Sizakele Marutlulle is passionate about African creativity remaining in the hands of Africans
23 Jun 2018 DESIGN
By Nomali Cele
Sizakele Marutlulle founded the successful creative consultancy, Marutlulle + C/O after years of working in the creative and advertising space. On 27 June 2018, she presents “Matrutlulle + C/O Conversations”, which will be a conversation between successful and budding African creators. It will be held here at Kaya House. Below is Q + A conversation with Sizakele Marutlulle, which will serve as a teaser to why you need to attend the conversation on Wednesday!
Nomali Cele (NC): What you term “borrowing without permission” has been a part of the African story since the beginning. Why are we best placed to challenge it now?
Sizakele Marutlulle(SM): Now more than ever because it’s more than just a reversal of narrative it is about displacing the misnaming and replacing with proper articulation. Our creative efforts are design, not craft, they are valuable, not discountable, they are UNIVERSAL, not tribal. And taking them off the continent without sharing the benefits is tantamount to theft. This is one of the many ways in which others intensify poverty on the continent
NC: You are passionate about patenting — essentially staking a legal claim on what you make – is Marutlulle + co doing anything to make these steps accessible to the people making on the ground?
SM: We have learned, through first-hand experience, that this is doable and costly. However, we suggest that if you believe that what you produce as a creative practitioner is of value then sandbag its value, make sure that it can become a unit of creative currency for generations to come- and the best (not necessarily fastest) is to apply for trademark or patent.
NC: For some creative people, the price to pay for a seat at the table has been what can be termed “selling out.” How do you succeed while keeping your integrity and respecting where the work comes from?
SM: You must enter the room as an equal — I think we trip when we think that money is what gives us equality. It is sad that it has become synonymous with value. I suggest that we must have “the confidence of ones with important things to do and give to the world.” The platform may not be big or under bright lights, but your revolution does not lose significance just because it was not televised. Big things start small. If you have no access to ‘their’ platforms, create your own with like-spirited folks. The series of these conversations is an example of me creating alternative platforms – so we don’t wait to be invited but we instead, decide who to let in.
NC: How does a young person starting out know if they have what it takes to live off their creativity (be it physical design or ideas)?
SM: Knowing what you are good at will not necessarily translate into livelihood from day one. But if you have self-belief, you will keep the light burning even as you work your way through unrelated gigs. Everything adds up in the end. The mistake I have seen younger folk make is to insist that because they studied graphic design or photography and want to work for magazine X or TV channel Y, they refuse to consider anything else.
My first job was in research (not at all creative) but it got me into a room where I could tell others about my love for advertising. Secondly, young folks tend to insist that they will only work with someone they can learn from and they imagine that older folks are dinosaurs or that those who aren’t schooled have nothing to offer them. That is limited and limiting thinking. I had more degrees than many of my bosses in advertising, yet I learned the most from them. So humble yourself, stay hungry, be the first one in and the last one out, volunteer for jobs in your field of passion, never ever be too big to do anything.
NC: What three resources would you encourage creative Afropolitans just starting out invest in?
Resilience, Curiosity, Open-Mind.
NC: What are your thoughts on seeking external/overseas validation versus getting local love for your work? Does it make sense for products to be priced in ways that make them impossible for the people whose history they contain to afford?
This is exactly the problem. Let’s be honest, loving something ‘made in Italy’ is not a sin or a slight on one’s commitment to the continent. What is being challenged here is the practice of ‘visitors’ who come and take from this place, to re-use when they get back to ‘their’ places and then re-sell to the world and to us (at times) at a price that does not reflect their original investment. We ask for pure intention and truthful engagement. We must see the value attachment at each point of the supply chain
NC: What should attendees of the “Marutlulle + C/O Conversations” look forward to?
A debate that will stretch their minds, challenge some of their belief systems. This will be an opportunity to engage with people in the field who have had experience in challenging this creative leakage, some great tasting bites and bubbly. Additionally, they have access to a university of knowledge, from people who, on the ordinary, would charge top dollar to engage – yet have chosen to share freely of their knowledge and time. They will get to engage with other folks who may or may not share their view – so they will learn, share and grow.
To get your tickets and join Sizakele Marutlulle and a host of bright design and creativity stars at the “Marutlulle + C/O Conversations”, email email@example.com