I’m a black South African, I’m from rural KZN, I love art, I live art and I still find it hard to explain to people in my own community and family what art is. My family love me and they do their best to support “their weird and strange brother”. I have a job, I am pursuing a career, I have goals and I live in my dreams most of the time. I am creative in being, I embody creation and somehow, I still keep doing it every single day. I am happier today than I was yesterday and I keep learning invaluable life lessons every single day. So why would I write this post if I’m so happy?
I have been raised in a world where I have learnt to fight for every single thing that I have. And that is everything! Opinions, my extremely limited material wealth, beautiful women I love, status in society, my past, my future and even my own ability to create. This for me is not a problem. It is my struggle in life and it is one that I embrace as it will define my existence one day. So I take my struggle very seriously. I look up to revolutionaries and the way they think and thought in their lifetimes. Malcolm X, Che Guevara, Nelson Mandela, Socrates, Martin Luther King, Salvador Dali, Mohammed Ali, Michelangelo, Chris Hani, Leonardo Da Vinci and Shaka Zulu have all influenced my systems of belief. So what is my concern at this point? It sounds like I’m okay.
Through great fortune and blessings in my life, I have been privileged with being empowered with the opportunity to think. Most graciously, I have found this opportunity through exposure to art, advertising and design. It is where my skills have been nurtured and the path the right side of my brain chose to embrace on earth. But the design and art community can be an incredibly lonely and hostile environment. And like any professional industry, I have no problem with that being the case. As a proud and professional creative, I have understood that the community of art and design must have aspirational qualities in it for those who want to commit their lives to it.
But I simply believe that we sometimes take it too far as the art community. We are too upper echelon based. Too much high art and too little “community-spirit”. Art can be too much for the elite and wealthy. And I am a firm believer in that art and all that it has to share belongs to the people. All people. And I seriously believe we have a long way to go to get to this point. But the current state of creativity must have a virtuous focus on shortening the length of that period. And this too is part of the struggle I hope to live for.
I was fortunate enough to attend the Design Indaba simulcast in the past week at the University of Johannesburg. It was a privilege and an honour that I will cherish for a long time thanks to the awesome team at Ornico Media who afforded me the opportunity. One day, I would also love to be one of the international speakers standing there and sharing my creative, artistic and design wisdom to the world. But I would love to also be sitting there sharing this knowledge to some disadvantaged children from our rural and township communities. I would love to be sharing that knowledge with some inner-city graffiti artists who don’t necessarily have the money to attend such thought provoking and inspirational events. I would love to share my knowledge with the passionate videographer who cannot even afford a camera. Imagine a young artist from Alex township rubbing shoulders with an internationally successful creative and innovator like John Maeda.
But what seems to be the problem with our local community. From what I have been told, the Design Indaba Expo was only R20 to enter for school children. Yet only Model C schools were the majority of the scholar attendance. Did the disadvantaged schools not get the memorandum? Or was the memo only sent to certain schools? Are some schools “too dirty” for such an elite event? Or are there just no gifted artists in our disadvantaged communities and schools? Why 18 years into a new way of thinking for our country does it still appear that only the privileged have access to the best information? And where are the leaders and voices of the disadvantaged people? Why are they so quiet? As young black children, the majority of us don’t grow up being told that there is a future in your ability to draw, act, write and even sing since our parents never see any evidence of successful people in creative industries besides the 0.0005% who make it to television.
At the tender age of 26, it was so inspiring for me to hear the genius and owner of Time Magazines 140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2012 John Maeda stand there and talk about the benefits of a career as a creative, and how it impacts on everyday things in society from graphic design to technology building. A black African man like me named David Adjaye showed me the amazing benefits of flair and creativity in architecture. Creative Director at multi-disciplinary Tokyo agency Party, Masashi Kawamura’s music videos left me questioning all logic but inspired an incredible burst of inquisitiveness in me. Imagine if I had this opportunity at the age of 15 when I was clueless about where my art and creativity would get me? Imagine what I could have told my mother and family? Even harder to bear, is to imagine that there are still kids losing out on such opportunities at this very moment today.
I am a creative in an industry that I believe needs to change. I have been brought onto this earth as an agent of change. I don’t know how I am going to do it, but I am 100% involved in the process of being the solution. Not tomorrow, but even today and now.
“Be the change you want to see in the world” – Mahatma Ghandi.
The current state of creativity needs to change. And to quote my good friend Mzo Ntuli, when referencing the importance of the young creative struggle in the new South Africa, “We are next in line”. I don’t take these words lightly, nor the responsibility that comes with them. The state of creativity is in the hands of every young creative South African. And it’s our job to make sure that the standard of the arts is elevated to the best level possible. But it is also our responsibility to create and make great art that will help change the future, inspire generations to come and also to make sure that the arts are accessible to all those who can and could help uplift them to the next level and plateau.
Thats our piece and tell them you heard it from Simphiwe aka @Mr_MediaX on Twitter!
Checkout more work from the main speakers at the Design Indaba below or view winners and all the main participants of the conference here
The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of the any official organization named in the article, or any other entity named in this article.