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Elevating storytellers in the diaspora

When it comes to issues of embracing our own Arts and impacting the African discourse many people claim to be conscious, concerned and active citizens but very few actually decide to get up and do something about it.

Mandisa Makwakwa Masokameng is one of those people that are doing wonders in this aspect. On April 1, 2015 she launched a website titled Misa Narrates which its primary purpose is to share stories, both fictional and real. Today the website functions as a place to share experiences of storytellers, musicians, and business people who have their roots sewn into African soil, in one way or the other.

As a South African-American, Misa regards herself as being a “third culture kid” with her feet always half in and half out of each culture, in such a way where a new one is created. It has always irked her that there seems to be such a large schism between Africans living on the continent versus those in the Diaspora; especially for those whose African lineage had been lost throughout history.

With each feature that gets published on her site, the goal is to tell stories of Africans living on the continent and abroad. It is also about ensuring that their stories are told in narratives that their artistry can truly be celebrated. Each feature’s trajectory (in whatever industry they operate in) is not as important as their talent/competence in that industry. Misa understands that not every musician will make it to the Grammys, but sometimes it is the fact that they are living well and staying true to their role as a musician that is enough.

Using my platform – Misa Narrates, I aim to redefine what “success” in the arts and entertainment industry looks like.

Misa also believes that for writers, it is often difficult to take the leap and start publishing one’s work. Therefore she’s striving to be an open space for writers to take leadership with regards to how they go about launching themselves onto literature spaces. So in essence, her main goal is about getting back to true art consumption that benefits both the consumer and the artist, and also ensure that through different collaborations, creative artists of each discipline are respected, afforded opportunity, and are provided the means to live well off their work.

When we asked Misa as to what sparked her love for the craft, this is what she said, “I grew up in the arts. As a child, I was typically active in different lessons. After breaking my arm trying do gymnastics at my house, my instructors noted that I could use a little work with my rhythm and coordination. That’s when I started dancing. I never looked back from that point. As a dancer, your life is blended with music and visuals. I danced for about ten years and only stopped when I moved to South Africa.”

As a child growing up, she has always loved reading and writing. During her foundation phase in primary school, they were tasked with reading the Washington Post’s Kids Edition before writing a few sentences on what they read about. That habit for her did not end after those assignments. In fact, that aspects of her childhood has since stuck with her ever since.

On a broader scale of things within the arts spectrum on the continent, Misa doesn’t think it is the task of African governments to elevate African artists any more than they do.

“I understand that governments in Africa are often more stressed with providing for their people’s basic needs (e.g. housing, electricity, food, etc.). I think what they do at present is quite substantial in the face of such material needs. As such, I’d like to think it is more the task of the people themselves to elevate artists. Nevertheless, music industries, both in Western-European countries and here, are similar.”

Misa went on to say that if we were to task governments to do any more than they are already doing, it would be better to make the internet much more affordable because streaming is a relatively new way for artists to earn from their craft, when people are afforded easier access to the internet. As a citizenry she urges everyone to get accustomed to paying for art, to attend shows and purchase music.

We highly recommend that you visit Misa’s masterpiece of a website ukuze uzibonele ngawakho amehlo ukuthi sikhuluma ngani. You will sure stay hooked and hopefully be inspired to celebrate African artists even more.

The images in black and white were captured by Retha Ferguson at the InZync Poetry Slam on 14 May 2015 and the images in color were taken by Tinuke Eboka for an editorial commissioned by Black African and Beautiful.

Comments(5)

  1. Reply
    Tosha Jones says

    Well said Misa!

  2. Reply
    Lerato Kale says

    Absolutely proud!!! Well done MisaGirl!! Keep on Keeping on honey!

  3. Reply
    A. Japie Masokameng says

    Congratulations Misa for identifying a way to speak on issues, topics and highlighting people and helping to provide them the exposure to showcase their artistic talents and adding value to the arts.

  4. Reply
    Lorraine Allyson-Govan says

    Reading this article, I felt pride and joy. I wanted to scream and tell the world, I know her. I wish you enormous success. Continue to shine.

  5. Reply
    Onica Makwakwa says

    Thanks for this write-up.
    Proud of you MisaGirl! Yes we need access to affordable internet so everyone can have an opportunity to experience its transformative power. Although I agree that government cannot do it alone, there are ways for them to still support arts and culture but we can’t wait for them to get it that our souls are just as vital, meanwhile yes support the arts y’all!!!

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