Youth Invest hosted its second session of #YOUTHCONVERSATIONS under the theme: Commercialization of raw talents and skills. The session was aimed at provoking dialogue into how young people can raise the profile of their talents and skills in order to contribute to the mainstream economic development. The panel was comprised by some of Bulawayo’s finest artists namely: Thandokuhle Sibanda, Mzobanzi Mlauzi and George Moyo.
About Thandokuhle Sibanda
Thando is an 18 year old who started poetry at the age of 14 years. Her first competition was during the 2015 Intwasa Arts Festival where she came first in the poetry category. Thando is a two-time Starbrite Zimbabwe finalist and was the first runner up for the Intwasa Poetry Slam in 2017. She is the Lafarge Poetry Slam 2018 winner. Thando also performed in one of Zimbabwe’s biggest stages – the Roil Bulawayo Arts Awards (BAAs) alongside Mandla the Comedian, Maforty and Black Lilly. She has worked with the renowned Cont Mhlanga and Sithandazile Dube.
About George Moyo
George is a Film Director. One of his main works is Isipho Sami which was nominated in the Roil BAAs. Currently, he is working on a drama series that will be playing on an American TV channel. As a scriptwriter, his work has seen veterans such as Sarah Mpofu (Tashi) doing their best to bring his script to life.
About Mzobanzi Mlauzi
Mzobanzi Mlauzi AKA Mzoe7 was part of a little-known musical group Tyson Band where he was a backing vocalist, in a band which also featured Otis Ngwabi. He was a curtain-raiser for Zimbabwe’s popular dancehall artist Winky D. Mzoe7 has worked with a lot of local artistes in the city and these include KLAP, Le entertainment, Djembe Monks and POY. The musician also doubles up as a fashion designer being the founder of the #Iskipa street apparel in 2015. Mzoe7 has also shared the stage with high profile artistes like Jah Prayzah, gracing Ibumba and Intwasa Festivals and the Kalawa Home Coming party which saw African stars like Cassper Nyovest, AKA, Oskido and DJ Tira.
The discussion was aimed at provoking dialogue and action on monetization of raw talents and skills. The moderator led the discussion and also took some questions and contributions from the audience.
From your individual biographies, we heard about when you started pursuing your talent, but may you shed light into how you discovered your talent. Was it an obvious one or you had many and you decided to choose one?
In their responses, the panelists emphasized the significance of passion in talent discovery. According to Mzoe7, passion will cause one to be willing to make sacrifices for the enhancement of their talent. For George, his interest in art led him to pursue acting in High School. Thando responded by shedding light on the role played by her mentor in the initial stages of her talent pursuit. It was through the mentor’s guidance that she became exposed to more developmental platforms which propelled her to grow as a poet.
How can one develop a strong artistic personality?
According to the panelists, a strong artistic personality will make one authentic and disciplined in what they are passionate about. Mzoe7 talked about putting in the hard work so as to continually grow as well as being true to oneself and disregard pressures from the society.
According to Will Smith, “A talent – is what you have naturally while a skill is only developed by hours and hours of beating on your craft”. How have you perfected your talent into a skill?
All three artists narrated how after their talent discovery, they started making deliberate steps to develop through practice, seeking for mentors as well as being persistent and consistent in their craft. Thando talked about the importance of networking in expanding one’s horizons. She however stressed that as an artist, one should be deliberate in their networking as well as the people he or she chooses to spend time with, as these can either be enhancing or ruining the artist’s talent.
How can one develop a strong work ethic in the area of talents?
The artists emphasized the importance of staying focused and internal regulation of one’s energy as an artist. According to Mzoe7, not everyone would be in full support of your budding career in the arts thus the need to have an inner drive and consistence in the pursuit of what sets your soul alight. He went on further to talk about the need for patience as a talent or skill may take time to pay off. Even after having paid, an artist who embodies a strong work ethic is able to save for rainy days – that way, the work continues.
Sometimes people diversify – from a musician to being a motivational speaker and a chef… How can one diversify without “losing” the main talent but actually promote the main talent so they get value for it?
The panel alluded to the country’s economy and touched on issues of sustainability where diversification should not be about out-shining the other talent, but about sustaining the art. In so doing, the artist is able to sustain the other talent which may take too long to pay out. Mzoe7 gave an example on how he is both pursuing music and filming and the complementary role both talents have to the Mzoe7 brand.
Often times we hear that branding is key to making money. How can one effectively brand themselves to thrive in the Bulawayo context?
According to the panelists, a reputable brand stems from the artist, thus one should be authentic and uphold positive values which will translate to their brand. In building a brand, the panelists emphasized the importance of innovation as well as remaining relevant to one’s audience. Mzoe7 highlighted the need for artists to register their brands, for instance, music can be registered under Zimbabwe Musician Rights Association. In so doing, the artist’s legal interests pertaining his or her music are protected. Furthermore, by professionalizing their brand, the artist will see himself or herself expanding to employing lawyers and accountants.
How can artists penetrate the Bulawayo and Zimbabwean market? Is there a specific route or networks to pursue or it is by chance?
George responded by encouraging aggressive marketing of their art through making use of both traditional and digital marketing techniques. Mzoe7 encouraged musicians to join the Bulawayo Music Association which can be found on Facebook and/ or look for other associations to be part of.
What opportunities exist in the different spaces that young people can tap into?
In extension to the previous question, the panelists encouraged young people to watch the local broadcaster – ZBC in order to be kept updated on new opportunities such as the call for content from scriptwriters by Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe (BAZ). Other opportunities and/ or spaces young people can explore are as follows:
In conclusion, the discussion brought clarity on how one can commercialize their art through the sharing of practical strategies which can be useful in the current economic environment. It also shed light on how one can brand themselves whilst remaining relevant to their audience. The discussion also brought about the role of social media in marketing as well as an information dissemination tool.