Italy’s ‘la dolce vita’ takes Mzansi by storm

Johannesburg – The love for the sweet life, which the Italians refer to as “la dolce vita”, has birthed a new subculture that is taking Mzansi by storm.

The love for Italian tailoring and the concept of “the sweet life” or “the good life”, which the Italians live, is sweeping through South Africa’s townships, bringing together those who love fine clothes and parties.

So popular is the subculture that phrases used by members are now part of everyday speech, with companies and brands riding the hype and adopting them in their advertising campaigns.

And it all started in the Vaal, south of Gauteng, in Sebokeng and now the slogan Beke Le Beke, loosely translated as “week in, week out”, is making waves all over SA ahead of the festive season.

Sunday World visited Sebokeng and learnt that both the young and old indulged in the Italian-inspired lifestyle and preferred to call themselves Matariana, which means The Italians in township lingo.

Though the culture is based on flaunting exorbitant habits, members of the movement were quick to point out that it should not be compared to the “izikhothane subculture” because they had no interest in unnecessarily damaging their high cost belongings, noting that there are people looking up to them. The poster boy of the subculture is “Bosso Beke Le Beke”, whose real is name Teboho Namane.

Namane, from Sharpeville, said he only meant that Matariana did not repeat an attire in a week, saying he would never be seen in the same attire in the same week.

“I honestly didn’t expect it to turn out the way it did. I was just merely pointing it out, and little did I know it would somehow become my ‘aka’, now I am referred to as Beke Le Beke.

“Our fashion is unique in the sense of the price tag attached to it. But don’t get us wrong, we don’t buy expensive clothes, we just buy Italian couture, which happens to be expensive,” said Namane.

Namane said he have never been to Italy, but would love to visit Rome one day.

“I do, however, live in little Italy (the Vaal). It would be a great privilege to visit the place, get to taste their food and perhaps visit their fashion hubs,” he said, revealing that the most expensive item he owns is a pair of sneakers, which cost R8 000.

The manager of music group Vaal Nation, Jabulani Zulu, said the lifestyle was simply celebrating the quality of Italian style, but it quickly developed into a subculture when they started developing dance moves, specific language, music and new ways of celebrating their union.

One of the popular phrases is 18-hours Emoyeni, which they claimed as an average direct flight time between South Africa and Italy.

He said they were inspired by their parents, who wore Italian- made shoes because of their quality and the Vaal Nation trio aspired to a life of quality clothing, which they were spoilt with from their teenage years.

“It started from our fathers and uncles who took a train to Joburg to buy Italian clothes and called themselves Italians. This was not to say other brands were not important but they knew the quality they wanted and these shoes would last them for a long time. They would be complimented for buying such quality and it attracted more people to also buy the brands and they would identify each other through their clothing.”

Zulu said the Vaal Nation trio – namely Mzambiya, Mavuthela and Famino – were from these families and also aspired to wear the brands but they took the notion of Matariana to a whole new level, best suited for today’s way of being.

The 39-year-old said their lifestyle had no age restriction but was associated with maturity, which he believes is not determined by age. Vaal Nation, featuring 016BangerBoyz, released a hit song Beke Le Beke.

016BangerBoyz,
Paseka Ramokhoase (Dj Sasco) Siphiwe Nhlapo (Spetla de drummer) and Mandla Mthimkulu (Dj Scottish).

“There’s always an excuse to go out daily in the Vaal and that is how the trio met. Beke Le Beke means going to Sandton literally every week to buy Italian attires, enjoying expensive alcohol at a club and just enjoying the stash of cash at best they can, but our slogan has found different meaning on the lips of fellow South Africans”.

Limpopo musician Makhadzi has also recently released a song called Beke L e Beke which, in short, says life is too short and she was willing to have her best of life every week.

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA – MARCH 14: Makhadzi during the 3rd DSTV Mzansi Viewers Choice Awards at the Ticketpro Dome on March 14, 2020 in Johannesburg, South Africa. The DStv Mzansi Viewers’ Choice Awards is a South African award show that honours the year’s biggest achievements in television, radio, music, sports, and comedy, voted by viewers living in South Africa. (Photo by Gallo Images/Oupa Bopape)

Makhadzi said she was not part of Matariana but appreciated the energy they have brought through their slogan.

She said she kept on hearing it from her friends’ parents who would shout and reprimand their children from doing the same mistakes every week.

“Being on stage is my happy place, especially now that we’re approaching the festive season. That, and spending time with my loved ones is something I feel like doing every week. “Positive energy beke le beke akere,” said Makhadzi.

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