A few months after being named the Creative Nestlings blogger of the year, Landa Willie went on to launch her very own e-mag, Twenty. The debut issue came about during June, Youth Month in South Africa, and celebrated a wonderful selection of our country’s best creative talents. Tired of expressing her frustration over the lack of black owned publications and spaces, Landa decided to take a proactive step in the right direction. As she says, “people of colour are capable, intelligent, creative and powerful beyond measure”, and it’s precisely this that Twenty proclaims loud and clear. We spoke with her to talk all about making a magazine and what she’s got planned for this new venture.
Let’s start at the beginning. What motivated you to launch Twenty mag?
Me starting a blog was in an effort to create a platform for myself to showcase my work and well, speak a little bit of my mind. I wanted to create a bigger platform where African creatives doing amazing work are celebrated. Where their work, opinions and stories are appreciated and showcased, uncensored and unfiltered. I also wanted to show the world that we are young and creative innovators. We are not a trend or a movement. We are people of colour; overly capable, intelligent, creative and powerful beyond measure.
How long did it take you to produce the debut issue? Tell us about some of the challenges and highlights along the way.
The first issue took us about two months. It was crazy. It was my first time attempting something like starting a magazine. My team and I were literally learning along the way. Nkabanhle Mawala, the art director of my magazine (who has done this quite a few times) was guiding me a lot and helped us figure out a lot of things. When I started I didn’t even know what a media kit is or what terms like ‘bleed’ means, lol.
The challenges were that I knew what I wanted, I just has no idea how I would breathe life into this. We would be up till the early in the morning working, learning, making mistakes, starting over again, etc.
The vision and aesthetic of Twenty was born out of the journey of us creating it. The highlights were the learning experience and how I managed to get a really amazing team together including my publicist Wongie Mafilika, all of whom went over and beyond what was required of them. I also realized once again that you can do absolutely anything you put your mind to, you just gotta start somewhere.
Issue 1 is fantastically curated. How did you decide on creatives to collaborate with and/or feature?
We wanted to feature and showcase really good work. Since the first issue debuted in the month of June, we could not find a better way to commemorate Youth Day on June 16th by celebrating how far we’ve come more than anything else.
I realise that there’s still a lot of work to be done, but it’s good to see that we’re getting somewhere and that, really, We Gon’ Be Alright.
All the creatives featured are people we found inspiring not only by the amazing work they’re doing, but because of how they’re challenging the status quo and are changing things for the better.
Was there anything about the process that surprised you?
It is a lot of work!! I must say I now have a newfound respect for graphic designers and the work they do!
And the reception to the first issue – what has this been like?
It’s been absolutely amazing. I am so very grateful. The stats have been poppin’ and it’s surprising to see just how many people actually read the magazine in different countries around the world. It’s been pretty cool. Twenty is slowly building momentum and weight for itself and it’s only the first issue.
What are your thoughts on South Africa’s creative scene as a whole? Can you speak about some of the creatives who inspire you?
What a time to be alive! The good is that we are doing amazing things. We are finally demanding the world to listen to us, and it is! South African creatives are finally starting to realise their power and uniqueness, it’s amazing. One of the creatives who inspires me is Tsoku Maela. Tsoku has taught me the importance of honesty when it comes to my work as a visual artist. I am also incredibly inspired by creatives like David Tshabalala, Manthe Ribane and Rendani Nemakhaveni (just to mention a few) who are constantly creating and innovating. Rendani is absolutely the true epitome of #BlackGirlMagic.
What are your goals for Twenty going forward? What do you hope to use this platform to achieve?
I haven’t figured much out yet but I am trying to build something that is bigger than me. A platform that will be fruitful and helpful to myself, my team and every young creative out there. I know for sure that I want to look back one day and be like, “Damn we’ve done a freakin amazing job!”.
Why do you think there’s still a lack of black owned spaces and publications in Africa? What can help us take a step in the right direction?
I’ll have to let you know when I’ve found a straight answer to that question, but generally I think as people of colour we are still very afraid of our power when in reality we are beyond capable we just gotta own it, believe it and run with it!
I think a step in the right direction would be for the youth to empower themselves by creating the platforms and spaces they think are lacking. Be the change you wish to see. Support black owned platforms and initiatives passively, actively and financially.
You were named the blogger of the year by Creative Nestlings. What has this platform (and The Nest Space) meant to you?
Damn. Personally it was amazing, I was beyond grateful. Professionally it has opened a few doors and opportunities for me. The Nest has helped me out a lot. I could now use that (the winning) as reference and also “validation”, if you will, for growth on a professional level.
How often will you be releasing new issues? Care to give us any hints around what’s next?
Every second month. One hint: The next issue will be about the women who earned their stripes in whichever occupation or medium we found inspiring.
Illustration used in cover image by Will Bryant. All internal photographs by Abongwe Qokela at Twenty’s launch event in June.