There's something about watching a classical dancer move with ease and fluidity. And then there’s the street style of dancing, where pizazz and personality are sometimes more important than the dance moves and techniques.
The way street dancers stomp their feet, jump, move their arms and waists, twisting and writhing like they have no bones, is mesmerising. Add the clothes that befit the style of dance, and you have a masterpiece.
Watching Jiva, Netflix’s latest African original drama, left us with that feeling. From the opening scenes, Jiva loudly announces what it's about-a celebration of South African youth and dance culture. There's bold fashion, slick dance moves with facial expressions that tell you all you need to know about how the dancer is feeling at that moment.
The music is a mix of gqom, amapiano, kwaito and house, and the dance moves an amalgamation of those styles.
Starring Noxolo Dlamini as Ntombi Xaba, a dancer who was forced to abandon her dreams. Many young people, especially first borns, are expected to give up on their dreams to take care of their families. Jiva, is a true reflection of the realities of many young South Africans.
Fortunately for Ntombi, she didn’t give in and managed to pursue her childhood dream. In pursuit of being the best dancer in Mzansi, Ntombi always dresses well for her tour guide job at Ushaka Marine World.
It's a beautiful show to watch. The aesthetics make up for some of the storyline issues and choices made by the actors and director. But what Jiva is, more than anything, it’s an expression of South Africa's youth culture, explored across latter-day millennials and Gen Z.
The show’s head of wardrobe, Mpumi Ntintili, she said she wanted to celebrate the South African youth.
“I wanted to showcase how dope our fashion is and how the South Africa youth hav a flair for fashion,” she says.
Ntintili is a fashion stylist with a number of glossy magazines covers under her belt, including Bonang Matheba’s GQ cover in 2018.
That styling experience came in handy when she had to call on designers for garments.
“I called on relationships I had with designers. I specifically wanted garments that translate great moving pictures. So, brands like MaXhosa, Imprint, House of Ole, Ntando, Keletso Moraba, Mmuso Maxwell and Rich Factory. We also sourced garments from a boutique called Thesis, in Soweto. We wanted to cover all basis of SA design, that showed that Africa, your time is now,” she said.
It’s evident in some of outfits chosen for the featured dancers and characters, especially the Umlazi Pushers, which are led by Given Stuurman’s character, Samukelo and Ntombi’s love interest, Makhekhe (Ntuthuzelo Grootboom).
"I love what we did with the Umlazi Pushers and Makhekhe and the Cats. I wanted to show African fashion, make it urban and everyday wear. The Umlazi Pushers are wearing Imprint, which is a brand that likes to mix and match bold, clashing prints. They represent the Ama2000 (Gen Z) generation, who write their own rules. That’s portrayed in their fashion sense and how they make it work. Not gender conformist. It’s very bright, bold and neon an announcement of who they are. “
Makhekhe has one of the best wardrobes on the show, which was mainly to show just how successful he has become. He donned MaXhosa and Rich Mnisi, with a mix of other designers as a sign that he has made it.
Ntintilili felt that it was important to tell the story with the character’s fashion.
“Zinhle (Sne Mbatha) is ghetto fabulous, the typical township girl who has an amazing body and dresses well. We can’t forget that townships have inspired the fashion industry for years.”
When it comes to Ntombi, the inspiration was her body and whether she would be able dance in the garments.
“She’s very much a DIY girl, and she loves mix and matching and customising her clothes and yet still looks fly. Even with her problems, she makes sure that when she’s outside, she doesn’t look like her problems. Aesthetics were important with her look. We had some pieces from Rich Factory.
“The hard part when it came to Ntombi, was making sure that she can move in the clothes, including footwork. It was a constant back and forth when it came to her, which was not easy to do, but I had an amazing costume designer, Tina (Dikotsi who used to work at Stoned Cherrie) and she'd sit on the machine and we'd customise it for the character. So, we did a number of garments in house.
Ntintili wanted garments that made a statement and showcasing where South Africa was, socially, economically and politically.
“Take Bheki’s (Zamani Mbatha) character. He is a quiet guy and doesn’t express himself much. But we still wanted his character to have commentary on South African issues. We made him wear slogan T-shirts, like the Chris Hani shirt and also the one about how we have made society a safe space for abusers. These were all statements to show what is really going on in our society. It adds another layer to the story.”
The wardrobe team did a stellar job in dressing the cast. However, let’s not forget the hairstylists and make-up artists who made sure that every hairstyle and make-up look matched the stunning outfits.
Speaking to Simangele Nhlabathi, the key make-up artist, she said that creating the make-up looks was a creative effort as Ntintili, together with celebrity make-up artist, Clara Chimeloane, worked hard to ensure that the show becomes a success.
Some of the make-up looks Nhlabathi created include umchokozo, a Xhosa facial art where women use dots to make patterns on their faces.
“This story is by Africans, so we wanted to show the world how we do our things. Hence why we incorporated a lot of African inspired hairstyles and face paints on some of the looks,” said Nhlabathi.
In terms of the hair, Isaac Letele, the key hairstylist, made sure he delivered when it came to showcasing African hairstyles.
Characters were in box braids, Bantu knots, ponytails, high buns and pom-poms, which are popular hairstyles amongst the natural hair community. We also like how he put Nolwazi (Zazi Kunene) in straight-up cornrows, a hairstyle popular among schoolgirls.
Candice Modiselle played Vuyiswa, a lady who loves the luxurious lifestyle, is an influencer and the mistress of the mayor. That meant her look had to be great quality. The wig choices Letele made for Vuyiswa were to fit every outfit she wore – from the Rich Aunt Aesthetic look to when she is forced back into the township.
The way she named her wigs after African names such as Lisa, Thandiswa and Sista Betina was amazing. Most women who own several wigs give them names. DJ Zinhle is an example because all the wigs she sells have African names.
There's a trend where many people are inspired by the style of their favourite characters, which is a sign that costume designers are more important to fashion than the runway, which is something Ntintili agrees with.
“There are no unrealistic bodies on TV shows, unlike on the ramp. When you look at the clothes on the ramp, you don’t see yourself in them. Those models are not but built like ordinary South Africans. So, on TV shows, the actor’s body structure does tend to resemble us, ordinary people, and we get to relate to the fashion and how the characters wear the clothes. Runways showcase the designer’s brilliance, but TV shows how to wear it in daily life.”
Jiva is currently streaming now on Netflix.
Article originally appeared on IOL