Meet the new generation of tastemakers and emerging creative leaders shaping 2018 and beyond
By: Phendu Kuta | Photography: Andile Phewa
A creative path is not guaranteed smooth sailing, survival or success – but there are people who go against the grain and express their creativity authentically regardless. They are the fearless ones, the pioneers, those who don't believe in following the norm. Against all odds these young people have all chosen to create something that they believe in.
A new generation of tastemakers and emerging creative leaders of tomorrow; these are the seven young break-out creatives on our radar for 2018.
Nkululeko 'Nkuley' Masemola
Nkululeko Masemola, known as Nkuley, is a 19-year-old model who was born in Pretoria and raised everywhere. He works as a model and co-designer for The Uniconz.
How did you begin your journey into modelling and when did you know that you wanted to be a model?
I began modelling last year. I went to a friend's casting and ended up being picked as one of the models and I've been modelling ever since. I fell in love with modelling after watching seasons of different modelling shows, but I couldn't pursue it because I wasn't in the right space mentally.
Tell us about your personal style and what inspires it?
I love fashion too much to have a personal style, but if I had to give it a name it would have to be "experimental" because I'm a mixture of all styles – just more goth.
Your modelling career has kicked off quite rapidly, what do you attribute that to and what advice do you have for young people who are aspiring models in such a saturated industry?
I suggest being completely yourself, you may hear this alot but its very important because all this industry does is try strip away your individuality.
Tshego 'Red' Mosiane
Tshego “Red” Mosiane is a fashion writer and emerging film maker. She is mostly self-taught and focuses on creating independent African-fashion content "without the fluff".
How did your digital platform Reconnected come about? Take us into your journey from inception
I started contributing to magazines in 2016 (with Unlabelled coincidentally enough) but it didn’t take long for me to become aware of the limitations in fashion media as a writer. There’s a hierarchy and you won’t always be on the same page as your editor. So in late 2017 I decided to venture into video content because it allows me to pick varying formats and subject matter to communicate how I see fashion without the restrictions or filters of writers.
The digital publishing space is male-dominated, do you feel more pressure to work harder for recognition and opportunities as a female publisher and content creator?
Yes, absolutely. I think being black, young and behind the camera with a vagina adds a lot of pressure. People look at me in a very condescending kind of way when they see me with a camera and I’m not handing it over to someone to shoot for me. I feel pressure to shut those sexist micro aggressions up. But most of the pressure I feel is to deliver and compete at a higher caliber. Because it’s not that female publishers, directors, etc don’t exist, but they aren’t given as many opportunities to compete on an even playing field with their male colleagues. I think that’s a benefit of being new to the industry in 2018. The playing fields are evening out and my job is to make sure I come prepared to play at all times so to ensure the next crop of women directors have a more equal playing field.
As an entrepreneur and creative do you feel that the South African creative industries are geared towards propelling your skills and talents forward, and if not, what do you think is lacking or can be done?
No. They are geared to mine black, brown and queer creatives for their passion or vision while underpaying, belittling and blocking our progress past a very low ceiling. It gets more suffocating the less access to creative cliques you have, or the further away you are from metropolitan areas, because that’s where the opportunities are. I think there’s a lot that should be done to give diverse people opportunities. Firstly, give us the chance. Don’t hire one incapable asshole then blame everyone with the same degree of melanin for their short comings. Don’t let one black person or person of colour's failure be reason to block us all out. Secondly, we need better education on how the industries work. Kids have parents paying upwards of 70k a year on creative varsities or colleges and they still leave unprepared for our industry. Including not knowing how to run profitable businesses. And lastly, give young people better opportunities sooner. We keep losing our best to foreign industries because here you must be a starving artist until you’re 30 when young people are very capable of contributing more than an Instagram aesthetic. Put us in your meetings and creative teams under guidance, but not stifling restrictions, and allow us to breathe new life in what’s already an ailing industry, while developing skills to continue to contribute for long careers to come.
Johannesburg based illustrator, developer and junior digital art director for Ogilvy & Mather, Lorenzo Plaatjies' illustrations have an emotive quality and distinct aesthetic that have garnered him the opportunity to work with several brands.
How do you balance being an independent artist and having a full time job?
I work in the creative industry so it's not that difficult for me to balance. I don't find it challenging at all. My art is my escape and my downtime. I'm allowed to create what I want and work on whatever I feel like working on, so I don't see it as grind because I enjoy the process. You always make time for the things you enjoy.
What do you as a visual artist who has had considerable success wish to pass on as advice to other young artists or creatives?
I think the best advice I can pass on would be: TAKE YOURSELF SERIOUSLY. In our country specifically, artists don't take themselves seriously enough. They judge their value via what people offer them and hardly see the value in what they create as well as represent. Once you see your value, you don't settle and you do more, you receive more, too. Don't let them take advantage of you.
Any upcoming projects or work that we can look out for?
I can't really go into detail, I have two art collections coming out through exhibitions one titled Bloodsport, one titled The 9. I'm making a lot of art via collaborations and I'm also working on an exciting project for Vodacom. I'll be working more with Converse in the coming months and have collaborations coming up with Bushkoppies and Unique Iconz. My work is moving deeper into the fashion world, which is exciting for me.
Glow Makatsi is trans activist and content creator from the Free State, "I usually find it highly annoying when people assume the only strong creatives are usually either from Joburg, Cape Town or some idealized place."
You are a trans-activist, do you feel that by virtue of being a trans female that you have a social responsibility to represent the trans community and LGBTQI community?
No, its a choice I made.
What inspired your choice?
My choice to become a trans activist was honestly inspired by my awareness of how few of us there are in the South African media. We're rarely covered and when our issues are then the lens can be problematic. So I decided to start a YouTube channel since I love being in front of the camera. It was also a way to share information about access to meds etc. because online information was limited and finding someone to consult on what to do or where to go to transition was difficult. So I thought I'd share all this info on my YouTube.
Besides creating content for your YouTube channel, what does a typical day entail for you?
Typical? It's never typical with me. I always live in the extreme, so a day is usually either super intense or super chilled, creatively. The constant in between my days is usually creativity, thats the thread that runs through my entire lifespan. A day usually entails exercising my creativity, but I like being inspired when I express, when I'm not inspired I can't create.
What do you feel are the biggest misconceptions about trans people in South Africa?
That we're not a norm. We are actually quite a norm that dates far back. But you know, the thwarting of history, side eye, cringe...
Sakhile 'Sash' Cebekhulu
Sakhile Cebekhulu is a Johannesburg based visual artist and clothing designer "(in no particular order)". He is the founder and creative director of SASH, a contemporary South African clothing brand that reflects a contemporary South Africa through clothing, alongside SASH he has a visual art practice called Studio S where he explores tensions between growing up as a "city boy" and being a traditional Zulu male.
You describe your designs as "a reflection of contemporary South Africa through clothing" please elaborate on this statement
I was born in Johannesburg around the 90s and I've lived in Johannesburg all my life. To me Johannesburg is the melting pot of South Africa. This is where different tribes from across South Africa and Africa have all migrated to, and where "everything happens". Johannesburg has become the definition of contemporary South Africa in my eyes. Having lived in the city all my life I've been exposed to different cultures, people, and environments and through this have come across many stories that are untold, unheard or unseen by South Africans, Africans and the world. These are the stories I am passionate to tell through SASH. I am a storyteller at heart and SASH is just a different medium for me to tell stories and challenge existing narratives.
Please share how your visual art and fashion design careers have evolved this year and how this contributes to your growth as an individual?
This year has been really a year of learning and finding balance, I've taken time to do more learning than anything. I actually haven't created any new work this year but have been working from pre-existing work. I'm at a point where I feel like we over-create, where we're continuously creating even when its unnecessary. This hinders the process when you create just for the sake of creating. Creativity then loses its essence. So I made a promise to myself that I'd spend more time learning than creating, in order to allow my work to grow organically, which has helped me very much and allowed me to be in a much better space to create.
What projects are you currently working on?
I am currently in the conceptual stages of developing the new SASH range and developing my new visual art series. All set for 2019.
Sandile 'Talent' Mhlongo
Sandile "Talent" Mhlongo is an award-winning artist who uses design, fashion, film, furniture and performance art as mediums of expression and is a part of The LPO Collective.
You wear various creative hats. Please elaborate on the creative endeavours you are a part of and how you got into each creative path?
Since high school I've always wanted to be a renaissance artist. In The Uniconz, we democratised art through fashion. We met Frypan, started selling at RHTC ONLINE then together we started an award-winning furniture company with our partner Computa (an amazing craftsman) Called PlaygroundSA, where we create multi-functional wooden furniture that democratises entrepreneurship through it being affordable and mobile friendly. That sparked "RHTC Playground" an experiential store and showroom for local brands like S.W.A.N.K, Blackelement, Trnsd, OHYESLORD, Socially Incorrect, PlaygroundSA furniture and artists like Dirty Native. Collectively alongside #Kiggywiththenicepants (whose company makes the clothes in the store) we formed LPO SA, which is a movement and festival that is put together by more than 100 local artists and that celebrates local talent only!
The Uniconz also-known-as The Unique Iconz has in the past two years showcased at major South African fashion weeks, how has that contributed to the growth of your brand?
It actually happened six months apart, and it was a really dope experience because I learnt the value of preparation, the importance of systems and brand value. I also realised that streetwear does not fit into that particular space right now, and we just need to create our own platform for streetwear designers and takes the experience of fashion presentations to the next level!
What is the one project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career so far and why?
The First Touch Project is amazing and made me realise the importance of your first touch and how that touch could lead to your dream life. Its funny cause it's actually a mixtape, but under this project we had our own indie fashion presentation (before fashion week) where SmangaOG x Naye Ayla performed live while #Kiggywiththenicepants and I showcased our first collaborative collection that we hand sewed together in her Sweatshop! We also created our first indie movie First Touch featuring SmangaOG, Naye Ayla, Frypan and Sandi, shot by our friends @Uncap_p about the importance of your first touch and how that touch could lead to your dream life. (The second screening will be in August, come through)
Elle Rose van der Burg
Elle Rose van der Burg is a 19-year-old transgender model, activist and musician (under the artist name Baby Caramelle) who focuses her voice on gender-based activism. She uses her platform to negotiate new conversations around how we perceive gender roles; in the hopes of creating more intersectional spaces and discussions. Her work has featured in Cosmopolitan, Vogue and Marie Claire as well as documentaries for i-D, Vice and MTV .
You had considerable success in modelling before coming out as a trans female, has coming out had any effect on your career and if so, how have you navigated the shift?
Coming out has certainly affected my career but I think it’s been a positive change. Now, more than before, my work has a purpose it means more than just a pay check to me. I finally get to reach people and represent sectors our society isn’t fully tapping into yet.
What have you found to be most challenging part of being as trans female in this country, and how would you like things to change?
I find it most challenging having to navigate explaining my identity to people in South Africa. It’s weird because I don’t blame people for being ignorant, because not a lot of conversations were being had outside of binary identity. That being said, that ignorance can be a really hard thing to work through when you’re just trying to be respected for who you are.
What excites you about having a creative career in South Africa in 2018 and what are the downfalls of having a creative career in this country in 2018?
I think it is really exciting to work in a time where social connection drives work forces. I think a huge benefit of that is more people are open to experiences outside of their own, now more than ever. I think a challenge because of that same social connectivity is that it becomes harder to tell when people are genuinely trying to work towards something better, or just trying to appeal to popularity.