Portraying the joy of African children

DSC_0356.JPG

My favourite painting by South African contemporary artist Nelson Makamo is that of a young boy sporting a short afro and red glasses.
The expression on his face is pure joy… I can almost feel the warm laughter bubbling in his belly. Looking at the artwork brings back childhood memories of playing for hours without a care in the world. I have the image saved in my phone and I look at it each time I need a quick pick-me-up. It always makes me smile.

I tell Makamo this when I meet him at a Cape Town hotel for the interview and he smiles knowingly.
“When you think it, a lot of art that comes out of the continent, some would describe it as sombre or dark. However, come winter or summer it doesn’t matter, we always have the sun… that is the thing about Africa,” he says.

DSC_0353.JPG

“It’s the beauty of how Africans smile through everything and that is how I look at my subjects and from a child’s perspective as well. It doesn’t matter where you go in the continent, when you find children playing there are similarities that take you back to your own childhood,” he says.

Makamo’s large-scale portraits of children display various features and personalities of quirkiness. Each lined sketch drawn in charcoal, watercolour or pen and ink is distinct and is often done in black and white with pops of colour.

At 34, the Joburg artist is one of South Africa’s celebrated talents. His paintings are worth thousands of rands with one of his drawings, So full of youth – not yet abused selling for R250 000 at a recent Stephan Welz & Co auction – a record for the artist at auction.

IMG_1929

“As an adult there are a lot of things that we do that we pretty much fence ourselves around from, that we don’t feel or see certain things anymore. That free thinking and openness to learning we can only see it through the eyes of a child,” says Makamo.

Born in theLimpopo town of Nylstroom, now Modimolle, Makamo moved to Joburg to join the Artist Proof Studio in January 2003. There he studied on a bursary for three years and worked for another two as sales representative and curator of the gallery. He has since held solo exhibitions here at home and in France, Italy, the US, the Netherlands and Scotland.

His childhood was like any normal child raised in a small town environment, he says. Sundays were for church, weekdays were for school and his free time was spent reading Marvel comics such as Spider- Man and Iron Man… which planted the roots for his artistic talent.

“My stepdad pretty much made me the man that I am today. Being the only child in most cases there is this preconception that you are spoiled, but I never experienced that. During school holidays my parents would send me to my cousins so I sort of grew up with a lot of cousins around me,” he says.

DSC_0344.JPG

“My love for art started early and was mostly influenced by cartoons. We collected a lot of Marvel comics at home… that is actually how it all started,” says Makamo.

He sold his first drawing in high school for R125.
“Most of my drawings then were about comics. I drew characters such as the Ninja Turtles and Batman and would show them to my peers.

Being an artist was not my first choice. In Grade 10 I decided that I wanted to be a chemical engineer, so after matric I briefly studied Engineering at the Vaal University of Technology.

“Three months into it I was like, “I don’t think I see myself as an engineer, this is not something that I want to pursue’.

“Looking at the communities we are raised in, one often doesn’t think that you can turn your Godgiven talent into a career. Some people even went as far as saying I should become a cartoonist , you get all sorts of advice,” says Makamo.

 

IMG_1924.JPG

The beginning of his career was no walk in the park, he says.
“The first three years after graduating were not easy for both myself and my parents. They were always concerned about how I was going to make a living with art. It also didn’t help that there was little information on South African artists… there was no fully documented history of art that one could study. The focus is mostly on old masters, such as Pablo Picasso and Michelangelo.

“Digging deeper I discovered SA artists such as Gerard Sekoto and Dumile Feni, who belonged to a township movement of black artists. They became pretty much my influencers”

“Through their art you got to understand our country and where our cultures come from. This sort of gave me the confidence to say that I can make a living out of this. Most of them didn’t have proper materials to draw with so they used cheaper mediums such as charcoal and oil soft pastels.”

Makamo never leaves home without his camera and his “bible”, a small sketch book in which he scribbles things and sketches people who catch his eye.

“I always say that I am a storyteller because I live and see things from a third-person point of view. I draw mostly from memory, but sometimes I see a scene and I have to capture it quickly in my ’bible” or I use my camera.

“In my work I try to capture emotions in a language that the person next to me gets without me having to explain. It’s interesting if you think about it, how we are all connected.

“There are a lot of things that bring people together and a lot of those things you can only see through the eyes of a child,” says Makamo

“Children are the most forgiving beings. It is always heart-breaking when you travel or when you google African children, the images that they give you does not represent who we are, only that of poor and starving children.. it’s actually so disturbing when you think about it.

“I took it way too personal, that is why I started basing my work around it. It’s a way of saying, there is another version of an African child that I can give you.”

When some people ask me about my background, it’s almost as if they expect me to give them a poor background and take away the talent. I would be doing myself and the beautiful culture that I was raised in an injustice.  That is why I portray most of my subjects with glasses, as a way of saying they are geniuses, he explains

“Why do you look beyond us, judge us and have your own conclusion about us without sitting down and having a one-on one-conversation with us?

“The support I have from South Africans, regardless of who buys my work or not, is very inspiring and it is what drives me… makes me stand taller. It is as if people were waiting for someone to wipe away the stereotypes,” Makamo says. 

Nelson Makamo.JPG

l Find the artist Nelson Makamo on Instagram -@nelsonmakamo

This piece was first published in the Cape Argus on August 8 2016. 

Connect with me on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat: @Nontando58. 

 

Advertisements

Coréon Dú’s ground-breaking Afro-Caribbean pop fusion.

Coreon Du. The picture is supplied by CSA Global

Coreon Du. The picture is supplied by CSA Global

Angolan musician Coréon Dú is a multi-media artist, known for generating ground breaking pop culture phenomena. He also recently launched his album, Binário, in South Africa. Produced by Grammy Award-winning producer and film-maker Andres Levin, it is a medley of beats in Portuguese, Spanish, and English, creating laid-back melodies typical of Dú’s distinctive sounds which fuse African beats with those of the Caribbean.
The album’s two singles Amor Robotico  and Bilando Kizomba made it to the top 30 on the American Billboard tropical chart.

Dú, who was raised in the US, is also being feted for his work as a creative director, writer and producer for his own telenovela titled Windeck, and his fashion line WeDú by Coréon Dú.

I speak to him about his music and influences:

What was the inspiration behind your album Binario? I always like to involve my nerdy sensibility in my albums. I wanted to keep within the sci-fi inspiration I had for my musical projects but take it somewhat further.

The reason why I chose Binário as a title, or “binary” in English, is because the word itself refers to something made of two elements. My album is a fusion of the organic and the technological.

The organic being the sounds from more traditional African music and tin sounds from genres such as Semba, Kizomba, Cumbia, Bachata, and the technological being from more urban and electronic genres such as dance, hip hop and raggaeton.

How did you get started in music? It actually started with a dream when I was about 15, and that was the point where I decided that I wanted to pursue music professionally. However, that dream was interrupted and I was only able to start pursuing music professionally almost 10 years later. I released my first album, The Coréon Experiment in 2010.

Ever since, I’ve had the pleasure of sharing my work with a growing number of fans in Angola and beyond, and released a remix project called The WeDú Experiment in 2013 and my album Binário in 2014.

Coreon Du image 1

What inspires your music? I’m quite a romantic and introspective, so my greatest inspiration comes from my own experiences and from things I observe. The sounds in my music are very diverse, I’m usually seeking to create a fusion between Angolan and African sounds with what I enjoy most about other genres from abroad from both the acoustic and electronic realm.

Describe your typical fan? That’s hard to describe. I consider anyone who appreciates and supports my work a #WeDúFriend or fan. I don’t target one particular kind of audience, because art is unpredictable.

What and who was your music inspiration as a child? Michael Jackson’s music, James Bond’s fashion sense, the style of Bollywood films, and the freshness of Kuduro music which was developing at the time.

How important is developing an online community or fan base? We are in an era where communication is seamless between human and the technological aspect. Both live and online communication are essential for any artist to connect with supporters.

Describe your music in four words? Fusion, romance, humour and journey.

One of your most memorable times onstage? The first time I started performing and the audience sang along and requesting songs from my album. I was used to being an opening act for bigger artists in shows and festivals. It was a wonderful moment
to see people connecting at that level to my work for the first time.

Tell us something about you most people don’t know? I’m actually a very shy person. Most people who see me doing any public speaking, performing or even some of my
occasionally bold outfits, don’t really believe this. However, I was very shy after my pre-teen years until university. I’m still quite reserved but music has actually helped me a lot to communicate with other people.

This feature was published in the Cape Argus on July 17 2015. All pictures are by CSA Global.

Gender neutral is the new male on SA’s catwalks . SAMW Highlights

Imprint by Mzukisi Mbane

Imprint by Mzukisi Mbane

Pictures your boyfriend wearing dresses and pussy-bow blouses in chiffon and lace. The trend is called “androgyny” on catwalks across the world.

The word describes the fashion-conscious man who is not afraid to embrace his feminine side. We have seen it in recent menswear weeks in Milan and London.

The biannual South African Menswear Week, which took place over the weekend, showed that the new trend was finding a home on our shores.

The affair, held at Cape Town Stadium, featured top designers from around Africa showcasing their Spring and Summer (SS15/16) collections.

Designers like Terrence Bray, Rich Mnisi, Kim Gush and Lukhanyo Mdingi led the way in gender-fluid fashion. Their designs mixed masculine and feminine characteristics that could be worn by men and women.

African prints, leather, army aesthetics, stripes, shades of bold colours and neutral hues also dominated the catwalk. Industry experts, bloggers and fashion influencers from around the country gathered for three days of networking and schmoozing.

The nights were long as event-goers partied after the shows in various clubs around the city.

Presidential Shirt

Presidential Shirt

Presidential Shirt

Presidential Shirt

Presidential Shirt: Made famous by former president Nelson Mandela, the afrocentric “Madiba Shirt” is recognised around the globe. Designers presented a revamped collection suitable for younger men. The shirts and suits are hand-painted with delicate
embroidery silks and cotton.

Fundudzi Man by Craig Jacobs

Fundudzi Man by Craig Jacobs

Fundudzi Man by Craig Jacobs

Fundudzi Man by Craig Jacobs

Fundudzi Man by Craig Jacobs: Craig Jacobs presented models in
bold tribal make-up who strutted down the runway in extended T-shirts, reversible dresses and creative backpacks that became bomber jackets – a real show-stealer.

MaXhosa By Laduma

MaXhosa By Laduma

MaXhosa By Laduma

MaXhosa By Laduma

MaXhosa By Laduma

MaXhosa By Laduma

MaXhosa By Laduma

MaXhosa By Laduma

Maxhosa by Laduma: Laduma Ngxokolo has showcased in
top fashion weeks in Berlin and London. Ngxokolo, who incorporates his Xhosa culture into knitwear designs, presented breathable and reversible sweaters, joggers and shorts in bold patterns and colours.

Rich Mnisi

Rich Mnisi

Terrence Bray

Terrence Bray

Palse Homme

Palse Homme

Palse Homme

Palse Homme

Show Presentation: Designers went all out this year. Men in
gold beards by Palse Homme were a hit. Projecto Mental’s designer dressed models on the runway. In Magents’s show, titled Afrikarise, the audience clapped and sang as the “social konscious army” of
models took to the runway in urban streetwear.

Projecto Mental

Projecto Mental

Projecto Mental

Projecto Mental

Projecto Mental

Projecto Mental

 

This feature was first published in the Cape Argus on July 14 2015. All the pictures are by SDR Photos.

Top African designers will be displaying their SS16 collections at the South Africa Menswear Week.

Fundudzi

Fundudzi picture by SDR Photo 

Leading  African designers will be displaying their wares on and off the catwalk at the second South African Menswear Week (SAMW), the only menswearfocused fashion platform in Africa showcasing homegrown spring/summer (SS16) collections.

Over 28 African designers, including fashion labels from Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Angola, will present their SS16 collections from July 2 to 4 at the Cape Town Stadium. The designers who will present their creations in over 18 shows include FMBCJ by Craig Jacobs, Nguni Shades, Maxhosa by Laduma, Imprint by
Mzukisi Mbane, Lukhanyo Mdingi, Rich Mnisi and Projecto Mental from Angola.

Following a successful inaugural affair in February, one of the event’s organiser Simon Deiner says the event will feature a selection of new talent, as well as leaders of modern African design such as Laduma Ngxokolo and Orange Culture.

“SA Menswear Week is all about educating consumers to the sheer availability, quality, and design of local menswear against imported brands,” says Deiner.

“The focus of the event is to put viable, locally-made designs at the forefront of consumers… showing them that it is available, cost-effective and a real option.

“The shows will feature the best male models and world-class show production. We are excited about new elements, such as a trends presentation by Nicola Cooper, the young designers and the intern up-skilling programme, and things such as MAC and ghd showcasing the latest grooming trends,” says Deiner.

I spoke to three designers about their SS16 collections for the SAMW.

Jenevieve Lyons. Pic by SDR Photos.

Jenevieve Lyons. Pic by SDR Photos.

Jenevieve Lyons Cape Town-based designer

Tell us about your SS16 collection? Named Alabaster SS16, the collection draws on the minimal side of the brand with a clever use of print, texture and details. Zipped insets offer a morphed metamorphism on some garments, as well as extended lengths or shortened lengths as desired. While drawstrings tie the hoods to the anoraks, ribbing seams together sweater tops.

An interest is shown in sheer poly-cotton long length tees and shirts that are layered under and over garments. The collection sports a “warmer” colour palette – taking on the tonal values of granite: dark burnt orange, khaki, tobacco, toasted colours paired with cool whites, suited printed thick satins and seamen neoprenes – bonded and unbound. The materials were selected as they complement the season, lead themselves to interpreting different shapes and add texture as well as tonal values.

Jenevieve Lyons. By SDR Photos

Jenevieve Lyons. By SDR Photos

What was the inspiration behind the designs? Alabaster takes inspiration from the fine-grained texture found within golden brown granite, with often sparks of milky white texture in between. It is of this texture that a print was born that is emphasised throughout the collection. The collection speaks to the spring/summer season linking onto the misty sprigs of spring, with the use of smart minimal light layering and double and single layered anorak throughout.

How would you describe your collection in four words? Textured, minimal, tonal, and layered.

When and how did you first fall in love with fashion design? At a young age I fell in love with collecting “un-beautiful” and strange things; which then developed into a process of sketching these objects/ideas in different ways. I became interested in following a career in fashion as I saw it as a way to take my sketches to an actual tangible state and give them a functional purpose.

Describe the person you are designing for? Fashion-forward and fashion-conscious consumers.

Jenevieve Lyons by SDR Photo

Jenevieve Lyons by SDR Photo

The best spring/summer must-haves? An anorak.

What sets your brand apart from the others? The aesthetic that the brand carries: conceptual minimalism – garments are often built three dimensionally: inwards and outwards and the process of the brand reinterpreting the runway collections into prêt-a-porter ready to wear.

If you had the choice of all designers in the world to work with/for, who would that be?
This is a tough one. I’d choose to collaborate with a young upcoming designer such as Korean designer Byungmun Seo.

Does your brand reflect your personal fashion taste? Can you describe your
style? Both are minimally articulated.

What are your plans for the future? Continue on the process of growing the brand at a steady pace, tap into the physical in store retail space and installation, as well as complete my masters degree in fashion design at the fashion department of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp.

Kim Gush by SDR Photo

Kim Gush by SDR Photo

Kim Gush Joburg-based designer of label KIM/GUSH. 

Tell us about your SS16 collection? We are going back to basics – clean silhouettes and little fuss. Less is more after all, especially in summer.

What were your inspirations for the designs?
The simplicity of outlines and foundations.

How would you describe your collection in four words? Ghetto, fetish, sports luxe.

When and how did you first fall in love with fashion design? I’ve always been intrigued by film and while working in that industry my love for costume and clothing drew me closer to the fashion industry.

Describe the person you are designing for? Open-minded and confident individual with a need for luxurious, edgy and comfortable hybrid.

The best spring/summer must-haves? Luxury oversized tees and some bad-ass sneakers.

What sets your brand apart from the others? We all have a different story to tell.

If you had the choice of all designers in the world to work with/for, who would that be? Mentor – Master Yohji Yamamoto. Collaboration – Alexander Wang.

Does your brand reflect your personal fashion taste? Can you describe your style?
I love the ranges I create but I do not personally always wear them. You have to focus on your consumer and how you can deliver to their needs while sticking to your brand ethics and vision.

What are your plans for the future? Right now we want to make KIM/GUSH as accessible and available to the consumer as possible. Our online store will be up soon after SAMW and we are working on more tangible points of access across the country as well as globally.

We will also be adding some more women-focused garments amongst our collections to combine with the already androgynous garments we present at menswear weeks.

15b_SAMW_1556_RichMnisi_w580_h387

Abrantie The Gentleman by SDR Photo

Abrantie The Gentleman by SDR Photo

Designer Adebayo Oke-Lawal of Orange Culture. Pic is supplied.

Designer Adebayo Oke-Lawal of Orange Culture. Pic is supplied.

Adebayo Oke-Lawal Orange Culture, a Lagos, Nigeria-based fashion label.

Tell us about your upcoming SAMW SS16 collection? I am super excited to be a part of South Africa Menswear Week – celebrating men’s fashion in Africa.

My collection is battling the ideology of the African man – that stereotype which has always been a thing for my brand. We explore delicate sensual fabrics matched with light but sporty fabrics to execute our Orange Culture tale of the fisherman and his beautiful journey.

Orange Culture. The picture is supplied.

Orange Culture. The picture is supplied.

What were your inspirations for the designs? My inspiration was drawn from
the amazing fishermen I spoke to. Growing up I would see them fishing under the third mainland bridge in Lagos, dressed in the most stylish gear. I wanted to explore the beautiful journey of these men and their relationships.

How would you describe your collection in four words? Androgynous, light, sensual and Nigerian

When and how did you first fall in love with fashion design? When I was 10-yearsold and my teachers realised all my notebooks in school were covered with fashion sketches…Fashion helped me to find myself.

Describe the person you are designing for? I design for the modern day nomad who is not afraid to explore his feminine side, and who is in love with the idea of individuality. He loves clothes that tell a story… a story that breaks stereotypes.

The best spring/summer must-haves? Anything from the Orange Culture SS16collection and a smile.

What sets your brand apart from the others? My label is self-inspired. It represents my unique experiences and I feel that’s what makes it stand out – my story.

If you had the choice of all designers in the world to work with/for, who would that be? Karl Lagerfeld – to learn more about the business side of things, matched with his creativity. Does your brand reflect your personal fashion taste?

Can you describe your style? It does, my style is quite light but unique. I love exploring almost sensual silhouettes.

What are your plans for the future? To take over the world one step at a time, but, in the short-term, find a stockist in South Africa.

Orange Culture image by OBI SOMTO

Orange Culture image by OBI SOMTO

The SA Menswear Week takes place from July 2 2015  to the 4th. Tickets are available on WebTickets (www.webtickets.co.za) for selected shows. All ticket holders will have access to the blue carpet VIP fashion event taking place on Saturday, July 4. All shows will be streamed live and image galleries will be uploaded immediately to http://www.menswearweek.co.za

This feature first appeared in the Cape Argus on June 25 2015.

Meet Tony Gum

Processed with VSCOcam with kk1 preset

Tony “Zipho” Gum’s fresh and intriguing visual imagery is creating a stir. Her work, published on her blog spot, tumblr and social media platforms, is getting national attention and has earned her an impressive following. The most recent, “The Coke Evolution: Black Coca- Cola” features Gum in a series of photographs, in different poses and attires with
a Coca-Cola bottle. We get to know the 19-year -old “allrounder” creative who calls Pinelands home, but credits her early childhood in Langa for the the “energetic mindset” she has today.

Tony Gum 4

How would you describe yourself? I enjoy solitude a lot; mainly because it allows me the time to bask in my thoughts. I appreciate meaningful encounters and fruitful conversations. I’m a hectic beat devotee and when the relevant time of retirement comes, I hope to produce soulful beats till my heart is content.

I love dancing and I have this obscure obsession with dancers, mainly because I
respect them. I have this weird affection at times and an undying kind of love for my family.

I don’t take the term “friend” lightly, I believe true friendship is earned and learned over a period of time. I am also an observer; I tend not to say much so I express myself through visuals.

Tell us about your creative journey?
My creative journey is one that is still evolving… Growing up in kwaLanga township, a place that I believe is the root of creativity, made the transition to living in a suburb (Pinelands) quite unbearable at first as I was young at the time.

But my upbringing is something that I enjoy speaking about. I believe that the bliss and the still very vivid memories of living in kwaLanga had so much to do with the energetic mindset that I have today.

I didn’t have friends in my new Pinelands neighbourhood, children didn’t come out to play. It was strange but, as time passed, I grew accustomed to the lifestyle. When my father had the internet installed at our home, I discovered that there is much more to the internet than just Google. It became my playground. It was the portal to everything I wanted to expose my eyes to: quality and quantity. I surfed the internet for hours at a time.
I “hired” my cousin, who was 12 years old at the time, to take pictures of me showcasing my outfits in various and sometimes dangerous locations. I was 15 years old when I started blogging.

Processed with VSCOcam with kk1 preset

What inspired the “The Coke Evolution: Black Coca-Cola” series and what
message, if any, do you hope to communicate with it?

Largely consumed by black people in South Africa, I feel that Coke needs an individual that black people are able to relate to – culturally mostly. And what better way to share that opinion than through my own cultural experience.

As simple as the beverage may be in comparison to the Xhosa culture and its traditions, together they complement and elevate each other. In other words, I want the relationship between the product and the consumer to be more than just “a purchase”. I want it to be a proud and sentimental experience. The moment the consumer realises that Coke is now
touching on relatable terms, that’s when a connection is made, that’s when Coke is no longer “just a Coke”, that’s when greatness is shared.

(But) I encourage the viewer to also create their own understanding of the series.

What would you list as your most notable accomplishments so far?
I’ve never been fulfilled with the title “blogger”, it just seemed too boring. Being recognised as an artist on the other hand feels like power. I am represented by the Christopher Moller Art Gallery in Gardens. Now I know my “artist” title is real, it’s exciting.
I also got the opportunity to do a “cross continental” collaboration with Teff The Don, also known as The Expressionist, a New York photographer. It was an experience that kept me on the edge 24/7.

Tony Gum 3

What or who inspires you?I can’t necessarily pinpoint and narrow it down to who or what inspires me. I’m an observer and I seek inspiration through my daily observations.

Which photographers influenced you – your thinking, photography, and career
path? I have so much respect for Teff The Don’s attention to composition and colour. Gabriella Achadinha is officially the queen of the film in my eyes. Artist and photographer Nakeya B’s conscious concepts are impeccable and Dutch Vogue contributor Ivania Carpio is the reason why I can proudly say that one day I’ll drop my bags of colour to become a devoted minimalist.
Because of such people, I’ve come to appreciate and focus on the importance of what is in the frame. I don’t generally work with a good camera and at times I just use my cellphone. Attention to detail is what I could say is my forté.

What is it you want to say with your photographs and how do you actually go about achieving that?
Visuals are important. I live by three rules when it comes to my work: composition, aesthetics and consistency. How I go about doing so? Once I’m set on how the subject will look, I then look for elements or props that will be used to enhance the focus on the subject. Complementary backdrops/backgrounds are very much taken into consideration.

Tony Gum 2
When did you first become interested in photography?
I can’t say that I’m generally interested in photography. Rather, I’m interested in what’s in the frame. I haven’t had the privilege of working with a photographer who understands the vision, that is why I’ve taken the liberty of playing the role of a photographer.

How would you describe your photographic vision and style, and what kind of look do you try and create in your photos? It’s like a Wes Anderson film but in stills, interconnected with artist Hassan Hajjaj’s astonishing portraits. Simple, yet striking.

Processed with VSCOcam with kk1 preset

Who were the mentors who helped shape your style, and who would you count among your biggest influences, photographically or otherwise?
Jesus, a true representation of selfless love and peace, is truly inspiring. My brother, his business mindset and his experience in the art definitely helps with my gathering my thoughts out of the clouds. And my parents, they are so supportive of the indecisive creative that I am.

If you could visit and photograph any place in the world that you haven’t been to, where would that be? Nairobi, Kenya – considering the fact that I’ve nicknamed myself
“Naairobi Naairobi”. Morocco may take the cup as my dream destination. It looks packed
with colour, organic and rich in culture and religion – it’s a dream.

What are the greatest challenges in making a living as a photographic artist and what is key to succeeding at it? The challenges I’m facing at the moment are the resources. I still don’t even have a proper photographic camera, but I’ve come to learn that such challenges are not impossible to decipher; they can be faced and challenged, literally.

I’ll never forget the day my brother was driving me to my first photoshoot as Tony Gum. I was ecstatic, busy raving about all the things I needed to get because I had finally made my “big break”. He just simply said: “Work with what you’ve got.”

His words flew right past me because at that very moment they meant zilch to
me. I needed the latest Canon , the finest attire – in essence, I wanted the best of the
best. He went on to ask: “Do you have a camera? Just use what you have. It’s been working for you thus far.”
Challenges are blessings, more so, they are lessons. I’ve come to understand them as diamonds in the rough.

One just needs to work hard so that you can see the results of your challenges are equal to diamonds.

Check out more of her work here>>tonygum.blogspot.com/ OR tonygumonline.tumblr.com/

This feature was first published in the Cape Argus on June 10 2015

‘Happy’ singer Pharrell Williams is working for a greener planet

Woolworths_Campaign_Image_1

HE SINGS and the world claps and dances and his style is emulated by youngsters
everywhere, but lately Pharrell Williams has been using his influence to galvanise the masses to support environmental causes. It was announced yesterday that he has become the style director for Woolworths, a collaboration that will see the star and the business align their values and actions to make a difference to people and the planet.
“We hope Pharrell will help us make sustainability cool for the next generation of South Africans and help us create a better future for our children,” said Ian Moir, chief executive of Woolworths.
It’s a cause Williams has wholeheartedly embraced. In an exclusive interview in Los Angeles for Independent Media, Williams reveals he became an eco-activist because he began to realise the importance of the environment. “You realise that this is your home,” he says.
“If you can tend your lawn, field or garden, you can tend the Earth because it is the biggest lawn we have. “It’s this big rock; it’s the only thing we have. It’s our biosphere, it’s where we live… we have to think about it,” says them musician and designer, who was not wearing the vintage Vivienne Westwood mountain hat he made famous but rather a dark green cap.
“To have a corporation like Woolworths understand that and for them to have the kind of matching initiative in South Africa, in the middle of that precious gem and continent… I have to be a part of that,” he says.

Williams is spoilt for choice when it comes to the number of people knocking on his door to work with him, so what does it take for him to lend his name to a corporation or collaborate with an artist?

He says he first examines their intentions and then asks himself whether he can contribute. “If I don’t feel like there is much I can add to it, I don’t want to get in anyone’s way,” he says.

Woolworths_Campaign_Image_3

As the creative director of Bionic Yarn, which makes ecologically sustainable yarns and fabrics from recycled plastics, he has helped forge eco collaborations with clothing manufacturers.

The biggest of these is RAW for the Oceans, an initiative that recycles plastic from the sea into G-Star denims. Addressing an event at the UN in New York last month to celebrate the International Day of Happiness, Williams highlighted the importance of
tackling climate change. He asked supporters to sign a petition to put pressure on world leaders to commit to climate action.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos in January, he joined Nobel peace prize laureate Al Gore in announcing a Live Earth music event on June 18 to demand action on climate change. He is serving as creative director of the event taking place across all the continents, including Antarctica. Cape Town is one of the cities hosting a Live Earth concert, about which Williams says: “Expect energy and intention. There will be music that will be played with intention so you will feel it. You feel the intention.” At Davos, Williams called for the support of everyone who believes in clean lakes, rivers and oceans, who cares where their products come from and who is giving to make sure every kid gets
the best shot at a great education, an issue he regards as close to his heart.
Although Williams’s mother, Carolyn Williams, was a teacher, he has admitted
not doing well at school at first and says that words of encouragement from his teachers kept him interested.
“Don’t give up,” he advises youngsters. “Keep looking for that one spot that makes you interested in learning.”
He adds: “It’s super simple. If you figure out what you love to do, what you would do for free, that is usually where it starts.

Woolworths_Campaign_Image_2
“Then you ask yourself: ‘Is there a way to actually service humanity while you are doing it?’ If you can, then that is a dream job.
“And if you are helping humanity at the same time, now God loves you too.” Williams feels that process starts as early as primary school. And if the Woolworths fundraising programme, MySchool, “is going to offer that, I want to be part of it”, he says.
Currently one of the judges in the eighth season of TV singing competition The Voice and with a new album out titled GIRL, Williams is a busy man – and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I don’t want to take any of it for granted,” he says. “I would rather stay focused on the work.”
He says he appreciates his success “because I know where it comes from. It comes from the seed which is the work, being curious about what you do and being appreciative to be able to collaborate with people. That is where all of this comes from”, he says.

He says he was humbled by the success of Happy, the song from the Despicable Me 2
soundtrack, and had no inkling it would become such a global phenomenon. It was
the best-selling single of last year, peaking at No 1 in the music charts of over 20
countries, and sold 12 million copies.

“You never know that,” he says, “because it’s not up to you. It’s up to the
people. “That is why I’m always saying ‘thank you’ and ‘I am so grateful’.
I really mean it. “To be supported in that way, and to the magnitude that I felt,
is humbling.”

Woolworths_Campaign_Image_6

As we shake hands at the end of the interview, he says something which will excite
his many fans here: “I am looking forward to coming to South Africa.”
●Nontando Mposo was flown to Los Angeles courtesy of Woolworths.

This feature was first published on April 10 2015, in the following Independent Media Newspapers. The Star, Cape Argus, Pretoria News and Daily News.

South Africa’s brand new take on fashion film industry

Me at the last year's Bokeh Fashion Film Festival. Wearing  my kente dress by my brand NOYO Closet.

Me at the last year’s Bokeh Fashion Film Festival. Wearing my kente dress by my brand NOYO Closet.

THE SHORT film Aspirational starts with Hollywood actress Kirsten Dunst walking while
talking on her cellphone. She is dressed casually, in a black T-shirt and cut-off denim shorts. She hangs up and stops on the sidewalk, waiting to cross the road. A woman and a dog pass by, followed by a car. Another car, with two young women inside, stops next to her. The women freak out when they realise it’s the famous actress on the side of the road, and get out of the car. They take turns, pouting and posing next to her, taking several selfies.

“Do you want to talk or anything?” Dunst asks as the girls turn their faces in different angles for the perfect shot. “I mean you can ask me a question, or are you curious about anything?”

They ignore her and start uploading the pictures to their social networks. “Can you tag me?” one of them asks a startled Dunst. “I’ve already got like 15 likes!” the other squeals as they drive away.

The 2-minute 35-second film is written and directed by film-maker Matthew Frost for Vs Magazine, an international fashion and lifestyle magazine, and is one of about 80 that will be presented at the

Mercedes-Benz Bokeh South African International Fashion Film Festival on March 27 and 28. The glamorous affair will be held at the 15 on Orange – African Pride Hotel. It will bring together designers, filmmakers, producers and photographers from across the world for two days of networking and learning about the film and fashion industries.

Adrian Lazarus

Adrian Lazarus

“The plan is to change venues every year. This hotel is absolutely perfect,” says Adrian Lazarus, the event organiser.

“I wanted to find something that showcases steel, light and glass. This hotel, with its clean lines is completely photogenic in every aspect. You could shoot anywhere here.”

Fashion capitals of the world have successfully staged such events – giving the fashion conscious insight into some of the world’s top designers’ creative processes and unique perceptions of top brands.

The fashion film is a genre that was pioneered by fashion greats, including Karl Lagerfeld and Louis Vuitton, and Bruce Webber, an American fashion photographer. Lazarus started out as a producer before moving into directing about 12 years ago. His own fashion film, Steam 1886, won awards at the La Jolla and Miami Fashion Film Festivals in 2013 in the US.

Lazarus says his counterparts and industry experts at the La Jolla festival in California in 2014, were raving about the first Bokeh FF event.

“Everyone was impressed with the show that we had put out here. What sets us apart is that the fashion film festivals overseas are purely film driven, you have to be a director or a producer in order to get something out of it,” says Lazarus.

“Our festival encompasses everything, a bit of lifestyle and entertainment… and everyone is a VIP. We also have a daytime aspect which makes fashion films more accessible to a lot more people,” he says.

But what exactly is a fashion film? “A fashion film is a brand identity movie… Most importantly a fashion film never goes on TV, but is shared via the internet,” Lazarus explains.

“If you do a fashion film you may not do a commercial and the reason being is that once you shoot a commercial it costs you twice as much to flight it,” he adds.

“It is quite possible that someone who has a hotel may choose to do a fashion film and may not do a commercial. Because the hotel has enough screens around or a website to show their fashion film… and if the fashion film is good enough, the idea is that it gets shared virally.”

About 500 hopefuls submitted their films this year but only 80 made the cut.
“The number of entries is more or less the same as we had last year. But the difference is that 70 percent of the entries this year are really good. The previous year there were a lot of films with model girls just posing… which weren’t really movies. Now there are more films with actual stories,” says Lazarus.

“Anything longer than three minutes is very tough for a fashion film, in the sense that it has to have such an engaging story or most people will lose focus. The narrative has to be so strong or else, no matter how beautiful the film is, it becomes like an MTV video.”

Interesting entries that have gone viral this year include206 by Brooklyn-based,
Australian film-maker, J. Cooper, starring English actor David Oyelowo; The Purgatory of Monotony by Ace Norton; and Kiss of a Siren by NuMe, which won Best Film at the 2014 International Fashion Film Awards.

“Top names are actually getting involved in this. We have invited a lot of film-makers, who have great leading ladies and men, to bring their stars with them,” says Lazarus.

“The barrier to entering is so low, all you need is a cellphone or a digital SLR camera, editing software and a friend who has a fashion line or something fashionable. It does not need to be clothes,” he says.

The film-makers’ brief for the Mercedes- Benz Star award was “modern luxury”.
Contestants had to create a film expressing their interpretation of what modern luxury means to them, while featuring a Mercedes-Benz. The winner of this award will walk away with $10 000 (about R110 000)

“The idea is to not make it look like a student production. That is where most students go wrong… they have a fashionable model, someone has a camera and they all know how to edit. The fashion look is great, but the production value is low,” says Lazarus.

The judging panel includes industry experts such as Bryan Ramkilawan, chief executive of the Cape Town Fashion Council; fashion photographer Mark Newton; award-winning South African commercials director Jason Fialkov; and Michelle-Lee Collins from Mac Cosmetics.

The festival’s programme includes talks by fashion film music producer Craig De Sousa, Adobe expert Michael O’Neill, and special effects hair and make-up artist Jim Raubenheimer. Following this event, the film festival will be held in Johannesburg in June.
Lazarus says the debut event, held at the Grand Central airport in Joburg last year, was an overthe- top occasion complete with Eurocopter hangars.

“Joburg was absolutely amazing. The response from the red carpet alone was something else,” says Lazarus.

“The Johannesburg crowd were much more vocal and there was a lot happening behind the scenes.”

Lazarus adds that fashion and film students are now showing a great interest
in fashion films.

“These youngsters are seeing that fashion films offer them another avenue.

They now realise that they don’t have to do commercials, major films, or work in just retail after graduating,” he says.

“They have to think out of the box. Those who wanted to be a fashion designer should start thinking: Maybe I should be a stylist or a movie set designer.”

Visit http://www.bokehfestival. co.za for the full schedule.

[ This feature was first published in the Cape Argus newspaper, on March 9 2015 ]