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.