Young, Gifted & Killing It: Jabu Nadia Newman
by Veli Ngubane (@TheNduna) Writer, filmmaker and photographer, Jabu Nadia Newman, is staking out her place at the forefront of the new generation of creatives in our country. Inspired by women she met during the #FeesMustFall protests at the University of Cape Town, this young and gifted creative started killing it! by putting her studies on hold to write The Foxy Five film web series, which tells the story of five friends grappling with different issues of feminism. Here we find out more about her.
Veli Ngubane: Tell us more about yourself: where did you grow up and what did you want to be when you were growing up?
Jabu Nadia Newman: I grew up in Cape Town in different areas as my parents moved around a lot. I’ve lived in Grassy Park, Kenilworth, Woodstock and Diep River. When I was younger I wanted to be many things: first it was a ballerina, then a concert pianist, then an artist and once even the first womxn president of South Africa LOL.
VN: How have your roots influenced your art?
JNN: My art is telling stories about being a womxn of colour in South Africa and what that means for different people.
VN: Please explain what you actually do and how an average day looks for you?
JNN: Usually my day starts [with] having coffee at a coffee shop, answering emails — usually answering interview questions, touching base with my producers, organising screenings, going to meetings and then watching a movie before bed. Sometimes I spend the whole day writing and sometimes I spend the whole day on set but mainly emails and meetings take up majority of my day.
VN: Tell us about The Foxy Five web series and how did it come about?
JNN: The Foxy Five concept came about in 2015 during the first #FeesMustFall protests. I was so inspired by the womxn-student-led movement that I started writing a script that wanted to tell the stories of what black womxn are experiencing today and what we’re discussing. After I had written the first episode I put together a team comprising mainly of black womxn and the crew and cast grew from there as more people reached out and more people wanted to be involved.
The Foxy Five is about five womxn who are best friends and who are just trying to navigate their way through a patriarchal society. They decide to try start fighting structural oppression on the streets but find that often internal issues or personal strife gets in the way of their initial plans to save the world. Each character represents a different struggle and oppression in society, as well as plays on the stereotypes on how society would portray feminists.
VN: How do you explain your nuanced version of feminism, and who influenced it?
JNN: Many different womxn have influenced my feminism. At first I was reading people like Bell Hooks, Simone de Beauvoir, Maya Angelou, even Laura Mulvey. Now I’m influenced a lot by my peers and the black womxn around me; especially my family, my late mother and 80-year-oldgrandmother influence my feminism daily. My feminism is intersectional and black.
VN: I’m interested in your thoughts on how women are portrayed on TV and in movies. Who do you think is the best example of a well-written strong female character in TV and movies you’ve seen in the last few years?
JNN: The representation of womxn in film and TV is getting better, but only better for white women. I was very influenced by HBO’s Girls and Broad City — but mainly I was influenced in the fact that they had no strong black womxn characters so I decided to create my own. Right now I’m enjoying Issa Rae’s Insecure, Cecile Emeke’s Ackee & Saltfish and Michaela Coel’s Chewing Gum. There have been many directors who have represented womxn in a truthful way; these just aren’t American directors. Directors like Pedro Almodovar and Park Chan-Wook. Sofia Coppola has done a good job of representing white women, I guess.
VN: What is it like to work as a female in a male-dominated industry and how do you think the industry may attract more female creatives?
JNN: It’s interesting in that I feel like I can always approach things in a different way or have a different perspective. There definitely is more interest in womxn-driven stories and projects, and the industry just needs to open its doors more and let us as womxn tell our own stories. We need to be the ones behind the cameras and directing the media that South Africa needs.
VN: What do you feel is missing in entertainment today?
JNN: We still need more representation and more real and authentic stories. We need to be more aware and accountable of the media that we put out, and owe it to South African audience to create intellectual and creative content.
VN: Where and when do you have your best ideas?
JNN: My best ideas come to me when I’m dreaming or when I’m pretending to listen to someone haha.
VN: What advice can you give to young women wanting to get into the business?
JNN: Find a mentor, shoot as much as possible, save your money and fund your own projects and work with other womxn.
VN: Tell us something about yourself not generally known.
JNN: I lucid dream a lot.
VN: What exciting projects are you working on at the moment?
JNN: I’m writing a script for a short film.
VN: Please would you supply two or three pieces of work you have been involved in?
Veli Ngubane (@TheNduna) entered the world of advertising with a passion after completing his BSocSci (law, politics and economics) at the University of Cape Town and a post-graduate marketing diploma at Red & Yellow, where he also currently serves as advisory board chairman. He is the chief creative officer and founding partner of one of the fastest-growing agencies in the country, AVATAR. A full-service marketing agency with digital at the core, its clients include Brand South Africa, FOX Africa, National Geographic, SAA and Chevron. Veli hails from Kosi Bay in the rural KwaMhlaba Uyalingana area of KZN. In his monthly column “Young, Gifted & Killing It”, he profiles award-winning, kick-ass black creative talent in South Africa.