First Thursdays can be seen as an evening that allows people to congregate in different spaces and share ideas while being surrounded by some of the best music of our generation as well as generations past. 99 Juta, Braamfontein, has over the past year created a space that seeks to uplift creatives while also providing them with the necessary tools as well as environment to present their creativity to the people.
This was on full display as they hosted their first 99 Conversations event. The panel of creatives included: Mpumelelo “Frypan” Mfula, Kgomotso Kiggy and Sandile Mhlongo. The event was MCed by Lwazi Madonsela. It seemed to provide creatives with answers to questions, methods and ideas for them to break through.
If you are unfamiliar with the three panellists, they are well-known for creating a store called RHTC where they held regional labels like Pessimistic, Dead, S.W.A.N.K. and SGOD, to mention a few. Each one of them works in a different area of the creative sector. Frypan is a film director, Kiggy is the creative director of a clothing line and Sandile is an art director for stage and cinema productions.
They are what I refer to as a “dream team,” since they have depended on one another in the past and the present to help each other promote their ideas to the public, attract brands and create a community around them. The three main topics they discussed on Thursday evening were collaboration, financing and bringing your creativity to an international audience.
The value of cooperation was the main lesson learned that evening. They explained that there are many different ways for this to happen, including downward collaborations, in which a bigger brand or person works with someone lower on the social hierarchy than them. This way creatives can produce content with friends, or work with people they don’t know by sending DMs and speaking with them in person.
Yes, the majority, if not all, of partnerships do not result in financial advantages, but this is a method to grow networks because your work can be seen by people who are already interested in the work of your selected collaborator, which in turn enables you to welcome new collaborators and people who can add to the community you are building.
Money makes the world go round, and it is a crucial tool for creatives to produce high-quality work since it will allow them access to resources and opportunities that they would otherwise not have had due to a lack of funds. The creative industry is well known for having people work for “Exposure Bucks,” but there comes a time when you need to charge others for your services or products to improve the quality of your work and put food on the table.
The panel suggested that to get the average rate, you should phone at least three persons you know who are profiting from what you are doing. After that, you may simply choose one of the three rates and adjust it upward or downward.
Making room for negotiation is also a good idea because you’re trying to establish a business connection that could eventually pay you more than your current rate or open up additional options for you to recoup the money you gave them a discount on. Once the money starts coming in, it’s a good idea to divide it so that you can monitor your profit and loss margins and keep your firm afloat. Even if your firm may be modest at first, remember to pay yourself so that you may learn not to use company funds for personal expenses.
Lastly, consider how your work relates to the South African experience and its place in the nation’s art history. An artist should always keep this in mind when creating. How does your work stand out from your local contemporaries and captivate visitors from other countries? With the resources and connections available, it’s now easier than ever to travel and learn from artists in other countries or continents. So, always ensure you have a valid passport.
What will you do with all these gems you’ve learned now? You can begin by sharing this article with fellow creatives and ask them to pass it on to someone else. This advice is useful for me because I’m attempting to get out of my introverted shell. I’ll conclude with Sandile’s four suggestions for continuing to create.
- What do you want?
- Have a passport
- Be curious
- A closed mouth doesn’t get fed
Lastly, none of what you have read here will ever work if you do not believe in yourself and your profession, because everything starts with your belief in yourself as well as your creativity. So start by lighting the fire within yourself to believe that you, like CM Punk, are The Best In The World, and then implement the above.
Photography by Boipelo Mogale