04 Mar The Mahoyo Project in Johannesburg: Lives lived Breaking Stereotypes
The Mahoyo Project is a documentary aimed at breaking stereotypes of gender, race and location. Filmed in Johannesburg, it follows Mahoyo, three Swedish creatives on the pursuit of cultural and creative exchange. In the documentary they collaborate with local artists in the growing urban music, fashion and dance scene in Johannesburg, and place this in conversation/contrast with Stockholm’s creative scene and characters.
Mahoyo are Farah Yusuf, and Pia and MyNa Do, a group of DJs and photographers. The name is a reference to the Do sisters’ Chinese heritage and Farah’s Somalian roots, “Ma” and “Hoyo” meaning mother in Mandarin and Somali, respectively. Having lived their whole lives in Sweden, they often faced cultural prejudice and ignorance. They told OkayAfrica: “We grew up constantly being asked where we’re from, or told how great our Swedish is by people who have narrow ideas of what a Swede should look like,” says Pia. Yet this has galvanised them to challenge such ideas by embracing difference. As Farah says, “It’s no fun looking like everyone else.”
The documentary was shot in Johannesburg, a city with a reputation for crime (and bad traffic), but which they show to be a place of creativity and contrast. The trio found inspiration for the project when they saw Stocktown X South Africa, a documentary about our local music and street culture, curated by Stockholm-based online video magazine Stocktown. They loved the characters and images captured, but noticed a distinct lack of female presence. In an interview with Zanele Mji for OkayAfrica, MyNa reflected: “When we asked the directors where all the women were they just kind of shrugged. We realized that no one can represent the way we see the world but ourselves.”
The strong feminist drive of Mahoyo extended to most of their interactions in South Africa: they collaborated with DJ Phola “Loveslave” Gumede on different events including a workshop that taught women how to DJ and a party called Shandeez With Gäris (“Party with girls”). This party featured an all-female lineup, with local DJs, rappers and poets.
Ultimately, creative efforts such as The Mahoyo Project encourage cultural exchange rather than exclusion and enable understanding of one another as human beings, rather than reductive narratives of what we should be.