Inspiring Young African Women To Take Up Space in the Film and Arts – by Londiwe Mnguni
On the 25th of March 2023, Activate! Change Drivers hosted Young African Women Film & Arts Spaces. This is an initiative under the Arts & Culture sector and was hosted at the American corner by Es’kia Mphahlele Community Library at Sammy Marks. The event targeted Activators in the film and arts and those aspiring to enter the space.
The event began with breakfast and a networking session of 30 minutes, which was imperative in allowing those present to be comfortable around each other. Visual artists who showcased their art were Pulelo Huma known as “Master P” who is a fine artist and author of Wool Over my Eyes, Julia Lemekwane. All thanks to ACTIVATE! Alumnae, Clerah Sethole gave an icebreaker by starting off with powerful struggle songs, the energies within the room remained high throughout the event.
The month of March marks International Women’s Day. For women in South Africa, a variety of issues such as gender-based violence, discrimination, and gender gap pay amongst many others are faced on a daily basis. These make today’s days not be considered to be “special” such as International Women’s day and National Women’s Day in August which lose their value and are not worth the celebration. There is a shortage of women taking up spaces in boardrooms and being majority decision-makers in all sectors including the film and arts space. Responding to this shortage, the event became a significant drive towards changing this reality, as it provided an opportunity for young people to exchange ideas. Ideas on how to not only share your work but how you can also start a business and make earnings from it.
The workshop aimed to challenge the status quo and to restore hope to those present whilst giving them a platform to showcase themselves and network. The Network Support coordinator, Nathacia Olivier expressed that the idea of the event emerged from an online webinar that took place late last year and referred to it as a door opener. “The main purpose for the event is to open up a door that would otherwise have been a challenge for young individuals outside of the A! Network support to realize.”
Unathi Mzileni, a 2019 Activator! and poet gave a heartwarming poem on one wishing to exercise their power, he is of the belief that the event served a powerful purpose in sharing knowledge and paving the way for where to go from here onwards.
The open panel discussion was facilitated by Nhlanhla Msiza who is a creative content influencer and presenter. Msiza covered relevant topics such as 1. Problems noticeable within the industry, 2. Solutions to problems and 3. Changes needed as well as 4. Funding. The guests on the panel were Xoli Makapela who is well vested in the film, script writing, television, and production space as well as Tsakani Matavele 2019 cohort Activator and founder of Cherrystar Film.
Makapela believes that “representation” is an issue within the industry. When the storyline is about a person from the LGBTQI+ community he said he expects to see just that but is often failed. The audience also added on the problems of ‘recycling’ of artists and the lack of new talent and content.
Corruption is in every sector and the film and arts is no exception. The department lacks transparency and needs restructuring to allow new voices to be heard, seen or experienced. We can blame the state of the economy and people being consumed by greed, but I would like to believe that with readily available information, we can help change the narrative.
“It is all about articulating your voice,” Xoli said. “I harassed the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) to open doors for me and it worked in my favour”. Similar to Tsakane, “I got in contact with someone from the SABC and I was advised to start my own film business”. Surely, when one keeps knocking someone will eventually open.
With organizations such as the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF), amongst many others, having opportunities currently available for applications, it is important for people to have honest conversations on not only how to access opportunities but the logistics that go into becoming a successful candidate. For instance, strict requirements do limit one’s ability to access certain opportunities. Candidates who are fresh out of university/college might have never drafted proposals before and having to prove that they can offer certain services outside the support of their institutions of learning can be regarded as ridiculous. We need assistance.
Following trends might be beneficial in drawing in the audience but artists are encouraged to stay true to themselves but remain open-minded. Other than this, many other ideas and opinions were shared, and the event was overall beneficial, at least to the majority.
- Ekasi Labs (Garankuwa, Mamelodi, Mabopane, Soweto, Kathorus, Sebokeng, Thembisa, Alexandra)
- Wot-If? Trust in Diepsloot
- Goethe Institute in Rosebank
- Business Clinic in New Town
- Gauteng Film Commission – Funding
- National Film & Video Foundation (NFVF)- Funding
- Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC)
IOL. (2023) Artists Call for transparency in the Arts and Culture’s R12bn budget allocation. Available at: https://www.iol.co.za/weekend-argus/news/artists-call-for-transparency-in-arts-and-cultures-r12bn-budget-allocation-fc297d13-6331-4176-af72-372eeae8479d (Accessed: 25 March 2023)
About the Author:
Londiwe Mnguni is an Industrial Sociology and Labour Studies graduate passionate about employee relations and ensuring that young people from the lower and middle classes take up space. 2023 GP Activator!
Photography by Tsakane Matavele and Thabo Kadikadi.