The third episode of Kenyan digital artist Jepchumba’s Future Lab Africa podcasts features a conversation with South African filmmaker Lebogang Rasethaba. Unlike French-Guyanese and Danish artist Tabita Rezaire, the subject of the previous podcast episode, he is born and bred in South Africa – and questions of faithful storytelling in this time and place feature prominently in his work.
A thirst for storytelling and an appreciation for its craft set him off on a creative career arc from award-winning copywriter in the ad industry to independent filmmaker.
Film is a powerful medium – and with it comes responsibility, he says. “If you are in a position to disseminate information on such a big platform where lots of people from lots of parts of the world can consume it then it should have some kind of resonance and deal with real stuff,” he says.
He spent five years in Beijing doing his master’s in filmmaking. The distance sharpened his perspective.
“When I left I was a beacon in solitude… I needed to get out of the country,” he says. Arriving in Beijing, he met a fellow student from Sierra Leone who called him out on the xenophobic attacks that had just taken place in South Africa in 2008. He felt shaken into exploring the issue further – and into finding out what moves real, everyday South Africans of his generation.
His time in China also gave him a renewed appreciation for the beauty of his stomping grounds in Soweto and downtown Joburg.
I’m interested in building an image of South Africa which is in accord with how we see ourselves and how things actually are lived here.
Rasethaba wants to push people’s perceptions of the country here and now. “There’s people who are from suburbs in Johannesburg and they don’t really know what Soweto looks like… In five or 10 years rime, when people Google ‘Soweto’, I want there to be the most awesome shit for people to see.”
Rasethaba has made videos for brands such as Nike, Redbull and Adidas and his work features regularly on sites like Highsnobiety, i-D and Vice. He has completed two feature-length documentaries, Future Sound of Msanzi, and Prisoner 46764: The Untold Legacy of Andrew Mlangeni, which have both enjoyed international acclaim, screening at festivals around the world.