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OPINION | SA is finally making waves internationally, but we need to celebrate our own wins first

African artists shouldn't need international acclaim to get the praise they deserve

12 April 2021 - 07:00 By deepika naidoo
Nandi Madida won over global audiences with her role as Nala in Beyonce's 'Black is King'.
Nandi Madida won over global audiences with her role as Nala in Beyonce's 'Black is King'.
Image: Nandi_madida/Facebook

SA may be basking in our most recent international accolades, but we mustn’t forget to always put African interests first.

It’s been an incredibly beautiful experience watching SA stars prosper on the world stage over the last few months.  

Mzansi was featured in Black Is King last year. Beyoncé’s visual album, interpreted from Disney's The Lion King, saw many of the country's biggest names, including Mary Twala, Warren Masemola, Nandi Madida, Nyaniso Dzedze and Connie Chiume appear in the film.

Given that The Lion King is an African story, it’s heartwarming to know that SA faces were able to help tell a story inspired by the continent.

And 2021 kicked off with even more international star power.

Black Coffee and Sho Madjozi saw their faces on New York billboards, Diddy and Usher were jamming out to Focalistic and Kabza de Small's hits, Nomzamo Mbatha killed it in the film Coming 2 America, and Thuso Mbedu became the first female South African to lead a US TV series in the upcoming Amazon Prime Video project The Underground Railroad.

DJ Prince Kaybee’s Uwrongo made waves, featuring on former US president Barack Obama’s list of favourite music in 2020.

I’d rather sacrifice my international dream for the African progress
Prince Kaybee

While perusing reactions to our global success, it was good to see fellow South Africans show their support and praise for artists securing the bag.

But we shouldn’t let the US falling for our charms cloud the truth: we don’t need international recognition to know that we Africans are highly talented and skilled artists.

As much as it is wonderful to lap up the glory of seeing SA talent on the global stage, it shouldn’t take an international break for our artists to be praised.

Speaking about her own international wins, Queen Sono's Pearl Thusi once said she felt she only received local appreciation after achieving international recognition. 

It has often taken someone with clout and star power to say something about one of our own before we chime in with praise. We should be able to recognise musicians, actors and artists in general for their skill set without being told by some Hollywood bigwig that they are worthy of our support.

It’s easy to lose sight of what may happen if we draw all our attention to international wins: our small and local achievements may be overlooked. With all the international buzz about Africa, we have forgotten that our achievements on home soil are just as valid, if not more, of a reason to support local.

SA may be a hot and happening destination now, but this could change and we could in future be “forgotten” by the US like the rest of the global south. Hollywood is synonymous with “trends” - either setting or following them. Though SA has managed to capture the international audience's attention over the past few months, who’s to say that Africa won’t get stale soon.

Thus, you are on your own, Africa.

As much as the name we are making for ourselves may one day precede us, we could very easily get pushed to the side. African stars like Davido and Burna Boy have fought long and hard for a seat at the table, but not everyone can cement themselves in the music industry like multimillionaire Akon.

We shouldn’t measure our worth by international standards

In an age of seeking validation from the rest of the world, we should be turning out attention to the continent to celebrate ourselves and our achievements. Not just the wins that score us our name in lights, but the beauty of our art and putting Mzansi first.

Earlier this year, Kaybee was fair when driving home the point that “local is lekker”. The star said he doesn’t concern himself with overseas musicians when his fellow artists at home are struggling to make ends meet.

“I’d rather sacrifice my international dream for African progress,” he said.

This should ring true with all of us. African progress and focusing on our achievements alone will prove that this continent is more than worthy of the praise that is yet to come.

Africa is the wave. African art needs more support from local fans who are on a journey of self-love with our continent. 

We should be the first to hype up our talent, not wait for someone with clout to tell us something we already know: we are worthy.