The screams of delight tell me the magazines are starting to be given out. I’m hunched over the boot of an well-travelled bakkie (classic African utility vehicle) in a parking lot in the centre of Nyanga, one of the Western Cape’s more sketchy townships, surrounded by hundreds of excitable teenagers waiting to go into a talent show. We’re here to hand out the first thousand copies of a mini-magazine created by twenty township teenagers in just one-week flat. And within seconds of this magazine distribution feeding frenzy beginning, all the copies are gone.
Ikamva Live, the one-off mini-magazine we’re distributing today, is the first small step in a long-term plan to export the success of the youth-owned media empire, Live Magazine, from the streets of Brixton – where it all began – to the townships of South Africa. Funded through a Fellowship from the Shuttleworth Foundation, I moved to Cape Town in May this year to develop and launch Live Magazine in a place where inequality is still striking, the education system limps along, and the opportunities for young people to create and thrive are still severely limited by poverty.
Live Magazine in the UK is completely produced by young people overseen by professional mentors: and has long partnered with Dazed & Confused in London. One of my missions here is to forge similar connections with the publishing and media industry here in South Africa, and try and bring young people through the Live programme and create opportunities for work experience and employment.
But first of all the exciting bit: creating the product with a core team of young hopefuls from communities where jobs are scarce, role models are few and far between, and anger is rising about how the post-apartheid government has failed to improve the lives of the significant majority.
My first task, aside from the Ikamva Live mini-mag experiment, was to spend time researching the issues the youth of South Africa face as they try to make it in the world. I spent days and nights in informal settlements like Khayelitsha – where a bustling community of up to 1.5 million black Africans dwell in bungalows and shacks – talking to young people about their dreams and aspirations, and the things preventing them from achieving them.
One 19-year-old girl we met broke into tears when she spoke of how she had got a good education, but was now struggling to even get a job as a domestic worker. “My dream is to afford life,” she told us. And the aim is to make Live Magazine a platform for young people to learn, create, share experiences, find information, and make direct interventions that usher in those important steps towards that dream and beyond.
Text by Gavin Weale