Q5: Moving South Africa forward, with Melusi Tshabalala [interview]
by Carey Finn (@carey_finn) Melusi Tshabalala (@EverydayZulu), the country’s favourite isiZulu teacher, shares what he’s been working on, as well as a few thoughts on the (lack of) African languages in adland.
Q5: You launched the Everyday Zulu book last year. Where are you taking the project next?
Melusi Tshabalala: The ultimate would be to do similar work, with different languages. I would obviously partner with writers [who] speak those languages. However, for now, the priority is getting more subscribers for the www.everydayzulu.co.za online learning portal. We are also developing intermediate and expert lessons.
Q5: How are things progressing at Studio 214 — what can we expect from the agency over the next 12 months?
MT: The industry has been pretty rocky and we have not been immune. To try reposition ourselves, we have brought on board a new partner, who will also take over from me, as MD. She will steer the agency, going forward, and bring in a new energy and vision.
Q5: We’ve been hearing good things about your Ubudlelwano initiative — can you tell us more about that, and how people can get involved?
MT: Ubudlelwano is the isiZulu word for relationship. It’s related to eating together/sharing food. Every first Saturday of the month, people from different walks of life get together, break bread, share drinks and talk about being South African and what we as normal citizens can do to take the country forward. The initiative is not politically aligned and anyone is welcome. I post each session’s details on my personal Facebook profile, on the Melusi’s Everyday Zulu Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Linkedin [accounts]. Those who are interested can also mail me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q5: Here’s a hard one: how much talent and potential do you think goes undiscovered because the language(s) in which it is best expressed are underused in SA business?
MT: I don’t think talent necessarily goes undiscovered, because the majority of South Africans speak and understand a lot of our languages. Look at industries, like music, where language is a major factor — the biggest artists record in African languages. The real gap and missed opportunity is in a corporate-control industry, such as advertising. Those who run and appoint ad agencies do not care much for African languages, whereas those languages mean a lot to the people they are trying to win over and sell to.
Q5: What can agencies and their clients do to better represent the linguistic diversity of our country?
MT: If I were a marketer, I would definitely appoint agencies that have a deep love and understanding of African languages and the people who speak them. That way, I would know I am more likely to get ideas and solutions that resonate. That is what marketers must do.
- Find Melusi’s Everyday Zulu on Facebook: facebook.com/everydayzulu
Carey Finn (@carey_finn) is a writer and editor with a decade and a half of industry experience, having covered everything from ethical sushi in Japan to the technicalities of roofing, agriculture, medical stuff and more. She’s also taught English and journalism, and dabbled in various other communications ventures along the way, including risk reporting. As a contributing writer to MarkLives.com, her new regular column “Q5” aims to hone in on strategic insights, analysis and data through punchy interviews with experts in media, marketing and design.