The creative collective Naba AboLova – a Design Indaba Emerging Creative in 2021 – has set out to change the narrative about the forgotten youth in townships, “whose ignorance is exploited for votes”, as Naba AboLova co-founder Zenhlanhla Myeni puts it.
The term ‘aboLova’ can be translated as absent or ‘bunking’ youths, those who have dropped out of school, who don’t appear to have much of a future, and who are invariably unemployed. But to Myeni, this simplistic narrative needs to be interrogated.
“As the AboLova brand, we are the bridge between the real kasi kids that don’t believe in themselves and the brands that consistently want to talk to township youth and access our buying power,” explains Myeni, who has recently teamed up with Bonko Khoza, the lead actor in the Showmax TV series ‘The Wife’, to present the life and times of ‘aboLova’.
“We were talking only to a niche market – we realised that people outside of the township had no idea what we represented,” explains Myeni. “We needed to make it clear we aren’t just township street photographers. We create art specific to the unemployed black youth, since unemployment is by far the biggest problem within townships, alongside the lack of education.”
The aim of the project is to explore the lifestyle of ‘abaLova’, as well as the repercussions thereof.
“Bonko Khoza himself is a ‘lova’, which is how the collaboration came about,” Myeni says. “Once he landed the role of Mqhele on ‘The Wife’, he knew all eyes would be on him, so he wanted to show people where he came from. He is just as much of a ‘lova’ as the guy chilling at the corner store in the Soweto streets. He’s a Soweto-born ‘lova’ and he faced the struggles that every ‘lova’ has to go through on a daily basis. He made it out – and it should be an inspiration to youth, to show them it’s possible to succeed, provided you keep pushing and believe in yourself.”
Conveying this message via the AboLova brand helps to disseminate the positive message. “Our slogan is ‘ungazi braketi, one day sizo popa’, which means ‘don’t limit yourself – one day, we’ll win/succeed’,” Myeni explains. “This is the attitude we want to instil within township youth.”
#DI Exclusive: Naba Abolova’s Zenhlanhla Myeni on retelling the narrative of township youth.
Cairo: Youth in resistance.