Tag: Umuzi Alumni

South Africa is a country full of amazing people, who have a rich history, exciting stories and lived experiences to share. Our diverse community of creatives is no different, they hold incredible tales of struggle, triumph, tragedy and great success.

The aim of our new Podcast Series ‘Backroom’ is to check-in with our alumni members and hear the unique stories that have landed them at our doorstep and find out where life has led them after their time at Umuzi. Our very first guest is Thohoyandou born and raised Michael ‘Mikey’ Mashila Mashau.

When Mikey made the brave move to Johannesburg two years ago, he only had R200 in his pocket, a one way bus ticket to Park Station, a blanket, a bag and big aspirations that his journey would make his dreams come true.

As with most things in life, Mikey’s ambition came with great adversity. But that has never stood in the way of his fierce determination which motivated him to build a passionate career in Digital Marketing. His gift has always been about building relationships, and this has inspired a lot of people to open their hearts and spaces to support his dream.

uMalume & Mikey Mashila during The Backroom Interview at the Umuzi.Org studios.

Mikey’s self sufficiency also challenged him to remember that he was destined for greater things. At one stage in his life, when he was homeless for about three weeks, he was forced to have a moment of self-reflection that demanded him to make a drastic change in his life.

Not being one who shies away from a challenge, Mikey’s journey has been truly uplifting to our growing community. Affectionately known as the  ‘Digital God’, a nickname he got from his former manager and mentor Keith Kunene, Mikey is a digital whiz with an impressive social media following of over 23k and an insatiable knack for all things trending and digital media.

Mikey has done the necessary and hard work of re-routing this path away from homelessness, to being a brand ambassador at Lovelife, a digital recruit at Umuzi and now a fully-fledged Community Manager for some of the biggest brands South Africa has to offer.

We’re proud to call Mikey one of our own, his story truly is fascinating and inspiring. Listen to Mikey’s Backroom trailer and Join the WhatsApp group to listen to the full interview.

Join the WhatsApp Podcast group to listen to Mikey’s full story and ask him questions.


Brands Mikey has worked with: 

Coke South Africa 
Thiko Events
Massive Metro

If there ever was a way to bow out of Youth Month with a bang, landing a feature on Mail & Guardian’s Young 200 Leaders list would be a great attempt and that is exactly what photographer and Umuzi multimedia recruit, Tshepiso Mabula has done.

A Design Indaba Emerging Young Creative 2017 member, Tshepiso Mabula is a Soweto based photographer born in the Lephalale district of Limpopo.

An encounter with renowned photographer Santu Mofokeng’s book Bloemhof, during a family visit in 2012, ignited her passion and intrigue for photography and there has been no stopping her ever since.

After completing her course at the Market Photo Workshop in documentary and photojournalism, Tshepiso joined the Umuzi Academy in 2016. She later went on to participate in Intercambiador ACART artist residency programme in Madrid Spain, where she produced and exhibited a body of work as part of a group exhibition at the Quinta del Sordo.


Reflecting the times and spaces she occupies in various bodies of work such as Makoti Kapa Lefetwa and her ongoing series Four Room, Seven Colours, Tshepiso captures ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances while concurrently commenting on societal ills and challenging various forms of systematic oppression such as patriarchy.

From all of us at Umuzi, wishing you more prosperity and light as you continue to use your voice and photography as a tool for advocacy and resistance.

To follow Tshepiso and keep up with her latest work follow her on:

Behance: https://www.behance.net/TshepisokaMabula

Instagram: tshepisomabula and kasinomics_ 101


Meet The  Umuzi Alumni - Mongezi Xhoma

It is said, luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. That’s when talent is discovered and nurtured for the greater good of creative society.

Umuzi Academy provides the bridge that helps young creatives from eKasi discover their passion and provides them with appropriate resources to survive in the creative economy


Thabo Toyi was different from day one. He saw a media interview and did not stop calling Andrew our MD until finally he agreed to a meeting. “Put it simply Andrew I want in, I love everything about this organization and I want to do this” is what he said. Thabo joined the program and flourished. After completing a whirlwind Umuzi Activist’s course. With the support of Umuzi, Thabo won the Tudortech photography bursary which allowed him to complete his photography degree at City Varsity.

During this time Thapelo Motsumi, head of photography and another Umuzi Alumni, put him through his paces. Countless hours of mentoring, encouragement and some tough love sometimes got Thabo to sharpen his skills and really achieve at a tertiary level.
He was also lucky enough during this time to work for clients like Mercedes Benz, Discovery and Investec Bank, assisting some of the best photographers, Chris Saunders, AntheaPokroy and Mike Tippett to name a few, which according to Thabo was his biggest highlights of his life.
When we all saw Thabo talking about the State of Nation Address on CNBC Africa’s “Tonight with Bruce Whitfield”, we witnessed his heartfelt passion to be a young South African who is eager to make a difference not only in his own life but in the life of others as well.
Thabo received his marks early on and passed his course with flying colours. Thabo you have worked like a machine and it hasn’t been easy. Andrew remembers some of the difficulties you faced and how every time you were triumphant.
We would like to send a special thank you to all of those at Tudortech who supported Thabo along the way. From the CEO Gary Shap, Daryl Miller and Mike Raddall, you and your organization have been pinnacle to Thabo’s continuing growth and success.
Checkout Thabo’s blog
Photography: Thapelo Motsumi
Written by: Tebogo Mathodlana
Edited by: Andrew Levy


2014 was a year filled with incredible achievements for both the current Umuzi Academy students and Umuzi Alumnis. In the early hours of the start of 2015 we received brilliant news from two of our Alumnis Siyabonga and Thabo. These guys continue to impress with their tenacity, hard work and passion for making a difference in not only their lives but the lives around them. More success stories to come throughout the up and coming weeks.


My Next step: a look into the future
As Umuzi Photo Club, we pride ourselves in developing the next generation of creative professionals from ekasi who will not only propel their lives but also make a huge impact in their communities. Our success stories lie in the hands of our past, present and future young and passionate people who have participated in our innovative programs like, I Am an Activist, The Power of 50 and Umuzi Academy.
My next step series will feature graduates from our alumni programs reflecting on their journeys and experience – their courses, their activities and their career choices – and how these have affected their transition into employment and spreading their wings. They are ordinary young people just like you. Many of them have taken advantage of their opportunities.
 All have a story to tell that is unique to them and that they are happy to share. 
Photos by: Thapelo Motsumi
Written by: Tebogo Mathodlana
Edited: Andrew Levy
Umuzi P50 photographers on Cliff Central


In the 20 years of democracy the proportion of skilled workers within all race groups increased extensively. The extent of change however differs between race groups. There were substantial shifts towards skilled work among white and Indian/Asian populations, with the proportion of skilled workers increasing from 42% in 1994 to 61% in 2014 among the white workforce. An examination of the data also revealed little movement towards skilled employment among the black African workforce, with the black African workforce showing only a slight movement towards skilled occupations, but a more substantial movement towards semi-skilled occupations. This is based on a report by Statistics South Africa.
Most young South Africans go through a whirlwind of career choices based on their talent, skills and most importantly, the access to good education, 1 out of 25 will eventually get the job they are passionate about. Talking to this point on Cliff Central’s Khonza show was Umuzi students Ben Zwane and Wendy Tshabalala from talking about how passion changed their lives and how they are wanting to their up skills to join the creative professional industry.

Written by: Tebogo Mathodlana

Images by: Bushera Bashir
Edited: Andrew Levy
Reference: Statistics South Africa

Umuzi P50 photographers on Cliff Central
Click on link to listen

Host by: Andrew Levy
Guests: Ben Zwane and Wendy Shabalala
Commissioned by : Cliff Central


Siya goes light Blue


 “Hey Andrew, one day I’m going to show the world my talent!” These were the words spoken to me by a young man from East Orlando, Soweto. We had just finished our fourth set of workshops at a small school called Zinfuneleni where we met some incredible young people. Siya was one of them.
Siya goes light Blue


The sad truth of our education system today is that superstars like Siya often get overlooked or don’t get challenged enough, and don’t get the chance to fulfill their full potential. Umuzi was determined not to let this happen to Siya. 

Siya goes light Blue
Through Umuzi’s network, Siya was able to apply to St David’s Marist College, where he won a full scholarship. His will, drive and talent were obvious for all to see, and he was awarded the Old Boys Scholarship and taken into grade 9, nearly four years ago.
Siya goes light Blue
I remember going to give the news to Siya and his family. We had told the Sepotekele’s that we had some “important news” to discuss. Little did we know, when we arrived at their Soweto home, we were greeted by the entire extended family, huddled into a small room that had more furniture than space. We turned off the TV, almost the size of the room, and started to discus the news of Siya’s future.
Siya goes light Blue
It was a moment none of us at Umuzi will ever forget. The jubilation, the anticipation, the pure joy and gratitude shown by everyone in the room was infectious. We cried and laughed, and cried some more, at the promise of this young man and his “big break”.
It was never going to be easy. It’s a huge jump for anyone to go to a private high school in South Africa especially if you are from a township school. The level of work, the expectations, and the social surroundings are all very different.
Siya quietly and confidently got on with it. He learnt fast and wasn’t shy to show his amazing talents to the world. He was able to really lift his game and was given all the support he needed to become a huge success. He is an incredible singer, students, teachers and his community alike have all remarked that when this young man sings, he brings you to tears. 

Siya goes light Blue


His tenacity, incredible strength, and support structure at home has not only helped him settle in but achieve incredible things.
Since his tenure at St Davids he has achieved a multitude of awards some of which include, getting full colours in Drama, Choir and Leadership. Last year he was nominated as a school prefect and today I am proud to announce that Siyabonga Sepotokele received his honours blazer, one of the highest accolades given at St David’s.

Siya simply put, you rock. Well done to you, your family, and the school. The road has sometimes been difficult, sometimes unclear, but you have persevered and are on your way.

Siya is hoping to go to the University of Cape Town next year to study Music and Drama. This is just the beginning of his bright future.
Siya goes light Blue 

Special mention must go to many people, including:

Siya’s incredible family, especially his mom Phyllis who has supported and pushed him throughout.

St David’s: There are too many incredible people supporting Siya to thank at St David’s, including the families of St David’s who have accepted Siya as their own. Special mention must go to:
St David’s Staff and Management, in particular Chris Luke (Head of Music), Jaco Fereirra (Head of Drama and Siya’s voice coach), Belinda Marais, Madga Ceruti,  Shamani Pillay, Lara Klement, Cheryl King, and Mike Greeff for their incredible Mentorship, day-to-day support and care.
To the St David’s Marist Foundation Trustees for their financial support and guidance. And the Marist Old Boys Association (South African and UK Chapters), under the Chairmanship of Willy Castle, for its financial support and having the initial belief in Siyabonga as a worthy recipient of an Old Boys’ Scholarship.
To the Smith family (Robin and Alison, sons Alistair and Stuart) for their on going love and support throughout Siyas high school experience.