This week, we commemorate 44 years since we as a people stood up and fought for the right to exist on that fateful day in Soweto.
The journey from then until now has been one filled with development and progress; however, we cannot help but draw distinctive parallels between the two.
Right now, as with back then, we find ourselves having to stay indoors in order to stay safe. The world seems to be ever so perilous, and the future remains uncertain.
At this moment, as with 1976 freedom has become a state of mind because our movements have been curtailed,
Not by systematic hegemony, but by mother nature herself reminding us of how precious and precarious life can be.
Hopes, dreams and the passion to pursue one’s ambitions did not die 44 years ago.
When rights and freedoms couldn’t be realised, it was up to the individual to ensure that their spirit endured past the apparent struggle. Succumbing to worry and suppression was not an option for the creative mind capable of producing an alternate reality of aspiration, joy, and tranquillity whilst stuck right in the middle of commotion.
As worry and gloom permeates the air once again, the youth of 2020 must harness the very same creativity and resilience used by the youth of 1976, and continue to create ideas and then shape them into a reality that inspires hope and dares one not to forget to live.
We spoke to three Avastars about how they are faring in achieving the freedom to be creative and creating their own freedom.
Olwethu Mlawu, Group Account Director, Avatar
Q: What drew you to the advertising industry?
A: Curiosity. The process of taking an idea from a piece of paper and watching it evolve into tangible elements is very rewarding. It sort of resembles making dreams come true.
Q: What parallels can you draw between the challenges of the youth of 1976 and that of 2020?
A: Still having to fight for inclusion yet we are the country’s majority. It didn’t make sense then, it doesn’t make sense now. Like back then, it is also still within our capacity to stop the complaining culture and learn to take decisive action that will place us at the forefront of positive change.
Q: What advice can you give to a new entrant to your industry?
A: To remember how tiny the industry population is and know that every job they enter earns them a reputation and a name, managing that intentionally is of critical importance. You advertise yourself through every badly handled and well-handled bit of conflict, it follows you everywhere.
Sibusiso Magubane, Creative Group Head, Avatar
Q: What inspired you to get into copy writing?
A: My grade 11 teacher saw potential in my writing and told me I should try being a journalist. But that didn’t happen, instead I saw an opportunity in being a writer at an Ad agency. To cut a long story short, writing is a spiritual awakening for me. I love it with all my heart.
Q: What is like to be a young creative in South Africa?
A: Being a young black creative in SA, you have to work twice as a hard. It’s not easy, the industry can swallow you up and spit you out for good. But being resilient, working smart and giving it your all can be rewarding.
Q: Do you think South Africa is where it should in terms of creative expression?
A: No, we’re not where we’re supposed to be. Some agencies and clients can oppress creativity especially real concepts that expose the truth about who we are. A lot still needs to be done but we’re nowhere real transformation.
Sizwe Mbiza, Editor at Zkhiphani TV
Q: How did you get into the online entertainment news space?
A: Being a content creator in my personal capacity sparked the interest and curiosity of being involved in the online publication space. During my time in varsity, I was consuming a lot of online content in the form of independent magazines and YouTube so that made me want to be a part of that online movement. Fortunately for me, I interned at Destiny Magazine in the fashion department. Later on, I then interned at Zkhiphani which really propelled my career. These two publications are different in their approach, however, that they are the reason why I got really involved in online entertainment and publications.
Q: What are some of things you’d change or introduce into the local entertainment industry?
A: I would introduce more cultural commentary. I feel like the South African entertainment industry is in dire need of well informed and curated commentary. This would elevate standards and diversify the industry. Furthermore, I would like to change the perception of South African media from both the audience and the personalities’ perspective. I feel that the South African audience and artists/personalities do not treat the media in our country with the necessary importance and urgency.
Q: What do you think it is going to take for South African creative content to be on par with global standards?
A: I think that in order of our creative industry to compete globally there would have to be a significant amount of awareness around it and opportunities offered to younger creatives. The creative industry is very centralised and geographically concentrated which is a big problem for diversity. There are a few gatekeepers who are willing to explore beyond these centralised areas and find new and fresh talent to put on the map. Beyond this, I think that adopting a global excellence mentality as creatives will elevate the standards in our industry, ultimately meaning that we can compete and be compared with the rest of the world. Work should not just be good in South Africa but it must be considered good in any place around the world.