Last year, The Afropolitan celebrated a decade in the business, and 2017 marks 20 years of Kaya FM on the airwaves. In the run-up to these huge milestones, there’s been a lot of political upheaval and racial tension in the country. Both the magazine and the radio station have had to be agile in the ever-evolving South African social landscape. The question raised at The Afropolitan HQ was: can you be white and be an Afropolitan? Owned by Contact Media, the magazine, which speaks to a predominantly black audience, is published by 37-year-old Sean Press. And yet, Kaya FM has shows with a distinctly unapologetic black consciousness, as MD, Greg Maloka (45), has candidly indicated during his decade-long career at the station. So how they have co-existed and kept in touch with the Afropolitan values could only be answered by these two businessmen, who are both proud Joburgers.
What is an Afropolitan?
Greg Maloka (GM): “An Afropolitan is a person born in Africa, lives in Africa and sees Africa as their space. Africa is where they invest their time, money and ideas. They don’t have dual citizenship. This is their home. Everything is rooted and centred around all that is Afrocentric. Being an Afropolitan is both a physical and emotional experience; it’s not about colour, it’s about what your heart dictates.”
As Kaya FM turns 20 this year, managing director Greg Maloka chats to The Afropolitan’s publisher, Sean Press, about what it means to be an Afropolitan…
Sean Press (SP): “Being an Afropolitan means you are invested in the continent from a physical and an intellectual point of view. But with regard to what’s happening globally, we need to take cognisance of our surroundings while honouring that culture of being an African. I believe when you’re an African you’re an African; your race doesn’t matter. You can be white and be a proud Afropolitan.”
How does being an Afropolitan manifest itself?
GM: “It’s a difficult question to answer; it’s like asking how you know whether you’re black or white? You know because you are. All these things are about a mindset. If you operate from love and respect, if those are your values, it’ll affect not only you how you project those values to the others, but how you live your life. Those are the grounding values of being an Afropolitan. The other stuff are lifestyle things that are simply an extension of those values.”
SP: “The context from where we look at the world determines how we look at being Afropolitans. It’s not as if you arrive and there’s a stamp or badge that signifies you’ve made it; it’s a constant journey of evolution and social education. That hunger to grow and share the growth is important.”
Where do you see the Afropolitan in the future?
GM: “What is more important than the future is the present. We are a young democracy; in the last few months we’ve started asking the right questions (politically and otherwise), and that is a radical change from where we were a couple of years ago. This makes it hard to predict the future, because of how rapidly we’ve moved recently. The benefit of today is drawing from the past, but the truth is the future is determined by the decisions we make today. What’s important is our current actions, not so much the future.”
SP: “What we’re experiencing in our country is exciting; I believe that in future we’ll be right here on the continent, but we’ll be here making a change. Greg is totally right, the power to act is only available to us in the present. The future is about living in expectation, which can result in disappointment. In the here and now, action-based people are the winners. Those are the Afropolitans.”
What is the difference between an African and Afropolitan?
GM: “Your passport might say you’re an African, but if your mind and your heart are not here, and if you’re not invested in the continent, then you’re certainly not an Afropolitan. It’s understanding the responsibility that comes with being an Afropolitan… that’s the real difference… when you’re an African, you might as well be an American – it’s a function of geography, more about where you were born or come from. But being an Afropolitan is about much more. It’s about understanding purpose, and being true to it may mean not being alive to see the fruits of your labour, but that you understand that your purpose is to move the next generation forward so they can reap the fruits of your labour.”
SP: “If you’re not invested in Africa, then you’re not an Afropolitan. An Afropolitan would need to be African, but I know a lot of Africans who are not Afropolitans. You also don’t have to live in Africa to be an Afropolitan…”
GM: “But you must be of African descent.”
SP: “Agreed. You could live anywhere in the world and be an ambassador for ‘Brand Africa’; you don’t have to live here to do that.”
Tell us about your relationship and the radio/magazine collaboration…
GM: “When I started at Kaya 10 years ago, the relationship (between the radio station and the magazine) was only a year old. The challenge for Sean and myself was in simplifying the objectives of what we wanted to be achieved by both teams at a certain time. We both think broadly and we want a lot of things to happen… which they don’t always do! [The two chuckle at this quip.] There has always been a natural way between us. We wouldn’t see each other for three months, but when we would finally sit down we would find that we were saying the same things and looking at the same things. The fact that we talk to the same person is at the core of our collaboration – we care for the Afropolitan, the person.”
SP: “We often joke that we’ve been in a relationship longer than some people have been married in Hollywood! To be able to duplicate radio into print is difficult. The magazine initially started as a way to celebrate Africa, and Kaya at that stage was already a big brand – a brand I enjoyed as a proud Joburger. The idea (it wasn’t just me alone) was to collaborate for a mutually beneficial relationship, because we both had great content. But while it may be two different organisations, we have the same aspirations and the same values. We both come from the same place.”
Both brands are quite brave…. How crucial is it to collaborate with risk takers?
GM: “It takes balls to be a young white guy in South Africa and publish a magazine called The Afropolitan, for a predominantly black audience, knowing you might be socially questioned about it, but you still go ahead. That’s brave. But from Kaya’s perspective, what’s life without risk? You have to have the desire, the drive; it’s not always going to be great, but life is about peaks and valleys. Your values and attitude will help you deal with the valleys and make it to the peaks. You still need risk though, because it might take you longer to get out of the valley if you’re not brave. What you do when you’re in the valley is what matters. This is what makes the picture beautiful.”
SP: “As Greg said earlier, we are a young country, with a virtually young governing system. It’s not going to be candyfloss and rainbows, we have to go through growing pains so we can get through to the other side. We need to uphold each other to our values of integrity and fairness, and not get stuck on being right. It’s not necessarily about being brave, but being true. It’s about making a change that doesn’t just benefit you, but all South Africans.”
Are you an Afropolitan?
GM: “Yes, I am an Afropolitan.”
SP: “Most definitely I am.”
What makes you an Afropolitan?
GM: “South Africa is one of the few places in the world where you can say you’ve lived in two countries. I’ve lived in two countries. I’ve lived in apartheid South Africa, where as a man I couldn’t go out into the street without a document giving me permission to do so. I’ve also lived in a country where I could go anywhere and own anything. We’re the only generation that can tell that unique story. There’s a lot to draw from those experiences. The next generations are only going to know one country. For me, it’s about sharing ideas with people like Sean about how to improve other people’s lives and invariably create a better life for our children. What makes us Afropolitan is understanding our mission; that we have to stand for this time, we have to focus on the growth of black people, our dignity and confidence. The voice of white South Africans like Sean need to come out more – we need more people who think like Afropolitans.”
SP: “Firstly, I’m proudly African and South African. My willingness to constantly be on the lookout for ways to engage with other Africans, to learn and develop and be a part of this country and continent so we can grow, so I can grow… as an individual, as a South African and as a man… My passion for the continent, the people and the culture is what makes me an Afropolitan.
To watch the video of this conversation between Maloka and Press, go to www.kayafm.co.za.