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.