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The Rise Of Meme Culture In South Africa

  • 3 min read

Laughter is said to be the best medicine and South Africans love to take their dose every day which is why short-form mobile video platform, TikTok, has continued to grow in popularity amongst locals. Instead of its content focusing purely on traditional comedic skits, TikTok has taken its entertainment up a notch by providing a platform where creating videos based on popular memes is a huge part of users’ experience. 

In the past TikTok has mainly been associated with dancing trends, however, the platform is now home to a variety of viral content and of late has especially taken hold of the meme space. Meme culture has grown so rapidly on TikTok compared to social platforms because of the global audience a video has the potential of reaching which in turn increases the possibility of that video going viral. Some of the most viral global meme videos include #dontleaveme#DNATest and #Haribochallenge

So what is a meme? 

While there is no outright definition of a meme, it’s safe to say that memes have become a new way of cultural expression that comes in the form of an image or video portraying a particular concept that is then spread through the internet. Memes are described as cultural shorthand with original ideas being replicated, altered or built upon to evolve into something else that fits into the context within which it’s being shared.

Boniswa Sidwaba, TikTok Content Operations Manager, Africa, says TikTok has been a breeding ground for dozens of clever, funny videos that have turned into memes. “The platform’s innovative tools and special effects enable users to create powerful storytelling scenes based on a specific topic or relatable hashtags. A few good local examples include challenges like the #africancheck#Dameschallenge,  #Amapianoislife – these challenges birthed incredibly funny videos.”

Sidwaba adds that currently, 50% of the viral meme trends on the platform are effect-based.

Memes culture in South Africa

Considering the multitude of serious issues that face South Africans on daily basis, locals have always found a way to look on the bright side of life. This is most prevalent online where anything from local issues like load shedding to political or celebrity news is turned into a humorous moment. People then take these moments and turn them into memes which are shared rapidly across social platforms. Memes play an important role in entertaining South Africans of all ethnicities and cultures because they are easily created and relatable. 

Over the years, meme culture has evolved and has become a permanent part of South African culture, especially on TikTok. There is never a dull moment as local content creators are constantly capturing interesting incidences, trending topics, educational information and current affairs in hilarious ways that can only be expressed better through memes. Today’s tech-savvy generation coupled with cultural, social, political and economic diversity has all made memes a greater part of our culture. 

Meme culture has grown so big that there are several hashtags dedicated to memes on TikTok – the most popular hashtag for South Africa being #mzansimemes with more than 50M views while on the global platform #memes has over 42 billion views.

Locally, popular memes include content around the lockdownwearing a mask during COVIDload shedding as well as social, trending music, being African and showcasing fun memorable moments. One of the most viral local memes would have to be Max Hurrell’s “When People Zol” video.

Here are a few other fun meme  videos that have recently trended :