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The Rise of Indie Curators

The social media space has become a wonderful domain for independent content curators, Kagiso Mnisi writes, some of whom are celebrated for their ability to engage authentically with members of their generation.

In the age of information overshare, true value lies in curated content. The careful sourcing, selection and cutting down to show what really matters is the Holy Grail sought by corporations and media publications.

Of course, the packaging and presentation of ideas is bound to struggle with contextualising the times we live in, especially when the content curation is paid for by a brand. While a standard android phone, for example, offers a world of pre-loaded content such as games, e-education and movies, the mobile phone, heralded as the 21st century’s version of the steam engine for its far-reaching impact on society, often barely reflects the lives of those to whom its pre-loaded content is marketed.

This has left non-aligned voices to claim the lion’s share of relevance and social capital. The social media space has become a wonderful domain for independent content curators, some of whom are celebrated for their ability to engage their generation. If the abundance of lists on websites and newspapers detailing the achievements of this crop of young creatives on the rise is anything to go by, then the solo content curator is pretty close to royalty.

Pitted against the big-budget corporation, the individual content creator taps into the current zeitgeist, which is concerned with feminism, challenging patriarchy, institutional racism and a host of other conversation drivers that keep social media alive. The sole content curator’s ability to offer value almost posits him or her as an oracle in an augmented reality where the invention of self is perpetual. 

The world is finally listening

Yolanda Willie, a blogger, social media maven and editor of Twenty Mag https://twitter.com/TWENTY_MAG, says the world is finally listening to her generation. “The world is finally starting to realise and acknowledge that we have voices and opinions of our own and that our voices and opinions matter. I think it is great seeing women standing up and being vocal about their stories, experiences, etc, without feeling embarrassed or ashamed.”

Platforms such as Facebook, Google and Twitter turn human data into a commodity and sell it to research companies, who in turn peddle it to the marketers of big corporations. Nevertheless, even with troves of data, there is almost no meaningful engagement with what different demographics are consuming. This is evident in how the largely white liberal-owned advertising industry battles to portray the black condition in both its honest and complex forms.

Yolanda Willie, blogger, social media maven and editor of Twenty Mag
Yolanda Willie, blogger, social media maven and editor of Twenty Mag

Tshegofatso Senne, a podcaster and the founder of the blog www.mbongomuffin.com, which gives voice to the modern-day feminist, says, “There needs to be a conscious effort to tell our stories holistically, and not just the exceptional ones.” The one-dimensional idea of ‘Black Girl Magic Everything’, which perpetually foregrounds victory, is a singular story, says Senne. “The regular girls are worthy of being celebrated too; it would be incredible to see more stories that speak to that. We are all human and we need stories we can relate to.”

Elaborating on the possibilities of making mainstream stories more personal and accessible, Senne says, “I would also love to see more women on screen teaching us how to take care of ourselves. I’m a firm believer in self-care – nap, lots of naps – and I’m always keen to learn how else I can take care of myself, love myself and learn to appreciate myself.”

The social media space has become ubiquitous and it possesses a multitude of nodes that interconnect and narratives that overlap. In the case of the South African millennial, it not only serves as a tool of communication but it also aligns the beliefs of a generation. Typical of this is Bafentse Ntlokoa’s maxim that “social media can be likened to an alternate existence where we manifest our incarnations and the philosophies that come with it.” The poet and blogger extraordinaire (http://afro-faerie.tumblr.com/) further says, “If I have a dream or an aspiration posted on Facebook and other people like it, it serves as communion that an entire community vests energy into.”

Creative Nestlings

Convergence in this augmented digital space has bred an environment where peer-to-peer commerce can thrive. Enter Dillon Phiri and his partner Lunga Mateta-Phiri, the founders of the platform Creative Nestlings. As an active network of young African creatives on the continent and diaspora working together to foster collaboration, the space has the malleability of an influencer both online and as a physical space.

According to Phiri, the online and offline space is curated in a way that “caters for young African creatives between the ages of 18 and 35. These are young people who are embarking on careers such as entrepreneurship, art, design, music, architecture, etc, or anyone who is looking for inspiration on what is happening, ideas, resources or events on the continent in terms of creativity and cultural industries.” Creative Nestlings’ intervention also addresses the idea of rights ownership. In a time when black stories continue to be appropriated and extracted for capital gain by media, the ownership of cultural products by the hub’s community of creatives is a core focus.

The fixation with growing is the main flaw of big corporations. Rather than channelling the quality and relevance of the independent curator’s storytelling, outdated parameters prevail, making it even harder to stand out in the daily avalanche of opposing narratives. Is the crop oblivious to this? Of course not.

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