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South African Photographer Anthony Bila's Dystopian Johannesburg Street Culture

South African photographer Anthony Bila (The Expressionist) imagines dystopian Johannesburg street culture with his latest series, disˈtōpēə.

When last we heard from Anthony Bila (aka The Expressionist) he was commemorating the 1950s in Soweto with the third installment of his Black History March series. Now, the South African artist and street style photographer has shared his latest project, a conceptual shoot in Johannesburg which he collaborated on with designer Didi Simelane. With disˈtōpēə, Bila imagines street culture in a gloomy, near "futuristic" Joburg.


"I conceptualised this shoot with designer Did Simelane, who has a penchant for futuristic landscape that are simultaneously from the future and the present, because in reality, there is no, future, the future is now," Bila explained in an email. "I looked for location in and around Johannesburg that would lend themselves to complimenting this idea and Didi's clothes." He added, "I also imagined that we are not far off from a dystopian reality with the world in socio-political turmoil at every turn, so this was the basis for the editorial: disˈtōpēə, which by definition is, an imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one."

For more from Anthony Bila, see his 2015 volume of Black History March, plus his "20 Faces of Joburg Street Culture" from STR.CRD 2013. Keep up with The Expressionist on Facebook, InstagramTumblr, and Twitter.

Interview

Interview: Terri Is Stepping Out of the Shadows

We talk to the Wizkid-signed artist about the story behind the massive hit "Soco" and his latest Afro Series EP.

Certain afrobeats songs have made in-roads in international markets and paved the way for the genre's ceaselessly-rising widespread recognition. Among these history-defining songs were D'banj's "Oliver Twist," Tekno's "Pana," Davido's "If" & "Fall," Runtown's "Mad Over You," and of course, Wizkid's "Soco." Wizkid released "Soco" under his label imprint, Starboy Entertainment in March 2018, and the song spread like wildfire across Africa and beyond. "Soco" was an Afro-pop wonder delivered at a time when the 'afrobeats to the world' movement was gathering steam, further cementing its electric nature. The Northboi-produced song was co-signed by celebrities across the world like Rihanna, Cardi B, and Paul Pogba and has accrued well over a hundred million streams across streaming platforms worldwide.

"Soco" was not only a trailblazer amongst mid-2010s afrobeats records, it was also the introduction of the first Wizkid-signed artist, Terri. Just weeks before "Soco" was released, Terri was discovered by Wizkid's longtime producer, Mutay, who saw him covering the song "Oshe" on social media.

Before "Soco," Terri Akewe was well on his way to fame. At fifteen, he had performed at street carnivals in his neighbourhood and, one time, was carried all the way home by neighbours after winning a Coca-Cola sponsored singing competition. Before his life-changing meeting with Wizkid, Terri had a seven-track EP ready for release, as well as a viral song titled "Voices." "One time I was on set with the video director T.G Omori, he told me that 'Voices' was the first time he heard of me" Terri tells me as we settle on a plush couch at his home in Lagos.

Regardless of Terri's initial career trajectory; signing to a label headed by afrobeats' biggest superstar was bound to accelerate his musical journey, and at the same time, cast a huge shadow of expectation on his career, especially given a debut as spectacular as "Soco." With his latest EP, Afro Series, powered by the sensational single "Ojoro," one thing is clear: Terri is stepping out of the shadows into his own spotlight and he is doing it on his own terms.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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