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Film Interview South Africa

#YouthMonth sponsored by

#YouthMonth: Yalezo Njuguna, a voice in the contemporary African film and entertainment space

Yalezo Njuguna is a multifaceted creative known for his diverse talents and innovative approach across various artistic disciplines within the contemporary African film and entertainment space.
Yalezo Njuguna. Image supplied
Yalezo Njuguna. Image supplied

With a keen eye for detail and a passion for pushing the boundaries of traditional art forms, Njuguna has taken on multiple hats as a filmmaker, content creator, blogger, podcaster, festival and content curator.

Njuguna has established himself as a versatile artist, seamlessly blending elements of visual art, design, music, and performance. His work often explores themes of cultural identity, human connection, and the transformative power of creativity.

As it currently stands he is the co-founder of media organisations, Enraptured Odyssey and the BAI Foundation.

This #YouthMonth, we find out more...

How did you get into the art of storytelling?

I’ve been immersed in storytelling for as long as I can remember. My parents told me I used to read myself to sleep when I was 3 or 4 years old. I loved being in books and watching movies and cool music videos.

I started writing stories and poetry when I was around seven. Stories have always been a way for me to express myself, my creativity and explore my understanding of the world.

As a multifaceted creative, where do you find your source of inspiration?

My source of inspiration can come anywhere and from everywhere because I have a strong sense of curiosity.

What I can consume often feeds into my creativity; this could be a conversation with friends or strangers, experiencing art from different mediums, watching the news or just going through life.

For me it all feeds into each other when inspiration hits me, the question is more on how I want to express or explore that source of inspiration.

What are some of your influences?

I think because I consume and participate in various forms of media and culture, my influences are highly dependent on what it is that I’m trying to make and the purpose of it.

For example, as a cultural producer, I’m fascinated by how podcasts like Business Wars make the history of big businesses really come alive in an imaginative way that plays with your senses at specific moments.

I can go to a film or cultural festival and be influenced by how they choose to curate their programmes and conversations and then see how I can tweak that to make it more authentic to the experiences I want to provide.

The same things with film and television, genre-bending and culturally capturing pieces of work like Barry, Everything Everywhere All At Once, Atlanta, Black is King, and Atlantiques all influence me in how they’re able approach and meld different forms of storytelling to get a message across.

You're a co-founder of media organisations Enraptured Odyssey and BAI Foundation. Tell us about this. How and when did the journey begin?

The idea of Enraptured Odyssey, our production company, actually began as a result of me being in the 2015 Magic in Motion Academy, now known as the Multichoice Talent Factory.

Being a part of the Multichoice Talent Factory remains one of the most pivotal and defining chapters of my career as it provided an incredibly comprehensive introduction to what it’s like to be within the South African film and television industry, from soaps to live shows and from writers rooms to commissioning departments.

At the time, it allowed me to develop an incredible respect for our industry on one level and it also instilled a desire to create a space where I could nurture and independently explore my creative voice to tell the stories that I wanted to share with the world, which resulted in Enraptured Odyssey.

The company was officially set up in March 2016 and since then we've produced multiple web series, podcasts, TV films and our first independently funded television series, The Bubbling Culture, which made its international streaming debut on AfroLandTV earlier this year and has since been picked up by more channels and outlets abroad.

When my business partner and I did market research for our first web series in 2017, we realised there weren’t many spaces centred on promoting or depthfully spotlighting independent youth storytellers.

We then realised that many of the young storytelling talent, within the African film and entertainment space who were telling their own stories, were doing so within the digital space.

As we engaged more with the space it became clear there weren’t many spaces that fostered community for youth and digital creatives who were still establishing their voices and so, as an initiative to help address just that, the BAI Showcase was created in 2018.

Yalezo Njuguna and Thembalethu Mfebe at BAI Heatseekers. Image supplied
Yalezo Njuguna and Thembalethu Mfebe at BAI Heatseekers. Image supplied

It is a place where youth and digital creatives could come to showcase their works to an audience of their peers and the general public that has grown into a fully-fledged foundation. Now, on top of showcases we also facilitate masterclasses, business development talks and workshops - aimed at skills and industry development to better equip the independent sector to be sustainable.

In April 2024 we successfully launched our first two-weekend festival, BAI Heatseekers, which encompasses all of that and a bit more within our programme, and we will be coming back next year for our second edition.

Africa is so vast in cultures. When it comes to your work, what makes you stand out?

Part of what makes our work stand out is that we are comprehensively trying to expand the ecosystem for how African stories can be engaged and to provide more spaces that acknowledge the scope of stories that can and are already, being made by young and cosmopolitan African voices.

There are two things about my current work that really define our current ethos:

Firstly, our work continually focuses on stories centred on exploring what it means to be a contemporary African youth growing up in a globally accessible world.

Image supplied
Image supplied

Secondly - and this point is specific to our media and festival work - we are also committed to providing nuanced images of what competence can look like as a young African creative practitioner trying to find and develop themselves within a South African or wider African context.

Many African youth, here and within the diaspora, have entered worlds where consideration and representation for what it means to be an African or Black youth have been scarce; whether you’re talking about making films, becoming a creative executive or documenting alternative experiences that come with being what we are.

These same African youth are doing this in a time, where on a global scale, the world is actively experiencing what it means to enter and contribute to a digitally building society.

Our goal is to leave stories, images and resources that can help reflect that experience for this generation of youth that can also leave something behind for the next generation of youth to build on, because our current references more often than not haven’t been our own.

Through his unique vision and dynamic projects, Yalezo Njuguna continues to inspire and captivate audiences, and make a significant impact in the creative world.

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