Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Nation of Hipsters? An Essay on the Critical Theory of Hipster-ization in Durban and All Its Wonders (Written and Edited by Professor Ivy Martinez)

Despite being jet-lagged beyond belief, Ryan and I decided to venture into Durban yesterday. After a brief trip to the Kwa-Muhle museum downtown (a museum that briefly touches on Durban during Apartheid), we headed to the BAT Centre. Ryan had heard about this place from a friend of his that spent some time in Durban and told him it was a "must see." Sweet. The BAT Centre is a government sponsored community center that basically promotes young peoples involvement in the arts by giving them a space to express their creativity. A very cool concept.

I swear to god: someone bottled Brown/RISD and transported it to the BAT Centre. 

The smell upon arrival was distinct. A leaf whose illegality disappoints many. Weed. Strong strong weed. All the kids hanging out at the BAT Centre were straight up hipsters. I am talking Chucks, wayfarers, skinny jeans, checkered scarves. The whole nine yards. 

Their style could have been found on the Faunce steps. It kind of confused/delighted me. And as a we weaved through this crowd of hipsters to the beat of a loud concert going on inside the BAT Centre, I knew that this was going to be a dope little trip into the life of a Durban hipster. We wandered into a visual arts studio that reminded me of RISD and we were greeted by
the resident artists. The art at the BAT Centre was an perfect combination of Africianism, modernism, surrealism, and pop art. The BAT Centre basically hosts 7 local artists at a time and gives them this beautiful space to work in, which I thought was pretty amazing. After meeting a DJ named
"Shaft" (no jokes), we headed out of the art studio and back into the sea of hipsterliciousness. It was like being home. 

Today, we went for a walk down to a street called Davenport Road. Along the way we stopped at a place called the Kwa-Zulu Natal Society of Arts, a funky little half glass, half brick cafe/art gallery. The piece on exhibit was called "Transitions" and included visual art and a film. The film was reminiscent of something I've seen at the MoMA, contrasting the peace of a grassy field with the peace of the ritual headshaving performed in the army. I know. Wayyy outtt therrrrreee. The waitstaff at the place was hipster-fied too. 

Amazing. I travelled this far to meet hipsters. 
So, here's the big question: How does this happen? Hipster style isn't exactly popular in the media, so it isn't transported into South African homes via televisions or magazines. Yet, hipsters are here. Also, why does the connection between "hipster" and "art" transcend cultures and national boundaries? How the fuck did hispter-ization make it to Durban, South Africa?

These are the big questions on my mind. You know what else is on my mind? Monkeys. On. My. Patio. 

Digest that.

MONKEYS ON MY PATIO. I got home from Davenport, really drained and about to watch So You Think You Can Dance and I stepped out onto my patio and looked down at my beautiful front yard and saw something darting across the fence. Wow, I thought, that must be a big cat with amazing climbing abilities because otherwise it would be a monkey....oh my god. It is a monkey. It's a couple monkeys. It's a lot of monkeys. In the yard. 

Blaming my delirium on jet-lag, I came in and started unpacking my groceries when I heard scurrying on my patio. There they were. A group of monkeys standing (literally) outside my door and watching me. 

Now, if you know me envision the way I get when I see a baby. All dopey eyed and obsessive and unable to hold a conversation and constantly exclaiming words like "cute" and "adorable". This was how I was around the monkeys. After doing some research, the voice of reason spoke:

Ryan:  You can't feed them. It
 says here that a group of tourists fed them and a bunch more showed up the next day. They're smart. Apparently they break into people's houses and steal their food.

After a weekend chock full of hipsters and monkeys on my patio, its no wonder I feel like I'm dreaming...

p.s. An idiosyncrasy I must share because it is so delightful I cannot keep it in. While looking for a place to get lunch on Davenport Rd we wandered into a chic little bistro and looked at the menu. There was a cocktail called the "homojito." I didn't get one but don't worry: I will not leave Durban without drinking a homojito. After all, it is the perfect combination of two of my favorite things: gay men and mojitos. How can I resist?


  1. I couldn't help but say that while abroad I went to the BAT center and it is such a great place! I also recommend the restaurant there, it's pretty cool. Hope you love South Africa as much as I did!

  2. I am totally clinging on every word here LOL i feel like im there with you.
    YOU HAVE ME DYING!!!!!!!!!!
    loving the pictures.

  3. haha we Durbanites didn't even know what hipsters were until Americans told us we dressed/were hipsters. I'm from Durban and as a teen was interested in what was going down there. The first Americans I met were in my 20s (in South Korea) and before meeting them, Id assumed hipsters were low slung (as in sitting on the hips) jeans hahah. I liked them. still do.

    1. ~ the jeans that is... I miss the bat centre, hot summer days and the weekend craft market. Durbs rocks.