August 2021.

Everybody – including youth in townships – has tremendous creative potential just waiting to be tapped. 

All that is required is greater effort to identify the next generation of imaginative and inspired leaders who will better diversify South Africa’s creative field.

This is the strong view held by Nkanyezi Masango, a champion for making the creative industry more demographically representative.

“One of the most powerful tools for change in all spheres of life is creativity and the South African creative industry will certainly be more impactful if it’s racially diverse.

“But the issue starts in high school. Most township students don’t consider creativity as a career path simply because they don’t know it exists.

“There’s no denying that when it comes to diversity, the creative industry is still a work in progress,” he says.

Masango who is the Executive Creative Director at The King James Group, an advertising agency in Cape Town, is also Founder of Blackboard whose ambition is to introduce young black people to creativity, one student at a time.

Since its inception in 2017, Blackboard, which provides mentorship opportunities to students in the marketing and advertising communication sector, has introduced over 70 students to the world of creativity.

This year, Blackboard has reached a significant milestone: the organisation is partnering with Red & Yellow, Africa’s leading Creative School of Business, to grow a pipeline of the next generation of creative leaders under the age of 30. 

Red & Yellow has, over its 25+ years in the Higher Education sector, produced creative alumni who have gone on to challenge convention, lead industries and achieve amazing things locally and internationally. 

Meghan Slater, Head of Corporate Sales at Red & Yellow, said the school prepares its students for the unexpected challenges and resulting opportunities that the new world of work may bring.

“We produce logical business thinkers who understand human behaviour and use the magic of creative thinking to grow successful organisations that set them apart.

“All our full-time programmes, online short courses and workshops include elements from all four faculties – management studies, marketing, human studies and creative production – which we believe are crucial to building well-rounded beings capable of handling what the future brings,” she said.

Believing that true transformation of the advertising industry starts in under-privileged high schools, Blackboard will continue to expose marginalised pupils to various creative disciplines through workshops hosted by industry leaders.

Slater said the workshops will help provide pupils with early career guidance so that they will have a goal that will keep them focused on their craft.

The design workshops, for example, will break barriers to entry and inspire students to consider graphic design as a career. The filmmaking workshop will cover every facet of production, including scriptwriting.

By the time they complete matric, these pupils will have a clear picture of the types of jobs in varied industries that they otherwise might not have been exposed to. 

Red & Yellow will work closely with Blackboard to identify the cream of the crop.

From that point, selected students will transition into R&Y to continue on their journey to joining the creative industry.

Slater said Red & Yellow’s bursary programme ensures that at least 10% of all students won’t have to pay for themselves. 

“Our belief is that education is the most important force in delivering meaningful and lasting transformation in our country.”

Blackboard has already exposed under-privileged high school students to a variety of career opportunities in the advertising and film production industries. They had never heard of advertising before, but now understand disciplines such as art direction, post-production, copywriting and others. 

“It’s an important step as the youth continue their fight for equality. The next step will be to handpick the most passionate bunch and guide them into the industry once they complete high school.

“It’s a long game, but I believe this is what real transformation means. It’s not just tweaking the optics in a boardroom or quickly trying to hire people of colour when you’re going to pitch for business,” said Masango.

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