Courtesy of the Cheeky Natives.

Meet the Dynamic Lawyer-Doctor Duo Behind the Riveting Cheeky Natives Podcast

Letlhogonolo Mokgoroane and Alma-Nalisha Cele speak about their Afrocentric podcast and the value of creative work in South Africa.

If a Black author has just released a new book, best believe the Cheeky Natives will be featuring them on their podcast. More than just your run-of-the-mill book review, what fans love about the podcast is how unapologetic and steadfast it is in terms of its personal politics and the canon of critical engagements it wants to create around Black literature. The duo is not afraid to vacillate between treading in the uncomfortable and sometimes painful spaces of the Black narrative and having sheer unadulterated fun. The engagement that is offered on the podcast is frankly not being offered elsewhere and this is precisely why it continues to grow with fans engaging meaningfully with the podcast on social media.

Letlhogonolo Mokgoroane and Alma-Nalisha Cele, legal scholar and medical doctor respectively, have featured authors including Nozizwe Jele, Panashe Chigumadzi, Mohale Mashigo, Siya Khumalo and Darnell Moore (among many others). What stands out about this podcast is how authors can speak about their recent works in a refreshing way that allows their readers to experience them in a way they never could have imagined.

Letlhogonolo and Alma are not interested in tired tropes of Black people not because according to them, and rightly so: "We read because we have always read. We read because some of our oldest universities are found on this continent. It's not a new thing for Africans to read."

We sat down to talk to the duo about why they do what they do and where they see their podcast going in the future.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What is the Cheeky Natives for those who perhaps may not know?

Alma: The Cheeky Natives is a literary platform. It started off as a literary podcast, but in many spaces, it's become a literary platform for the critical appraisal of Black literature. It's important that we emphasize Black literature because what we want to do is create a canon of critical engagements of Black worth that exist outside of the gaze that reduces Black people's worth.

Many kids growing up know of Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton, but not many Black authors. Was that something that also fed into establishing the podcast?

Letlhogonolo: I think Alma and I both have read throughout our lives. Because we've been such bibliophiles, we obviously read Black authors much earlier than when we started the podcast. But what essentially happened was that we used to go to book fairs or book launches and be the only two people effectively in conversation with the author. I think from there on, we realized that nobody was critically appraising or discussing literature like we were doing.

Letlhogonolo, what has been maybe your top two favorite podcasts so far?

One of my favorite podcasts was with Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw. Kimberlé Crenshaw is my intellectual hero and so getting to be in conversation with her was a pivotal moment in my own life as a legal scholar. It's since been a podcast that's been prescribed in universities, graduate studies and used in theses.

My other favorite podcast was a podcast with Darnell L. Moore who wrote No Ashes in the Fire. It's one of my favorite podcasts because it was two Black queer men talking about queerness, one in America and one in South Africa. I enjoyed the intimacy with which we were able to converse across continents.

And your two favourite podcasts Alma?

I think one of my favorites has been Dudu Busani-Dube. I remember that podcast so clearly, because there was such a variety of women there and I'm like, "Here's this Black woman telling a story that this variety of Black women can all relate to."

My other favorite podcast was also one of our most fun podcasts to do was Pumza Shabangu. It was so fun! She wrote Unspoken Truths. It's erotica about Black South African women and so it's not unrealistic.

There's a sentiment that Black people don't read or they don't support each other's works, and yet, when there is a book launch or the Abantu Book Festival, there are so many Black people. Why do you think this sentiment is still prevalent?

Alma: Tony Morrison speaks about race as being so pervasive and a distraction. White people will say that you don't have a language and so you spend 30 years archiving and dissecting it to prove that you do have a language. Black people have been writing our stories forever. We read because we have always read. We read because some of our oldest universities are found on this continent. It's not a new thing for Africans to read.

There are people who share PDF versions of books and claim it's okay so long as it's not for 'commercial purposes'. I believe that's BS. What do you say to that?

Alma: It's literal theft. I have such strong feelings about this. And we say this on every podcast, "Please buy the book. Don't be asking the author for a PDF version." You hear Black authors talk about the kind of budgets that they get for their marketing and how a large part of that is based on how many of their books sell. And so curiously, you could be widely read, but not widely bought because you're being widely distributed. This obviously has an impact on your next book or your ability to negotiate your next book deal. It all speaks to this culture of not appreciating the arts as critical work and therefore one can just say, "But this is for home purposes."

Letlhogonolo: Some of the people who use the poverty and inequality argument are the same people who are well able to go buy a bottle of Hennessy that costs R400 and they're fine with that. Yet the same people are like, "Yeah, but books are expensive." Okay, but alcohol is expensive yet you're willing to share your hard-earned money on alcohol but you don't want to support Black authors.

The state of public libraries in this country is honestly appalling. How do we go about changing that?

Alma: It's very frustrating. Public libraries are very important because in many ways they can act as a bridge. Interacting with literature forces you to think in ways that are outside of your comfort zone and outside of the ways that you are used to thinking. We are depriving poor children of being able to do that.

Letlhogonolo: It feels like a grave injustice but it's not, however, outside of this country's attitudes towards books. It ends up feeling like reading and learning are luxuries. And because we are constantly in survival mode, you just need to get through. From that kind of space, it makes it very difficult to then have these kinds of conversations, because how do you make the argument of a book versus a working toilet? We can't even appreciate art for what it is without wanting or having to reduce it to a question of survival.

There are people I've spoken to who don't read books or even articles. They've said they get everything they need from Twitter. What do you say to that growing culture?

Alma: It's a little bit disturbing. We live in an age wherein people are afraid to say, "I don't know and therefore, I cannot comment on this." We need to get to a point where we have a maturity, as a country that loves to debate, to say, "Look, I'm not well-informed. I'm not well-versed on the subject. Can I do some research and get back to you?" It's really concerning to hear someone speak from the depths of ignorance and more so with so much confidence. And then you ask what critical work they've done before making certain comments and they say, "No, these are my feelings."

At the same time, they're not one to be called out on that same social media. Accountability is a massive thing for me because even some of our favorite theorists sometimes get it wrong.

Our faves can be very problematic. On that note, how did you feel when Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was invited to our beloved Abantu Book Festival?

Alma: I want to start by saying it's challenging. I think that for a lot of people, she is very important because of what she's done for African Literature in the West. For a lot of people, it was like meeting their idol. Honestly, if you were against her in that moment, it wasn't safe for you. It was a gathering of people who were excited.

Letlhogonolo: Alma and I had very lengthy conversations about it because we were deciding whether we wanted to have her on our podcast or not, and I was talking to Alma about our brand as the Cheeky Natives, it's great to have such a prolific writer come on, but for our personal politics, it's not. So, we need to hold onto our personal politics and ensure that Cheeky Natives is also political in the work that it does.

What are some of the things you guys are really looking forward to doing on your podcast?

Alma: Leaving our jobs and earning money from the podcast! So if anyone is reading, listening, whatever to this, and wants to give us money, we are ready and waiting.

Letlhogonolo: Joking aside, I think it's just becoming bigger and better. The books that are coming out. So, we're also excited to speak to people that we haven't spoken to before, speak to writers that we haven't spoken to before. We'd love build a Cheeky Natives book store and soundproof booth so when we're recording in the booth, the audience is over there, and have a live recording.

Alma: It's all to create excitement about literature again. Books are fun things.

News Brief
Photo Credit: Getty

South African Protests Breakout Over Uganda’s Anti-LGBTQ+ Law

South Africans swarmed the streets of Pretoria and Cape Town to protest Uganda’s recent LGBTQ ban.

A crowd of South Africans swarmed the streets of Pretoria and Cape Town to protest Uganda’s new controversial law concerning the LGBTQ+ community on Friday (March 31). During their protest on Friday, South African allies called on Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni, not to sign off on the law.

According to Reuters, there were about 100 at the demonstration at Pretoria, which took place outside the United Nations Information Centre. Papa De DeLovie Kwagala, one of the protesters on the scene, and Ugandan LGBTQ rights activist said:

"World leaders should put pressure on Museveni to not sign the bill because it's not only a Ugandan issue, it is an African continent issue."

South Africans protest Uganda's anti-LGBTQ lawwww.youtube.com

Earlier in March, Uganda lawmakers passed a law that would make it illegal for people to openly claim to be affiliated with the LGBTQ+ community. Although Uganda is one of the numerous African countries that have declared same-sex relationships illicit, it would be the first country to legally ban identifying as LGBTQ+.

If it is set in motion, Uganda’s new law will subject members of the LGBTQ+ to closer scrutiny, and life imprisonment. The East African country’s legislature will also target people who aid and abet homosexuality.

South Africa has had a long history of LGBTQ+ activism. In 1994, it became the first country in Africa—and the fifth in the world—to legalize same-sex marriage. In spite of its allyship, South African LGBTQ+ members also face discrimination and violence.

In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of protests by the LGBTQ+ community in South Africa. In 2021, members of the community spoke out about the increasing homophobic attacks that they were receiving.

News Brief
Photo By Sean Zanni:Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Trevor Noah To Host Prime Video's First South African Show

Trevor Noah is teaming up with Prime Video to Release the a new South African Show Called ‘LOL: Last One Laughing.'

Trevor Noah is taking his comedic chops to Prime Video with LOL: Last One Laughing, a six-episode stand-up comedy competition series that will be released in 2024.

Noah will be hosting the show, which will feature 10 South African comedians competing to see who can keep a straight face the longest while also trying to make their opponent laugh. The comedians will be given a list of challenges and scenarios in which they must maintain a stoic expression. Each episode will end with the "Last One Laughing" taking home a cash prize of 1 million Rand. LOL: Last One Laughing will be Prime Video’s first South African Original. And with Noah’s sharp wit and comedic acumen at the helm, it will be interesting to see LOL: Last One Laughing come to life in South Africa.

In a statement released to Variety, Noah said:

“I’m excited to be back home to host Prime Video’s first South African Original, LOL: Last One Laughing, and to have a chance to connect with my home audience... I am equally delighted for the opportunity to be working alongside my fellow home-grown comedy stars on a show that not only entertains but gives back to the South African production and charity communities.”

Ned Mitchell, head of Africa and Middle East Originals at Amazon also spoke highly of the upcoming show.

“Comedy, in all its forms, shines among South Africa’s most valuable treasures. Together with an A-list roster of this country’s incredible home-grown comedic talent competing for a great charitable cause,” Mitchell said. “Trevor and Prime Video are demonstrating the depth of our shared ambition to invest and elevate the very best of South Africa for audiences locally and around the world.”
Music Brief
Image courtesy of We Talk Sound

Davido's 'Timeless' is Getting Rave Reviews on Social Media

The Nigerian singer's first full project in three years has reminded fans why he's one of the best in the game.

Nigerian Afrobeats champion Davidoreleased his highly anticipated fourth studio album Timeless on Friday, and the world is already eating it up. The singer-songwriter's project has set numerous records in the less than 24 hours since its release, namely being the first African album to hit No. 2 on Apple Music's Top Albums chart, as well as hitting over seven million streams in the 20 hours since it was released on African-focused Boomplay.

The 17-track album boasts a variety of features and sounds that highlight the journey the singer has taken over his 11-year career and has pleased fans across the spectrum and the world. Davido called on Beninese legend Angelique Kidjo, Nigerians Asake, The Cavemen, as well as new Davido Music Worldwide signees Morravey and Logos Olori to bring life to the well-received album. Musical comrades Lojay, Ckay, Mayorkun, and more have all taken to their socials to share their support for the singer and his delectable release.

When the album dropped, the singer reached out to his fans via Instagram writing: "At long last – WE are back. The journey from my last album to this album has been a whirlwind, to say the least. I recall sitting and staring over the ocean not too long ago, wondering if I could get here again, after all I’ve been through… but with your love and support, we made it. I’m not sure what comes after this but I wanted to give you my heart, soul, and energy. Today I present you “TIMELESS". ⏳"

The singer's release set the internet ablaze as fans shared their reactions with each other online

Image courtesy of Oyinkansola Dada/Okra Agency

Oyinkansola Dada Is Mastering The Art of Discussing Art

OkayAfrica sat down with the Nigerian lawyer and gallerist to discuss the blossoming African art scene and the ingenuity it offers the world at large.

At just 26 years old, Oyinkansola Dada is creating the art world of her dreams.

Named one of Forbes’s 30 under 30 in its 2023 Arts & Culture category, the young Nigerian gallerist is stoking the flames of the international art world as she spotlights African artists, and marches the continent’s blossoming creative scene to center stage. Dada is a full-time solicitor, and part-time gallerist living in London after having moved there from Lagos, Nigeria to pursue a law degree at King’s College London. While waiting to convert to training as a Solicitor, Dada moved back to Nigeria to surrender to the energy of homecoming and explore Nigeria’s emerging art scene.

Now, the emerging art mover and shaker is connecting continents, both in person and through her online art publication, DADA Magazine, an art collector’s dream dedicated to highlighting the unfathomable talent found in the motherland.

A woman holds a copy of DADA Magazine and stands in front of a painting in a gallery. Image courtesy of Oyinkansola Dada/Okra Agency

POLARTICS and a London law degree

Dada began her ascent into the art world in 2015, when she started her online art blog POLARTICS, while in her second year of law school. “It became a very fundamental part of how things grew into what they’ve become,” she told OkayAfrica. “I wrote about art, politics, and the literature that I was reading and just sort of shared my thoughts on the things that I liked. And then I’d post it." The exposure saw Dada seek out more opportunities to engage with the art world by attending exhibitions, shows, and museums to get a keener understanding of the people behind the creations. Perhaps one of the most underrated gifts that exploring art can give is the tendency to trigger a rediscovering of self — something that Dada can speak to. “It was also a very important time in my life because I started to understand Blackness and my identity,” she said. “Moving to London after living in Nigeria, and what that felt like, and really understanding my place in the world. That was the beginning of everything.”

This introduction was enough to inspire Dada to use her experience to carve out physical space for all of the Black and African creators she connects with along the way. Presently, DADA Museum’s first manifestation sits in London on a temporary basis. “We don’t have to hold the space all year long. So, it’s not quite permanent, but it’s still a physical space,” the gallerist said. Next on the agenda is carving out a permanent gallery in Lagos to fully embrace and house Nigeria’s buzzing art scene. The benefits of an online gallery are great, but, as Dada puts it, “With art, a lot is lost by looking at images”. The young solicitor’s recipe for prioritizing community engagement and support seems to be one made for success. Dada’s bi-continental experiences have given her a certain advantage— assimilating to the needs of two markets and cultures that undeniably bleed into one another.

Spending time between the two bustling cities guided and championed Dada’s decision to create a physical space in Lagos, hopefully opening up later this year. The city is home to a community of artists that has galvanized Dada’s desire to emerge fully into developing and nurturing the talent that is so often overlooked. “It just feels like home to me,” she says, “It’s more personal.” And the importance of community sits at the heart of Dada’s “why”, as the gallery owner explains, “Apart from selling art or finding collectors, physical spaces and exhibitions are sites of engagement and for building community. I think for an artist to grow, both in their practice and in their career, it's very important for them to engage with people in person and let them see the work with their own eyes. London presents chances for expansion because there’s a lot happening in terms of market activity. Although there are amazing artists in Lagos, we also need international exposure.”

DADA Magazine

Staying close to her roots ingrained in the internet, the curator launched DADA Magazine in December 2022, highlighting the maturation and artistic exposure that Dada has experienced since her first online-based project POLARTICS. “I thought there was a gap, in terms of art magazines and representation of Black artists, and I wanted to fill it.” Dada favored extending the conversations beyond seasonal exhibitions, creating a community of engaged audiences who could interact with one another all year round. “It’s something that anybody can buy, at any point,” Dada said. “I also wanted some sort of knowledge bank and archive for younger collectors and art enthusiasts that are trying to figure out and demystify the art scene. It’s not a magazine that’s hard to understand or too critical.”

The relationship between African artists and the internet has been shown to be mutually beneficial. Having an online presence offers interconnectedness and the ability to be discovered outside of an artist’s own space, something Dada has witnessed firsthand. The discovery of new cultures and artistic approaches isn’t just set for international audiences, either. Africa is home to a myriad of styles, ideologies, and crafts, and Dada continues to learn and grow alongside her company in understanding the range and reach. “It has been eye-opening to experience things that are just so different from where I’m from and to be able to travel. It’s been good to come out of the bubble of what I understand. I think a lot of times people think that their reality is the only one that exists.”

A DADA Magazine cover. Image courtesy of Oyinkansola Dada/Okra Agency

Dada bases a lot of her work and outreach and an inherent desire to build community

Her wildest dream for the continent and industry lies in something that comes naturally to Africans — community. To center ourselves and rid Africans of the historically compromising act of participation. A world where artists on and from the continent can be self-sufficient, with the support of institutions that affirm creators, collectors, and galleries in their pursuit of personal and professional success. Too often, African stories of triumph become stronger the further away you get from home. Although Dada is still a full-time lawyer, the decision to pivot toward the art world did not initially sit well with her family. “In the beginning, there wasn’t any support, so I had to do a lot of it on my own, with the assistance of any other artists who were willing to take a chance. I would have liked to get an art degree, but it just wasn’t a possibility.” And then, the Universe stepped in: “I got funding from the firm that I was working with while at law school. I was able to save money and plant the first seeds of the business. That’s how I was able to get started otherwise it wouldn’t have been possible.”

Arguably, rejecting creative education or careers is a common theme within generations of Africans. And it makes sense. Many are forced to make those choices based on survival, not passion. However, as institutions grow – in both funding and their ability to offer serviceable degrees and experiences – so will the tolerance for those who are artistically inclined. “It needs to be seen as something that’s valubale,”, Dada says. “An actual career path. Then, I think people would be more incentivized to let their children do it.” As we continue to see ourselves in positions of power and leadership, the reality of what is achievable widens for those who look like us.

Issue #1 of Dada Magazine is available for £29.95.

A DADA Magazine cover showing a man painted gold.

Image courtesy of Oyinkansola Dada/Okra Agency

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