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Balancing work and creativity

Group photo with the social media team at Enterprise Africa Summit in Ghana 2017

Group photo with the social media team at the Enterprise Africa Summit in Accra 2017

My friend Amina Maikori is a Nigerian author, who published her debut novel The Demystification of Stephen last year. She recently interviewed me about work and creativity. We spoke about my career, making music, writing and DJing. Here’s an extract:

Amina: What is the most important thing you’ve learned in the process of handling teams across 19 countries?

Rossouw: I’ve learned that it’s important to have a sense of the larger purpose of the work you’re doing as a team. Often you’ll find two people disagree about the way to do something and after an open conversation you’ll realise it’s because they have very different ideas of the bigger goal. I’m learning about the methodology called Agile at the moment. One of the principles I’ve gotten from it, is that you don’t start by saying “We’re gonna build a car”. You start by saying “we want to transport people”. And then you figure out as a team what form that solution should take. It could be a bicycle, a bridge, a hoverboard or a camel. It depends on the needs of the people you’re trying to serve.

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How well do you know your brand?


LEGO advert from 1981 with text 'What it is is beautiful'

LEGO advert from 1981

I’ve sat down with first-time entrepreneurs in Cape Town, young creatives in Johannesburg as well as colleagues in a global non-profit. When I ask them to describe their brand, their response is usually a string of positive words like this:

“It’s innovative”
“It’s friendly, for everyone”
“It’s cool”
“It’s trustworthy”
“It says quality”
“It’s brave”

The problem with this is that one brand can’t be everything. You might Continue Reading…

Why aren’t there posters of South African TV shows?



I was browsing eBay the other night looking for posters of TV shows I liked as a kid. But I realized that what I was looking at wasn’t what I really wanted to buy: posters of South African TV shows.

I did a Google search and couldn’t find any. But why would I expect to find it for sale? The SABC wouldn’t sell merchandise of its shows and private printers wouldn’t have the high resolution images needed to make a poster.

So what’s the solution?

We get local illustrators to create new posters of iconic South African TV shows. It could be done like the posters of Cape Town landmarks that 10and5 curated last year. Each illustrator has free reign to pick their favourite local show and design a poster for it. The Minimal Movie Posters style might be a good point of reference.

The first collection could be of TV shows. After that they can do classics of other art forms such as novels and plays. I wouldn’t mind owning a People are living there, Toorberg or Siener in die suburbs poster.

What posters would you like to see?



Why Afrikaans needs vampiere and ongediertes

Vampire by Vyle

Afrikaans faces a dilemma. How can it remain relevant to a younger generation while maintaining linguistic standards?

Writers of Afrikaans teen fiction are using slang and English words in order to appeal to the youth. Purists obviously see this as a debasement of the language. It’s known as taalvermenging , a contentious issue that regularly pops up on the letters page of newspapers. Back in 2002, a 17-year-old Jackie Nagtegaal published Daar’s vis in die punch and sparked a debate that divided literature professors.  André Brink called it a rejuvenation of the language while Dan Roodt said that Afrikaans had hit an all-time low.

Part of the problem is that Afrikaans caries a historical burden. Because it is spoken by a community that supported a racist system, the language is tinged with verkramptheid. To many, Afrikaans is still associated with conservative white people even though that connotation is statistically inaccurate* . When an actor speaks an old-fashioned English dialect, he sounds sophisticated, even romantic. If he speaks formal Afrikaans , he’ll seem conservative and unfashionable.

So is it possible to side step these negative connotations? I think so.

It should be possible to get a young audience to warm to formal Afrikaans if it’s a dialect so antique that it isn’t associated with their parents and grandparents’ generation.  An interesting example of this trick is seen in HBO’s True Blood.

Bill Compton is the romantic lead in the show. He’s also a vampire that once lived as a human in mid-19th-century Louisiana and fought for the South in the Civil War. That means he’s a confederate soldier with an accent that makes you think of a front-porch-sittin’ slave owner. But all of the potentially hazardous connotations are somehow sidestepped because he’s a vampire, and chivalrous, and 160 years old.

So Radio Sonder Grense should consider creating a radio drama with a teen novel tie-in about dashing vampires and beasts set in a contemporary South African town. It shouldn’t be a Twilight knock-off, but it will need a good dose of young love and drama.

The supernatural beings are all a century old, which explains their use of old-fashioned Afrikaans. In fact, there’s the potential to base their dialect on the writing style of N.P. van Wyk Louw. He was part of the Dertigers, an innovative group of Afrikaans poets who gained notoriety in the early decades of the 20th century. Louw’s work often explored love and sensuality via supernatural imagery. Gestaltes en Diere, published in 1942, portrays dark leopards, alcoholics, sphinxes and wolves. It’s an ideal foundation for a new fantasy series.

I’ll leave you with a cool passage from “Ballade van die nagtelike ure” :

Om elfuur was jou liggaam
die honger en dors in my,
as jou skewe papier-kalot
ver deur die danssaal gly.
Om twaalfuur was jy ‘n ligte brug,
‘n hoë, gevaarlike gang
bo my klein verwildering
tussen pyn en sterwe gehang.
- N.P. van Wyk Louw 1937

* A 2002 survey revealed that of the six million South Africans who claim Afrikaans as their first language, only 42% are white  (Giliomee, 2004: 623).