Still taken from YouTube - 'Jerusalema' music video.

Master KG and Nomcebo Zikode pictured above.

The 'Jerusalema' Phenomenon Shows Africa's Trendsetting Abilities

'Don't forget this is the continent that gave the world many firsts,' Moky Makura writes while reflecting on the international impact of Master KG and Nomcebo Zikode's anthemic track 'Jerusalema'.

Written by South African producer and DJ Master KG with vocalist Nomcebo Zikode, "Jerusalema" started life as a rhythmic South African gospel track, and grew with the addition of the Nigerian Afrobeats star Burna Boy's voice. It then raced to every corner of the globe in the form of the #jerusalemadancechallenge. Master KG attributed the moves in the dance to a group of Angolan fans who put together a candid video, which quickly reached Portugal given their colonial connection and spread from there.

READ: South African Artist Master KG's 2019 Hit Single 'Jerusalema' is Going Viral Globally

In my mid-20s, I tried very hard to look like 80's pop icon Grace Jones - remember her? My height, my colour and my cheekbones helped, but it was really my choice of clothing and of course the distinctive Grace Jones haircut that sealed it.

Back in the good old days, imitation was deemed to be the sincerest form of flattery and I was a fan of the now 72-year-old model, fashionista, actress, singer and all round trendsetter. The very word 'imitate' itself implies there are ideas, images, behaviours, music and dance worth imitating in the first place. So when the South African song "Jerusalema" clocked up nearly 74 million views on YouTube this month and triggered a global dance craze. It was wonderful to see the tacit acknowledgment of African creativity that quite literally moved the world.

The original "Jerusalema" video portrays authentic aspects of township life in South Africa with an energy, rawness and soundtrack that is unapologetically African. It's also incredibly catchy – I defy you to listen to it with moving. Social media soon picked up on it and we saw nuns and monks in France; an Italian and German flash mob; healthworkers in South Africa and a grooving bride and groom in Zimbabwe attempting to perfect the steps that have become ubiquitous along with the song. Soon enough, enterprising YouTubers started offering tutorials and a global movement that started in Africa was launched. The continent, which is so often perceived as being a follower - lacking innovation and creativity - suddenly became a global trend setter.

"The continent, which is so often perceived as being a follower - lacking innovation and creativity - suddenly became a global trend setter."

But the "Jerusalema" phenomenon poses an underlying question for me about why there are so few well-publicised examples of Africans setting trends and leading creative and innovative ideas.

This perception of a lack of creativity and innovation coming out of Africa was confirmed when Africa No Filter conducted some analysis on how global media references the continent. Between 2017 and 2020 the number of mentions of Africa within the context of "creativity" and "innovation" was surprisingly low and has been in decline – especially when compared to references of Africa alongside "corruption" and "conflict". The data shows that media across the world - including on the continent itself - is simply not finding or writing stories of innovation that feature Africa as the protagonist. Hardly surprising, then, that neither term is synonymous with the continent. The challenge is that the prevailing narratives about Africa have no room to include or celebrate trendsetters.

Master KG - Jerusalema [Feat. Nomcebo] (Official Music Video) www.youtube.com

Despite its success, for many "Jerusalema" is an anomaly; a fun distraction from the current pandemic. It's a distraction that feeds the expected and the afro-optimistic narrative of the "singing and dancing African", the sister narrative to the uninformed "Africa is mostly a place of wildlife and nature" perspective.

Yet, I hope that the song's global reach will have some deeper impact. It should at the very least challenge the perception that Africa is only ever a beneficiary of global trends, creativity, innovation and hopefully replace it with the realisation that it's also capable of starting them.

"Don't forget this is the continent that gave the world many firsts."

Don't forget this is the continent that gave the world many firsts: the first numeric system, the earliest calendar, the world's oldest architectural masterpieces, the heart and the penile transplant, and the most successful mobile money platform to date. The challenge is these facts are not easy to find - especially when no one is looking for them.

Although we don't really know the perfect storm of ingredients that trigger global trends, "Jerusalema" unexpectedly captured the global zeitgeist. It could be dismissed as merely a social media moment – and this opinion about it overly analytical – but the song and the dance have provided inspiration for this continent and set the bar for what is possible when we unleash our creativity unfiltered. It's exactly what sparks the desire to imitate.

Moky Makura is the Executive Director of Africa No Filter, an organisation working to shift African narratives by crowding in new, progressive stories about the continent.

Photo: Courtesy of Radswan

Freddie Harrel Is Building Conscious Beauty For and With the African Diaspora

Formerly known as "Big Hair Don't Care", creator Freddie Harrel and her team have released 3 new wig shapes called the "RadShapes" available now.

Photo: Courtesy of Radswan

The normalising of Black and brown women in wigs of various styles has certainly been welcomed by the community, as it has opened up so many creative avenues for Black women to take on leadership roles and make room for themselves in the industry.

Radswan (formerly known as Big Hair Don't Care), is a lifestyle brand "bringing a new perspective on Blackness through hair, by disrupting the synthetic market with innovative and sustainable products." Through their rebrand, Radswan aims to, "upscale the direct-to-consumer experience holistically, by having connected conversations around culture and identity, in order to remove the roots of stigma."

The latest from French-Cameroonian founder and creator Freddie Harrel - who was featured on our list of 100 women of 2020 - has built her career in digital marketing and reputation as an outspoken advocate for women's empowerment. On top of her business ventures, the 2018 'Cosmopolitan Influencer of the Year' uses her platform to advocate for women's empowerment with 'SHE Unleashed,' a workshop series where women of all ages come together to discuss the issues that impact the female experience, including the feeling of otherness, identity politics, unconscious bias, racism and sexism.

And hair is clearly one of her many passions, as Freddie says, "Hair embodies my freest and earliest form of self expression, and as a shapeshifter, I'm never done. I get to forever reintroduce my various angles, tell all my stories to this world that often feels constrained and biased."

Armed with a committee of Black women, Freddie has cultivated Radswan and the aesthetic that comes with the synthetic but luxurious wigs. The wigs are designed to look like as though the hair is growing out of her own head, with matching lace that compliments your own skin colour.

By being the first brand to use recycled fibres, Radswan is truly here to change the game. The team has somehow figured out how to make their products look and feel like the real thing, while using 0% human hair and not negotiating on the price, quality or persona.

In 2019, the company secured £1.5m of investment led by BBG Ventures with Female Founders Fund and Pritzker Private Capital participating, along with angelic contributions from Hannah Bronfman, Nashilu Mouen Makoua, and Sonja Perkins.

On the importance of representation and telling Black stories through the products we create, Freddie says, "Hair to me is Sundays kneeling between your mothers or aunties legs, it's your cousin or newly made friend combing lovingly through your hair, whilst you detangle your life out loud. Our constant shapeshifting teaches us to see ourselves in each other, the hands braiding always intimately touching our head more often than not laying someone's lap."

"Big Hair No Care took off in ways we couldn't keep up with," she continues, "RadSwan is our comeback.It's a lifestyle brand, it's the hair game getting an upgrade, becoming fairer and cleaner. It's the platform that recognises and celebrates your identity as a shapeshifter, your individuality and your right to be black like you."

Check out your next hairstyle from Radswan here.

Radswan's RadShape 01Photo: Courtesy of Radswan

Radswan's RadShape 02Photo: Courtesy of Radswan

Radswan's RadShape 03Photo: Courtesy of Radswan

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