Review of Thebe Magugu ‘Anthro 1’ Fall 2020 Ad Campaign by Travys Owen
A new campaign from South African designer Thebe Magugu’s eponymous label combines repeated styling and everyday objects for a powerful and feminist celebration of human community. Magugu himself oversees his vision as creative director, while Travys Owen handles photography.
Entitled “Anthro 1” as a reference to anthropology, the study of human beings, the campaign centers around objects from Magugu’s upbringing that took on personal and communal significance.
From the wheels of a toy bike that will eventually ‘scrape’ instead of ‘turn’ (from excessive use), to the satellite dishes which were the source of so many of our various awakenings, I hope you can look at these images and see parts of your past, and a vision for your future. In an image of my muses dancing around a poitjie pot spewing siren-red smoke, I remember the ritual my family has to perform every few years titled “Mpho Ya Badimo” [‘Gift of the Gods’ in English] – where we celebrate our ancestors and remind them that we are thankful for their protection – the year we skipped the ceremony turned out to be quite a diabolical year so at this point, its almost an obligation.
– Thebe Magugu
In Owen’s photographs, these objects become the focal points that unite a group of women. They pose triumphantly on overturned washtubs, hang suspended from satellite dishes, dance around the potjie pot. Stylist Amy Zama dresses each muse in exactly the same look, which furthers the sense of unification and elevates them beyond the everyday. Hairstylist Khomotšo Moloto also deserves to be commended for her range of impeccable styles.
While it seems as though the objects are what draws this community together, there is also a deeper sense that the two are interdependent, that these otherwise quotidian objects only become meaningful through the human activity they inform. Humanity is limited by time and space, but it is precisely this limitation that allows us to form connections with others, to create art, to develop cultures and communities. These rhythmic and ritualistic images are a beautiful and uplifting embodiment of this endless process of creation and connection.
In both his designs and his approach to running the brand, Thebe Magugu is concerned with celebrating his culture and its past, while also constantly seeking to expand it and participate dynamically in the wider conversation of worldwide cultural progress.
Brilliantly conceived, and executed with simplicity and precision, this campaign is a beautiful way to achieve those goals.