You’ve probably never heard of most of these young people who are doing amazing things in their fields. We bring you musicians, poets, entrepreneurs, innovators, and the like, who you should know. In no particular order:
Samantha Ngcolomba (lawyer)
Samantha Ngcolomba is using law to tackle gender disparities. Her business, Lady Liberty, is a mobile clinic that travels to poor communities around the country, offering basic legal services to women. Since starting the business in 2013, she’s helped over 650 women and hopes to help 5 000 in the next five years. We profiled Samantha Ngcolomba, here.
Lidudumalingani Mqombothi (writer)
Lidudumalingani recently got shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African Writing for his short story, “Memories We Lost”. He has been writing for a while – his byline has appeared in reputable publications like the Mail & Guardian, Mahala and Chimurenga. Lidudumalingani writes colourful narratives, which explains why he would excel in fiction. Here, Lidudumalingani shares six of his favourite books.
Zoë Modiga (jazz musician)
Things just keep on happening for the Cape Town jazz musician. Last year she won a SAMRO scholarship to go study abroad. This year, she was one of the strongest contenders in the TV competition, The Voice SA. She didn’t win, but she got signed to Universal Music a few days after the competition ended. She’s performed at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, UCT Jazz Festival, Artscape Youth Jazz Festival, among others. Zoë writes her own music and lyrics, and oh boy is she a great singer and performer. Read our interview and coverage of one of her performances, here.
Buhle Sithela (entrepreneur)
Khayelitsa-based entrepreneur Buhle Sithela is cleaning dustbins to start an open air cinema in his hood. Wait…what? Let’s back up for a second. Buhle has always had a love for the cinema, but hated that there were none in Khayelitsha. So he started a weekly dustbin cleaning service to sponsor intimate film screenings from his laptop. He’s now partnered up with local social enterprise, Sunshine Cinema, who are helping him host the first open air cinema screening in Khayelitsha. Read our interview with Buhle Sithela here.
Koleka Putuma (poet and theatre playwright)
The relentless Cape Town poet has made a name for herself in theatre and performance poetry. She was the inaugural winner of the National Arts Festival’s Slam For Your Life competition. She was also nominated for the New Directors Award at the Fleur du Cap Theatre Awards in 2015. Koleka’s work touches on race, gender and religion in a witty, unapologetic manner. For instance, one of her most popular poems “Water” talks about race through how black and white people relate to water. Not one to settle for being a struggling artist, earlier this year, she shared how she makes money from her work with us, here.
Mark Fitzgibbon (vlogger)
Mark Fitzgibbon is a Cape Town vlogger whose videos on YouTube poke fun at issues familiar to Capetonians – mostly Coloured people. His videos rake in thousands of views, and Mark’s career in comedy looks promising as he wants to explore stand-up in the future. The 22-year-old funnyman is finishing his postgraduate degree in science, while being a presenter at UCT Radio. Read our profile of Mark Fitzgibbon here.
Lebo Mphela (nail polish entrepreneur)
The 24-year-old Lebo Mphela from Pretoria started Malia Nail Care in her mom’s house. She experimented with different methods until she stumbled upon one that worked. Just after a few months of operating, Malia was included in the goodie bags that guests and winners received at this year’s SAMAs. Read our interview with Lebo Mphela, here, in which she details how she went from studying politics and international relations, to working for a PR firm, to starting Malia.
Kay Faith (sound engineer)
Kay Faith has silently recorded, mixed and mastered a number of hip-hop songs and projects, by artists such as Yasiin Bey, Whosane, Youngsta, Uno July and Da L.e.s. She studied sound engineering at Cape Audio College, where she is currently employed as a sound engineer. Kay Faith is one of the few women making a mark in the male-dominated sound engineering profession. Read our interview with Kay Faith here.
Zandi Tisani (award winning filmmaker)
This year, Zandi Tisani was part of a team that won two awards at the SAFTAs (South African Film & Television Awards) for Best Achievement in Scriptwriting in a TV Comedy for Those Who Can’t as well as Best Achievement in Scriptwriting in a TV Drama for Umlilo. The UCT film graduate directed singer Zaki Ibrahim’s video for “Go Widdit” in 2012. There are no creative limits for Zandi, she has made films about different themes from fashion to an upcoming web series. Read our interview with her here.
Banetsi Mphunga (psychological councellor)
A cara-cara is the last place you’d imagine as an outlet for people’s psychological problems. But for psychological councellor Banetsi Mphunga it was the perfect place to break the stigma of mental illness in the township. Banetsi runs a mobile psychology clinic from his Caravelle. The taxi travels around Khayelitsha and offers counselling. In the future, he hopes to take his cara-cara revolution across the country to counter the lack of psychology clinics in the hood. Read our interview with Banetsi Mphunga here.
Sifiso Ngobese (social entrepreneur)
“Makgereza” is Soweto slang for hustler. It’s the word Sifiso Ngobese would best use to describe township garbage collectors who make a living selling refuse. But he also saw a problem. The rubbish collectors collected their refuse in lopsided carts that were easily susceptible to damage. So he created a durable cart for them to collect their trash in. The carts also double up as walking billboards for companies to advertise their wares. Read our interview with Sifiso Ngobese, here.
Buhle Ngaba (storyteller)
Buhle Ngaba has a love for storytelling. This year, the Cape Town-based theatre performer published an online book called A Girl Without A Sound: a fairytale written for young, black girls. The book was written in defiance of “the stories we grew up with… of white princess with blue eyes”, and features an all-black cast. Since releasing the book online and breaking the Internet (she had so many downloads, her site crashed), she’s translated the book into SeTswana and is currently working on physical copies. Read our interview with Buhle Ngaba, here.
Aqeelah Sasman (drifter)
Aqeelah Sasman may only be 19, but she could probably drive rings around you. The UCT student is a professional drifter who fell in love with the sport at a young age. As a child, she’d see her uncle and father drifting and promised herself she’d do the same when she was older. This year she took part in the inaugural Drift City event in Cape Town, where she was the only female drifter. Not that this bothers her. Aqeelah views every drifting event as an opportunity to change the mind of her naysayers. Read our profile of Aqeelah Sasman here.
Brian Mokochane (artist and fashion designer)
Soweto-based Brian Mokochane isn’t your regular artist. He says he’s always seen art as a medium that allows you to go left of centre and make societal change. His business, Soul Art Foundation, makes dope bags and journals from pieces of trash. Brian plans to rework a rubbish dump in Protea, Soweto, and turn it into an academy where he can teach budding designers how to upcycle and design. He was touted as one of nine emerging designers to look out for at this year’s Design Indaba. We profiled Brian Mokochane, here.
Mpumelelo Sefalane (social entrepreneur)
Mpumelelo Sefalane describes himself as “a young dude who just wants to change the hood”. He co-founded Dine With Khayelitsha — a monthly dinner, set in the township — to share authentic township life with people from outside Khayelitsha. The dinner brings together people from different races and social backgrounds for a night of good food and hard conversations. Issues like race, entrepreneurship and land redistribution are discussed with an audience that would otherwise not venture into Cape Town’s most popular township. Read our interview with Mpumelelo Sefalane, here.
Obie Mavuso (artist)
If you’re familiar with Cape Town’s indie music circuit, you’ve probably heard of Obie Mavuso. The Cape Town-based artist is the founder of creative showcase Jam That Session and recently started, Queers on Smash. The latter is a lifestyle company dedicated to providing inclusive entertainment for the LGBTI community. Recently, they had their first black only queer social event. The event brought together queer people from around the city to party, talk about the difficulties of being queer and just have a good time in a safe space. The next social takes place on June 25 in Jo’burg. We interviewed Obie Mavuso, here.
*Update: The headline of this article was changed from “16 young South Africans doing amazing things but you might not be aware of”.