Cultural Kasi’preneurs of Daveyton: looking through the lens of informality
By Dimakatso Motholo and Avril Joffe
A project within the broader Informality in the cultural economy of the Global South project funded by the British Council.
SECTION 1: Description of the Case Study
Location, kasi or township can be defined as areas that were designed under the apartheid regime for cheap labour workers that were mainly classified as ‘African’ (Department of Co-Operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), 2009: 6). Spatially, Africans were located far enough to have a clear distinction of social differences (Mahajan, 2014: 3). Unlike many other countries (Brazil to India), the marginalised, the poor, the working class, the informal, and in South Africa, black population, have been excluded from urban development by being located in geographically distinct areas at a distance from economic and commercial activity. Many of the townships in South Africa are still characterised by the apartheid geography and legacy; they still currently serve the dual purpose of providing cheap labour to cities (McGaffin et al., 2015: 10). The history of the townships has shaped the socio-economic status of those that live and operate in them (COGTA, 2009: 6), because of this displacement job seeking and access to economic opportunities is excessively expensive (Mahajan, 2014 and McGaffin et al., 2015).
Due to South Africa’s unique political history, townships are exclusive to South Africa and therefore the emergence of the township economy resonates only with this country. As a result, there is little literature that focuses on the township economy. However, recent scholars and government officials in South Africa have shown great interest in understanding and supporting the growth of the townships and of the township economy in particular through commissioned research. For example, a significant study by the World Bank on Diepsloot shows that this township has a R2 billion economy, most of which is spent in the suburbs of Sandton and Fourways; only an estimated 25% of money generated in the townships is spent in the township (Mahajan, 2014). The impact of this World Bank study emphasises the potential the township economy has on the entire economy. However, there are more complex aspects that influence the economies of townships such as the health, cultural experiences and well-being of its residents.
Although the township economy is unique to South Africa, other parts of the world have economies that exist in similar informal complexities. In the study of Diepsloot, Mahajan (2014) uses the concept of the township economy and urban informal economy intertwined; they are characterised as similar to each other, from a global stance the township economy can be referred to as the urban informal economy.
Inspired by the Diepsloot study, the geographical focus of this study is Daveyton, a township located in the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality, east of Johannesburg, South Africa. It has a total population of 127 967 and 14.45 km² in size (StatsSA, 2011). It was established in 1952 but only achieved municipal status in 1983. The racial make-up is 98.5% of black African people (StatsSA, 2011). From a cultural perspective, Daveyton is home to iconic artists such as Lebo Mathosa, Lerato ‘Lira’ Molapo, Victor Ndlazilwane, Rhoo Hlatshwayo, and Percy Mtwa. In 1986 Mtwa wrote and staged a play titled Bopha! It was later adapted to film, directed by Morgan Freeman and shot in Daveyton. One of South Africa’s ground-breaking television drama series, Yizo Yizo was set and based in Daveyton.
The Case Study
The study focuses on cultural kasi’preneurs in Daveyton, highlighting how informality is used to activate their businesses. The identified cultural kasi’preneurs have either lived in Daveyton most of their lives or came to Daveyton at a very young age. They are identified as black, male, and between the ages of 25 years and 40 years. Their qualifications range between a matric and a degree, they are mostly solely founders or started the business with friends and the businesses have been operating between 5 years and 15 years. The businesses are located in the various sectors of the cultural and creative industries such as music, fashion, events, graphic design, e-commerce, and the visual arts.
The term cultural kasi’preneur emerges from using Thomas Aageson’s definition of cultural entrepreneurs as “are risk takers, change agents and resourceful visionaries who generate revenue from innovative and sustainable cultural enterprises that enhance livelihoods and create cultural value for both creative producers and consumers of cultural services and products” (2008: 96) and fusing it with the circumstances of the townships. Cultural entrepreneurs in the townships navigate the space from ideation to production and deliver to a market under oppressive conditions. This makes them a different breed of the cultural entrepreneur that is non-confirming, unapologetic, adapting and constantly embracing their situation.
This study continues from a research study titled Cultural Kasi’preneurs of Daveyton: Cultural entrepreneurs and their processes of creating cultural value in the township. The data collected from the research study was relooked from an informality perspective. Further research was conducted to understand how the informality of networks and spaces allow the cultural kasi’preneurs to produce cultural and creative products and services. Furthermore, this study focuses on understanding the benefits and challenges of informality in the cultural and creative industry.
The study was conducted using the qualitative approach to the study in conversation with another researcher. The methods used to conduct the study were semi-structured interviews with eleven participants that are founders or co-founders of the business, as well as participant observation whereby the researcher spent time observing the cultural kasi’preneurs’ during their work.
Observation was not only limited to cultural events but also included following the cultural kasi’preneurs on their social media platforms.
One of the researchers is a resident of Daveyton and selected cultural kasi’preneurs through observation; selection was made through the visibility of invitations (physical and digital posters) to the cultural events hosted by the cultural kasi’preneurs. Although this proved to be effective, the researcher also made use of snowball sampling to identify and select additional cultural kasi’preneurs that were not as visible. The snowball sampling technique is often used to find other research participants through the researcher’s current participants (Atkinson and Flint, 2001: 1). This technique served a dual purpose in this study; as a link-tracing method (Spreen, 1992), which connects participants and their links to each other, to the larger effect of a network
Throughout the period of conducting this study, digital posters were collected from various cultural events hosted by five different businesses, of which all founders are participants of this study. The analysis of the posters was not based on their effectiveness as a marketing tool nor for creativity but rather to find connections amongst the cultural kasi’preneurs. This data generates an overview of collaborations and networks amongst participants.
Cultural Kasi’preneur Profiles
The section below are short profiles of each cultural kasi’preneur and their business. Throughout this study, the real names of cultural kasi’preneurs are used and referred to by their last names. However, one cultural kasi’preneur requested to remain anonymous therefore the pseudonym Richard Rich is used and Richard Rich (Pty) Ltd to refer to the company.
Bhekuyise Charles Magangane, known as BMA, was the founder of Gas Chamber Productions, a music company that BMA decided to close because he felt that the industry rules hindered the advancement of upcoming artists that could not afford resources such as booking recording sessions at a professional recording studio. With Gas Chamber Productions no longer active, BMA started Studio 6546 in 2005 which is an informal recording studio in the living room of his residential home. Studio 6546 refers to the physical address of BMA’s home in Daveyton. BMA is the studio manager, producer, graphic designer and sound engineer for the studio. Studio 6546 provides experiences, services and opportunities that are usually accessed outside the township in the settings of a professional studio. The studio’s main purpose is to serve new and aspiring hip hop artists from the townships; however, the studio has received attention from established artists outside of Daveyton. BMA was influenced to start a recording studio in the township by his own personal journey in the music industry:
Growing up I was in need for it (recording studio) and most places were in Johannesburg and that meant travelling expenses. I had to go through my schooling without being in a professional recording studio. It delayed my process of growing and working in the industry and I wanted to change that. I think I contributed to that because now there are quite a few studios in the hood (BMA, 2018).
Studio 6546 is made of a combination of new and old equipment but prioritizing on the necessary equipment to create good quality music, which also maintains a minimalistic look to the studio. Studio 6546 also hosts a networking event titled Weekend Jumpstart, which is a platform whereby artists from the music industry, the hip hop genre specifically, in the township come together to build on their networks.
Richard Rich (Pty) Ltd*
Richard Rich started his own graphic design company Richard Rich (Pty) Ltd in 2017. Rich offers unlimited graphic design services such as graphics for digital magazines, branding, illustrations, digital invitations to events, marketing packages such as logos, posters, flyers, and visuals for social media. Although Richard Rich (Pty) Ltd is based in Daveyton, Rich has worked for clients such as Kelloggs South Africa and Phillips Kenya and South Africa. Rich states that his business depends on his creativity and working from home within time frames that best suit him:
The idea was always in my head since I figured out that I can actually turn this graphic thing into a business. So, I’ve always had that idea in my head, I wanted to like start something of my own. The problem is I’ve never loved working a 9 to 5 in my life. I don’t see myself doing a 9 to 5, unless a situation pushes me into doing a 9 to 5. But I don’t see myself, so I’ve always had that thing that I want to do something of my own, that maybe at some point, or years go by its going to helps somebody from the hood or any child. It’s going to employ them. This is my own baby and I know if things don’t work out, I’m responsible and I’m comfortable with it (Rich, 2020).
As you drive down Mocke Street towards Sinaba stadium in Daveyton, you will find a blue shipping container in the front yard of a residential home. This is the home of Kabelo Tsoka’s flagship store, Retrofontein Apparel. Retrofontein, a retrospective fountain of creativity and design, was established in 2012 by Tsoka and his friend who unfortunately left the brand in 2014. Tsoka started the brand by collecting early 1990’s retro clothing, customise with African print and then resell the customised denim jackets. The brand later shifted and focused on narrating township stories through urban street wear. Tsoka’s brand is popular for the statement ‘Valid Dreams’, he elaborates how the idea came to him:
In late 2015, early 2016, I had applied to have a shelf at this big chain store. They replied this thing is not trendy enough and not what we looking for. I was depressed and thought maybe my brand doesn’t meet the standards. And then same week I was watching the BET Awards and I think Black Coffee had just won an award and part of his acceptance speech, he said Lupita Nyongo said “your dreams are valid”. And then light bulb! Ayi vele maan [expression of agreeing] who are they to validate what I’m doing because this is my dream, not theirs. Then I started with just writing it and thought hey man this would look dope on a t-shit (Tsoka, 2019).
Retrofontein is associated with validating the dreams of those in the township; the brand wants people from the township to know that their dreams are important and only they can make them a reality.
Tsoka also hosts an event called the Street Fair which promotes Retrofontein as a brand and other local brands that are similar to Retrofontein. The event is a platform for local brands to interact with each other and sell to their customers.
Born in Limpopo, Kholofelo Dennis Mashilo, popularly known as Mochene, is a hip-hop artist and the founder of Chant Nation. Chant Nation is a music and events company that was established in 2018. The company also acts as the representative of Mochene in terms of bookings, content ownership, and general management. Mashilo started Chant Nation as a means to house Mochene’s music in the form of a record label and still have the artist own the rights to the music. Mochene raps in Sepedi, which is his mother tongue. As an artist, Mochene uses his mother tongue because he wants to inspire children to be creative and express themselves in their own language:
When I create music, it’s for people overseas. In my head, I’m thinking this music is for London, and Berlin. It’s an ambition thing. But it’s also for rural kids. I have this picture of a kid in a remote area listening to my music through one ear piece because the other one doesn’t work but still wants to listen to the music because we share the same language. And he hears every word and he tells himself that he is going to do this one day and bigger than the guy he is listening to (Mashilo, 2018).
Mochene refers to his rap style as chantrap, he draws his lyrical content from what surrounds him, which often reflects on working hard every day to achieve your goals. The combination of the content and the language creates music that the rural child can access, is able to relate to and be inspired to create their own world through their own means.
The Jamshack SA
“For the love of the music” is a phrase that has been used by artists in the music industry. This is no exception to deep house movement Jamshack SA. In 2015 Nkosana Monyemangena and six of his friends became the co-founders of the movement Jamshack SA. Imagine a place that only plays deep house music and appreciates the DJs that contributed to the genre. This is the concept behind Jamshack SA, the movement is a platform for both established and upcoming DJs in the genre of deep house:
We were out with a group of friends and came back in the early hours of the morning and were discussing how we didn’t like the music. Our close friends were DJs and they agreed. We started playing music at one of the co- founder’s house. We then invited a DJ who played the same genre called deep house. They were locally based and they have helped Jam Shack to grow in terms of their support. We always gave them the platform to play and they would never reject this. The music comes from the DJs that we would hire (Monyemangena, 2019).
Jamshack SA is an event for a niche market, whereby deep house lovers come to appreciate the music and be in good company. The six co-founders all have a role in the conceptualisation of the movement and ensuring that the events are a success. The responsibilities are shared according to their strengths and portfolios such as technical, production management, marketing and brand awareness, and finance.
Jamshack SA has opened up a different cultural experience in the township by also creating opportunities for local business through stalls, this allows the experience to be holistically food, fashion and music (offer music and lifestyle). Although the movement began with a focus on Daveyton, co-founders of JamShack SA are now focusing on the entire Ekurhuleni district, bringing together all the townships of the East Rand through music. JamShack SA places deep house music at the forefront of the movement, the purpose of the movement is to make the subgenre attractive.
1520 Online is an online business that started in 2015 by Zuko Soyizwaphi, who is originally from the Eastern Cape but moved to Daveyton in 2006. Soyizwaphi is assisted in running the business by his wife, son and friend and colleague Brian Dubazana. 1520 Online has three streams of income generation; firstly, it sells watch and sunglass boxes online, secondly Soyizwaphi offers online marketing services such as web design, online business profiles, and the creation and maintenance of a company’s online presences, thirdly there is automation, whereby Soyizwaphi finds retired automated parts from various suppliers upon request. The naming of the business 1520 is two dimensional; 1520 is Daveyton’s postal code which marks that the business’s location. 1520 is a number, there is no gender or race attached to it, unfortunately being a black business owner from the township comes with negative connotations such as lack of trust, thus with a number no identity is attached to it:
Sometimes one had to hide their identity because when white people find out that you’re black and from the township, they don’t want to do business with you. 1520 is a number and took the race thing away and was just a business that is online (Soyizwaphi, 2018).
Thato Molele (Pty) Ltd.
French fashion designer Christian Louboutin once said “Shoes transform your language and body. They lift you physically and emotionally”. As people we make connections with each other and objects that bring meaning into our lives, including our shoes. Thato Molele started his business from customising his own shoes:
I was lazy to wash my shoes then I decided to paint my all-stars instead. People saw my shoes and I asked me to do a pair for them which they were willing to pay for them. The same day when I delivered the pair another person wanted to give me two pairs to customize. So that’s how I started without the knowledge of drawing. Regardless of the request, even when they request was a Flintstones themed shoe. I was forced into a situation of having to draw but I surprised myself and managed to do so (Molele, 2018).
Thato Molele established his business Thato Molele (Pty) Ltd in 2015. Thato Molele (Pty) Ltd houses two brands; TM Customs and TM Sneaks. TM Customs believes in reimaging your old shoes and re-establishing the bond you formed when you first bought them. Having started with one yellow fabric paint and one paint brush, TM Customs customises new and old shoes with painted designs that range from African prints, logos and even cartoon characters. People can bring their old shoes or purchase already customised shoes. TM Sneaks is in the process of designing its first boat shoe but will also focus on designing sneakers and heels.
Igumbi Art Room and Tourism
Brian Dubazana started Igumbi Art Room and Tourism as a platform that acts as a coordinator, curator and consultant offering the hiring of a mobile art gallery. The concept behind Igumbi was to find many different ways of creating a room that is filled with artworks, rejecting the formal gallery language. Furthermore, the platform organises cultural events that include live performances, poetry, musicians and dancers. The business aims to educate, grow, and create employment whilst putting Daveyton on mainstream tourism. They also offer 10km cycling tours of Daveyton, whereby you can either attend with your own bicycle or rent one from them.
Capture and Release Visuals
Street photographer, videographer, and artist Sibusiso Ncwana started his business in 2013 with a partner who later left the business. Ncwana called his business Capture and Release Photographer but later diversified and called it Capture and Release Visuals. In the naming of the business, Ncwana was inspired by the concept of fishing as a hobby, the act of capturing and releasing the fish, the fishers are more intrigued by the experience of fishing rather than the fish itself:
Sharing the art with people and sharing information is important. Art needs to breath, it needs to be seen, take the centre of attraction at any given moment, it sparks conversations. The concept of fishing as a hobby, capture and release of the fish gave me the idea. The experience is priceless. Sharing is more important than the actual price of the art. The art and content come first (Ncwana, 2018).
For Ncwana being a photographer is about capturing moments and sharing the art; the art and the content are prioritized; he values the process of meaning making. Capture and Release Visuals offers services in photography, videography, and the making of industrial furniture such as rondavel chairs, wine racks and bar tables. Rondavel chairs are designed from old tyres and rope, whilst the wine racks and bar tables are made from palates wood. Ncwana also has a hire and maintenance element to the industrial furniture aspect. As a photographer, Ncwana photographs social events and private shoots. However, the work that he cherishes the most is his series works such as his most recent titled The Skill Trade Series. The work focuses on ordinary people in Daveyton making a living from their own hands often on the side of the street such as the man that repairs shoes or the ladies selling clothes. Ncwana is inspired by photographer Fhatuwani Mukheli from I See A Different You, which focuses on changing the world’s negative view of Africa into a positive one through telling our own African experiences through an African lens.
Growing up in Daveyton, Floyd Masuku was influenced by the fashion and recycling industries. With no leisure money for the movies or arcade games, Masuku and his friends would collect cans and sell them to recycling companies. Masuku used the money to buy clothes for himself. His interest in fashion was intrigued by fashion magazines such as Vogue which his aunt would bring from work. Masuku was inspired by the clothes in the publication and wanted to dress like the models:
So looking at those magazines, I was inspired by the clothing those people were wearing. At the time, I didn’t think of making the clothes but rather that I want to dress like them and look good like them. But as time progressed the desire to make the clothes came (Masuku, 2018).
In 2007, Masuku started his own brand called Centre Creation. Centre Creation alters, designs and makes most forms of clothing. Masuku is popular for creating shirts and dresses for people attending events such as weddings and parties. He also creates garments from off cut material, making the garment unique as it cannot be reproduced.
Thabo Collen Shoko began as a stylist, styling himself and posting different clothing combinations on his personal Facebook account, through this he was able to style musicians for their music videos:
I’ve always loved clothes but I never loved crowds. I had a lot of friends but was always the odd on out. I was working on my profile of being a stylist, it was easy because I already had a number of people who thought that I was a designer. It was easy to agree with them and say yes I am a designer. I sold people dreams that I made come true (Shoko, 2018).
Shoko’s love for fashion grew when he became a designer, wearing clothes that he made himself. In 2014 Shoko began his own clothing brand called Shokcoll. Shokcoll focuses on custom designs such as dresses and suites for high class events. The brand also has a ready to wear collection that Shoko releases yearly. Shoko describes his designs as functional, eco-friendly, cultural and timeless. The brand also celebrates individuals that have survived being ill-treated by society because of their gender, race, disability or religion.
SECTION 2: Resourceful visionaries creating sustainable livelihoods through informality
The environment of the townships has provoked cultural kasi’preneurs to be concerned with new ideas and production processes that can emerge from the environment for positive change. Mbaye (2011) highlights that cultural entrepreneurs in Africa explore opportunities for the sake of adapting to a challenging environment and economic development. Their innovations are more based on problem solving in their community rather than being profit driven. The following sections highlight the findings of this study through the four identified themes: the experience of learning: learning and unlearning, multiple income streams through multiple skill sets, friends and family as networks, and the transformation of spaces: creating productive work spaces.
Theme 1 |The experience of learning: learning and unlearning.
Many people in the township struggle to go study at a tertiary institution because of the financial situation at home (the average cost of tuition and accommodation per year is R60 000), and of those that manage to go, some drop out because of the debt that is being accumulated. Without a bursary or scholarship, the financial capacity in a household determines whether the individual furthers their studies or finds a job to help support the family. Although access to higher learning has such financial implications, it is still viewed as pivotal to a successful narrative of the black child from the township. Cultural kasi’preneurs found it necessary to explore other means of learning.
Magangane was studying music but felt that the curriculum emphasised history and theory rather than music production:
I dropped out
I felt that I had the basics of everything. I started feeling that formal schooling wasn’t working out for me. Especially the fact that we were coming into the information age, whereby technology was advancing. Things that you can learn at school are available online and are advanced and directed to your needs because you are learning in your own time and at own pace. I could create my own online programme (Magangane, 2018).
Although Magangane’s reasons for leaving a higher learning institution are not related to financial circumstance, he suggests online learning as another form of learning and experience that is beyond what formal institutions are able to provide. For individuals without the support of a formal structure to acquire knowledge, other means of acquiring knowledge becomes necessary. Self-teaching becomes the access point for knowledge for the cultural kasi’preneur. They take initiative by finding means of learning through online platforms, from people with experience or in the simple efforts of trial and error. Although during the COVID-19 pandemic, online learning has now become the new norm, cultural kasi’preneurs saw the potential and opportunities in this form of learning way before. The internet has offered a lot of self-teaching tools in various skills, from graphic design to business management and finance.
The informality of learning online allowed Magangane to learn at his own pace, learning the skills he wanted to learn when he wanted to learn them. This is also viewed as an easy and affordable way to acquire knowledge. Magangane expresses how he was able to design his own curriculum that attended to his needs and those of the business. He further explains how there is a quick turnaround in applying the skills learnt online in the business as he tends to make use of them immediately. However, this informal way of learning is not without its challenges, the skills learnt are not supported or recognized by accredited institutions and as a result potential clients, competitors, and other businesses underestimate the credibility of the business and the cultural kasi’preneur.
Another informal way of acquiring skills is through observation and practice. Self-teaching becomes the access point for knowledge for the cultural kasi’preneur. They take initiative by finding people with experience to learn from or in the simple efforts of trial and error. Ncwana learnt his skills by using different software without prior knowledge:
I started playing around with software, there was a studio at the mall called Parasol. From the visits to the studio I learnt Software: Picasso (editing of the pictures), pricing, props for photo shoots (Ncwana, 2018).
Ncwana learnt his photography skills through observing how other photographers worked in the studio. He further used this technique of observation to learn how to make industrial furniture. Ncwana learnt to make rondavel chairs and industrial furniture such as bar tables and wine racks through observing a fellow craftsman.
The difficulties in learning through observation is the constant need to access someone’s process of working and often professional settings do not accommodate this informally. Ncwana was fortunate enough to have relationships with people working at the photographic studio and his fellow craftsman. It is because of these relationship dynamics that there is a willingness to share knowledge. The skills learnt during observation are tested through a trial-and-error processes which requires a space that allows you to work through material and be open to failure as part of learning. This also results in extra costs as some material is wasted during this learning phase. Trial-and-error is time consuming and repetitive; the individual becomes both student and teacher at the same time, constantly correcting and practicing till until the skill is mastered.
With the art form such as graphic design, new trends are constantly emerging, therefore, the skills set needs to be regularly developed. When a graphic designer is constantly working on their skills set allows them to be diverse and be able to be competitive in the market space. The trial-and-error way of learning is not without risks, the business can fail in some aspects because of the lack of experience and incorrect knowledge, this is where mentorship offers assistance; learning from someone with experience and expertise provides access to knowledge.
Mentorships or job shadowing are learning strategies used both formally and informally. Shoko describes how he learnt to make clothes from working for local designer Masuku (cultural kasi’preneur who is also part of this study), referred to below as Floyd:
At the time I was working on being a stylist and didn’t know that I could be a designer. I helped Floyd with alterations and that’s when I learnt how to sew, how pants are made from undoing and putting them back together. After Floyd I went to Transnet for a year and six months. I was good at welding but my heart wasn’t in it. I woke up on day and decided that I couldn’t do this anymore and that I wanted to do fashion (Shoko, 2018).
This informal mentorship offers direct access to an experienced individual and expertise. Shoko’s desires to learn motivated him to use reverse engineering as a process to examine and analyse the detail of making a garment through deconstruction to discover and be able to reconstruct the garment. This form of learning exposes you to the reality problem solving and how things are made, it is not a hypothetical situation. Shoko describes how during this process he felt empowered and was able to develop his knowledge and directly fill the knowledge gaps he felt he needed to.
Theme 2: Multiple income streams through multiple skill sets
As a result of these alternative forms of learning and to the extent of being easily accessible, affordable, circumstantial, and imbedded within the everyday lives of what the cultural kasi’preneur is exposed to or who they are in contact with or who they are rel90ated to, they are able to have a diverse skill set, they are able to master more than one skill. These skill sets provide opportunities to have multiple forms of income by translating these skills and using them within their businesses. Within these business practices they are able to have diversified revenue streams. For example, Igumbi Arts Room provides a number of products and services which translate to multiple income streams; it hosts events such as the backyard market and the township tours, as well as selling industrial furniture.
The need to have multiple skills that translate into multiple income streams when used in the business is a circumstantial agenda as one income stream is not sufficient to maintain both the livelihood and the sustainability of the business of the cultural kasi’preneur. There is a core business activity that is either supported or supplemented by other activities from these other skills within the business.
In the formal structure of the business there is often the need to be categorized in a certain manner and there is an expectation to follow certain protocols. Depending on how the business is registered, it is often then limited within those parameters, the business must be conducted in a certain manner. The informal structure would allow the business to navigate and go beyond these limitations. The business is able to diversify its revenue streams.
Capture and Release Visuals offers services in photography, videography, and the making of industrial furniture such as rondavel chairs, wine racks and bar tables. Rondavel chairs are designed from old tyres and rope, whilst the wine racks and bar tables are made from pallets wood. Ncwana also has a hire and maintenance element to the industrial furniture aspect. As a photographer, Ncwana photographs social events and private shoots.
Ncwana works as a photographer and visual artist. He has diversified his business based on his skills and capabilities. Through his business, Ncwana has created multiple jobs for himself that support his series photography; this is possible through sales and services rendered income (maintaining and hiring) from industrial furniture and part-time Deejaying:
The business is not yet structured but mostly I have become a consultant in a way. I’m breaking down the business into smaller businesses that can stand on their own but also can feed into each other (Ncwana, 2018).
Often the other activities within the business are linked to the core activities and extend the business. The need to diversify is a response to the possibility of an income stream suffering, diversifying income streams creates income streams that support one another. It can also be viewed as a strategy to overcome financial issues that occur in the business in the efforts of protecting the business. For one to be able to diversify, they need to seek opportunities outside what they are already offering or seek opportunities for expansion of the business within their skills set.
Magangane is the studio manager, producer, graphic designer and sound engineer for the studio. Studio 6546 provides experiences, services and opportunities that are usually accessed outside the township in the settings of a professional studio. Magangane’s multiple skill set allows him to have a holistic approach to music production, he is able to group his services together and offer a full package or an experience and still offer a single service depending on his client’s needs. Magangane offers a different perspective to the motivation of having multiple skills; for him, having all these various skills is cost efficient and allows him to offer his clients the best services and quality music at an affordable price. This also allows him to align with the purpose of the business which is to offer musicians from the township with affordable music production that produces quality music that can compete with well-established recording studios.
Jamshack SA offers a different example to Studio 6546, as for this business multiple skills are sourced from various individuals that share the same passion and love for creating or providing a certain cultural product or services. For Jamshack SA, the multiple skills through the co-founders doesn’t translate to multiple income streams, however, the co-founders alternatively finance the business through their personal finances. Each co-founder is either employed or running another business. Their personal finances are mostly used to hire good quality sound equipment. Monyemangena emphasises that the experience of the music is crucial to the brand thus having bad sound is not an option, throughout his interview he constantly supports his strategies with the phrase “music stays winning”.
Theme 3 |The transformation of spaces: creating productive work spaces
Cultural kasi’preneurs have found ways to transform unconventional spaces into working and productive environments. The lack of infrastructure in the townships has not stopped the start and growing of businesses.
To be able to cut costs in the creation of cultural products and services is a major priority. Working from home allows cultural kasi’preneurs to not bear the costs of travelling every day to a workspace, rather the money that would have been spent on commuting can be spent on the business such as material costs, paying suppliers, contributing to salaries and any travelling costs that may occur during distribution. Financial support is very limited for businesses in the township therefore being able to run a cost-effective business allows opportunities for the business to be sustainable. Many residents of the township spend most of their time commuting to and back from work, not only is this time consuming but a large portion of salaries and wages is spent on transport. When this travelling cost is cut, the money can be saved and invested into the business.
Most of the cultural kasi’preneurs work from home because of the circumstance and not necessarily by choice. Often the circumstance is a result of the lack of finance. The assumption that is usually made is that life is affordable in the townships, however, for small businesses trying to grow, this is not the case. Office space or retail stores for rental are expensive and as a result the cultural kasi’preneur finds themselves working from home to avoid this cost. This also removes the pressure of a rental fee every month from the business, allowing the business to focus on its core activities. Working from home can be convenient for the cultural kasi’preneur in that they have more time to focus on ideation and producing content for their business. The cultural kasi’preneur is not subjected to specific time frame to work, instead they are able to work at a time that is convenient to the cultural kasi’preneur.
During the COVID-19 pandemic ‘working from home’ became a norm and a safety measurement for many businesses, however, this did not shift the perception people have around businesses in homes in the township. In many cases people make conclusions about businesses based on its physical environment. Although working from home has advantages that assist to overcome financial constraints, it is not without challenges. One of the major disadvantages about working from home is that clients may view the cultural kasi’preneur as not professional or do not trust that the product or service will be delivered within the requested time frame, Shoko describes his difficulties:
Some of the challenges of working from home is that people don’t always take you seriously and the environment can hinder your creativity. Where is the fitting room? Some people judge you based on the machine that you have so they tend to want to see the machine (Shoko, 2018).
As a result, one can lose clients without being given the opportunity to provide the product or service. This also highlights that working from home, the product or service offered needs to work harder to prove its value in the market space. Clients can easily misinterpret the value of the product or service based on the environment it is created in.
Working from home requires discipline as there are more distractions. Time can easily be wasted on matters that do not concern the business. With the lack of separation between home time and work time the boundaries are not clear and focus is easily lost. One aspect can easily get lost in the other as a result there is a lack of balance. The cultural kasi’preneur can easily lose confidence in their own product and services as they feel that their business is not growing beyond the home environment. A lack of confidence within the cultural kasi’preneur can slow down the process of creating value. Rich highlights how working informally can be stressful and emotionally straining because of the irregular source of income and the need for the business to constantly prove its value.
Creative block is a big setback. I tend to meditate. It relaxes and it helps me block out the unnecessary noise. And think of what I want to think of. I start thinking of ideas for the work, I use little things to create big ideas (Rich, 2018).
The creation of cultural and creative businesses within the township leads to the transformation of spaces within the township. For example, a simple backyard is transformed into an outdoor gallery that offers a different experience to the consumer. The format of the gallery is challenged yet the space is transformed and redefines itself.
The idea of the workspace at home can also be viewed as the reason for these businesses to be located in the township of Daveyton. Businesses are forming in the homes of cultural kasi’preneurs and working from home has proved to have advantages and disadvantages.
Other spaces such as abandoned buildings are able to house the needs of a cultural and creative business. An abandoned bus factory is turned into a co-working space for various organisations and enterprises located in the township. The space is transformed into a production house for industrial furniture and future streetwear brands:
Working at Bus Shed, you meet people in the same line of work as you and sometimes have more experience. They offer help by referring technicians to fix the machine. In a crisis you can call the technician and they come to you to fix the problem (Masuku, 2018).
Co-working spaces foster collaborations, these can be viewed as intentional or unintentional. Within a co-working space, resources, information as well as expertise are shared amongst those that cohabit the space. From this sharing experience, people become connected and a network emerge.
Theme 4 |Friends and family as networks.
In the township, business support from formal structures and access to financial assistance is scarce. This is often due to a lack of record and documentation about the business. Although all the businesses of the cultural kasi’preneurs in this study are registered at the point of the study, this was not the case when some of the businesses were starting. As a result, cultural kasi’preneurs have had to seek other forms of support for their businesses.
Friends and family have become informal support structures to various aspects of the business. Cultural kasi’preneurs refer to a network of “friends” rather than acquaintances to gain access to relevant information, collaboration or human resources in the form of offering skills set to the business. The cultural kasi’preneur’s social capital (Bourdieu, 1984) is reflected in the amount and value of these personal relationships and how they contribute to the survival of the business (Lizé, 2016: 45). The core idea of social capital is that social networks have value and this affects the productivity of individuals (McLean, Schultz, & Steger 2002: 4). These influential relationships form strong networks that cultural kasi’preneurs are able to draw on during the process of creating cultural products and services. During the interviews, cultural kasi’preneurs referred to establishing their networks through their childhood friends or meeting other influential people through people they grew up with. Through these friendships, there is a sharing of resources and collaborating with each other on big projects. Whilst working on certain projects together, consumers begin to affiliate certain products and services with each other. In most cases, the affiliation has had positive effects for the businesses.
In the process of production, the cultural kasi’preneur’s network is crucial to assess possible resources, partnerships, collaborations, customers and employees (Scott, 2012: 244). Their network reflects their social capital and when this alternative form of capital (Bourdieu, 1985) is mobilized and converted into the needed resource, cultural kasi’preneurs are able to access resources they did not possess, increase their use-value as well as exchange-value (Scott.,2012: 246). Working informally, the cultural kasi’preneurs rely heavily on their networks to conduct their businesses.
Rich describes how he gained access to resources he needed to start his company:
I started with a laptop, with nothing. I had no money. They had just bought me a laptop here at home, I got software from my homies. They taught me how to use most of them. I was like you know what I’m going to change this nothing into something (Rich, 2018).
It is through his family and friends that he was able to start his business. His ‘friends’ shared information, skills and knowledge without requesting a monetary exchange but rather shared with him based on their friendship. This also reflects that within these networks, cultural kasi’preneurs do not see themselves as competition but rather as support structures with opportunities for future collaborations. For cultural kasi’preneurs such as Rich, networks are the foundation of their businesses and are able to create sustainable livelihood because of their networks. This unconventional system of sharing knowledge is based on trust and the willingness to teach and learn (self-development).
Furthermore, strong networks have the ability to support the growth of the business. During his interview, Ncwana emphasises how most of his big orders for his rondavel chairs were the result of his existing network. This suggests that the links formed amongst cultural kasi’preneur is beneficial in that it provides access to a market. The referrals brought more clients, more revenue, and assisted in building a reputation for the business. Referrals can also be viewed as ‘word of mouth’, which is a marketing strategy based on trust and personal recommendations amongst clients.
A niche market has influence, in contrast to the belief that large enterprises focus on investing in cultural and creative products whose conventions are widely shared, whilst small enterprise are left to focus on genres that seem to be less appealing (Dubios, 2012). However, there is no doubt that it is also constrained by the social relations and institutional trusts, networks, norms and beliefs. All the cultural kasi’preneurs indicated that their market is mostly from the township. Their businesses receive a large support from the residents of Daveyton but they also promote their business outside the township and find that they are supported by residents from other townships such as Soweto, Voslorus, Katlehong, Thembisa and even Pretoria. Markets can therefore be understood as embedded within existing broader society conditions; they cannot exist in isolation, rather they are within a specific context (Lee, 2006: 301).
Marketing is viewed as a human exchange of relationships (Lee, 2006: 302). This idea of marketing as a human interaction allows cultural kasi’preneurs to understand and think differently about the marketing strategies they employ. The interaction with consumers is facilitated by the cultural kasi’preneur’s ability to tell their story. Lounsbury and Glynn define cultural entrepreneurship as the process of storytelling that mediates the access to resources and capital in order to create wealth (2001: 545). Storytelling is viewed as a form of identity creation and legitimacy for new businesses (Lounsbury and Glynn, 2001: 546), stories are important symbols that make use of verbal, visual and written language.
The identity of the business becomes the key element to attract investors, providing a competitive advantage, access to consumers and new market opportunities (Lounsbury and Glynn, 2001: 545). It is through these stories that cultural kasi’preneurs are able to communicate the value of their products and services. The story becomes the link between the cultural entrepreneur’s business and the rest of the world. The data from this study suggests that cultural kasi’preneurs combine personal and the business’ stories to assist the consumer to connect with their offering, this contributes to the running of a successful marketing campaign. Retrofontein Apparel and Mochene’s personal stories are linked to the business to market their products and services. The link between the business and personal story is embedded in the cultural value of the products and services.
The friendship between Tsoka (Retrofontein Apparel) and Mashilo (Mochene) has brought their brands together, supporting each other through association:
He (Tsoka) started doing clothes and one day he asked if he could take pictures of me in his clothes. I’ve been wearing his clothes ever since; I perform and go to events wearing Retro most of the time. Both our brands just seemed to align well (Mashilo, 2018).
The two brands indirectly endorse one another. Mashilo as a local hip hop artist and a local clothing brand bring together two niche markets to create a bigger market to share. Based on their friendship and trust, Mashilo is the ambassador for Retrofontein; there is no official contract that binds them but the contract of friendship (network). Mashilo’s fans purchase the Retrofontein brand to relate to the artist, whilst supporters of the Retrofontein brand are also likely to be introduced to or know of Mashilo’s music. This is also made possible because of the geographical space they share within the township. Tsoka and Mashilo’s relationship can also be viewed as the formation of a network.
Cultural kasi’preneurs have found ways to align their brands together in the efforts of sharing a market and take advantage of social media platforms for storytelling. Storytelling by cultural kasi’preneurs plays a critical role in enabling growth of the business, and possible opportunities and resource flow towards the business, as well as the creation of wealth.
Sometimes resources and knowledge are acquired through inheritance, from one generation to the next. Shoko received his first domestic machine as an inheritance from his great grandmother. His grandmother owned a number of sewing machines. Although he never learnt to make clothes directly from her, this inheritance gave Shoko his first opportunity to make clothes. This machine gave him one of his first experiences of learning to make garments from a sketch, he was able to elevate his skills from being a fashion stylist to fashion designer.
Shoko expanded on equipment through buying 2nd hand equipment from his mentor’s client. A good quality industrial machine costs between R10 000 and R30 000 depending on the brand. The client had an industrial machine in her home but desperately wanted to get rid of it and was willing to part with it for R2 000. This offer was initially made to Masuku but he already had a machine and no space. Although Shoko didn’t have the money, he still managed to get a loan from family members to purchase the industrial machine. He received a loan worth R1 000 from his grandmother and the other R1 000 from his sister but the terms of loan from the sister was that Shoko’s father would pay her back. He describes the favour his father did for him to be helpful but also as spoiling him as he didn’t feel pressured to work hard to pay off the loans as he was only paying back the first half to his grandmother.
Shoko highlights the impact of the pressure to pay back the loan:
- You work harder and seek more opportunities.
- Motivated to succeed as your success is not only your own but also everyone who supported you.
- You want to pay back the money to maintain the relationship for future support, building the trust.
- Building a reputation for the business and yourself as an entrepreneur.
The system of access to finance through family members is based on trust, relations, and the need to be supportive towards each other. There is no contract, however the agreement between the two parties can be verbal. There is often no deadline or interest charged on the initial money borrowed.
SECTION 3: Access and flexibility afforded by informality
Despite the South African government’s ongoing efforts, in the form of initiatives set up by the Department of Arts and Culture, such as the Cultural Industries Growth Strategy (1997), Mzansi Golden Economy (2013), South African Cultural Observatory (SACO) (2014), and the Cultural and Creative Industries Federation of South Africa (CCIFSA) (2015), there is insufficient direct support to cultural entrepreneurs in the townships. During interviews with the cultural kasi’preneurs, none of the government initiatives were mentioned as providing support to cultural entrepreneurs and their businesses. They also had no knowledge that these initiatives existed to understand and provide support to the cultural and creative industries in South Africa. Molele’s response to his lack of engagement with government initiatives is that his independence and survival requires action and waiting for the government to provide assistance is not an option.
The cultural kasi’preneur offers a different definition of success for the black child in the township; their stories inspire and influence children from the township to know that opportunities and dreams can exist within the township landscape; there are dreams being realised in the township, cultural kasi’preneurs are transforming their townships through their own visions, cultural value and moving between formality and informality. Working primarily informally gives access to new learning experiences, access to resources and flexibility within the business. Cultural kasi’peneurs are driven by the need to succeed and make a difference, they constantly find themselves reimaging how they operate their businesses because of their environment.
Cultural kasi’preneurs make use of informal networks to access information and resources. The system of the network is embedded in friendships formed over the years; therefore, the relationships are based on trust and are reciprocal. The cultural kasi’preneur also recognises the power of affiliation. Affiliating the business and the brand with other local businesses and brands allows cultural kasi’preneurs to share a market. This also reflects that survival is sometimes dependent on sharing rather than competing. To be able to share this market, the cultural kasi’preneurs ensure that their stories are relevant but also different from one another. Storytelling through online platforms is one of the most popular and cost-effective way for the cultural kasi’preneur to communicate the values of their cultural products and services.
Townships are a major consumer space because of the populations, however, despite their huge potential, businesses in the township struggle to attract the attention and the investors needed to grow the business because of their geographical location and how informal and formal methods are fused together in the business. Public policy needs to move towards making townships attractive and sustainable for both livelihood and businesses. Townships are unique to South Africa and in reality, are growing. The cultural and creative industries in the township have the potential of making our townships attractive for these investments.
Cultural kasi’preneurs provoke us to think of the township as a space capable of existing and recreating itself beyond the boundaries of its historical formation (Mbhele, 2020). The township is more than just a place that we constantly dream of escaping but rather is part of the dream and the success we aspire to have. Unlike their cultural predecessors that reiterate the need to leave the township, cultural kasi’preneurs are finding alternative forms of existing, creating meaning, seeing, surviving and thinking about the township. They have a sense of appreciation for the potentialities of the township which are outside the norm that anything that tries to find life is already dead (Mbhele, 2020). The cultural kasi’preneur understands that there is no other option but to create cultural value and redefine success.
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