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

Photo: Benoit Peverelli

Interview: Oumou Sangaré Proves Why She's the Songbird of Wassoulou

We caught up with the Malian singer to talk about her new Acoustic album, longevity as an artist, and growing up in Mali.

When Oumou Sangaré tells me freedom is at her core, I am not surprised. If you listen to her discography, you'll be hard-pressed to find a song that doesn't center or in some way touch on women's rights or child abuse. The Grammy award-winning Malian singer has spent a significant part of her career using her voice to fight for the rights of women across Africa and the world, a testimony to this is her naming her debut studio album Moussolou, meaning Woman. The album, a pure masterpiece that solidified Oumou's place amongst the greats and earned her the name 'Songbird of Wassoulou,' was a commercial success selling over 250,000 records in Africa and would in turn go on to inspire other singers across the world.

On her latest body of work Acoustic, a reworking of her critically acclaimed 2017 album Mogoya, Oumou Sangaré proves how and why she earned her accolades. The entirety of the 11-track album was recorded within two days in the Midi Live studio in Villetaneuse in 'live' conditions—with no amplification, no retakes or overdubs, no headphones. Throughout the album, using her powerful and raw voice that has come to define feminism in Africa and shaped opinions across the continent, Oumou boldly addresses themes like loss, polygamy and female circumcision.

We caught up with the Malian singer at the studio she is staying while in quarantine to talk about her new album, longevity as an artist, and growing up in Mali.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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