Woke & Broke: A collection for the socially conscious

South Africa has recently seen the rise of student activism in its university spaces. But even the “woke” need to recharge.

Young black millennials coined the term “woke” to describe a state of social and political awareness. It’s commonly used in reference to the youth who fight against institutionalised racism, poverty, misogyny and other socio-economic issues. But for Cape Town-based creative director Kenan Petersen, these terms have themselves become commodified.

“There are moments when in order to alleviate one’s proximity to poverty one is faced with the ideation of sacrificing one’s culture for capital,” he says.

Petersen, along with a number of African creatives, this week launched the lookbook for the label Woke & Broke. A brand that seeks to unpeel the layers of this stereotypical intellectual identity and its relationship with currency, poverty and culture. The label is co-owned by the lookbook's photographer Mandla Shonhiwa (Taunyane).

The Woke & Broke imagery is taken from the point of view of a young black couple who experience the day with one another in a safe space without the intellectual and financial pressures of having to be “woke” in the outside world.

“We feel this calmer setting allows us to look at our couple as human beings and not as objects that vacillate between the stereotypic roles of ‘poor’ and ‘lit’. As if that is the only narrative arc that is accessible to this demographic,” explains the brand.

But what are the couple guarding against? Petersen draws on an example from Western Cape Premier Helen Zille. Earlier this year, the prominent South African politician tweeted “If this woke bunch hate being UCT [University of Cape Town] students so much, [please] help them out of their misery and withdraw their funding.”

She was speaking in reference to a number of protests that had taken place at the university, many of them against the outsourcing of workers, the high cost of student fees and institutionalised racism.

“This illustrates how easily those in power can take the wind out of one’s sails simply because they do not agree with how you choose to asserts your identity as a human being,” writes Petersen.

He recommends listening to this playlist while scrolling through the lookbook: Vision-Vol-I and Vision-Vol-II

For a full credit list, click here