Share Their Story

Mandi Vundla, 35

Founder and chief executive
Poetry Zone ZA

Mandi Vundla is the founder of Poetry Zone ZA — a poetry development agency focused on improving the quality of spoken word poetry in South Africa. Vundla is an educator, mentor and curator, in addition to being a poet. One word at a time, she addresses how poetry is perceived and consumed, and how the youth engage with it.

Vundla’s work allows her to express her own journey and future ambitions. “I use poetry to confront the physiological and psychological limitations and expectations imposed on me by the world, as a black woman born and brewed in the township.”

These poems, which Vundla created for her own personal resolve, have expanded beyond comprehensible reach and have created hope and a home for the communities that encounter her work.

“Do not aspire to write poetry. Become the poem.”

Author - Shai Rama
Xabiso Vili, 30

Xabiso Vili, 30

Siziintsomi Creations

“There is nothing original under the sun,” muses Xabiso Vili. This is why the 30-year-old Johannesburger prefers to focus on authenticity instead. He pursues this goal through storytelling, the unifying thread of a diverse creative output, and through his postgraduate studies in applied theatre at Wits University.

The Future Africa grant recipient has produced two collections of poetry, Eating My Skin and Laughing In My Father’s Voice, and a one-man show, Black Boi Be.

It’s Vili’s work in the augmented reality field that has taken him from his upbringing in the rural Eastern Cape to the likes of Vancouver and Paris. He had to pinch himself when, wandering through the latter’s crowded suburbs, he heard his own voice booming from the historic Church of St Eustache, a feature of his projection-mapping installation.

Vili is busy working on a 360-degree visual poetry album, which will become his first virtual reality film.

“Believe in your voice and its authenticity.”

Zia Haffejee |
Tshegofatso Seoka, 34

Tshegofatso Seoka, 34

Founder and managing director
Ms Simone

Art specialist Tshegofatso Seoka wears three hats in the sector. She’s the founder of Ms Simone; an art theory lecturer at Tshwane University of Technology; and the education and events officer for Unisa Art Gallery, where she handles publicity and organises events.
In all three roles, her aims are to make visual arts a more sustainable career, to see African art gain prominence on the global stage, and to encourage more black people to become collectors.
Seoka launched Ms Simone as a consultancy to support and develop contemporary South African and African art by curating exhibitions, representing artists and managing collections. The company’s research arm develops and updates art archives and is involved in publishing books and academic journals.
“In less than a year, I had already employed two interns, partnered with big institutions in the sector and presented a show at the Turbine Art Fair,” she says.

Life unfortunately is unpredictable and comes with a lot of challenges: persevere!

Lesley Stones |
Slindile Mthembu, 29

Slindile Mthembu, 29

Playwright, script writer and creative director
Mabu Art Foundation

Slindile Mthembu is a storyteller. Through her work, she challenges one-dimensional ways of depicting black women and their lives. She was featured in Advance Media’s 100 Most Influential South Africans of 2020.
The proudest moment in her journey was taking 16 young black performers and a creative team to the National Arts Festival in Makhanda in 2016. Their concept musical Milked Voice sold out every day and received standing ovations.
IGAMA? is an award-winning play that Mthembu developed during her master’s in theatre and performance at Wits University. The play tells the story of five women who live in a well-behaved South African community. The aim is to see if the women can break out of their stereotypes, or whether they merely conform to narrow postcolonial South African social norms.
Photo credit: Boipelo Khunou

“My job is to reflect the times that society is living in. I pick up my pen every day because I understand how sharp my weapon is through my words.”

Louise van den Bergh |
Shandukani Mulaudzi, 32

Shandukani Mulaudzi, 32

Communications officer
Mozilla Foundation

Shandukani Mulaudzi has always been passionate about telling stories. She completed her journalism degree at Wits, being awarded student of the year, followed by further studies at Columbia University, where she finished in the top 15% of her class. “Everyone said it would be close to impossible, but I just decided to show up as the best version of myself,” Mulaudzi says.
The entrepreneur now manages the Studio Nxumalo Contemporary art gallery in Linden, Johannesburg, where in her work she advocates having more black artists in the world of art fairs and exhibitions. “Art is African — we are inherently a people who draw, speak, sing, dance and create to communicate our most intimate thoughts and feelings,” she says. Mulaudzi’s dedication to empowerment also extends to her role as communications officer at Mozilla, where she enjoys working on projects at the intersection of technology and social justice.

Tech rights are human rights because of how much tech is needed to navigate this world.

Luca Hart |
Rendani Nemakhavhani, 31

Rendani Nemakhavhani, 31


Rendani Nemakhavhani, aka PR$DNT HONEY, uses illustration, photography and film to tell stories representative of people like herself. Her work is inspired by African culture and centred on blackness and womanhood because, she says, “I believe in our power — past, present, and future”.

PR$DNT HONEY says she’s driven by the pursuit of happiness; creating and sharing work that resonates with others makes her happy. She strives to solve problems using creativity, to leave the world a more interesting place, and explores new ways to make art more accessible. “I’m working towards being one of the greats of our lifetime.

“The biggest mistake I made was talking myself out of being an artist,” she says. She advises young artists to believe in their genius and have the courage to pursue it.

“I used to feel as though I could not be the person I really want to be because of circumstances, but showing up and betting on myself has proven otherwise.”

Afrika Bogatsu |
Philiswa Lila, 34

Philiswa Lila, 34

Visual artist and researcher
University of Johannesburg in partnership with Cambridge University

Philiswa Lila is a visual artist and storyteller. She is influenced by the nuances of memory, brought about by the sensory explorations of personal objects – how the touch of an intimate object can evoke a recollection of senses, imagination and emotion.
Her work brings to life the specific narratives identified by the personal connections between the object and the person. Her artwork becomes a reflection of the emotional history between them.
Lila works across multiple disciplines such oil and acrylic painting, installations and performance art, while using a variety of mediums in her work that include animal skin, beading, wood, paper, photography, video and poetry.
Lila received her master’s degree in art history from Rhodes University and honours in curating at Michaelis School of Art, University of Cape Town. She is currently in residence at University of Johannesburg, in partnership with Cambridge University.

I evoke personal experiences that materialise in the sensory and the imagination of objects, and narratives that generate relational connections.

Carol Chamberlain |
Noluyolo Yolie Ngomani , 31

Noluyolo Yolie Ngomani , 31

Station manager
RX Radio

Noluyolo Ngomani is a station manager at RX Radio, a radio station for children. “It provides a platform for communication between hospitalised children with chronic conditions, their families and healthcare workers. The station aims to enable children to be ongoing participants in decision making on matters that affect them,” says Ngomani.

RX Radio was one of the two winners of the World Health Organisation’s Reboot Health & Wellbeing Challenge in 2020.

Ngomani is passionate about amplifying children’s voices. She completed her master’s in media theory and practice at the University of Cape Town as well as two honours degrees, a bachelor of arts in film and media, and a certificate in radio production from the National Electronic Media Institute of South Africa.

“A new day means more possibilities,” she says. “Always be willing to work hard as, more often than not, it pays off.”

For every achievement, there is hard work involved.

Sarah Irwin |
Obett Motaung, 29

Obett Motaung, 29

Multidisciplinary artist

Obett Motaung is an artist, academic and a member of the Golden Key International Honour Society. Wits University awarded him for making the best postgraduate film.

Motaung’s vision is to support others to excel and attain their own wish fulfilment. “I want to be the wings that others use to go out there to reach for their dreams,” he says. He would advise his younger self to stay focused and be brave enough to overcome whatever obstacles may arise.

His work is focused on those who are on the margins of society. He is driven by a hunger to learn about the world in order to better himself.

He believes his biggest mistake is thinking he was too young to be in certain spaces, but now he sees that young people need to be represented, and should speak up and be heard.

“Always keep at it — never give up.”

Oratile Mashazi |
Naledi Mashishi, 27

Naledi Mashishi, 27

Researcher and author
Africa Check

Having trained as a journalist, Naledi Mashishi now works as a researcher for Africa Check, Africa’s first fact-checking organisation, where she uses the large online platform to debunk misinformation.

“I believe that people can only make the best decisions for themselves and others if they have the right information they need to make them,” she says.

Through her work, she has learned the importance of not limiting herself. “I spent most of my life thinking that anything health-related was out of my reach,” she says.

Naledi now writes reports verifying claims made in the public domain. Much of her work has included debunking misinformation around the Covid-19 virus and vaccine, as well as claims regarding women’s health, education, and South African law.

Committed to being accessible, Mashishi posts her research to the Africa Check website and in conversational threads on Twitter to her thousands of followers.

“People can only make the best decisions if they have the right information they need to make them.”

Andie Reeves |
Lehlohonolo Masina, 35

Lehlohonolo Masina, 35

Operations manager
Current State Presentations Pty (Ltd)

Born and bred in Sebokeng, Lehlohonolo Masina’s journey into the arts began with a chance meeting with poet and now business partner Vus’umuzi Phakathi. “My friend asked if it would be possible for me to drive his friend to Durban for a performance,” he remembers. “This friend turned out to be Vus’umuzi. I fell in love with the arts on the drive.”

The following year, Masina resigned from his job at Nampak, where he felt he had reached a ceiling. Work began to establish Current State Presentations, a company working with artists — particularly poets — from disadvantaged backgrounds.

This resulted in a partnership with the Joburg Theatre’s youth development arm. Concurrently, Masina worked with Arts Alive, starting in 2016, handing out flyers and eventually working on activations, becoming an artist liaison officer and, later, part of the production team.

“Take more risks; be more proactive in everything that you do.”

Sandiso Ngubane |
Ekta Somera, 23

Ekta Somera, 23

Founder and editor-in-chief
Paper Trail Literary Journal

Ekta Somera studied criminology because of her fascination with psychology and a need to help others. Then she discovered a passion for poetry and a knack for writing, and realised that she needed to change her career choice.

Last year she self-published her first collection of poetry titled Made in Poetry, followed this year by her second collection, Twenty-Two. Not one to rest on her laurels, the ambitious Somera then started Paper Trail Literary Journal as a platform for young creative voices to be heard.

The journal’s name represents leaving something behind for others now and for future generations. When Somera was at school, she felt that there weren’t that many opportunities for her to express herself freely, so she set her sights on creating a space for others to do so, while engaging with and raising awareness about important social issues.

The journal’s name, “Paper Trail” was chosen as it represents leaving something behind for future generations.

Patrick Visser |
Brittany Smith, 27

Brittany Smith, 27

Opera soloist
Cape Town Opera

Brittany Smith is a living example of what happens when a talented woman pushes through the barriers of self-doubt and fears of not fitting in: she blossoms into a professional and flourishes as she does what she loves for a living.
Smith is an opera singer for Cape Town Opera, which employed her as a young artist only to promote her shortly afterwards. She studied for six years at the University of Cape Town’s South African College of Music, specialising in opera, followed by a postgraduate certificate in advanced opera studies.
In a near-disaster, Smith contracted tuberculosis only 4cm below her vocal chords. This put both her career and her life in jeopardy, but fortunately she recovered. Pushing through the trials of this adversity was worth it. She describes the feeling of opening her mouth to sing opera as “freedom and bliss”.
Smith’s biggest piece of advice is to never underestimate the power you have within yourself, as it is unfathomably great.

I want to show the younger, aspiring, hungry South African opera singers that it can happen for you in your own hometown – to leave is to leave nothing for someone else to look up to.

Jennifer Worthington-Smith |
Banzii Mavuso, 31

Banzii Mavuso, 31

Freelance filmmaker and musician
Kosmic Natives

Johannesburg-based Banzii Mavuso is the founder of Kosmic Natives, a creative agency working with South African filmmakers, designers and musicians. “We are ensuring that black women are humanised, elevated and seen,” Mavuso said about her company.
As a freelance filmmaker and musician, Mavuso has worn many hats over the years, including organising events at companies she’s worked for, such as Jam That Session and Blvck Queer. Her proudest moments include receiving funding for the short film Gang 888 from the National Film and Video Foundation and the Gauteng Film Commission, and being shortlisted to perform in Switzerland, both in 2020.
Mavuso is inspired by her late brother and parents to connect with their ancestors and ensure their legacy lives on. Mavuso says, “I want people to understand that they matter and that, just like in the old days, we still need our values of love, gratitude, respect and support for one another.”

Don’t let fame make you dizzy, learn the legal side of the film and music business, how to manage your finances and prioritise your mental health before anything.

Neil Büchner |