Top3Tuesday: Stefanie Jason

“Of the infinite things I’ve collected and experienced over three decades, it’s almost impossible to select three objects to pedestal,” says Cape Town-born, Joburg-based journalist and editor Stefanie Jason, making reference to her stacks of jazz and soul LPs, jpegs from travels and ranges of emotions and encounters. “But I’ll try.” At the helm of cultural publication 10and5, Stefanie has over the years written on topics related to identity and culture, from feature stories to opinion pieces, as staff writer for newspaper Mail & Guardian’s cultural section and Marie Claire South Africa, with bylines in OkayAfrica, Visi and more.

A 2017 fellow for the International Women’s Media Foundation, Stefanie talks film photography, follicles and vulnerability in this month’s Top3Tuesday.

3Portrait taken by George Hallett

Stefanie Jason. 2000. © George Hallett.

I remember the day this photo of me was taken. It was the year 2000, I was fully in the throes of teen angst, on school holiday in Cape Town and learning to cope with living between divorced parents in Johannesburg and the Cape. In my favourite felt hat and hair in braids, I accompanied my photographer father to his friend, Uncle George. (Better known as the legendary South African photographer George Hallett, famed for his powerful images of District Six, in Cape Town, and the forced removals in the area during apartheid, and the brilliant canon of black and white portraits, which mine can now be added to.) With all his grace, ruggedness, eloquence and flamboyance, Uncle George asked me to pose for him in his southern suburb apartment on that grey day in July. And I did. For years after that I didn’t think about the film photograph or what it looked like after it had been processed. In fact, a decade had gone past and I had completely forgotten about that day. On New Year’s in 2014, my dad surprised me with this signed print, and all the memories and feelings came flooding back. 

2The Art of Hair

via Nigerian Nostalgia Project

I’m obsessed with hair; hair like mine – kinky and coiled; the traditions and politics around black hair and; the endless possibilities of how it can be styled: wefted, braided, textured, cropped, head-wrapped, wigged, coloured. From my personal practice of treating my own head – hours of deep conditioning, cling wrapping and self-love – to going to the salon, a symbolic space in our community (even with its frustrations), the art of doing hair is something special to me. And over the years I’ve become a fan of collecting accessories like afro picks and carved wooden combs, and concocting my own delicious products using oils and butter. I’m also fascinated by the politics and history of black hair, and its strength; I mean, can you imagine that braids were once a liberation tool for enslaved Africans, with messages of freedom translated through hair patterns. There’s so much beauty and pain in our hair story.

1Sonic Representations of Vulnerability

My next choice is an emotional state. In a world where vulnerability is viewed as a weakness and is shamed, I’m discovering its spectrum and learning that it’s okay to show or be exposed to vulnerability or emotions raw, tender and truthful. So, if music could epitomise this state, it would sound like Sza on Ctrl, her new album. More specifically Garden (Say it Like Dat), singing her insecurities and inner turmoil. Or Coltrane effortlessly pouring out all the world’s feelings through his brass instrument on track In a Sentimental Mood, blessed with that wintry piano solo by Duke Ellington. Honest, tender and clear but unsure and unruffled. All at the same time. Listen.