There is something ancient about Dr Pachanga, I don’t know what it is about his moustache that makes him appear to be a friendly rickshaw driver whose wheeled contraption will lead you down some or other psychedelic rabbit hole. He could be somebody’s sangoma, knowing what’s up, or down, he’ll sort you out… that’s his vibe.
I’ve seen the brother and his eccentric couture out at markets on the streets – Pretoria, Maboneng, Linden. I remember I never used to feel this way about fashion… When one takes too literally the colonised interpretations of the Tanach written by moses, One realises clothes were a consequence of awareness of the power of the genitals and the need to cover them mostly… And clothes have evolved as the proud Darwin would emphasise, from sewn leaves, to animal skin, draping clothes, denim, crop tops and micro pants… Vegans and the other righteous will make certain we return to the leaves and eventually to our naked selves.
I was raised on second-hand clothes from the streets of Jozi… We wore some and sold some, converting the money into food and school fees and bond repayment, mother covered our shame… Long before the world financial crises dictated reusing clothes wasn’t taboo after all. These stuffy clothes, I later learnt, flew across the world, as mostly donations to Oxfam from the consumerist western world and their kin…
When “thrifting” began to boom in Jozi, circa 2010, the “vintage “ look became popular but most times it didn’t work. Most people just wore old things, rags to be honest, and claimed it to be vintage wear. But vintage is described as “denoting something from the past of high quality, especially something representing the best of its kind…” This intriguing modern day merchant is one of the few who understand this definition and don’t disregard it.
The “Sangoma-Richshaw driving looking merchant is known as Dr Pachanga… His stalls are full of colours, and textures that the eyes can feel, remember that psychedelic rabbit hole?. Colours close to those found on the rows of fruit and vegetable stalls at oriental markets of the Kasbah. Dr Pachanga is ever smiling, I guess it’s safe to assume that one can’t trust a doctor who doesn’t feel good all the damn time.
Dr Pachanga is a subtle business man who runs a Store at the 44 Stanley Complex in Milpark. A Simple, compact corner store made large only by its contents and the Dr’s personality. Inside, an overwhelming assortment of garments line the wall… clothes so beautiful one wishes to wear them as the only item, without another to distract the observer from the beauty. I observe first the table in front of me, in front of everything really, as it stands in the centre. On it, paint-splattered cork purses, jewellery and brooches wait to entice everyone who walks in to buy something, anything. Dr Pachanga explains he thrifts some of his clothes and has some made by people who design for him. The Garments have a regal feel to them, without that stench of old clothes. They have a certain uniformity, a uniformity that prohibits one from seeing which ones were thrifted and which ones were made.Once in the hands of Dr Pachanga everything becomes “Makoya style, no manga manga.”
You ask me why I love fashion papa? “Clothes are quick, there is no time to be wasting… fashion is now, you can’t catch up to it, I’ve always known what people want to buy, my family and I sold R1 scarves at church in the 80’s. When people wanted a specific scarf you’d have to source it. That’s sort of what I still do” he says. “I can’t wait for the summer papa”, he continues, rubbing his hands together as if getting ready to devour something… “I’m gyming, of course. I need to get healthy, but I also what to look good,” he shows me the plans he has to twirl his moustache in a Karl Marx-esque style. Classic merchant, always selling but not overbearing… he’s from DRC, has lived in Thailand, spent some time in Durban, Cape Town, and now Jozi. Durban is full of merchants and rickshaw drivers and Sangomas I joke in my head alone. He shows me an item I’ve been eyeing on the rack, It’s a long T- shirt dress I’ve been day-dreaming about during our conversation. The white T-shirt dress is leisurely covered in faces that look drawn by Basquiat himself… easily one of the most beautiful pieces of clothing I’ve ever seen.
Dr Pachanga has an assistant, whose gender I was unable to figure out at first… it’s strange how we don’t know how to relate to humans without recognising their gender. The said human is very eccentric with the fashion, very androgynous and not giving away any hints of masculinity or femininity but just being. I didn’t think Fashion could make me feel the same way art does… appreciation of fashion as expression with the body as the canvas, then I realised it’s a certain type of fashion that attracts me, just as a particular aesthetic of art would. We all talk about Androgynous clothing, Greek tunics and chitons and European princes wearing tights, jeans and why modern men feel emasculated by certain types of clothing… but in a simulated reality known as manliness, they’re oversized disks and balls don’t fit into Skinny Jeans… I’m trying not to quote that song bout nuts and skinny Jeans. “me I’ll wear those tights my g’, I don’t need to be affirmed by wearing loose manly clothes like… who gendered fashion, oppressing the modern man…”. Clothes have their energies… Uniform brings a sense of camaraderie, headwraps and their various spiritual uses. The Conversation ends awkwardly with promises on both ends… Then silence, I longed to own something, anything from the store but felt and knew I couldn’t afford it… I realised that I shouldve asked, Even social capital requires somethimg of one, even if it is to ask… How much for a maybe.
Dr Pachanga is working on a few projects with Reebok and Ray-Ban… Hopefully a lookbook will emerge where he can show his eclectic mix of styles both known and styles only found down the rabbit hole where so many are afraid to discover.
An original of this article was published in Conte Magazine’s 5th issue Titled #20something.