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Championing authenticity and culture in the African narrative

Radio personality Thabo Mokwele, cultural practitioner and singer Mbuso Khoza, Castle Milk Stout's marketing manager, Khwezi Vika, musician Buhlebendalo Mda, journalist Mzilikazi wa Afrika and Thebe Ikafaleng. Picture: Supplied

Radio personality Thabo Mokwele, cultural practitioner and singer Mbuso Khoza, Castle Milk Stout's marketing manager, Khwezi Vika, musician Buhlebendalo Mda, journalist Mzilikazi wa Afrika and Thebe Ikafaleng. Picture: Supplied

Published Oct 29, 2023


Mpho Rantao

IT IS commonly known that when commercial brands localise themselves to acclimatise with consumers, these brands take up the underlying responsibility to promote the very communities they’re immersed in.

In this case, we have Castle Milk Stout, a popular beer brand that launched its talk series on Mzansi Magic called “Black Conversations”.

The series aims to explore various aspects of African spirituality, identity, and heritage and to challenge the stereotypes and taboos that often surround them.

It was launched in 2022 when it premiered on Mzansi Magic and has continued to expand on topical subjects surrounding the South African community and all its insights.

It has so far showcased Africans’ diversity and cultural richness and how they can be celebrated and preserved in the modern world.

In a conversation in promotion of season three’s episodes, the alcohol brand led an imbizo discussion featuring influential South Africans such as musician and spiritual healer Buhlebendalo Mda, known from The Soil, journalist and music producer Mzilikazi wa Afrika, and brand specialist Thebe Ikafaleng. It was led by radio personality Thabo “Tbose” Mokwele.

The discussion was based on season three’s episode on black storytellers and their power and purpose of storytelling in African cultures, and the representation in the media in the digital age.

Singer Mda believed that despite good intentions, South Africans miss the mark in their actions for the wrong reasons.

“We miss the mark by not being authentic to ourselves, wanting to spread authentic messages and trying to be good role models.

“When I say honest and open conversations, I also refer to conversations of wanting to learn and not coming into a space as a know-it-all, right?

“Because when you are an icon, in inverted commas, or someone who is very prominent, we tend to get social media pressures and societal pressures to wanting to always produce something,” she said.

“The problem is that we find ourselves wanting to have an opinion about everything. We tend to want to mis-educate, and therefore we misappropriate the most important things.”

Mokwele believed that much of the efforts by the media and brands have struck in the continued calls for conversations on the revision of cultural history and identity that are held back under the guise of sacredness.

“We copied their music, movies, and martial arts because we didn't have our own stories to tell or a way to share them,” Mokwele said.

“We need more spaces where we can express ourselves, our languages, our colours, and our clothes without feeling ashamed or judged, except on special days like Heritage Day or Africa Day.

“We have to change our mindset. Some call it decolonising, but I call it redefining what our colours mean to us.”

Mokwele pointed out the importance of media and private brands utilising the power of South Africa’s conversations and their interest in interacting in debates.

He said that since it has been one of the simplest ways to make conversations meaningful, media platforms like radio and television have done well to offer those venues.

He underlined the power of researching one’s own heritage and land and suggested that individuals should write scholarly articles about their history.

“What's fashionable is when three generations in one car can have the same conversation,” he said.

“Your grandmother, grandfather, uncle, sister, (and) cousin can’t help but want to be part of that conversation. We’ve been hiding the truth with sacredness, right?“

Castle Milk Stout's marketing manager, Khwezi Vika, said that the series had received positive feedback from viewers and sparked meaningful discussions on social media.

He said that the series helped to deepen the understanding of the issues facing African communities and society and to foster a sense of pride and belonging among Africans.

It features renowned media personalities and thought leaders who discuss and debate various topics related to black success, love, and storytelling.

Season three of Black Conversations airs on Thursday on Mzansi Magic, DStv channel 161.