TAKEZITO makes the move to Directing with Ola! Films

When we met with TAKEZITO we quickly realised that his journey into directing is unlike any other we have come across. For maximum effect please read the following intro in that epic American movie trailer voice…Born to a struggle activist mother, TAKEZITO has an Honours in Economics, Bcom in Business Science, BA Honours in Brand Leadership, a varsity class medal in Anthropology, and was mentored by Prophets of the City rapper Shaheen Ariefdien and founder of Design Indaba, Ravi Naidoo. He went on to become an agency strategist, turned copywriter, turned digital content creator and is quickly carving out a name for himself as a Director with a passion for documenting pop culture in Africa. This is everything you need to know about Ola! Films Director TAKEZITO.

TAKEZITO’s love of music and hip hop culture has seen him working alongside artists such as Cassper Nyovest and Damian Marley in more than ten countries across Africa. His unique journey through the world of academia, business, anthropology and advertising will now see him combining his analytical business mind with his creative instincts to realise his passion – ‘to create iconic imagery that pushes African popular culture to new heights’. Having always been fascinated by popular culture it was in Grade 9 when he would attend writing courses on Saturdays at the community organisation Bush Radio, led by Shaheen Ariefdien & Nazli Abrahams, that TAKEZITO truly found his obsession. He still speaks very highly of the experience: ‘Shaheen was instrumental in my life. He had this philosophy that if hip hop wasn’t helping the community it didn’t matter to him. That was when I became very interested in how culture influences society and that also led me to study anthropology.’

iDidTht: Your journey to becoming a Director has been so unique, what’s been the number one driving force for you?
Takezito: I’m interested in the Zeitgeist – the ‘where are we now’. I’m obsessed with where the energy is. For me, it’s about where African youth culture is, where it’s going, what the pulse is, what’s next, what’s exciting about it and what’s progressive in popular culture right now. Of course, I’m not just about what’s trending or hip – I’m a deep thinker who is interested in transformation and how stories are transformative. So I try to bring those two things together. I believe in powerful work that’s not just here today gone tomorrow, but rather something that has a meaningful contribution to popular culture.

iDidTht: Everyone seems to want to connect with this African youth market you speak of, but how do you achieve that? 
Takezito: I am very interested in the soul and the essence of the culture and not necessarily just about what it looks like on the exterior – I really want to go a layer below that. Visually we can make the culture look amazing, but it won’t necessarily make you feel anything or connect with the South African audience we’re trying to connect with. So I am very careful to not exploit the culture but rather attempt to contribute to it.

iDidTht: So practically speaking, what is your approach when working on a project that aims to speak to this market?
Takezito: I take an ethnographic approach in my work. It’s something that stuck with me when I was studying anthropology. Basically, it’s approaching the people you want to represent on-screen and attempting to live in their shoes, not just observe them. For me personally, observation is not enough to understand. At the time I got the Gqom TV show [MTV base Gqom Nation], which was my first TV show, I was a hip hop head but I was also into drum and bass and even though I understood dance music it wasn’t my main passion. So I went and spent time in Durban to truly understand the club culture that I was going to tell stories about and I was blown away by what I learnt. It really gave me the tools to tell the Gqom story more accurately.

iDidTht: Okay, so what or where is the next big thing on your radar? 
TAKEZITO: What’s exciting in Africa right now is definitely Afrobeat and what’s happening in Nigeria and what the artists there are doing by breaking through to the global scene.
iDidTht: Is it always music for you?
TAKEZITO: Not necessarily. Music is a big driving force for that specific audience, it’s where most of youth culture sits and where it is mostly expressed but it’s not always music. Yes, music says a lot about where we are at, it’s a big love of mine, but also fashion and lingo and everything that goes with the culture right now.

Takezito Did This

Although we only had an hour with TAKEZITO, there is no denying that he is truly passionate about the African youth market – we can really vouch for this because we had to pretend to know more than half of the references he was throwing out; Fela, Burna Boy, Mr Eazi??? Are they musicians? Cleaning products? Shoes? No idea! Needless to say, there was a whole lot of smiling and nodding on our behalf and honestly, taking into consideration our age and demographics, that’s a very good sign. TAKEZITO is interested in accurately portraying a youth culture that doesn’t just look good to a wider audience but genuinely connects with the target audience. Below are a few projects we chose that TAKEZITO has worked on over the years that showcase how he has contributed and spoken to African youth culture. His work reflects a multi-faceted creative who is now moving into commercial directing while still being truly in touch with his audience.

Screen Shots from the Gqom Nation TV Show

Gqom Nation: “This is the first TV show that I directed & produced and I love it so much because it’s a dance show! We shot it on location in Durban and I loved interacting with the incredibly talented young dancers who truly live for dance. I think dance is the purest form of expression and is the core of youth culture. I love hip hop but I’m not purely into hip hop, I enjoy all aspects of urban and popular culture, whatever speaks to and expresses the zeitgeist of our time. There is nothing like Gqom in the world and it’s this type of creative talent that we can export to the world.”

Screen Shots from Yo! MTV Raps / Top: AKA, Boity, Cassper Nyovest / Bottom: A-Reece, Sho Madjozi, YoungstaCPT

Yo! MTV Raps: “These are screengrabs from my latest TV show on MTV base, Yo! MTV Raps SA, which is a re-imagination of the iconic TV show that put hip hop on mainstream television for the first time ever and contributed to it blowing up into the greatest cultural phenomenon of our time. As a hip hop lover, this is truly an honour and it was an amazing experience to work with some of the most influential local artists of our generation. My favourite part of the show was conceptualising the live performances, which were created in collaboration with the artists and meant to express their essence or at least the essence of the song they performed. As far as TV shows go, this show is actually such a breakthrough and groundbreaking for the local television industry in terms of aesthetics, and being at the helm of it is something really special to me.”

Cassper Nyovest ‘Will You Be There?’

Damian Marley ‘Speak Life Music Video’

Vodacom ‘NXT LVL’

TAKEZITO on Cassper Nyovest ‘Will You Be There?’: “I worked with Cassper from the first Fill Up The Dome where I documented the entire build-up and process. This commercial build-up spot was to promote the 3rd instalment in his Fill Up series which took place at the FNB Stadium. We were tasked to create an iconic image and I aimed to create something really simple & elegant in a Apple-esque way. Gaopie Kabe was the first DOP I worked with when I stopped shooting myself, and it was so special to me to work on this project with her.”

TAKEZITO on Damian Marley ‘Speak Life Music Video’: “I didn’t direct this music video, but it’s one of the highlights of my career to have produced and assistant directed it for Damian Marley as well as co-producing a documentary of his first-ever tour of Africa for TIDAL. I worked with a production company called Mochilla and the director B+ is a legendary photographer and documentarian of hip hop and culture. I location scouted, art directed and on one of the days I had the opportunity to fill in for the DOP and got to pick up the camera for the first time in a while and so the shots of the grass-carrying woman are all me! Putting this film together in Ethiopia was a magical, mystical experience, and the secrets I picked up from B+ on capturing culture in an authentic and meaningful way is something I’ll treasure forever.”

TAKEZITO on Vodacom ‘NXT LVL’: “This was my first commercial with Ola! Films and the brief was to capture the spirit of South African youth culture and express Vodacom’s youth offering in the youth’s language and aesthetics. I really enjoyed working with such fresh faces and characters to create stylish and iconic images which paid homage to history but set in the contemporary world. I’ve also always wanted to work with Motheo Moeng and so it was really dope to collaborate with him on this project.”

Pictures from the Nadia Nakai Launch: Nadia Nakai on stage / Takezito with Nadia Nakai

Nadia Nakai Launch: “This is my most recent and on-going project for the biggest South African femcee, Nadia Nakai’s album launch and I worked on it as a Creative Director. I conceptualised and produced the event including all the visuals on screen and three music videos that were premiered on the night. We are currently in the process of completing a very special content piece on this which I can’t wait to share at a later stage. This project shows where I’m really in my zone, creating multi-faceted content and campaigns ranging in many mediums; from animation, film, the creation of a statue and even including live visual experiences.”

iDidTht: Lastly, why Ola! Films?
TAKEZITO: I remember working on a Lucky Star commercial as a copywriter and I remember Director Amy Allais from Ola!’s pitch presentation like it was yesterday. I was blown away by her energy and so excited by the pop culture references she was using. She mentioned my favourite artist Kid Cudi as her main character reference and I was sold! She was so wonderfully odd and I realised then and there that I would love to one day do her job and what better place to do that than at Ola! Films? It’s her point of view that left me inspired and I hope I can inspire people like that, with my own flavour of course! I will still be producing TV shows & other forms of content in my own right, but Ola! is the perfect home to support me in pushing & executing bigger commercial projects with brands & ad agencies.

TAKEZITO is clearly driven to get to the essence and the soul of culture, but also, because of his experience as a strategist and a creative in advertising he understands how to get to the soul of a brand and tell a brand’s story – what more could you want people?! Get in touch with TAKEZITO now at olivia@olafilms.tv

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Executive Producer: Olivia Leitch
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Produced by the iDidTht Content Studio
Credits: Anne Hirsch (Writer) / Julie Maunder

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