This blog post introduces my man, Brett Davidson, as the latest core conspirator of Africa is a Country. I first met Brett, a journalist, radio producer and media educator, when we hired him to work as the head of Idasa’s radio project in the late 1990s. Brett, born in Johannesburg, has lived in Cape Town for the last 10 years, and recently moved to New York. Here he interviews Cape Town blogger Malibongwe Tyilo.

In the personal profile on his blog, Skattie, What Are You Wearing? Capetowner Malibongwe Tyilo calls himself a ‘postponed revolution’. I’m not too sure about the ‘postponed’ bit. He’s not one to wilt in the face of others’ prejudices or preconceptions. He’s a self-confessed member of the ‘self-conscious Cape Town gallery hopping set’, and his blog seems to be his way of being tongue-in-cheek about the whole scene. He calls it a bit of frivolity, but Skattie actually offers a really interesting view of a section of South African society – a take on the trendy set that you’re not likely to find either in the obsequious ‘Society’ sections of the mainstream media, or in the celebrity-obsessed tabloids. Here’s a transcript of an email interview I did with Malibongwe:

When and why did you start “Skattie What Are You Wearing”?:

I started the blog in March 2010. I work as a buyer for a retailer, which kind of puts me on the corporate side of the fashion industry, so starting this blog was kind of that creative outlet, don’t get me wrong, my job is highly creative and satisfying in many ways, but the blog gives me an opportunity to explore a creativity that is not driven by market forces. I’ve always loved taking pictures and playing with images, I enjoy writing and I spend a lot of time on the web, so the blog is also a meeting place for all these interests. I must also add that this is the first time in my entire life that I have found something that I enjoy doing so much that I am perfectly happy doing it even though I do not earn any money from it.

An obvious comparison that comes to mind, is The Sartorialist — would you say it’s fair to call ‘Skattie’, The Sartorialist of South Africa?

Admittedly, a comparison to the Sartorialist is very flattering, it is probably the most popular fashion blog in the entire world, it has hundreds of thousands if not millions of followers (mine has a little more than 600) and professional photography (Up until 4 weeks ago I used my cellphone). I also believe what I am trying to do aims to achieve different goals from what he has achieved, I try not to take myself and the people I photograph too seriously, we are celebrating interesting personal style but we are also having a bit of fun. Irreverence is the order of the day. The humorous (hopefully) writing, which tends to have a lot to do with my drinking habits is for me just as important as the images I upload. Another point of difference is that whilst I sometimes take pics of people on the street, I generally prefer taking pictures of people at events or organizing very informal shoots with friends who have a funky style and exhibitionistic tendencies.

What guides your decisions when settling on what you do and don’t feature on the blog?

When it comes to clothes trends are obviously a key influence, and fortunately I like to stay well aware of trends, this helps in that when I look at my subjects I am able to separate the merely trendy from the ones who are able to combine those trends with personal style, a sort of awareness of an aesthetic that represents them in the best possible light and then combining that with a quirky and experimental attitude. Ideally those are the kinds of people I like to put on the blog, however, sometimes if I am posting about an event I put some pics in that convey the mood of the party rather that the dresscode. But the simplest way to answer your question would be to say that I feature what I like, I depend very much on instinct.

It seems to me that Skattie is about more than clothes — there seems to be a particular vision and version of contemporary urban South Africa that the site conveys. Would you say that’s true? (and if so, what is it that you think is being conveyed, or that you are trying to depict)

I think that is true, when I first started the blog I did not necessarily have a clear direction of where I wanted it to go, I still am not quite sure. All I knew was that I found myself in many situations where I thought the style was worth documenting. I like to be as diverse as I can with the kinds of fashionable occasions I present, but due to my own personal interests I do end up spending a lot of time at art exhibition openings, and fortunately the notoriously self-conscious Cape Town gallery hopping set are ardent aesthetes. And honestly there isn’t really anyone documenting the more frivolous fun side of doing art exhibitions, and the time is so ripe for that kind of thing, the curators are young fresh and hungry, they are trying to move away from the stuffy old art gatherings. So, there’s that side to the blog. Then there’s the shoots (style jams) I do with friends, fortunately for me a lot of my friends are dedicated to developing very strong very personal looks for themselves, and I should add that they also tend to belong to the abovementioned gallery hopping set. And So I guess the blog ends up being a combination of the young trendy arty crowd, funky friends trying to carve an identity in the city, plus other events that I frequent. I’d like to think that there is an element of the tastemaker in the crowd that I photograph.

What’s your vision for the blog — where would you like to take it?

Tricky. Obvioulsly I would like to get a larger following, vanity gets the better of me. I want to take a photography course and get a better camera so that I can take better pictures, I also want to try and cover a wider variety of events. I recently started a new blog which is an extension of ‘Skattie, what are you wearing?’, I’ve called it ‘Skattie, how you livin?’, it focuses more on people’s homes, interiors and on food, it’s meant to be a sort of very casual take on interiors, nothing grand, just ordinary homes of people (mostly friends) with strong aesthetic convictions, it celebrates the ‘other’ rather than the norm. It’s kind of hard for me to say exactly what vision I have for the future of both blogs because I kind of take it a day at a time but I hope that sort of answers the question.

Can you give me a short description of who you are (the person behind the blog)?

Iyho! I find it incredibly hard to describe myself, I never know what angle to answer from. I always think of myself as someone who likes simplicity (not of the simpleton variety) in daily interactions, I like doers, I like innovation. I get incredibly annoyed by people’s obsession with the retro, especially when it comes to music. I cannot stand it when people go on about how something was better back in the day, I think that always demonstrates an epic failure of the imagination.

Further Reading

The house of exile

Edward Said once said of the usefulness of exile for intellectual work: it involves adopting “a spirit of opposition, rather than accommodation.” James Baldwin and Sisonke Msimang took it to heart.