Category: Academy News

The youngest member of Velocity Afrika, filmmaker and director of  Hangman , Zwelethu Radebe came through to the Umuzi studio to give a masterclass on his journey as film maker and story teller.

Perseverance, endurance and the hunger to prove yourself sit on the top of the list of what passion looks like for Zwelethu, that said, the ultimate and most important aspect of it all is telling authentic and relevant stories.


Zwelethu’s love for film-making started from a young age when he would watch and study films and that drove him. He would go to the library and download scripts and work with those to develop his love for the industry. He got through school using the funding he received from film-making competitions.

“There is always something to say or another way for you to do something; limiting yourself because of funding, equipment or situation is allowing yourself failure before you even start,” he cautioned. Zweli never waited for things to come to him, and that pushed him even further. That where his uniqueness lies.

His mantra, and constant driving force is the desire to tell stories and the “importance of the African story.” He looks at situation from all angles and considers just what it means for our country and the local film industry. Zweli sites Nollywood, and how big they are becoming- bigger than Hollywood even – just by creating stories with what they have and however they can. “You can never have enough stories for a lifetime,” and that is where our power lies.

The projects he’s worked on include television ads and promos, most notably Mzansi Magic’s The Road, one for Ster-Kinekor and a more recent project called The Hangman; a movie documenting the story of self-discovery in South Africa during apartheid, which he is releasing later this year.

Take what people say you can’t do as a personal challenge, and don’t be dictated by your failures, is the biggest lesson I have taken from the talk given by Zweli and that in a way has calmed the storm of self-doubt in probably everyone’s head.

Written by: Karabo Seloane





The One Club Creative Bootcamp finally comes to Joburg from the 11-15of July 2016 and Umuzi Academy is proud to announce its participation in one of the most prestigious creative boot camps in the world.

A 4-day workshop that introduces students to the creative side of advertising from the ground up, the One Club Creative Bootcamp provides emerging creatives with the opportunity to learn more about the advertising industry, network as well as receive valuable advice from top industry creatives and executives.

Having successfully run Creative boot camps in cities such as Chicago and San Francisco, the One Club Creative Bootcamp ascended on South African shores last year to conduct the very first South African One Club Creative Bootcamp and after a successful inception in Cape Town, this year Johannesburg finds itself amongst the list of participating cities.

Providing a great opportunity for creatives in Johannesburg and South Africa to contribute to excellence in advertising the One Club partners with top agencies such as FCB, M&C Saatchi, Joe Public, King James and top brands such as Vodacom and Protea Hotel.

Umuzi is honoured to be one of the selected institutions to partake in the inaugural Johannesburg One Club Creative Bootcamp and wish our recruits the all the best. Hot sh!t, k’phela!


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Despite a long and lauded history as art practitioners many black South Africans still find themselves on the fringe of the mainstream art industry. Often secluded to white gallery walls away from townships, lucrative art spaces and exhibitions are things of richness, whiteness and the city.


The conversation of contemporary art is incomplete without accessibility on the agenda, where do young people find avenues for expressions and artistic influence in their own communities? Who are the examples for black artistry? How do we access and engage them?


26 year old conceptual and fashion photographer Andile Phewa responds to these questions through his project, Backroom Space. Andile brings art to the people without the pretence and pressure to dress it up.


Most South African townships have “backrooms”, a single room separate to the main house that is often hired out for accommodation. Backroom spaces signify a rite of passage for the eldest child in the main house, a home for families and the first sense of community for migrant workers. Like all accommodative spaces, the backroom represents independence and responsibility, to bring art into a space like that is not only genius but revolutionary.


Taking place in his own living space, Andile held the first Backroom Space exhibition in Rockville Soweto on the 23rd of April 2016, which featured some of his work. The confinement of a single room forced viewers and guests to interact with the work… analysing, questioning and etching a memory of art in an immediate, familiar and township space.


Backroom Space highlights the need and importance for young black creatives to create within and for their own communities, to create a reference for emerging creative minds and artists and most importantly to take ownership of their work and their spaces.

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Words by Vuyiswa Xekatwane

Images by Andile Phewa, Kgomotso Neto Tleane, Khotso Bantu Mahlangu and Thapelo Anthony Motsumi

In a world riddled with Subcultures stemming from every possible, existing culture, the way in which we greet each other in the townships tells very unique stories. The way we greet each other could tell stories about our backgrounds and even tell others about who our friends are. How we extend a ‘Sho Mfowethu, uGrand?’ plays a major role in the company we keep.

Picture: BANTU

Picture by Bantu Mahlangu

Of course it hasn’t always been this way. Sixty years ago, in Sophiatown this expression may not have even made sense because language, like everything else, is in constant flux. The change isn’t always linear but we’ve seen how different groups of people have unique ways of communicating. The phrase “Shap Fede” isn’t always fitting. To our parents, this often stands the chance of seeming disrespectful but if your mom is down with that then it’s whatever. Amongst our peers, however, speaking that way can be the beginning of lifelong friendships.

Whether they exist in the ghetto or suburban spaces, the many subcultures that we find ourselves immersed in will always have an emphasis, to some degree, on simple salutation. They are seen as a rite of passage into the groups and cliques we associate with. In Benoni or Alex, these groups of young people are leading the way in which we interact. It’s casual; many may not even take it seriously but we are young and the world wants to hear how we interpret it.

Language as we know it has gone through many changes over the years, we know this. It would make no sense being precious about it. We see it in the things we say and in the non-verbal cues. Who cares what we say in the morning when we see each other, we just want you to say it. Nod your head. Wave. Smile and Wave. Say ‘Shap Fede’, just say it.  

Written by: Motshewa Khaiyane

Photographs by: Bantu Mahlangu

A modern day township ode to love of all types, portrayed in a series of scenic themed photographs simply themed The Honey, is the work of Rendani Nemakhavhani.

We were first introduced to The Honey through a photograph of Rendani’s character adorned in shades and izimbadada while toting a taxi driver-sjambok. Before we could get used to this seemingly intentional portrayal of a cultural repositioning in surbubia, The Honey was on her next installation, playing a completely different character. She fittingly named her next series Aus Honey, perhaps reflecting on the widely used moniker [Aus] for older women, especially in the salon. In this series, The Honey reflects on the persistence to be beautiful, no matter what condition one may be in. The character, still adorned in shades and izimbadada, finds herself center-stage inside an empty salon, the emptiness perhaps an allegory for the self-imposed reflections of what beauty means to the outside world.


Photo by: Khotso Mahlangu

The third installment follows in the photographic-essay styled rendition, this time with the introduction of a male character named Gavini “played by Kgomotso Neto Tleane.” Here we live vicariously through the eyes of The Honey and Gavini as they explore a juxtaposed romance [slash] gangster love story set in a dusty township. This collaborative piece places love in the epicenter of conflict and chaos, confronting once again our ideology and placement of archetypes. We find ourselves as viewers almost trapped in the middle of this Bonnie and Clyde-esque township scenery with no exit signs. The story avoids a conclusion allowing the characters to live in our minds for as long as we are trapped in the scene. Whilst the visual narration is consistent and cohesively etched, The Honey entices the viewer into a state of further introspection on the chronicles of this ever-morphing character feasibly questioning the viewer’s own “projection” of black-life in SA.

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Photo by: Kgomotso Tleane

The Honey is more of a canvass of conversation rather than a one-way installation, speaking authoritatively about the many faces of life in SA, but more than that, it is a tale told through the eyes of a character that we can see ourselves in while giving us the space to detach from the very same characters.

Rendani Nemakhavhani is an illustrator living and working in Jozi. Her collaborator for the third series Kgomotso Neto Tleane is a photography recruit at Umuzi Photo Club. Both creatives have remarkable talent worth looking out for. The Honey was nominated by Nestling Awards under the Young African Collaboration of the year 2015.

Written by: Mswazi Keith

Photographs: Khotso Mahlangu and Kgomotso Tleane

Video: Nhlakanipho Nhlapo

For more Media coverage on The Honey:

Elle Magazine
Book of Swag


Take notes. Her name is Tshepiso Bojosi from Mabopane, Pretoria and she is a force to be reckoned with. She came to Umuzi with a PR background and a dream to shake the world as a graphic designer. Take a look at her illustrations today and it is clear she’s well on her way to becoming nothing short of a bona fide graphic designer. Read on as we unpack her awesomeness.

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Tshepiso’s comic strip, Monsters in Afros

This month, the recruits have been reflecting back on how far they’ve come from when they first arrived at Umuzi. Tshepiso is one of them and her story has been an inspiring reminder on how far we’ve come. “I did not have any graphic design software skills,’’ Tshepi confesses.  As with any growth process, Tshepi continues to push herself by setting new goals.

When asked about the challenges she faces as a young creative, Tshepi enthusiastically replies:

“Being taken seriously because of my age has been a challenge, being young and black has had me on the back foot, plus it also doesn’t help that I’m a creative coming from a community where many don’t take art seriously.”

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Tshepiso’s comic strip, Monsters In Afros

Ultimately, Tshepiso wants to become an animator and to own an animation production house. Her inspiration comes from watching cartoons. “I watch cartoons in my spare time and since I can’t animate as yet, I make comic strips.” She also plans to get her comics out there and turned into movies. Considering her tremendous progress throughout the year, there’s no doubt she’ll be reaching her goals pretty soon.

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Tshepiso’s comic strip, Monsters In Afros

Before we park our brains at the height of the festive season, I hope Tshepiso’s story can encourage us to take a look at our own journeys through 2015. Tshepiso, may you continue dreaming and doing big things. You can see more of her work on Behance. Alright! Alright!

Written by: Motshewa Khaiyane

Poster Design: Themba Tswai


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“Photography found me,” said Kgomotso Tleane, the young multi-talented photographer born in Alexandra and raised in a small village in Polokwane. This dynamic 25-year-old sees the world through the lens of a camera. Inspired by ordinary South Africans, he finds beauty from the people who don’t really get the limelight.



“I’m inspired by people you won’t see being documented,” he said in relation to his creative process. His unique ability to tell real stories through his photography has made him a headhunted name by many companies seeking to capture the heart of the African narrative.   

Since his inception into the Umuzi Academy, Kgomotso has come a long way. From growing up in a village to gracing the TEDxYouth Talk stage, this talented creative is the epitome of a groundbreaking success story.



TEDxYouth is a non-profit organization devoted to spreading ideas usually in the form of short, powerful talks. Finally, they’ve caught onto one of our own kasi creatives. “Being invited to do the TED Talk is an affirmation for me that I’m doing something right,” Kgomotso gushed. This coming Saturday, young people will gather to explore the event’s theme “Made in the future,” a topic which Kgomotso beautifully embodies through his soul gripping photography.



“I sent my work out through social media, that’s what made TEDx approach me. I put myself out there,” he said proudly, showing us that sometimes, you’ve got to grab the bull by the horns.

“I want to reach a point where I’m making money off my own work,” he also stated, when asked about his future goals. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m certain that there’s no stopping this photographer, especially with his star shining ever so brightly. A powerful social media presence is everything to anyone wanting to kick-start their creative journey like Kgomotso.



Neto, as he is also known, has inspired us to see beyond what is considered possible for a young black creative and for that, we salute him. Things are changing and being done rapidly all within the digital sphere. So whether you’re a photographer trying to leave your mark, a writer breathing life into untold stories or a designer changing people’s perceptions, never stop creating. Never stop chasing the sunset and never stop believing that anything is indeed possible if you put your heart and soul into it.

In the spirit of our Umuzi values I quote, “It all starts with you.”

Written by: Janneth Mazibuko

Poster Design: Themba Tswai

Photographs: Kgomotso Tleane

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No matter how smart, talented, driven and creative a person is, their success in life somehow also depends on their ability to build and inspire others.

We live in a world where all we crave is validation, especially in a creative hub like Umuzi, where from time to time ego’s clash. There is nothing worse than trying to get productivity out of a team of uninspired, demotivated and frustrated creatives. Through our observations, our team got together and introduced the “This is your moment to…” values wall. For the first week, we created a platform for people to air out all of their “Dirty Laundry.”

At Umuzi, we believe in saying it like it is, and boy did people come to the party this time. Through an anonymous series of letters, we got all the juice. From the secret crushes, crazy fantasies, bisexual and abortion confessions, suicide notes and notes to management. People put their laundry out there for all to see.

Finding freedom of expression, the studio was lit. When people got to read everyone’s secret confessions, they realized that they’re not alone. We all have issues and demons that we’re still learning to tame. All we have to do is find common ground and learn to share our stories.

Building each other up is a big part of what Umuzi is about. After all the hype surrounding the “Dirty Laundry” campaign, we got people to respond. The amount of love, humour and support the campaign received was admirable. Positive vibes is all a person ever really needs to get back in the creative zone.

Reflecting back on all that has happened, the Umuzi values wall AKA the “This is your moment to…” wall was a huge success. Not only do the recruits now have a reminder of the values but they also have a platform for expression.

A chance to be heard with any issues about work, management, relationships and life in general. I think we can safely say that the values are now more than just words, but a lifestyle that we all hope to embody not only as individuals but as an academy of passionate young creatives.

Written by: Janneth Mazibuko

Photographer: Lutendo Malatji

Poster Design: Nosipho Nxele

raps play list

Umuzi recruit and SA Hip Hop Headz Magazine founder Rapelang Sibande brings us some iconic hip hop heat this Friday. The creative struggle is something Rapelang is passionately dealing with and these artists definitely touch on their own struggles through these songs. So consider this turn up playlist your official #FlashbackFriday, keeping you motivated through your own struggle as we enter the weekend.

Kanye West – Good life

Mos Def – Travellin Man

Eminem – Lose yourself

Kanye West – Champion

B.O.B. ft. Lupe Fiasco – Past My Shades


Written by: Zuleka Pukwana

Photographer: Zwelizwe Ndlovu

Poster Design: Rapelang Sibande




Nhlakanipho “Hippo” Nhlapho, an Umuzi photography recruit, presented his very first talk at UJ’S Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture (FADA) gallery.  The talks, facilitated by Business and Arts South Africa (BASA), present creatives with the opportunity to speak about their work and the creative industry at large.


HipLec-6The opportunity to speak about his work and his journey as a young black creative was one that Hippo described as “terrifying and quite surprising”.

Hippo, who was recently featured on Creative Nestlings for the work he did with the indescribable South African band The Brother Moves On, says “coming from a self-taught background, I was only concerned with perfecting the technical parts of photography, but once I came to Umuzi I started to think about myself as a creative and the business side of my work. I started to learn about compiling a body of work, exhibiting and the importance of storytelling”.

HipLec-7His talk comprised mainly of the things he’s learned in the past year, his future endeavours as well as the challenges he’s faced, most notably funding. “Funding for art projects is difficult in this country in the sense that you never know where to go and once you do, the pitching process is so intimidating. We need exposure and education around that,” Nhlakanipho firmly states.

HipLec-1“It was quite a moment for me to be able to speak to other young people, fine arts students at that, about my work as a self-taught photographer and the journey that I’ve been on. It’s a young journey and I’m glad I got to share my experiences and help others know that it’s possible to make a name for yourself despite the challenges.”

Well done, Hippo, we’re sure this is only the beginning of more talks to come.


Written by: Vuyiswa Xekatwane

Photo Cred: Kgomotso Tleane