Youth and Freedom According to Young South Africans

We asked young South Africans “what is youth?" Here’s how they responded.

Freedom, like youth, is a precarious thing. As young South Africans we're told we are free and equal. In reality, it feels like we've been sold a dream, a dream that lacks context. We spend our days and nights trying to give the dream context, trying to make sense of our freedom, of our youth. We go to events like the Basha Uhuru Freedom Festival in the hopes of validating the dream by sharing experiences of freedom with other young people. Myself and photographer Siya Mkhasibe asked young South Africans at last month's Basha Uhuru fest in Johannesburg "What is youth?" Here’s how they responded.

What is youth?

Photo: Siya Mkhasibe Photo: Siya Mkhasibe

"The youth are depressed and hungry. As artists we’re barely surviving, we’re not given what we deserve. We’re not given the support. We need to support each other and that’s the solution to many of our problems. That’s why we’re here supporting other bands. Also, ignorance adds to the problems so we need to learn to do better. We realise that the change begins with us as individuals."

Wazi M. Kunene & Sindiswa Magidla / @WaziMKunene @cindymagidla

Photo: Siya Mkhasibe

"I think youth is or should be about wanting to learn new things all the time and being open to new things, even the things that are uncomfortable. It doesn’t even have anything to do with how old you are, or 'Where were you? Waar was jy?' I think it’s just about staying open and that’s youthful."

Naledi Chai / @fly_machine_sessions

Photo: Siya Mkhasibe

"I think the youth of today are going to change this country for the better. There aren't any rules, so it’s a very interesting time. There aren’t any rules to break even. This are just happening."

Nthabiseng Lethoko

Photo: Siya Mkhasibe

"I think youth is a young energy, but a forward-moving energy. I think it has a lot to do with what you're looking for is the vibrancy and colour that is the youth of South Africa. I mean I think that just comes from the creativity that is dormant within all the children that we actually are. On some level, I think youth is that connectedness that we feel with the young, and when I say the young, it's those that are full of potential and are self-realised in their potential. Youth is a very beautiful feeling, I don’t think it’s necessarily of a specific age, anyone can be youthful. I think we all are youthful. We all have that unlimited potential that we discover every day and what makes us wake up in the morning."

Tubs Saldanha / @tubssaldanha

Photo: Siya Mkhasibe

"Young people are like old people in the sense that we’re all trying to eat, sleep, drink, fuck, and make sense of the world that our parents gave us. It’s difficult, it’s fun, vibrant, awful, crazy creative, but that’s what youth is. The youth are adults trying to make sense of the world. And I suppose adults have stopped trying to search to look to find, whereas young people are still looking, trying to find what it is that makes sense in the world that we live in and the inheritance that we’ve been given."

Andre Saldanha / @dre_saldanha

Photo: Siya Mkhasibe

"It’s the journey that we all on. At this particular age and time, I think that encompasses youth, that we’re all experiencing this together. Here at Constitutional Hill it’s a youthful spirit.

Motherhood as a young person is the most challenging thing I’ve ever felt because I don’t understand it. But everyday I learn to understand its demands and learn to fulfil them. I feel so empowered when I sort out something. Youth and parenthood is interesting. There’s a difference between how our mothers raised us and what we do. Times change, people and experiences change, so you can’t expect the same outcomes when we are all unique."

Kabelo Mofokeng / @coffee_bae

Photo: Siya Mkhasibe

"I’m an adult. How am I youth? I’m 29 so technically I’m a little bit older than youth but I’m still youth instead. Youth isn’t dictated by age, it’s so much more than that."

"Youth is a lie, wait don’t quote me on that."

Elina Namabala / @elinanambala, Millie Tsela / @miss_tsela

Photo: Siya Mkhasibe

"Youth is about being with like-minded people who are free to express themselves and not afraid of saying 'I am African, black young and gifted.' It’s about understanding myself and my roots as an African person and understanding the significance of pro-blackness. It’s a good time to be black. We’re embracing and celebrating it in the way we wear our hair and express and present ourselves."

Thandeka Mkabela / @thandekamkabela

Photo: Siya Mkhasibe

"I think youth is two-dimensional. There’s the age thing that qualifies you as youth. And then there’s the expression and appreciation of youth, understanding the June 16 uprising. Particularly with #FeesMustFall, it built a connection between young people today and those of ’76."

Mmatsie Meso / @mmatsie1


Introducing OkayAfrica's 100 Women 2020 List

Celebrating African Women Laying the Groundwork for the Future

It would not be hyperbole to consider the individuals we're honoring for OkayAfrica's 100 Women 2020 list as architects of the future.

This is to say that these women are building infrastructure, both literally and metaphorically, for future generations in Africa and in the Diaspora. And they are doing so intentionally, reaching back, laterally, and forward to bridge gaps and make sure the steps they built—and not without hard work, mines of microaggressions, and challenges—are sturdy enough for the next ascent.

In short, the women on this year's list are laying the groundwork for other women to follow. It's what late author and American novelist Toni Morrison would call your "real job."

"I tell my students, 'When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else."

And that's what inspired us in the curation of this year's list. Our honorees use various mediums to get the job done—DJ's, fashion designers, historians, anthropologists, and even venture capitalists—but each with the mission to clear the road ahead for generations to come. Incredible African women like Eden Ghebreselassie, a marketing lead at ESPN who created a non-profit to fight energy poverty in Eritrea; or Baratang Miya, who is quite literally building technology clubs for disadvantaged youth in South Africa.

There are the builds that aren't physically tangible—movements that inspire women to show up confidently in their skin, like Enam Asiama's quest to normalize plus-sized bodies and Frédérique (Freddie) Harrel's push for Black and African women to embrace the kink and curl of their hair.

And then there are those who use their words to build power, to take control of the narrative, and to usher in true inclusion and equity. Journalists, (sisters Nikki and Lola Ogunnaike), a novelist (Oyinkan Braithwaite), a media maven (Yolisa Phahle), and a number of historians (Nana Oforiatta Ayim, Leïla Sy) to name a few.

In a time of uncertainty in the world, there's assuredness in the mission to bring up our people. We know this moment of global challenge won't last. It is why we are moving forward to share this labor of love with you, our trusted and loyal audience. We hope that this list serves as a beacon for you during this moment—insurance that future generations will be alright. And we have our honorees to thank for securing that future.


The annual OkayAfrica 100 Women List is our effort to acknowledge and uplift African women, not only as a resource that has and will continue to enrich the world we live in, but as a group that deserves to be recognized, reinforced and treasured on a global scale. In the spirit of building infrastructure, this year's list will go beyond the month of March (Women's History Month in America) and close in September during Women's Month in South Africa.

100 women 2020

Burna Boy 'African Giant' money cover art by Sajjad.

The 20 Essential Burna Boy Songs

We comb through the Nigerian star's hit-filled discography to select 20 essential songs from the African Giant.

Since bursting onto the scene in 2012 with his chart-topping single, "Like to Party," and the subsequent release of his debut album, L.I.F.E - Leaving an Impact for eternity, Burna Boy has continued to prove time and again that he is a force to be reckoned with.

The African Giant has, over the years, built a remarkable musical identity around the ardent blend of dancehall, hip-hop, reggae, R&B, and afropop to create a game-changing genre he calls afro-fusion. The result has been top tier singles, phenomenal collaborations, and global stardom—with several accolades under his belt which include a Grammy nomination and African Giant earning a spot on many publications' best albums of 2019.

We thought to delve into his hit-filled discography to bring you The 20 Essential Burna Boy Songs.

This list is in no particular order.

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Justice Mukheli. Courtesy of Black Major/Bongeziwe Mabandla.

Interview: Bongeziwe Mabandla's New Album Is a Calm Meditation On Relationships

We speak with the South African artist about his captivating new album, iimini, love cycles, and the unexpected influence of Bon Iver.

"I've been playing at home for so many years and pretending to be having shows in my living room, and today it's actually happening," Bongeziwe Mabandla says, smiling out at me from my cellphone as I watch him play songs on Instagram Live, guitar close to his chest.

Two weekends ago, Mabandla was meant to be celebrating the release of his third album, iimini, at the Untitled Basement in Braamfontein in Joburg, which would no doubt have been packed with some of the many fans the musician has made since his debut release, Umlilo, in 2012. With South Africa joining many other parts of the world in a lockdown, those dates were cancelled and Mabandla, like many other artists, took to social media to still play some tracks from the album. The songs on iimini are about the life and death of a relationship—songs that are finding their way into the hearts of fans around the world, some of whom, now stuck in isolation, may be having to confront the ups and downs of love, with nowhere to hide.

The day before his Instagram Live mini-show, Mabandla spoke to OkayAfrica on lockdown from his home in Newtown about the lessons he's learned from making the album, his new-found love for Bon Iver, and how he's going to be spending his time over the next few weeks.

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Lueking Photos. Courtesy of emPawa Africa.

Interview: GuiltyBeatz Proves He's Truly 'Different'

The Ghanaian producer talks to us about his debut EP, Different, the massive success of "Akwaaba," producing for Beyoncé and more.

GuiltyBeatz isn't a new name in the Ghanaian music scene. A casual music fan's first introduction to him would've likely been years ago on "Sample You," one of Mr Eazi's early breakout hits. However, he had scored his first major hit two years before that, in the Nigerian music space on Jesse Jagz' and Wizkid's 2013 hit "Bad Girl." In the years to come, the producer has gone on to craft productions for some of Ghana's most talented artists.

In the years to come, the producer has gone on to craft productions for some of Ghana's most talented artists, having worked with the likes of Efya, Pappy Kojo, Sarkodie, R2Bees, Stonebwoy, Bisa Kdei, Wande Coal, Moelogo and many more over the last decade. The biggest break of the talented producer's career, however, came with the arrival of his own single "Akwaaba".

In 2018, GuiltyBeatz shared "Akwaaba" under Mr Eazi's Banku Music imprint, shortly afterwards the song and its accompanying dance went viral. The track and dance graced party floors, music & dance videos, and even church auditoriums all around the world, instantly making him one of Africa's most influential producers. Awards, nominations, and festival bookings followed the huge success of "Akwaaba." Then, exactly a year later, the biggest highlight of his career so far would arrive: three production credits on Beyoncé's album The Lion King: The Gift.

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