Transformation: Can you feel the shift?
“There needs to be an appetite for black excellence. We have been influential since the diaspora yet faced setbacks in the form of Bantu education and apartheid but continue to fight back.” These words were shared by Dr John Kani, where he was talking about “The Rebirth of Black Excellence” and touching on the remarkable impact of Marvel’s Black Panther movie. He also went on to say “black South Africans are negotiating for a space in the industry, yet we are the majority”, referring to the South African media industry.
Shared and growing sentiment
Dr Kani’s words echo a shared and continuously growing sentiment among many black creatives in the advertising and media industry where, for many, it feels as if negotiating for space and having our voices really heard has been going on for so long that we’ve reached a stalemate. A number of thought leaders and industry professionals have shared their thoughts and views on the best way to tackle and address the issue of transformation in an industry dominated and controlled by a few, especially in positions of management, leadership, and ownership. The young black South African creative is no longer willing to sit back and just accept the status quo. Can you feel the shift?
Has the time not come for South Africa to propel black creatives to positions of leadership and influence? If Marvel can trust a young filmmaker, with just two features to his name and no blockbuster under his belt, to direct what has become one of the most-successful movies of all time, what is stopping our industry from growing deserving black creatives who have paid their dues to reach director levels?
This year, we witnessed the first African American to win an Academy Award for the best original screenplay. After the win, Jordan Peele said, “I almost never became a director [sic] because there was such a shortage of role models”. And this statement pretty much sums up the importance of representation. Nothing is quite as disheartening for many young black creatives than working for an agency and there isn’t a single person at a management level who looks like you. No one who you can look up to as a symbol of growth and achievement. No one you can relate to on a deeper level of shared experiences and background.
Louis Vuitton or LV, for short, is one of the most-famous and globally recognised fashion houses and the brand was founded in 1854. Today, Virgil Abloh — who was born in 1980 to Ghanian parents — is the artistic director of menswear at Louis Vuitton. Can you feel the shift?
The brilliant and dynamic Ava Duvernay is set to direct “New Gods” at Warner Bros as part of the studio’s DC Extended Universe. She’s just recently directed Disney’s “A Wrinkle In Time,” becoming the first black woman in Hollywood to be at the helm of a live-action film with a production budget of US100m. Can you feel the shift?
So, yes, globally, we can feel a shift. It may be minimal in scale in comparison to where we should be by now, but just these few examples give us hope that we might also see real transformation in the South African media and advertising industry. It’s time to move from discussion and think pieces to active willingness to see real change and create spaces where people of colour are fully represented, our voices are heard, our ideas and insights are fully supported and appreciated, and we see representation at every level of the South African agency.
Stuurman said it best
I believe Trevor Stuurman, South African stylist, photographer, blogger and trendsetter, said it best as he was working at New York Fashion Week: “It’s important for us to occupy all these spaces that kind of were never for us.”
Ndumiso Ndlela (@ndundlela) is a storyteller at heart, a lover of cinema, an inspiring documentary filmmaker and a digital content creator. As head of digital for DNA Brand Architects, his passion is to help brands navigate the digital landscape and creating ground-breaking, innovative and award-winning content.
“Motive” is a by-invitation-only column on MarkLives.com. Contributors are picked by the editors but generally don’t form part of our regular columnist lineup, unless the topic is off-column.
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