In Bad Company
Spinning is the name given to a sport that grew out of gangster culture in South Africa’s townships and informal settlements during the 1990s. Bored young men would go out to steal cars, and in an effort to impress the crowd, mostly women, these young men would perform various stunts with these stolen cars – their own versions of drifting complete with their own brand of showmanship and a healthy dose of insanity. The car of choice is the increasingly rare BMW 325i Shadowline two-door – or as it is known in the local lingo, the ‘Gusheshe’. But more recently, the BMW 325 four-door – the Botsotso – is the car you will see most often performing drifting tricks. In the event of a fellow gangster or friend’s death, they would burn the car afterwards – a warrior’s farewell to the dead.
My friend, Brad, or ‘Skopas’, as he is more fondly known in this world, pulled me into this wild world of smoke and stunts and spectacle. I met him at the tattoo parlour where I worked, after I designed the tattoo on the side of his head and face: his nickname ‘Skopas’, which refers to the mixed bag of multi-coloured popcorn, commonly sold in the townships. This nickname implies that he is crazy. When he found out I was a photographer, he asked me to come with him. I was intrigued, so I went.
A modern day gladiator, Skopas is one of very few white spinners in South Africa and one of the top altogether. He bridges the divide between middle class white suburbia and the underground world within the black townships. In this space, spinning his car, Skopas and his crew, Bad Company, become gods: people scream for them, women throw themselves at them, and everyone wants a facebook picture with them. But especially with him; the umlungu - the white boy who spins cars, hangs out in the townships, and speaks Zulu fluently.
This sport has lived within the shadow world of crime and gangsterism for many years. But there is a growing attempt to shift this to a legalised, accepted sport, which might bridge the gaps of the race, as well as class divides in South Africa.