For its third issue Nice Magazine pays tribute to the South African township of Katlehong
Within each issue of Nice is an authentic representation of a country, from the Côte d’Ivoire (where its founders grew up) to South Africa, where its latest, third issue is set.
- Jyni Ong
- 16 December 2019
- Reading Time
- 4 minute read
Nice magazine aims to understand the true scale of Africa. Now in its third edition, each issue pays tribute to a different African country, and the diverse range of creatives who inhabit it. The overall content of the publication, along with the design, is ultimately decided by the contributors along with the collective Klaym, a non-profit creative network who also publish it. With this, the magazine’s unique set up sees a whole new editorial and creative team working behind the scenes of each issue. Every element of the magazine becomes an authentic representation of each city, from the Côte d’Ivoire (where its founders grew up) to South Africa, where its latest, third issue is set.
Founded by sisters Flurina and Sereina Rothenberger, the magazine came about to question Western narratives surrounding Africa. “I’m convinced that the handicap of Western dialogue about Africa, not only in newsrooms but also in the cultural sphere continues to exist because decision makers don’t question their assessment,” Flurina tells It’s Nice That. “It’s an old Western habit of both superiority and impatience to take the talking stick instead of listening.” The latter, she evaluates, is a characteristic more pronounced among many Africans. They possess the “patience to hear each other out” and understand what a story is about and who it is for. Nice is a creative publication full of energy and just one of the platforms celebrating these unique voices. Developed by young people who are globally influencing style, culture and “the changing conversation around visual literacy,” this publication screams originality, reflected in its spirited design.
Phindile Thengeni, a photographer based in Katlehong, a township east of Johannesburg, tells us about her series, abo mahlalela for the latest issue: “It’s a comment on the high rate of unemployment we experience here in Katlehong and South Africa,” says Phindile. The series title translates to English as “those to stay and do nothing”, and Phindile’s work aims to break down the stigma surrounding the unemployed, who are all-too-often seen as “not playing their part in the socio-economic wheel.”
“I aim to shed a light on the pain we as communities inflict on the unemployed of all ages,” the photographer goes on to say. And as a former mahlalela herself, the series is doused in personal experience and the artist’s astute observations. “We live in a society where the possibility of unemployment is a constant companion,” she goes on, and if it does hit, Phindile recalls how she “increasingly began to feel stripped of all value to society.” Subsequently, for her contribution to Nice, she devised a visual language that enhanced this feeling of isolation while also providing clues which allow the viewer to understand the person as a whole, not just as an abo mahlalela.
Helping Phindile to bring her shoot to life was photographer Hloni Matjila Kati Walk who also worked on the cover shot, and who is also from Katlehong. Contributing a series of personal works that document the ins and outs of her life in Katlehong, the images reveal a glimpse into the town from Hloni’s point of view. “Katlehong stories unravel everywhere and, with the camera, I navigate spaces like informal settlements, the street market and the taxi rank,” she explains. “I see the township as it is."
The art direction and design for the issue was led by Rahel Arnold, Nicholas Nesbitt and Givan Lötz and, for the three designers, collaboration is core to the aesthetic. They played drawing games with the contributors to generate images for the Pantsula spread. For Nicholas, the exercise became a powerful example of “working together as a group to solve a design problem.” After many iterations, discussions and ideas, the final magazine reflects, in the words of Nicolas, “the real life experience in Katlehong turned into a beautiful, real and unique publication.”
For Givan, it was integral to incorporate some of Katlehong’s unique aesthetics into the South African-themed issue while keeping the publication accessible for a global audience. “A fine balance was attained by peppering more expressive surprising elements and pages in amongst quieter, but never boring, moments,” he adds. Finally, Rahel says of the collaborative design: “The challenge of our approach was to capture, interpret and translate these different levels of experience into a tailored design which respects the contributor.”
Approaching this task together, while pushing each other’s conceptual and visual comfort zones, the end product of Nice is not only a buzzing reflection of Katlehong’s dynamic communities, it’s also a thoughtful and inclusive design and narrative experience.
GalleryNice Magazine: Issue 3
About the Author
Jyni became a staff writer in March 2019 having previously joined the team as an editorial assistant in August 2018. She graduated from The Glasgow School of Art with a degree in Communication Design in 2017 and her previous roles include Glasgow Women’s Library designer in residence and The Glasgow School of Art’s Graduate Illustrator.