Somewhere in the extravagantly guarded, green and greedy calmness of the Northern suburbs of Johannesburg, a group of five friends ceremoniously prepare for another raucous weekend of debauchery, destined to only be remembered through head-slitting hangovers and drunk selfies.
Dali, Dominique, Dube, Dylan and Thato are a group of five individuals who all met each other in high school and cultivated the kind of friendship that only inheritors of wealth could form. A crass brotherhood they are, accompanied with social name to brand this band of boys from the Northern Johannesburg- The Dappers of the North. The Northern suburbs of Johannesburg are littered with rich kids who mobilise their way through their privileged lives in packs- each group calling themselves a name which is supposed to embody the a space on the spectrum of wealth which they choose to subscribe to. The Royals of the North– a pack of faux feisty teenaged girls whose parents are financially fertile and are said to be The Dapper’s feminine ‘equals’. The Gentlemen of the North– a group of male youths who claim that wearing a Tumblr-inspired suit everyday of their lives qualifies them as being the epitome of living a valuable lifestyle. Even The Twerkers of the North– an ‘alternative’ group of girls who behave as though they were hired to star in Two Chain’s music video as ratchet video vixens, yet still maintain their claim to Northern Johannesburg class by sporting iPhones and Peruvian weaves- have cultivated their comfortable position in the social atmosphere of The North.
Dali, Dominique, Dube, Dylan and Thato arrive at Forbidden Nightclub in Dali’s Range Rover-Vogue his mother presented to him as second 19th- birthday gift. Dali was never quite satisfied with his previous Mercedes-Benz GLA. He would always complain to his flush group of friends about the inadequacy of the vehicle’s luxuries, as though he were to win a prize for the most ostentatious grievances a teenager could present. He would spew comments like:
“It takes this car a f_cking while to get to sixth speed, bra!” and “It’s a top of the range sports car, but it surely does not feel like one when I’m cruising at 200km/h on the N1. Weak mother_cker!” he’d profess as his friends agreed as though they all drove the same vehicle.
Thato often questioned himself, whether or not anyone was concerned as he was when it surfaced that Dali had totalled that very vehicle while driving under the influence, nor the fact that this was not the first time Dali sat in the driver’s seat in the same state.
“I was supposed to face charges, but, the docket went missing, so….” Dali later explained to his friends two weeks after his accident, with a tone of mischievous relief in his voice. Dali’s mother was sympathetic towards her troubled son. After all, no child of hers deserved to live through such trauma. So, she purchased the Range Rover-Vogue for him, as a means to not only apologise, but, to sympathise for his ordeal and replace the original birthday present which he had a subconscious intention to destroy.
The Dappers– dressed in semi-formal two-piece suits with Burberry scarves and skinny ties- bypassed the nightclub’s long line as the bouncer unhooked the rope which led to its entrance. Dominique was the most popular of The Dappers. Dominique was the one who had free and effortless access most clubs of the North. It was because of Dominique, that the him and his flush gang never stood in long lines or paid expensive entrance fees in order to get into these clubs. Dominique knew all the nightclub owners, managers and bouncers. As they entered Forbidden, one of the two bouncers stamped their left arms while Dominique remained behind as he shared verbal pleasantries and reminisced with the other bouncer.
Dominique joined the pack not too long after they entered the nightclub, just in time to be taken and lead by one of the nightclub’s showgirls to their designated and secluded seating area. The interior of the nightclub are matte black. The walls are painted a metallic grey, which deep groves were carved into those walls to accommodate statues of Greek gods and lizard-like creatures on leashes. Streaks of blue and magenta lights surveys the nightclub, while New Age Hip Hip filters and creates the nightclub’s atmosphere. It was as though Dali, Dominique, Dube, Dylan and Thato had infiltrated an alternate and addictive dimension where they could become the very figures they craved to be- custodians of an opulent hell. The debauchery begins.
New Age Hip Hop spews out by the nightclub’s speakers, surrounding and settling among club-goers like smoke, as they mimic and interpret the possessive lyrics and musicality of the songs.
One big room full of aspiring bad bitches and ballers: Forbidden Nightclub has now turned into an extravagant battle ground designed for the mighty display of apparent wealth and sexual superiority- where the atmosphere for courtship is so romantically arid yet cunningly coercive, the outlining contexts of presupposed rape are constructed.
Thato refrains from drinking and is the only one in the pack to do so. He is not new to anything which is going on around him, yet, he is continuously intrigued by this alternate world so many claim to find solace in. However, not only is Thato an intrigued observer of his own reality, he is an unwilling participator in it, too. Dominique cradles a young female in his lap, while he simultaneously clicks his fingers to one of the nightclub’s showgirls- ordering her to fetch another bottle of champagne and another of vodka. Dominique looks behind the back of his female prize to wink at Thato on a job well-done. Thato winks back complicity. He is to venture back to the dance floor and into the nation of bad bitches to court and bring back for Dali, Dube and Dylan to have for the night. And just like the bread-winner of any pack, Thato provides each of his boys with a female each.
More bottles are popped; more females are attracted; and more debaucherous desire is displayed. A clear packet with white powder is surreptitiously thrown onto the vodka-drenched table. The Dappers and their women cheer. Dube gives Dali a congratulatory handshake, head-nudge and a soft punch on the shoulder. The courted females get on their haunches- almost with auto-responsive ease- while The Dappers remain seated on Forbidden’s couches of leather. Dali’s girl- a voluptuous nineteen-year-old with a carelessly sown weave, rips a scarf from her bag and scrambles to wipe the table dry. Everyone is now hurdled onto the table- their heads almost touching. The bouncer protecting their designated seating area is aware of what is happening, but, has been paid-off by Dominique to maintain a blind eye. The clear plastic packet is emptied out, five lines at-a-time, over a twenty minutes. Everyone probably had three lines to snort each, except Thato. With releaving finality, the boys slouch into their seats. The females rise from their knees and seat themselves on top of their respective courter- caressing their necks while running their manicured fingers into their pants. Hell is indeed, pure ecstasy.
Thato drives Dali’s Range Rover to Dominique’s house where they will all be spending the night. Thato passes a glance to the back seat as he drives. His eyes are met with the sight of Dominique, Dube and Dali slumped on top of one another like dead poisoned pigeons on the gravel grounds of a dumping field. A sober Thato ponders: R29 000 spent on Dominique’s father’s card; Dylan went home with one of the girls I recommended to Dylan; the remainder of the pack are dead high on Cathinone and MDMA.
“Wonderful… Another cool story for us kids of the North to tell” Thato, mutters to himself, as his complicit grin fades and guilt grabs him by the throat of his conscience.
One may consider Thato as the good Samaritan of this opulent coven of wealthy boys. There is a presence of an unspoken role-designation or hierarchy that everyone in The Dappers occupies. Thato’s role is clear. He is there to ensure that his group of friends are satisfied with their behaviour and are enjoying the fruits of being young and rich with smiles on their faces. Thato is there to enforce some sort of discipline among the boys- to ensure none of them manipulate their boundaries too much, even though boundaries only exist to be manipulated and broken when it comes to the rich kids of the North. Thato also acts as an impassive figure of reasoning and morality for his pack. A pretentious caregiver. The most loyal friend out of them all.
Although Thato may deceive not only himself with these empty titles, as well as, the people around him, the truth of Thato’s reality is just as tragic as those whom he has chosen to call ‘friends’.
Dali, the who just does not give a f_ck. His almost-inherent ignorance is what makes him easy to identify. From his eyes lids which are never extended beyond half the circumference of his eye; to his shoulders which could not hang any lower than his clavicle can support; to the way he slumps ever so naturally and comfortably when seated in a chair. His exhausted ambivalence is his trademark, which not only makes him easy to identify, but, is a key trait of his which seems to be lauded and celebrated by others.
Dominique, the stereotypical definition of African American attractiveness. Dom- whom he is known colloquially- stands two metres tall. His ochre-brown skin radiates and glistens while he stands in the sun, smiling with a mouth full of Aquafresh-perfect teeth. He is of Kenyan and Caribbean descent, which may inherently have something to do with his impeccable track record as an upcoming athlete. Dom is the most romanticised individual not only in The Dappers, but, by the group themselves. He a celebrity among Joburg’s young social circles, a figure of threat to most males in those very circles, yet, he remains the receiver of envious adoration from his own.
Dube, the aspiring Hip Hop producer whom has supposedly made music for some of South Africa’s Hip Hop stars on the basis of merit. Although, music production is Dube’s claim to fame among his group of boys, Dube is also an infamous teller of falsehoods. The sustenance of his career is not motivated by strict work-ethic, merit or even fame as he claims it is, but rather, his feeble music-producing career is sustained by the fact that his mother is always willing to pump money into his shallow and unsuccessful projects- in the name of love and support only a single mother can give.
Dylan is the most elusive member of the group. He is paradoxically not considered a stable or constant member, but still, a necessary part of the group because, his claim to fame is the colour of his pale-white skin. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Besides the experiences which contribute to the interpersonal dynamic of this group of suburban boys, the reality which fundamentally binds their relationship is money. Dali’s father is a beneficiary of the contemptuous fruits tenderpreneurship can bear; Dom’s family specialise in inter-continental food franchising; Dube’s mother is in charge of her deceased husband’s skills management company; while Dylan’s family has a bountiful and lengthy history in South Africa’s banking sectors.
The stars don’t shine as bright for Thato, unfortunately.
Unlike his financially blessed friends, Thato does not come from a background or legacy or wealth. Thato’s parents are members of the professional working class cluster of South Africa. A family that prides itself in education, they worked tirelessly and relentlessly to afford Thato the opportunity to enjoy a private school education some 40 kilometres from their humble Bedfordview home- in Bryanston. Although his academics aided him and his parents in attaining a partial scholarship to an elite educational institution, Thato battled to come to terms with the dichotomy of this particular reality.
“Who am I, without my marks? Who am in such an elitist environment? What do I do about my peers who do not care about my academic achievements? Surely there is more to me than what I can do on paper. Who am I in the Northern suburbs of Johannesburg?”
Academia, fast grew to become the least of hid concerns. The pressures of existing in an elitist environment while not being of the elite origin harassed Thato’s growth and identity. To add multiply his identitive panic, Thato is gay. Thato realised that he had to either adapt or die trying, because his who he was, where he came from and what he knew, was not compatible with existing comfortably among that natives of the North.
Thus, Thato fell naturally into The Dappers. He studied the architecture of the North’s social landscape and formed an identity through navigating the world of opulence and elitism. The truth about Thato’s role in the Dappers was it was born out of compensation. It was obvious that Thato did not have the inherent advantage being wealthy, thus he had to bring something different, yet, still valuable to the table. Thato is significantly- but, respectively- older and wiser than them all, which meant Thato would be sent around purchasing alcohol and being the designated driver for his supposed friends. Thato was also a favourite among his friend’s parents, and would therefore be used as a pawn to lobby certain agendas when his friends could not do articulate their dubious plans, such as: to borrow their vehicles or to convince them of weekends away in Zimbali with the boys were necessary. However, the most sinister reason why Thato cultivated an alternatively necessary space among the Dappers, was his homosexuality. The Dappers continuously and unashamedly exploit Thato’s sexuality based on their shallow understanding of homosexual individuals. Dali and Dominique would take Thato on their shopping sprees to Sandton City, as a fashion-confidant. Thato would walk from one mall, to the next; from one changing room to the other; complicity complimenting and critiquing his friend’s fashion choices. Thato would even be asked to hold their shopping bags, yet, walk away from the day’s events with nothing. The Dappers are also of the impression that Thato- being a homosexual male- possesses some kind of female instincts, and therefore is sent around by The Dappers themselves woo and recruit females on their behalf.
While money binds Dali, Dominique, Dube and Dylan together, Thato is only connected to this group by virtue of manipulation and exploitation of his authentic self. The reality is that none of his friends know where Thato is from or even know who his parents are. None of Thato’s friends have had honest and open conversations about how Thato feels about money or his identity in relation to the North. None of his friends have not even engaged him on his sexuality, and although Thato is deeply unsettled by these unaddressed cornerstones of his reality, he is aware that this manipulative and exploitive transaction is the only way Thato gets to not only stay in the North, but, be of the North.
Most importantly however, one needs to realise that Thato did not have to be uncomfortably different to be coerced into to feeling accepted. Even the comfortable fight the same battle of acceptance. Because, when one removes the privilege, what is really left?
“Super rich kids with nothing but loose ends,
Super kids with nothing but fake friends”- Christopher Francis Ocean.