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It may be recognised as another term for swearing, but the word CUSS is now the name of an exciting new online magazine. CUSS, based in South Africa, features everything from webisodes and zines to photography and art, music to installation and art galleries.
CUSS looks to uplift the world of South African arts and culture through its message of creativity, hope and progress. CUSS creative director Ravi Govender agreed to meet up for an interview and expose a bit of the mystery of CUSS.
Late morning in a bustly coffee shop, Ravi walked in, bought a coffee and sat down with his backpack. He stood out without trying to, wearing a beanie (in summer), a black shirt covered with (intentional) holes and a dreamy look on his face.
He answered the interview questions unphased, like a dreamer. A bachelor in the wild city of Johannesburg, this 26-year old lives in Braamfontein, Johannesburg. He loves the African continent and would love to stay on the continent for a long time. A Durbanite for the first twenty-four years of his life, he graduated from that city with a degree in fashion.
After this he went to stay in London for two years. He became addicted to life in the big city and, upon moving back to South Africa, felt a sudden affiliation with its biggest city, Johannesburg.
CUSS was started in January 2011. “It didn’t start as an artist group. It was more like a vehicle to sell vintage clothing,” explains Ravi. Because of the market in South Africa and the goals and drives of the artists, CUSS was never seen as something which would exist only as a “lookbook.”
In fact, Ravi believes that CUSS is by definition a temporary project, changing from one form to the next. He also explains the project as very multi-disciplinary. The term CUSS was chosen for the way it would stand out, especially amongst youth culture. This word also ties in with the mass aesthetic and pop culture which the project embodies.
The question as to how such an interesting group started was raised. Ravi explained that it was started by three friends: Jamal Nxedlana, Zamani Xolo and Ravi himself.
They decided to support each other and work together. Jamal and Ravi were friends in high school, after which they followed the same journey: from Durban to London and finally to Johannesburg. Zamani was described as a “friend of a friend.” However, it was Zamani and Jamal who first started this group, after which Ravi joined the conversation.
Being a successful art group in South Africa is not an easy task, although Ravi believes that being in South Africa holds certain advantages. “Being a local is an advantage anywhere you are in the world,” he says, following his experience of being a foreigner in London. “At the same time its really easy to make it here … Jo’burg is such a young city, its like an open market.”
CUSS seems to have South Africa at its feet. CUSS’s principal aim, however, is not their own success, but the contribution they can make to restructuring South Africa and Johannesburg. It wants to do this by influencing South Africa with its ideas, art and culture. CUSS is passionate about mass aesthetics and pop art, and hopes to popularize these trends in the conservative South African artistic scene.
They do this by following the artists they admire overseas and applying their ideas to the South African scene. Ultimately, CUSS wants to broadcast the continent to the outside while simultaneously reaching within.
Ravi provided some of his and CUSS’s hard-earned advice for young aspiring artists and designers out there. “CUSS is a group of friends with similar tastes and senses of non-judgmentalism,” he says. “We look out for each other, and learn from each other.” This, he believes, is important for anyone’s personal growth.
He is of the opinion that not many institutions provide this. Ravi believes that it is vital for an upcoming artist or designer to establish a strong network of support. If the saying of birds of a feather runs true then, be sure that as an aspiring designer or artist you find the feathers you want to display.
Image Courtesy of http://www.cuss.co.za