South Africa’s various cultural products hold a particular appeal to those overseas, be it listening to gqom in Atlanta, trying to speak Xhosa like Trevor Noah, or emulating Die Antwoord’s zef style.
The pity is, no one here seems to know it. In fact, if we started to grasp how popular and potentially lucrative our creative properties are, we’d do much more to promote them. Do we realise how revered the likes of Spoek Mathambo are in France? How people in Sweden freak out over Youngsta CPT? How a German woman started taking Afrikaans lessons because she heard Isaac Mutant rap.
And then of course there’s Zodwa Wabantu, who might get kicked out of places run by kak patriarchs (like Zambia), but is celebrated away from our shores for the brazen star that she is.
A tweet from Khaya Dlanga last year springs to mind:
“I was talking to a bouncer last night here in New York. He is from Senegal and has lived in the US for the last 15 years. I tell him I’m from SA. Takes out his phone and says, ‘Do you know her?’ Dude seems crazy over this person.
‘Yes,’ I say.
It’s Zodwa Wabantu.”
A few months ago I met Kimberleigh Stark who, with her business partner Christian Amougou, runs TMTvSA, an online channel that highlights our pop culture. What makes it unique is that it doesn’t just cater for South Africans, but has audiences from the US, France, Brazil and Egypt. She says these viewers aren’t even South African expats, but international eyes who love what we do, such that the channel got 12 million hits in its first year. Imagine that – someone in Brazil commenting on what Nomzamo Mbatha wore to the SA Film and Television Awards.
“I’ve found most people are interested in our entertainment industry and the charity work that is done around the country. I think people love to see our artists succeed and grow. Sometimes it feels the outside world is more supportive of our celebrities than we are,” Kimberleigh tells me. “We have so much talent that is not appreciated; it is mind-blowing! So often we don’t value what we have right in front of our faces. As an actress, I have worked with a lot of well-known international actors and I can tell you, South Africa has some incredible talent!”
Our creative products are authentic, fresh and like nothing the world has seen before. It’s time that we realise that too.