South Africa's Finest Decor Magazine

Leading Lights

From contemporary art to social activism, meet the game-changing women who are making the difference



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Leading Lights
Leading Lights

From contemporary art and high fashion to social activism and cutting-edge technology, meet the game-changing women who are making the difference.   

Buhle Ngaba 
Actress, author and activist

Through your writing, theatre work and KaMatla, your community-upliftment NPO, how are you helping the next generation to find their voice? 
I am striving to create a new narrative for the next generation by being insistent on living and sharing my art honestly. Being a storyteller is one of the most important aspects of who I am. I find it cathartic as well as necessary. 

What has the journey been like since publishing your debut work, The Girl Without A Sound? The book is available to download for free in four languages, though my hope is that people will order a hard copy, which allows us to get another hard copy to a girl in need. 

What’s next for you? At this year’s KKNK Arts Festival I debuted my one-woman show entitled The Swan Song. It wrestles with the metaphors of death and love and, as the protagonist slips between English and my native Setswana, language becomes another tool to bring to life the constant tension that exists in the worlds we know and come from. I intend on touring it next year as well as refocusing my attention on film.

Buhle Ngaba

Brigitte Reeve-Taylor

Founder, Dancers Love Dogs

On collaborating for a cause
‘If people trust your work there is no limit to the support you will receive.’

On finding meaning in life
‘We have all been designed for something greater than ourselves and our contribution to the world needs to have meaning.’   

Elana Brundyn
Director: Institutional Advancement and External Affairs, Zeitz MOCAA

What is the role of African art in a global context?
African art engages with history as well as global issues, which makes it very relevant. We’re seeing women artists talking about the transparency of the female in society. Sometimes in an aggressive way, other times it’s more symbolic. But it always aims to unify. 

How do you see Zeitz MOCAA fitting into this?
It is going to have a huge effect. It is creating an institute that will allow Africa to define itself. 

How are local artists addressing Africa?
Take Zanele Muholi’s ‘Faces and Phases’, a series that shows lesbian women who have survived hate crimes. She is portraying them as proud, fierce and vulnerable. Most importantly, they are being seen. 

Niquita Bento
Photographer, Instagram influencer

On finding a signature style
‘Developing a style requires planning. Think about tones and colours – and the bigger picture.’ 

On telling a story 
 ‘I’ve always told stories through social media. I don’t see them as individual images but as part of a larger whole.’   

Mala Bryan
Founder and creator, Malaville Toys

Where did the idea behind creating fashion dolls with shades of brown skin come from? As a doll collector I noticed that beautiful black dolls were missing from the market. With black women embracing their natural curls, and teaching their daughters to do the same, I felt the time was right. Where do you find inspiration? When I worked as a model it allowed me to travel the world. That really helped me create the characters and stories for my dolls.    

From left: Brigitte Reeve-Taylor, Elana Brundyn, Niquita Bento, Mala Bryan

Julia Anastasopoulos
Actress and writer, Tali’s Wedding Diary

What was the ‘aha’ moment when it came to creating the character of Tali?
I’ve had Tali in my back pocket for a while but it was about realising the direction I wanted to take her. It was only when I was planning my own wedding that I saw how much comedic scope there was in that. 

How do you think the character will fare in comparison to the cult following that SuzelleDIY has gained?
Off the bat, Tali is a much less likeable character, though she is just as funny and nuanced as Suzelle. My hope is that audiences will find her lovable by being able to identify with her in some way. Comedy is becoming the playground of bold, self-aware and, often, political women. 

Why do you think we’re seeing this rise of the female comedian? It’s exciting to see more women directors, writers and producers taking charge of the television world, especially in comedy. I think we’re seeing a lot more interesting roles being written by women, for women, which is very important. That being said, in South Africa there is still a lack of these roles and that is one of the biggest challenges. 

What’s the next big thing? 
I think Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson from Broad City and Issa Rae from Insecure are ones to watch. Their comedy is diverse, brave and completely weird. What’s really inspiring, for me especially, is that their work started on YouTube. That’s an exciting space to be in. 

Julia Anastasopoulos

Saajida Francis

Editor, The Young Independents

On the power of digital media
‘Africa has stories to tell, of pain and struggle but there is also success. I’m determined to convert cynicism into hope and play my role in getting these voices heard.’

On women leading the way
‘It’s not just South African women who are witness to the change; it’s a global wave of female leadership. I prefer it that way.’  

Saajida Francis

Jenna McArthur

Founder, Jenna McArthur PR

Given your position, you interact with numerous women-led brands and companies – Maison Mara, Pichulik, to name two. How have you seen women setting the business agenda?
We are proud of the brands that we represent and the women who guide those brands. There is a strong sense of support in business, a culture of encouragement. We are operating in a shared economy where collaboration is key. After all, you’re only as good as the company that you keep. 

How do you stay at the top of your game?
It is our priority to keep concepts and strategies fresh, modern and smart, so we look everywhere – street culture, art, travel, music – there’s no telling where the next big idea is waiting. We also draw a lot of inspiration from the creatives who we work with. 

Andrea Mullineux

Winemaker, Mullineux Wines

Where did your passion for winemaking come from?
I grew up in a family of scientists and artists so, when I decided to study viticulture and oenology, I slotted right into the family mix. I realised my passion when we would gather around the family table, discussing life over good food and wine.

What drives your creativity?

Travel the world, taste different wines and really understand what you’re putting into the bottle. This is where you’ll find the confidence to create your own interpretation. 

What are your golden principles when it comes to making wine? Winemaking offers you a career that lets you nurture something, to watch it grow. Pay attention to the details but also trust your instincts to raise the best wine possible.   

Crystal Birch

Milliner, The Real Crystal Birch

On not being stereotyped
‘Having a disciplinary career gives me a lot of freedom to choose collaborators and push boundaries.’

On why everyone needs a good hat
 ‘It can be practical or outlandish, but people change when they put on a hat. They take on a new persona, as if the hat itself has showed them this daring side of themselves.

From left: Andrea Mullineux, Crystal Birch, Jenna McArthur

Dope Saint Jude

Hip-hop artist and music producer

On her music
‘I speak my mind. My music is honest about what I see going on around me. The only responsibility is to myself, to be proud of what I do.’

On what makes an artist inspiring
 ‘I enjoy artists who are authentic and who’ve put in the work because the opportunities are rare.’ 

Dope Saint Jude

Lethabo Motswaledi

Cofounder, 3D Power

You’re a 3D-printing pioneer in SA. How did you get to this point?
After studying geomatics engineering, 3D printing became a natural avenue to explore. Though it started out as a hobby we quickly realised that this was something that could be commercialised. 

How do you see 3D printing changing our society? It already has in many ways, especially in health care and manufacturing. As it becomes more accessible it will revolutionise our daily lives. Imagine that all it will take is downloading some files and you’ll be able to print a new shower head for your bathroom or cups for your kitchen without leaving home.

Lethabo Motswaledi

Gabrielle Kannemeyer


You do it all – magazines, music videos, film – how is the South African creative industry evolving?
It’s certainly diversified and, through social media and big-brand collaborations, there are more opportunities for creators to flourish. 

How do you keep your creativity alive and unpredictable? What I create is informed by what I see. South Africa’s landscapes are incredibly complex and this directly affects my visual language and how I construct images. 

As a creative, do you see yourself with an artistic responsibility? It is my job to challenge the conventional ways in which we see things. For the longest time this has been a male-dominated industry, so I see my role as one to challenge the construct. 

What changes do you hope for?
More women in powerful roles, more diversity and more value being placed on art.  

Gabrielle Kannemeyer

Production Martin Jacobs Photographs Karl Rogers