Portfolio: Zwelethu Mthethwa

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The Independent Culture

On a verdant patch of land outside the city of Durban, South Africa, two churchgoers pose in full festival costume. They are Zulu congregants of the Nazareth Artists Church and they are celebrating the Easter fête – one of several occasions each year when the congregation comes together to dance, sing and dress up.

What's particularly intriguing about these ceremonies, and this picture, however, is how the participants' outfits play with our notions of gender-based attire. It's a concept which fascinates the South African photographer Zwelethu Mthethwa, whose new series – The Brave Ones (2011) – documents these striking sartorial combinations.

"In traditional Zulu culture men and women wear similar skin loins," he explains, but here, young men under the age of 30 don an androgynous uniform of blouses and kilts, finished with sports socks and working boots and topped off with beaded necklaces. "The way they wear these clothes," adds Mthethwa, "resonates with the philosophy that identity is fiction."

We all use what we wear to help define our identity and the two young churchgoers here have formed their own fashion tribe, one that, according to Mthethwa, challenges our own notions of what constitutes male attire.

To see more of Zwelethu Mthethwa's images, go to brundyngonsalves.com