To Be An African Dreamer

An Essay By South African Creative Economist, BusaBuntu

BusuB­un­tu shares her inspir­ing jour­ney into her first mocku-series whilst break­ing down for­mi­da­ble doors in his­to­ry, prov­ing that African women can bring dreams to life. 

It’s a pret­ty dif­fi­cult thing to encap­su­late what it feels like or what it means to be an African Female artist/storyteller in 2021. First­ly, I can’t speak for all Africans or women because we are not a mono­lith, and sec­ond­ly, there is always some lev­el of ambi­gu­i­ty on what an artist is. Who deter­mines whether one can be called an artist? Should we val­i­date our work through a West­ern lens, and if not, will audi­ences be open to con­sum­ing con­tent from an African per­spec­tive? These ques­tions are just the begin­ning of the spi­ral of infor­ma­tion that begins tick­ing away in my brain and so what I have cho­sen to do in this essay is speak to a pas­sion project I have been devel­op­ing for about 14 years and try to give some insight into my per­son­al expe­ri­ences in try­ing to cre­ate and share sto­ries and art from an African Per­spec­tive. 

I am the Founder of a dis­rup­tive media com­pa­ny called Bus­aBun­tu Pic­tures (BBP), our HQ is in Jozi, South Africa, and the vision and mis­sion of the busi­ness is to research, devel­op and share con­tent from an African per­spec­tive and also devel­op social and cre­ative entre­pre­neur­ial spaces with our sis­ter com­pa­ny, the Bus­aBun­tu Foun­da­tion for young peo­ple and women. For us, what qual­i­fies as an African per­spec­tive is real­ly the cul­mi­na­tion of African ide­olo­gies, lived expe­ri­ences, lan­guage, cul­ture and social sys­tems. Africa’s decades long work to recov­er from the West­ern inva­sion is ongo­ing and art and cul­ture have always played a key role in the resis­tance and heal­ing, I would say this is the macro­cos­mic per­spec­tive, which needs its own unpack­ing. My micro­cos­mic expe­ri­ence is one of a Zulu girl child who grew up with entre­pre­neur­ial, con­ser­v­a­tive, Zulu activists for par­ents and found solace in a tele­vi­sion screen, books, music, the com­plex­i­ties and sim­plic­i­ty of lan­guage and all things cul­ture. Sto­ries made me feel at home and our aim in our work at BBP is to cre­ate and share that feel­ing with oth­ers. 

I stud­ied Dra­ma and Art for my entire school­ing career then after grad­u­at­ing from my under­grad in film and tele­vi­sion live per­for­mance in 2006, I start­ed work­ing in the tra­di­tion­al media space of South Africa’s media indus­try for a few years. I quick­ly realised that the social­ly con­scious and entre­pre­neur­ial DNA I had inher­it­ed from my par­ents would not thrive in an envi­ron­ment with bar­ri­ers of entry inher­it­ed from nor­malised Suprema­cist sys­tems – these tra­di­tion­al spaces are often root­ed in fear-based think­ing and I am a bound­less being. Wait­ing for some­one to give me work was not going to be my path, I had to cre­ate my own oppor­tu­ni­ties, and like a divine inter­ven­tion around 2006 I came across a British mock­u­men­tary film, Con­fet­ti, which led me to the mocku-series, The Office (yes, I love both the UK and US ver­sion equal­ly). I fell in love with the mock­u­men­tary genre and start­ed writ­ing and cre­at­ing my own mocku-series – African Dreams. I didn’t realise it at the time but these artis­tic encoun­ters helped seed my pil­grim­age into the Cre­ative Econ­o­mist I am grow­ing to be now.

The mocku-series, as a genre and a pas­sion project, and I faced many closed doors before we were com­mis­sioned by the South African Broad­cast­ing Com­mis­sion in 2019, which was always the dream dis­tri­b­u­tion part­ner as it reach­es the high­er per­centile of South African view­ers and has a pres­ence in oth­er African coun­tries too. As the core pur­pose of African Dreams, as a sto­ry and a dis­rup­tion in con­tent devel­op­ment in the glob­al tele­vi­sion space, is to bring JOY to its view­ers; reach­ing as many African minds, hearts and souls is the best out­come and I am tru­ly grate­ful the uni­verse opened the door that would allow for that man­i­fes­ta­tion to come into fruition. I have hopes for the sto­ry to be dis­trib­uted in non-African spaces too because we all deserve a sto­ry designed to bring JOY and the feel­ing of HOME to us.

African Dreams was orig­i­nal­ly meant to air in 2021 but owing to COVID-19, the show com­plet­ed prin­ci­pal film­ing in June of 2021, we are cur­rent­ly final­is­ing the post-pro­duc­tion and it will air on the 31st of Octo­ber 2021. It would be an under­state­ment to say that this has been a long time com­ing, I know that I can­not in this essay express the true emo­tion­al roller­coast­er the process has been thus far, but being one of the few females of African eth­nic­i­ty to own 100% of her own busi­ness (Sad­ly still a rar­i­ty in South Africa), focus it on dis­rupt­ing the indus­try with an inno­v­a­tive mocku-series whilst simul­ta­ne­ous­ly work­ing and suc­ceed­ing to have a major­i­ty female led pro­duc­tion is just a win­dow into the pur­pose dri­ven light work I endeav­our to share with peo­ple. As one of the few qual­i­fied Cre­ative Econ­o­mists in South Africa and the glob­al media space, I take my work as a sto­ry­teller and heal­er very seri­ous­ly and at the core I just want my ances­tors and fam­i­ly to be proud of the work I do; it may not be as glam­ourous as want­i­ng to become a bil­lion­aire, but my idea of wealth is beyond mate­r­i­al accred­i­ta­tion – spir­i­tu­al, emo­tion­al and phys­i­cal wealth hold greater val­ue for me. 

To achieve our aes­thet­ic dis­rup­tion, we col­lab­o­rat­ed with Bel­la Vida Beau­ty Bar (Jozi based salon) to cre­ate hair­styles that draw inspi­ra­tion from African looks across the con­ti­nent. This was no small task as we col­lat­ed data that went as far back as the Slave Trade from the con­ti­nent to mod­ern day African hair­styling. In look­ing back, we hope to inspire what is to come in hair­styling, so many of our ances­tors were hair tech­nol­o­gists and engi­neers and their hair­styles have tru­ly stood the test of time. Hav­ing actors with diverse hair tex­tures and lengths also gave us a love­ly play­ground to cre­ate on.

Our fash­ion and design approach are more of a mod­ern nature, draw­ing on African prints on West­ern pat­terns, this is owing to the demo­graph­ics that will be watch­ing the show and also the era the show is set in – plus cur­rent trends in South Africa are inspi­ra­tional. Our show is also set in a very artis­tic and eclec­tic part of Jozi and this meant that the colours, tex­tures and prints worn by our char­ac­ters had to be as vibrant as their back­drop. One of our fash­ion mis­sions with the show is to inspire the Sum­mer looks of 2021/22 in South Africa (Decem­ber – Jan­u­ary) and observe our efforts to beau­ti­fy the African woman and man liv­ing out in the streets of South Africa and any­where else the show will air. 

There is so much more I’d love to share about this jour­ney, maybe a pod­cast will fol­low, but for now I’d like to con­clude by say­ing that African Dreams is my love let­ter to African women try­ing to make some­thing of them­selves in a world that so often doesn’t want to see us suc­ceed. African Dreams is to be the first mocku-series from an African per­spec­tive in glob­al tele­vi­sion his­to­ry, so yes, there is still room to cre­ate some­thing new. African Dreams is to be the first mocku-series to star a female of African eth­nic­i­ty, hope­ful­ly not the last, and also, I hope it’s a door for all the oth­er under­rep­re­sent­ed eth­nic­i­ties in this genre and tele­vi­sion in gen­er­al. African Dreams is a cel­e­bra­tion of African hair, fash­ion and the African peo­ple, and this is only the begin­ning. Last­ly, and most impor­tant­ly, African Dreams is a dream come true and I hope that young girls and women read­ing this can find some inspi­ra­tion in fol­low­ing their dreams. Always. 

African Dreams will air on the South African Broad­cast­ing Com­mis­sion’s (SABC) Chan­nel 1 — SABC 1 on the 7th of Novem­ber at 19:30 (South African Time) and play for the fol­low­ing 12 weeks every Sun­day at the same time. For view­ers out­side of South Africa, the show will air at the same time as SABC on the online stream­ing plat­form, VIU.

Words Bus­aBun­tu
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