A member of the Izikhothane movement pretends to set fire to a South African banknote with a match, accompanied by the comment: “We’re not burning money, we make it rain!”. Photo published on one of the movement’s Facebook pages.
They burn money, destroy expensive clothes and pour bottles of alcohol on the ground. The 'Izikhothane' live well beyond their means, spending more money than they and their parents can afford in order to be cool. This South African craze is as intriguing as it is shocking.
Several townships in Johannesburg, mainly Soweto in the south and Diepsloot in the north, claim to be the birthplace of 'Izikhothane' youth culture, also called 'Skhotane' and 'Ukukhothana
' in other neighbourhoods. The term – Zulu for “to lick” – apparently has several origins. Some say it refers to the action of licking the fingers to peel through bundles of money to spend on clothes, shoes and alcoholic spirits. Others say it refers to being drenched in 'Ultramel
', a local custard considered a luxurious desert in black townships, and of licking hands and clothing.
Video showing dances and practices of the 'Izikhothane' published on Vimeo by Jamal Nxedlana.
The 'Izikhothane', known for their eccentric and wildly-coloured clothing, are typically aged between 12 and 25 and mainly come from the black middle class. They claim to be non-violent, in a country with an average of 43 murders a day. On Facebook, they often organise “pantsula” competitions
, a style of hip-hop invented in South African ghettos. It is a chance for people to go to extreme lengths to show who is the wealthiest. Some, for example, go as far as breaking their mobile phones in public. The more expensive the phone, the more the act is revered by their peers.
A key characteristic of the 'Izikhothane' is wearing eccentric clothing and colourful Italian shoes. Photo by Muzi Kingpin.
The phenomenon gained notoriety in 2012 when several television stations reported on it. The South African station eNCA broadcast a story
about an 'Izikhothane' member who committed suicide after being pressured by his peers to keep spending money, even though his family did not have the means.
Following a flood of criticism in the South African press and warnings
from the Johannesburg police that burning money, either in public or in private, is a criminal offence, the 'Izikhothane' have kept a low profile. But they continue to organise meetings via Facebook or on Twitter using the hashtag '#skhotane
', which is helping the movement gain momentum.
Video published in November 2012 showing an 'Izikhothane' member destroying and burning money.
have tried to turn young people away from the movement by organising free activities, such as drama workshops.
On social networks, each group posts ever more eccentric photos to show off their wealth.