incredibly complex and I think there are several sub-cultures that make up the SA scene, but what I’ve always appreciated is the “fuck you” to authority at the core of it. Its even deeper in Cape Town where a skateboard is a political weapon because it allows people the freedom of movement, and the barriers of the design to keep poorer people out of the CBD falls away. As 20sk8s work has shown, skateboarding is a powerful alternative for young people to gangsterism and drugs.
Who are some of the people on your radar doing incredible things?
I love the work of Zanele Muholi, Jody Brand, Haneem Christian and K-$ — their work is powerful and truly inspiring.
What do you think about spaces like Adidas Area 3?
Area 3 was a great blessing, and we will keep seeing the ripple effects of the project as time goes on.
Besides being an artist, what are some of your key interests on a day-to-day basis?
I love all music, music is life. But I’ve been known to trap. On what makes me happy, the ocean, without it I’m nothing.
What is the most important thing to you in life?
Family. Not just blood family, but family in the greater sense: community.
Where would we find you on a Sunday afternoon?
If I’m not working, I”ll be chilling on the beach with a blunt.
Who are some of the most noteworthy people you’ve worked with?
There is the obvious A$AP Rocky shoutouts, and Little Simz collabs, but I truly mean it when I say young people inspire me as much and even more. I guess it comes down to the reason I do this at all, I’m not here for the fame, fuck the hype, I do this to bring light, to create community, and to begin building our future.
Is there anything you would like to ask society?
Dala What you must, Ma Se Kinders.