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Finding your way as a young artist in South Africa

Haneem Christian The Voices of Emerging Creatives webisode discussed the challenges and opportunities faced by the next generation of artists and designers, as they navigate what it means to “LIVE ART AND BE HEARD” within the South African landscape. The overarching consensus amongst panelists, all creative industry leaders, was that young artists need to find their voice, understand their value and not let themselves be taken advantage of.

Jamal Nxedlana, visual artist and Co-founder of Bubblegum Club, explained that artists don’t need to stick to one medium, and that they should explore all aspects of their creativity, live outside the box and be multifaceted. So, how do you find your unique voice? To quote visual poet and panelist, Haneem Christian, who was recently featured as a part of 100 Beautiful Things’ 16 Voices initiative: “Know yourself and your history, tell your truth and be authentic. Everyone has different experiences that live in our genetic memories, it is about sharing these stories with future generations.”

However, this focus on authenticity is not without its challenges, particularly when looked at in the context of brand partnerships. Haneem reflects that, in her experience, brands have a tendency to exploit young artists, by expecting high production value with low budgets. She also notes that, by collaborating with brands, artists can risk losing themselves and their identities. “Look for collaborations where you are empowered and your style is in line with the brand. If you are being pushed to compromise on your vision, then the collaboration won’t work,” she explains. She lays out three basic rules artists should follow when collaborating with brands:

1.       Have a contract in place.

2.      Know your value and your worth.

3.      Talk to your mentors and ask their advice. “It is not always about the money, take jobs where you feel like you are going to learn something,” she adds.

With that ground work established, Haneem is a proponent of meaningful brand collaborations, and believes that the private sector should be doing more to actively support artists. It is her belief that brands need to stop using the work of local young creatives as inspiration, and instead they need to hire them to do the job: “Take us off your mood boards and hire us! Be more open to giving chances to new talent instead of using the same people over and over again,” she explains. When asked what makes South African artists different, Sarah-Jane Boden, Founder and Creative Director of SoulProviders Collective, who was also a participant on the panel said, “Our context, our history, our culture. There are so many subcultures that are uniquely South African. We have so much to be inspired by. This value is exportable as a South African Brand.”

She continued to note that there are still so many African stories which haven’t been told yet in the western world. “We have seen big artists, like Beyoncé coming to our country to be inspired. We haven’t even scratched the surface yet! The world is waiting.” The next 100 Beautiful Things episode, Sustainability: Designing for a Better World, will be taking place on 16 July. This webinar will explore sustainability as the new currency of business; and a driver of open and transparent business practices. 

To register to attend, visit and sign up.


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