Teen spirit: Meet the 10 teens changing South Africa’s cultural scene – part 1

The future belongs to the next generation of pioneering music makers, visual artists, fashion designers and more entering the South African creative scene. To celebrate Youth Month, we platform talented teenage artists, talking to them about their inspiration, insights on creativity and coming of age. In part 1 of our series, we look at five of South Africa’s fave teens breaking into the cultural industry.

*From left to right in our header image: Margot Dower, Tholwana Warrior, Hana Shone, Bhugane Gabriel Mehlomakhulu and Omri Dahan.


Bhungane Gabriel Mehlomakhulu, 19

“I saved up my tuck shop money and at age 17 launched
my first ever collection: a 22 pieces of floral-inspired shirts
for Spring/Summer 2016. I was lucky enough for magazine show
Espresso to debut the show on TV. I later launched my first
accessories campaign including backpacks
and a range of chokers.” – Bhugane Gabriel

Occupation: Fashion designer
City: Cape Town

How old are you versus how old do you feel? I’m 19. I feel 25 most of the time. When did you begin making art? I live a double life. During the holidays I invest my time on my clothing line BHUMEHL but dance is my main priority along with studying drama and music at the Cape Academy of Performing Arts. After struggling to find someone to teach me to sew at age 16, I eventually found a wise old lady who showed me the basics. What’s your work about? With fashion, a fabric, an inanimate object or even a person could inspire a collection. With regards to my dancing, esteemed dancers in prestigious companies are a motivating factor for me as a performer. I feel both my crafts are about storytelling and work as an inter-related system that gives me a purpose for life. What do you want to be? An inspiration to an entire generation. I want to land a contract at a professional ballet company such as The Royal Ballet. And I see my clothing line established, having a young store either in South Africa or somewhere in New York. What is the hardest part of growing up? Having to cook for myself. What do you think of our generation? We are blinded by trends and assume trap music will save us. What does being young and creative in South Africa mean to you? I can be a voice for those little African boys that love weddings and choose to groove like no ones business when they hit the dance floor.


Hana Sho, 18

Concept, makeup, styling, and model – Philia Online.

Occupation: Photographer
Cape Town

I’m a photographer, and a drawer and a stuff do-er …
but mainly a photographer. It’s difficult to put into words,
but I want to make people
feel things.” – Hana

How old are you? My face says 16 but I promise I’m 18. What do you want to be? I want to be a lot of things in the creative industry. It’s challenging to choose, so I’m still experimenting with a 100 different mediums at once – and I’ve realised that’s totally okay. My goal is to be able to express myself honestly through my art. When did you begin making art? Ever since I can remember I’ve been into art. I used to draw a lot when I was younger. I went to Waldorf for a stage, and they really do encourage and cater for artistic individuals. I’ve always wanted to draw like my dad – but looking back, he wasn’t all that good – haha! What is the hardest part of growing up? Judgement, being true to yourself, expectations, reality. What do you think of your generation? I think my generation is too focused on perfecting their work at such an early stage, which is limiting. When I compare myself to the people I look up to, I forget that they’re 20 odd years older than me and they’ve had time to perfect what they do. Who do you look up to?  At the moment, musician Arca. I recently watched a performance of his and I have never felt so inspired. Who else…photographers; Petra Collins is awesome, William Eggleston and Harley Weir plus many of my friends, some of which are South African artists. Any words of advice for young artists? It’ll always be scary showing the world your honest, true self – you just learn to handle it better each time, I guess. Be brave; there are always people out there who you can relate to but you’ll never know them if you don’t say hello. 

Omri Dahan,19

Occupation: Musician and photographer
City: Cape Town

How old are you? I’m 18, though my back aches and my knees hurt. But in all seriousness, I think I spent a lot of time in my early teens rushing to be older and more professional. I left school when I was 15 to work on my music full time and that was very emotionally draining. I’ve had to grow up really fast. When did you begin making art? Ever since I can remember. I sucked at school and being creative really helped me get by. My parents are both very accepting, which helped.I started making beats when I was 13. Luckily I met the founder the label African Dope records. He mentored me for a few years and gave me the base of what I know today. What do you do on most days? I spend my days writing and producing music, which most people don’t know about me. I’m very much behind the scenes regarding that. I love taking photos too, and both things drive me and give me an outlet to express myself. What is the hardest part of growing up? Feeling comfortable with myself. I think growing up you hear a lot of misconceptions about how you’re supposed to think and feel and you end up judging yourself and thinking you’re weird the whole time. What do you think of your generation? I think we are amazing and our opportunities and capabilities are endless. We are the internet generation. I do think we battle with laziness though. Any words of advice for young artists? I think for many it can be quite scary to expose yourself in a vulnerable way to the public. I would say learning to value yourself and your work is very important.


Margot Dower, 18

Occupation: Illustrator
City: Cape Town

“Honestly, I think there’s something so exciting about a generation
so hell-bent on self-expression. My generation is bright, bold and
strong. For me, this has a lot to do with the internet and the democratisation
of traditionally exclusive teenage subcultures. There isn’t as much
pressure to be one thing anymore; there’s a lot more fluidity between
boundaries, and I find it really exciting.” – Margot

How old are you? I’m 18 but I think I’ve always felt quite grown up. When did you begin making art? I’ve always been drawing and making things. My gran is an incredible calligrapher, and I used to spend hours at her house making tiny, super-intricate drawings. What do you want to be? At the moment I’m looking at universities, both local and overseas to study curatorship – I’m super passionate about Art History. Central St. Martins or Glasgow School of Art is the dream. What does being young and creative in South Africa mean to you? There’s a really cool culture of collaboration and community here, especially among young people. There’s a lot of joy and connection to be had and I’ve found exploring the creative community exciting and welcoming. It’s not as massive or competitive as it is overseas but at the same time the work is of such a high standard. How do you create your work? My illustration is all by hand. I start with a rough pencil sketch to make sure my anatomy is correct. I work pretty fast so often I’m working in my notebook. There’s less pressure that way, and the drawings interact and overlap in an interesting way. Sometimes I start a drawing very arbitrarily and see where it goes from there; it’s like automatic drawing for wimps.


Tholwana Warrior, 17

Occupation: Singer-songwriter
City: Johannesburg
How old are you versus how old do you feel? Well, I’m 17, but I feel like I’m five when I realise how much there still is to do. When did you begin making art? Both my mom and dad’s sides of the family have always been artistic, so I grew up with a lot of artsy influences around me. I started showing an interest in music because my dad introduced me to very good music at a young age. What do you want to be?  My dream is to become a global entertainer. I’ve always wanted to be a massive influence and share my thoughts through music. I’m hoping that this will occur soon with my music.  What is the hardest part of growing up? Figuring out who you want to be. The teenage years are the most annoying  but they also entail many realisations and discoveries about oneself. What do you think of your generation? I believe that my generation could be the greatest of all time. My peers are so creative and outspoken, it would be hard to put our flame out. What does being young and creative in South Africa mean to you? It carries a lot of merit as the youth have the power to shape the future, as was said by the loved Madiba. I believe that we can change the world’s perception of South Africa, especially in terms of its entertainment industry. Who do you look up to? Beyoncé has always been my inspiration in terms of what I want to achieve as an entertainer but my mother is my biggest muse. She inspires and supports me and I sometimes wonder how she can be so phenomenal. Any words of advice for young artists who are afraid to express themselves for fear of embarrassment? Force yourself to speak your mind, especially when it concerns your well-being and learn to live without limits. – Tholwana

Between 10 and 5