The ten listed South Africans exhibit this synergy perfectly. Regardless of mastering different disciplines in a multitude of environments, there is an almost imperceptible thread that binds all of these achievements – a bright mind and an ambitious and all-encompassing vision.
He quotes Lupita Nyong’o on his Tumblr and it seems particularly apt. Her now legendary Oscar speech includes the line “no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.”Musician, producer, actor and all-round-creative Riky Rick’s growing success certainly proves that Lupita was right. Recently staring in the local drama “Isibaya” Riky Rick is a natural performer. First introduced to the music industry while working in the recording studio with Bongani Fassie, Riky Rick has never looked back. Previously producing music for the likes of MXO and L-Tido, Riky Rick’s passion for the total spectrum of music is evident in his work behind the scenes. A former student of film at AFDA, Riky Rick’s recent release “Amantombazane” featuring Okmalumkoolkat, and the smash hit, “Nafukwa” are sure to be future South African classics. Recently announcing his separation from his record label, Motif Records, Riky Rick is trailblazing a new path with his album “Family Values” said to be released in 2015.
When you Google “Thulani Serero” the suggestions tellingly include “Thulani Serero salary” and “Thulani Serero transfer”. Born in Soweto, this in-demand 24 year-old midfielder is the only South African football star since Bennie McCarthy to break into the much coveted Champions League. Beginning his football career in 2000, Serero is a veteran despite his youthful appearance. However, when witnessing him play, his unrelenting energy hardly suggests that this former Ajax Cape Town star has been playing “the beautiful game” for more than half of his life.
There is something particularly wonderful about the fact that one of South Africa’s most loved bloggers was born in Umtata in the Eastern Cape. Away from the “New York of South Africa” mind-set of Johannesburg and not close enough to the “Little Europe” oddity of Cape Town, Milisuthando was developing her keen voice that would help her build an enviable career. A gifted writer, Milisuthando, best known as Miss Milli B, also works as a personal stylist when she isn’t blogging or working as a member of The Group. Often labelled “Joburg’s It Girl”, Miss Milli B is in fact anything but your typical It Girl. From blogging about fashion and South African history to creating a documentary about the politics of black hair, her inspiring work is as broad as her interests.
Currently the Mail & Guardian’s Arts, Entertainment and Culture editor, Zodwa is truly a woman of her words. With her writing published in all the major print publications in South Africa, including blogging for various parenting sites, Zodwa seems to be at home wherever there are words. While many have long predicted the demise of print, Zodwa, a Rhodes graduate, was ahead of the curve adapting to the ever-changing digital landscape as early as 2001. Previously working as an online content manager for Woolworths, Zodwa is passionate about travel, food, social media, design and music. Selected as one of only thirty-eight World Design Capital Cape Town curators, Zodwa’s scope of interest is tellingly ambitious. With a career spanning well over a decade, Zodwa is an inspiration to all aspiring writers.
Daniel Ting Chong
If you have had the pleasure of seeing any of designer, illustrator and artist, Daniel Ting Chong’s work then you would believe him when he says: “as cliché as it sounds, inspiration is all around and you never know when you might connect with something.” Ridiculously talented, Daniel’s extensive portfolio is aesthetic eye candy. Currently working on branding for clients in Berlin and Switzerland, as well as collaborating with a local designer in the production of basketball range of clothing, his joy for his craft is blatantly clear in his inspiring, multi-disciplinary work. Sculpting soap into pastel-coloured ice-cream cones and working with some of the biggest international brands including The New York Times and Nike, Daniel has expertly carved a fascinating career. The famous quote from Lawrence Pearsall Jacks states: “a master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play”. By all accounts then Daniel is certainly a master in the art of living.
What is a sound African aesthetic? This is the question that Mokena Makeka tries to answer every day as an architect and urban thinker. Seemingly racing against himself and so attempting to create as many inspired solid structures as a legacy of his existence, Mokena is not one to waste time. Ambitious and talented, Mokena is the founder of Makeke Design Lab and boasts numerous accolades including being the two-time recipient of the CIA Award of Merit and being selected amongst one-hundred architects globally to be part of the prestigious Ordos 100. Graduating from the University of Cape Town (UCT), Mokena’s career came full circle when he later returned to UCT as a lecturer. Stating on his website his belief in the “power of design to better people’s lives in a subtle but profound manner” it is hard to doubt his conviction.
Using the familiarity of the human form to express ideas of death, rebirth and identity, Mary Sibande’s work utterly silences those who are lucky enough to witness it. Showing her work in Paris, Venice, Dakar and Helsinki while sweeping up countless accolades, Mary’s art is a much needed exploration of South African history. A Fine Arts graduate, Mary Sibande manifests her vision through photography, sculpture and painting. Mary’s most popular exhibition “Long Live the Dead Queen” features life size mannequins cast in the artist’s own face and clothed in a maids uniform. The bright blue uniforms almost resemble those of fairy tales, however, there is a somewhat sombre air to the life size woman simply known as Sophie. Making “the maid” the central figure is in itself radical. Historically demeaned to the role of adult-children – but worse, “maids” are not meant to be seen or heard. Therefore Mary’s work is an expression of rebellion and freedom. Exploring the uncomfortable question of how many dreams have gone unnoticed as the countless South African women were narrowly understood and limited to their role of “domestic”? Offering no easy answers, Mary instead bravely explores the history of servitude and the legacy of dreams.
There are worldly achievements – fame, fortune, success, and then there are out of this world achievements. Siyabulela Xuxa, already a world-renowned scientist, prefers to specialise in the latter. After earning a reputation of somewhat of a prodigy, this Mthatha-born star was honoured by the Nasa-affiliated Lincoln Laboratory, which named a minor planet after him. Planet 23182 is now known as Siyaxuxa. Winning numerous prestigious awards and pioneering engineering solutions for Africa, this Harvard graduate says that he always had “a burning desire to figure out how things worked.”
Affectionately known as a “gift from Africa” Gift Ngoepe was the first black South African to sign a professional baseball contract when he signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2008. Growing up in Randburg while living with his mother who was a clubhouse attendant on the grounds of a local baseball team, it could be said that Ngoepe was fated to be a record-breaking professional baseball player. As a child, Ngoepe was unknowingly preparing for a future of excellence, often playing baseball with players twenty years his senior, it is not surprising that this 24 year-old hit the major league.
Born in Cape Town in 1981, Mikhael Subotzky’s once-seen-never-forgotten work is more famous than he is, and even that is fast changing. The youngest photographer to be invited to the Magnum Photo Agencies, the most esteemed group of photographers in the world, Mikhael is one of South Africa’s most talented artists. Pegged for an illustrious career, Michael was the first student to receive 100% for his major, Photography when completing his Fine Arts Degree at the University of Cape Town (UCT). Capturing some of South Africa’s most intriguing urban mythologies, Mikhael’s craft has taken him from Pollsmoor Prison to Johannesburg’s Ponte City and in-between. Participating in numerous exhibitions in South Africa and abroad, and winning several prestigious awards, Mikhael’s career is only just beginning.