The concept of the avatar comes from Hindu philosophy, referring to gods who incarnate into human form. The avatar descends from the supernatural realm into the physical reality, to help society in times of need and change. An avatar is new, unexpected, something that hasn’t been seen in our reality before. This ancient concept has reappeared in the age of cyber-modernity, describing the virtual characters which populate online space. This repurposed term shares the sense that an Avatar is something which stands apart from the everyday and the mundane.
Johannesburg is an eerie metropolis, haunted by the ghosts of the colonial and the apartheid past, and the uncertainties of the present. There is a supernatural charge to the deep shadows cast by brutalist skyscrapers, the alien worlds of abandoned mine dumps, the incandescent light searing off its koppies, the concrete tributaries of sidewalks and high walls. But Jo’burg is still a young city, and more importantly a migrant city, where people flock to make their way in life, bringing their beliefs, histories, dreams and nightmares with them. It is a laboratory for metamorphosis, to remake and remodel yourself into something new. A dangerous process which nevertheless offers the chance of liberation.
Rather than shying away from this complex space, the artists and creators pictured have made it their own. They feed off the unseen vibrations of a hidden world, and bring back beauty for all of us from their journeys.
They imbue these spaces with colour and life, using their work and personal styles as statements of beauty and mystery. Their hair, their clothes, the backgrounds they pose in speak of a potent new mythology, creating new gods and spirits that could only come from this time and this place.