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Anthropology 1 AW20
ˌan(t)-thrə-ˈpä-lə-jē \


the science of human beings, especially : the study of human beings & their ancestors through time & space & in relation to physical character, environmental & social relations, & culture


On the 27th of September, my uncle quietly opened the door to our living room, where my family & I, fidgety throughout the evening, were distracting ourselves with that night’s episode of Generations. When we turned to look at him, I remember my cousin fell to the cold tile & I, in total automation, stood up & went to my room; closing off all the shrills now ringing throughout the house. I didn't even make it to my bed, collapsing into a heap on the floor, weeping for what felt like an incomprehensible loss, painful & almost impossible in its gamut.

That was the day we lost my beloved grandmother, Matiego Arcilia Magugu.
I only relay this story to illustrate that while my family & I detached from our immediate reality to mourn, a quiet & powerful group of hands had mobilized somewhere between the day of Matiego’s passing & the weeks after my family & I began stepping out of our collective melancholia [& one case of catatonia]. In hindsight, all of us were never without a glass of boiled sugar water [the township’s remedy for heartbreak], the house & the tavern we ran from the garage were running & fully stocked, certificates – ranging from death to insurance – were generated & filed, & the garden patch outside had never looked better, all thanks to these hands – patient to the point of sainthood & pro-active to the point of clairvoyance – which made themselves available everyday from 6 to 6.

I can tell you so many more stories like this about the people of Kimberley; about their self-sacrificial nature, their unconditional love, & inherent spirit of Ubuntu (togetherness), even within an arid & often hostile environment. In fact, I often say that it’s these extreme contrasts – beauty v brutality, extravagance v economy, tradition v modernity – that have fueled my work; work I wouldn't have been able to do had I come from anywhere else. This is why this collection is so important to me – showing you the many faces & places who mural my work & served as my earliest & most poignant references.

- Thebe Magugu

In Setswana Ipopeng means ‘to beautify yourself.’ It also means ‘a tight knit community, a close group of people’. Ipopeng, despite its founding in 1976, is one of various apartheid-era townships that still do not feature on the suburb lists of Kimberley. Ipopeng’s histories & people remain unwritten & overlooked. The disavowal of everyday township lives, of powerful personal stories & of extraordinary achievements reflects this ongoing dismissal both in South Africa & the world. Ipopeng’s stories have been erased. They are understood as unimportant.

This makes IPOPENG EXT. An exhibition of the Thebe Magugu AW20 collection “ANTHRO 1” urgent, substantial & deeply political. The fashioned photographs script the stories of the landscape, the people, their faces, experiences & lives lived, & the faith & community that holds them together. We witness the enduring traces of extraction. Like scars, they reveal the extensive ecological violence enacted on this environment in pursuit of preciousness.

Beautiful, brave & poignant studies invite us to share in the ongoing magic of Thebe Magugu’s childhood, where his everyday life, longings & dreams are intrinsically interwoven with his fantastical futures, exploring the memories of those significant institutions that shaped him.
Family. Education. And, Faith. Thebe Magugu weaves the past & present, blurs the real & imagined, & mixes magic with the mundane.
As part nostalgia & part activism.
As part memory & part prophecy.
The collection reflects his Ipopeng.
They re-imagine it as striking, dramatic & important.
IPOPENG EXT. is presented as an ode & homage to the people & the place.
The photographs also dem& attention from a world that easily forgets.

-Dr Erica de Greef

Recommended Reading:

1. RELATIVITY: TOWNSHIP STORIES by Mpumelelo Paul Grootboom, Dung Beetle Dramas, 2006

2. TSHEPANG by Lara Foot Newtown, Oberon Books , 2004


Captions by: Dr Erica De Greef

Photography: @kristinleemoolman

Stylist: @ibkamara

Muses: @thereal.annah @activebrian @ashleykarah

MUA: @orlioh Production: @lampost.production @jodie_ennik

Photographic Assistant: @tatendachidora

Jewelry: @githancoopoo