Film & Media

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Reitumetse Mpholle, 27

Head of research and development
Kaya FM

Very few new opportunities or insights can be created if you stay in your comfort zone, says researcher Reitumetse Mpholle. After turning down a few opportunities in the past, she now grabs every chance she can to gain new experiences and exposure to different environments for her personal growth and education.

Mpholle is head of research and development at Kaya FM, and one of the youngest managers ever appointed by the radio station. She’s also working towards a PhD in media studies at the University of the Witwatersrand. She joined Kaya FM in 2016 as a student intern; three months later she was made permanent. That put her at the centre of the business functions and strategic planning. “I have successfully led Kaya FM to receiving accolades, including station of the year awards in 2019 and 2020, through my drive of the research function,” she says.

Mpholle doesn’t come from a privileged background, and juggled three part-time jobs to cover her expenses as a student. “I look back now and realise I have reached these milestones through hard work and dedication, but mainly by setting my own goals and running my own race,” she says.

She’s now using her natural curiosity to improve research focusing on black consumers, especially women and young people, to end the “hopelessly outdated” image the largely white advertising industry has of black consumers.

“As a black person who grew up in an economically constrained family, I have taken it upon myself to contribute towards a better understanding of black consumers,” she says.

“I have made it my personal goal to produce research insights that will inform the development of products and their promotion in a way that more closely meets the requirements of black consumers in their full diversity.”

Author - Lesley Stones
Neo Baepi, 29

Neo Baepi, 29

Photographer

The work of freelance photographer Neo Baepi has appeared on various local and international platforms, most recently to promote Queen Sono, a crime drama series celebrated as the first original African production for Netflix.

Baepi worked as a community manager for Woolworths and Ogilvy before venturing out as a photographer two years ago. After initially making the mistake of not asking for help on how to run the business side of this creative pursuit, Baepi found it “impossibly difficult” to make a living. They remain proud of the decision to change careers and believe it is important to be memorable and reliable, and to keep at it even when people say no. 

As a result of this combination of talent and grit, they have worked for clients including Amstel, Woolworths and Stimorol, and developed a network through those commissions. One of Baepi’s specialities is portraiture, often shot in black and white.

Through honest discussions, Baepi hopes to help create a South Africa “where our queerness and our blackness and our trans-ness and all our ‘nesses’ aren’t up for debate”.

They appeared on the YouTube channel Pap Culture, and a conversation with poet Maneo Mohale was included in They Called Me Queer, a compilation of poems, stories and essays compiled by Kim Windvogel and Kelly-Eve Koopman to challenge ill-informed concepts of queerness.

Baepi also took the photographs for the children’s book The Girl Without A Sound by Buhle Ngaba.

Lesley Stones | mg.co.za
Bujy Bikwa, 32

Bujy Bikwa, 32

Entertainer, broadcaster
Metro FM, Bigway Productions

Larger than life doesn’t even begin to do justice when describing Bujy Bikwa. The self-proclaimed world’s greatest super-sized entertainer has been a presence on the airwaves, television and high profile events since breaking through on YFM’s afternoon drive-time show at the age of 21.

How has he maintained this a decade later in the fast-evolving industry?

“Learn to speak life to your dreams. Speak everything into existence,” he says. “The world doesn’t owe you anything, so stop being scared of being awesome. Live and serve.”

To watch Bujy Bikwa is to see someone committed to living and serving, and who certainly isn’t scared of being awesome. Between the hair, the makeup and the fashion, he wields his self-confidence like a weapon, and the diversity of media and entertainment he works in, including running his own production company and working on national radio, is evidence of his talent. “If I don’t do it no one is going to do it for me. When I am blessed there’s 10 other people blessed because of the leader I am,” he says.

Although Covid-19 has applied the brakes to events with live crowds, Bikwa has been as busy as ever on TV, MetroFM and his social channels, entertaining the masses, releasing new music and hosting digital conversations with some of South Africa’s most interesting personalities.

Bikwa aims to have a positive effect, describing success as giving “someone a purpose to see that the world is full of possibilities” and “by liberating myself I have liberated young people to go for it”.

Max Dylan Lazarus | mg.co.za
Dineo Lusenga, 33

Dineo Lusenga, 33

Television and film producer, and actress

Actress and TV and film producer Dineo Lusenga is driven by the need to create work that creates a positive social impact. Her first acting job was on Intersexions, a seminal show that highlighted the crisscrossing of people’s sexual encounters and the importance of being responsible. In 2012, she hosted a youth talk show called Ek’se Lalela that centred on conversations about the future of young people in South Africa. Living Land is the latest show she presented on SABC 2, which exposes young people to the world of agriculture.

Lusenga has a BA from the University of the Witwatersrand in Dramatic Arts and an Acting For Film qualification from New York Film Academy, and hopes that her contributions to the television industry inspire others to follow their passion. “I hope that when people look at the work that I have done they can see that there is so much more to television than just being the face of a show or film.” She adds that it’s also a valid choice, but she’s interested in showing that there are a plethora of options and opportunities out there. Lusenga is working on her first feature film, based on Kopano Matlwa’s novel Coconut, through her production company KIWI Films. She scripted the 2017 MetroFM Music Awards, as well as the 2018 South African Film and Television Awards — which added a creative director credit to her name. “Having the opportunity to work on such monumental projects reminded me of how fascinated I used to be by award shows as a child, and how much I wanted to be part of the creative team. It’s good to feel like I’m doing the work of my dreams.”

It comes as no surprise when she says that “all your dreams are going to come true, just put in the work” is what she used to tell her younger self.

Jabulile Dlamini-Qwesha | mg.co.za
Yusuf Omar, 31

Yusuf Omar, 31

Co-founder
Hashtag Our Stories

This year alone, we’ve seen how social media can be used as an immensely powerful tool for good. Yusuf Omar has been harnessing this power since 2017 through Hashtag Our Stories, a platform he co-founded with his partner Sumaiya that empowers individuals to become mobile storytellers and citizen journalists, creating videos about people changing their worlds. Using the Stories format on Instagram, they have shone a light on everything from police brutality to the first Gay Pride in Delhi, the Aids fight in South Africa and personal stories of struggle and hope.

“I dreamt of being a journalist for CNN International, and working at their office in London was a powerful experience. But dreams change and I was surprised how quickly we could build our own media company and grow an audience.”

Loaded with good intentions and a curiosity to unearth the world’s hidden heroes, Hashtag Our Stories quickly caught the eye of Snap Inc (Snapchat), which decided to invest in their company, and went on to hit one billion views as of 2019 — but there are a few things he would have done differently.

“One of our mistakes was maybe the company’s name. If you’ve got a better idea we’d love to hear it! More seriously, I think in hindsight we could have built a team earlier. Scaling ideas requires support. Today we try to hire people who are better than us in each of their specialities.”

Today, he is working towards a South Africa with more empathy and understanding: “I feel a moral responsibility to amplify unheard voices. After training communities all over the world to tell stories themselves, I’ve seen too much to not help them share it.”

Rosie Goddard | mg.co.za
Nompumelelo Tshabalala, 32

Nompumelelo Tshabalala, 32

Creative producer
Ludonga Media

Up-and-coming filmmaker Nompumelelo Tshabalala has a good sense of humour, as well as a fine eye for a great scene.

This humour came out clearly in Look at Me Now, her reality-style series that won South Africa’s Next Top Filmmaker Award in 2012, and which starred celebrity stylist and socialite Iko Mash “arresting” unsuspecting men in shopping malls as “fashion offenders” and giving them an instant makeover.

Tshabalala’s prize was a year’s internship with Quizzical Pictures; the following year she won an Afrinolly Best Picture Award for a short film she had written.

Tshabalala, 32, originally studied acting, but her real talent lies behind the camera. She’s currently the creative producer at Ludonga Media; her skills include concept development, researching, scriptwriting, content creation, management and production, and other behind-the-scenes budgeting and post-production work.

Tshabalala says the biggest surprise of her career has been transitioning from film, drama and reality TV to sports coverage. She has thrived in the sports industry, producing shows such as the Olympic magazine show Road to Tokyo, a behind-the-scenes look at the Lions cricket team and profiling athletes such as Akani Simbine, Wayde van Niekerk and Tatjana Schoenmaker.

Along the way, she’s learned some hard lessons through making the wrong decisions about which projects to tackle; now she’s learned to follow her instincts.

Tshabalala describes storytelling as her water and daily bread, and she’s working to ensure South African films dominate the box office. As part of this, she wants to supply film and drama schools with high quality material for their productions so they can learn more about the craft.

She also wants the government to recognise the entertainment industry as a key economic sector and support it appropriately. Months of Covid-19 lockdown reminded everyone just how vital a good supply of online entertainment is, she says.

Lesley Stones | mg.co.za
Mandiluve Zane Titizana, 25

Mandiluve Zane Titizana, 25

Cinematographer and photographer
Five Star Media

Photographer and cinematographer Zane Titizana grew up “all around Jo’burg”: in the inner city, Hillbrow and Soweto, to be precise. He works at the digital communication agency, Five Star Media.

Titizana’s talent and drive attracted the attention of Five Star’s Daron Chatz three years ago. He saw Chatz shooting in Maboneng and offered to assist (free of charge). Soon enough he landed a full-time, paying job as a junior director of photography at the agency.

Chatz isn’t the only industry hotshot to have noticed him: Titizana is mentored by award-winning director Dean Blumberg.

This year, Titizana was nominated for a South African Film and Television award in the Best Youth Programme category for an episode called Game Ranging on the show Teenagers on a Mission.

In a marriage of different art forms, Titizana’s recent short documentary on Jo’burg-based glass artist and lighting designer Stephen Pikus is itself a triumph of lighting and photography.

As well as his film work, Titizana is developing his passion for photography. His Jo’burg Streets compilation showcases portraits of homeless people, through which he aims to raise awareness of homelessness, as well as accord his subjects dignity by, for example, shooting them with proper lighting.

Titizana wants his work to give youth from the townships the confidence to chase their dreams, mostly in arts. At his high school, in Soweto, there were no extra-mural activities; he would like to change this by running a film and photography programme.

What advice would he give his younger self? “I would tell myself that I should be more confident and believe in myself,” Titizana says. That’s certainly something he has learned — his Twitter bio is short and to the point. “Visual genius,” it proclaims.

Theresa Mallinson | mg.co.za
Bessie Lesabane, 30

Bessie Lesabane, 30

Rugby production manager
SuperSport International

In the high-intensity world of sports broadcasting, you need a calm head to ensure everything is running as smoothly and efficiently as possible. That sense of calm at SuperSport is exemplified in the form of Bessie Lesabane, currently the rugby production manager at the broadcasting giant. She uses her team management skills to bring quality entertainment to millions of South Africans.

Lesabane’s studies started with qualifications in media and communications, which she then bolstered with a host of management and production diplomas to give her the skills to rise through the ranks of SuperSport since starting there all the way back in 2011. It’s this start as a production runner intern during the 2011 Rugby World Cup that makes her journey that much more inspirational. As she valiantly committed to her career back then, there was no way she could know that just eight years later she would find herself in Japan working as a production manager for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, an accomplishment Lesabane happily marks as her proudest moment.

The drive in both her professional and personal life is the legacy she is building for her child, her family and the community that raised her. “I believe I’m on a journey of planting trees, and the fruits that these trees produce will be enjoyed by the generation that comes after me,” Lesabane explains, hoping that her child and those of her community will have a better start to a successful and meaningful life. Regarding transformation in her industry, she hopes more women become involved in sports broadcasting, and dreams of one day seeing an all-female team produce a live rugby test match between South Africa vs New Zealand at Ellis Park Stadium.

Scott Dodds | mg.co.za
Allegro Dinkwanyane, 30

Allegro Dinkwanyane, 30

Entrepreneur, philanthropist, founder and chief executive
Orgella Group

When Allegro Dinkwanyane needed a name for her company, she followed Oprah’s example and wrote her name backwards: Orgella. The company specialises in public relations and marketing services for the entertainment and lifestyle industries, corporate brands, artists and events.

Dinkwanyane has been a journalism intern with the BBC, a sports presenter on UJFM radio, and a marketing and social media manager with Trace TV. She founded Orgella at 21 while she was a journalism student. It now houses eight entities, including an online entertainment magazine and Orgella Helping Hands, a charity that provides food and clothing for the homeless. She’s also mother to an 18-month-old son, and her mantra is

“Prioritise, prioritise, prioritise!”

While her proudest moment was creating a business that employs young people and offers internships to students, her biggest mistake was hiring people out of empathy who weren’t really qualified. “This slowed down the whole team and I’m glad I went through that experience in my early years,” she says.

Other problems she overcame include getting financial support and “as a young black female entrepreneur you face … challenges that range from sexism to being told you are not qualified enough”.

Forbes Africa honoured her in its 2017 30 Under 30 list, and as her companies grow, she hopes to inspire others by her resilience. “I want to inspire people to be independent, to value themselves, to chase their dreams, use their voices wisely and live a life of purpose.”

Lesley Stones | mg.co.za
Christiaan Olwagen, 32

Christiaan Olwagen, 32

Film and theatre director

“I think art is entertainment, but it’s also therapy. We tend to sweep things under the rug. I’d like us to have more open dialogue about what type of society we are versus the one we would like to be.”

One of 2020’s major lessons so far (and there have been a lot) is that we need creative voices more than ever: to inspire us, educate us, challenge us, and — even if just for a moment — transport us to a world beyond our own.

Christiaan Olwagen is an award-winning director and screenwriter who’s doing just that with well-received works of film that delight as much as they spark dialogue. Kanarie is a coming-of-age war musical about a small-town boy who chooses to serve his compulsory two-year military training in the South African Defense Force choir. His most recent offering Poppie Nongena puts on screen the story of a black woman trying to keep her family together under apartheid. It was written by prolific author Elsa Joubert.

Subsequently, one of his proudest moments was showing the film to Joubert. He was terrified, but thankfully she was very happy with the end result.

Whether he’s navigating the plot of a novel on film or coming up with his own original screenplays, Olwagen is driven by creating tales:

“I have such an overactive imagination, which keeps me awake at night and wakes me up in the morning. I have to create; if I don’t channel my imagination into creativity it becomes my anxiety.”

Rosie Goddard | mg.co.za
Rufaro Samanga, 25

Rufaro Samanga, 25

Academic and writer
The University of the Witwatersrand

Academic, writer and epidemiologist Rufaro Samanga is someone who can’t turn a blind eye to injustice. In her writing, she stands up for others by covering topics such as feminism, public health, social justice, scientific innovation, entrepreneurship and education and African literature.

Samanga is a features writer for OkayAfrica, a digital media platform dedicated to African culture, and a contributor to other Afrocentric platforms. She has been surprised by the reach of her work. “I count it a privilege to be able to tell the stories that are often neglected and cast aside,” she says.

Samanga wants her work to help change how women are seen and treated in South Africa and elsewhere. “Whether I’m writing about women’s experiences or highlighting their varied narratives in my academic work in the public health space, I want women to feel uplifted, treasured, valued and glorified,” she says. “I want women to be free — free to just be whatever they please.”

Samanga was an Allan Gray fellow and a Mandela-Rhodes scholar. During her studies in epidemiology and biostatistics, she investigated whether there was any association between childhood trauma and a diagnosis of severe schizophrenia in adulthood.

“My proudest moment, as an aspirant thought leader, remains obtaining my master’s degree,” she says. “In a country where black people are excluded from institutions of higher learning on the basis of financial status and historically racist structures, I have learnt that a specialised master’s degree is not just a personal win but a victory for the black community.”

Lesley Stones | mg.co.za
Nickita Maesela, 25

Nickita Maesela, 25

Freelance journalist
City Press, Media 24

Freelance journalist Nickita Maesela has found her niche in telling stories of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex and asexual or allied people (LGBTQIA) to give them a voice.

Maesela’s writing for City Press is supported by The Other Foundation, which works to ensure everyone is free to live a safe and dignified life and contribute to society equally. Her work highlights stories of queer activism and events in Southern Africa, the intersections of faith, gender and sexuality and for people who use art to find healing in a world that restricts their freedom. She’s delighted by the amount she’s been able to achieve in a short time.

“The opportunities I have had have opened up ways for me to find out directly about the work that LGBTIQ advocacy organisers are doing in the continent, which has been a journey that has exceeded my expectations,” she says. “I’ve been inspired by voices and activists from Kenya to Mozambique and it has really widened my passion to tell stories from our communities as queer black people living on the continent.”

Maesela is also surprised by her strength to pursue stories she feared she was ill-equipped to handle. “Pushing the boundaries through fearlessness and determination in the work that I do of story-telling has been really empowering,” she says. “So many of us have different narratives, and I think the media chooses intentionally which of those are most interesting or newsworthy.”

She believes it’s time to disrupt that by pushing for inclusivity and affirmation for voices that are often denied.

Lesley Stones | mg.co.za
Sihle Mthembu, 28

Sihle Mthembu, 28

Writer, podcaster and filmmaker

As art and culture globally continue to be influenced by Western, the value of wholly original South African works is higher than ever. Sihle Mthembu is a Durban-based writer, podcaster and filmmaker who is all about promoting that culture and capturing it in time that might one day not be so easy to recall. Living during a time of such unique culture is a privilege, archiving it is a responsibility.

In 2018 Mthembu used his writing talents to co-author the book Born To Kwaito: Reflections on the Kwaito Generation, an in-depth exploration of arguably the most consequential subculture and music genre to come out of post-Apartheid South Africa. He considers his passion as a result the reactions of the people who grew up with this music that defined a generation.

“In South Africa we don’t archive black pop culture so this moment was a culmination of making a small contribution in that fight”, he explains.

His documentary work has also featured acclaim, when he was nominated for the Simon Sabela Best Short Documentary award. Mthembu’s film, F is for Father, was a creative meditation of fatherhood and fatherlessness, but it was once again the reactions of those which the film resonated with that filled him with the most pride. You can also find him on air, with his own podcast Interesting People, and he’s featured in the radio drama The Second Wife.

Mthembu envisions a future of more purposeful documentation of black life and culture. He alludes to all the black photographers who documented the townships during Apartheid, and how many of those negatives are most likely lost in time. “We need to value history from the bottom and through my work I want to try and make people realise the value of that.

Scott Dodds | mg.co.za
Mukondi Kgomo, 32

Mukondi Kgomo, 32

Co-founder and managing director
Think Creative Africa

Creativity has the power to change the world and alleviate social ills, says co-founder and managing director of Think Creative Africa, Mukondi Kgomo. Think Creative Africa is an agency that solves business problems through an African perspective. A segment in the business looks at sustainable ways to impact peoples’ lives: a current project tackles thinking around breast cancer by normalising regular self-examinations, and the business hopes to find ways to tackle gender-based violence, unemployment and more.

It’s creating social reform for women — economically and socially — that drives Kgomo to excel. The company’s successes continue to grow: Kgomo is proud of how it recently beat out one of the biggest multinational agencies in Africa in its presentation of a business solution. During her journey, Kgomo has learned that the people make the company. She says it’s important to put together the best team of people with values that are aligned to its purpose.

Kgomo has also found that the relationships she built throughout her life have become her greatest asset. Some of her opportunities and referrals stem from these relationships, reminding Kgomo that the extra effort to give your best, to be reliable and genuine will have a lasting effect.

“It’s the uncool work: the relationships you build and the way you consistently show up that will open doors for you now and in the long run. Tell yourself that no type of honest work is beneath you, raise your hands when people ask for help, treat everyone with respect and put in the hard work,” says Kgomo.

She advises aspiring creatives to believe in their ability to achieve their wildest aspirations, because they are possible. She also says, always put 100% effort into all that you do. It’s these traits that will ensure that you have no regrets.

Shaazia Ebrahim | mg.co.za
Anelisa Tuswa, 27

Anelisa Tuswa, 27

Business journalist
eTV News and Sports

Everybody needs a friend like Anelisa Tuswa because she has the answers to life’s most burning question: What should you do with your money? Unfortunately, we can’t all be her friend, but thankfully her vast expertise and knowledge is available to all through the various platforms she works on. Tuswa is currently a business journalist at eTV and has been contributing on air at Metro FM and Radio2000, unpacking the biggest business news — something of a pleasant surprise to her, as she grew up a big fan of the stations.

Since completing her undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications at the University of Witwatersrand, Tuswa has focused on the process and not the end goal. She was named the most valuable and resourceful alumni by the Wits Xhosa Cultural Union of Students in 2015; she has mentored a number of students — and for good reason.

“If my career has no impact on my community, then I would progress alone. I do not want that, I want everybody to win with me”, she says.

When it comes to mentorship, Tuswa emphasises the value of living a goal-driven lifestyle, being adaptable to change and remembering your journey: it’s what makes you who you are in the future.

Tuswa’s biggest drive is her passion for financial education. As a broadcaster, a business journalist and a financial-wellness activist, she recognises the immense responsibility she has, hoping that her experience can allow her to educate and inform South Africans. “I see a country where the middle and lower class can better understand money-related topics,” she says.

Scott Dodds | mg.co.za
Rutendo Nyamuda, 29

Rutendo Nyamuda, 29

Founder, podcast host and producer
Tinzwe Media

When it comes to words of wisdom, we wouldn’t expect anything less from Rutendo Nyamuda, the founder of Tinzwe Media and host of the In My 20s podcast.

“Whatever you want to do. Do it scared, do it unprepared and do it unqualified,” she says.

They are bold words, and at the age of 29, her career is a testament to her tenacity.

Nyamuda’s media journey began at Forbes, where after months of job hunting, she joined as an intern before progressing to a full-time job. This led to interviews with influential people, from former public protector Thuli Madonsela to author and Huffington Post co-founder Arianna Huffington, author, educator and businessman Stedman Graham and economist and former head of the African Development Bank Donald Kaberuka.

She added the likes of Elle magazine and CNBC Africa and the Expresso shows to her resumé before going on to start her podcast, In My 20s, a platform that helps millennials to navigate their journey of self-discovery, discussing topics that include gender-based violence, privilege, xenophobia and depression, as well as life, love, work and everything else in between.

Her seven years in the media and entertainment industry have garnered her attention from The South African, SAPA TV+, Glamour SA, GQ SA, The Plug and Vutha Magazine, but it’s human connection that is the motivating factor behind it all – knowing that someone will listen or watch the content she’s created and be inspired, or feel more understood in the world.

She’s become passionate about podcasts as a medium for South Africans to tell their stories and is in the process of building a well-known podcast company.

Rosie Goddard | mg.co.za