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MANTHE RIBANE: This Moment is the Future

South African artist and creative Manthe Ribane, features as one of five storytellers on the seminal Origins docuseries, brought to you by the @multichoice_group and @showmaxonline.

Speaking to @manthe.ribane is like having a reflective session with a multi-talented artist friend who is profoundly aware and grateful for their journey and all the transitions that come with it. Detailed in our conversation, she shares with us her story of self discovery, career shifts and alignments, and more — all which include the power of collaboration.

Manthe, in many ways you’ve always embodied being an artist but when did you begin to fully embrace this description of you?

I think my artistry exists because of my dad. He is someone who recognised the importance of growth through building on strength and bravery. From a young age, he knew how to mould me and my siblings to the right dimensions. Ultimately, I think my artistic foundation has stimulated this strength I’m speaking about, which has opened up many doors for me. It was never easy, but the journey has been incredible. It’s beautiful that Africa is more open to the art world now. I’m seeing more artists being supported locally. Right now, we are witnessing how we’re expanding this era of drive whilst formulating a new narrative. Everyone is creating a new narrative and it’s quite inspiring to see the permeation of this.

Your dad seems like a big influence in your life. Are there any other memory that come to mind?

My dad was very forward-thinking in how he took care of us. The three of us as siblings always had a different take on life. And this is because we experienced a lot growing up, due to my dad’s ambition and schedule. He was adamant about scheduling holidays and encouraged us to use the day as an opportunity to explore the hour. Routinely, he enrolled us in a variety of activities, whether it be swimming, running, tennis or golf classes. There was always something we needed to learn. And now when you see that training, and when I look at where I am now, I can relate to so many departments. And that helped me to become a very diverse artist. He taught us that we can only limit ourselves by not trying or by not implementing discipline into our habits.  

As a curator of spaces of collaboration and co-evolving like Arte Botanica how do you choose the people you work with? What are you most proud of?

Arte was a beautiful dream to be part of. I worked with such a brilliant team, who are the ones behind making everything happen. To be part of curating something that will be meaningful for someone else and do it in a place where it could dignify their work. It was the first of its kind at Nirox Sculpture Park in the Cradle of Humankind. I felt like, throughout my journey, everyone inspired me. People like Mary Sibande and Nandipha Mbatha: women who have paved the way in the art industry. They are women that I could look up to as sisters, to say, “wow, like, thank you for doing that because you inspired me to think beyond and really take care of my craft and create.” So I felt like it was a day for us to celebrate each other as South Africans and the global world – It was a world-class day! As for how we went about selecting people, I chose people who always inspired me. And through that, of course, the list was quite long, but we needed to consider budget and situations, distance, but everyone that was part of it was meant to be part of it! People believed in the idea. Of course, many improvements can be made, but I needed to do it first to understand that it was possible and that we believe in each other. For me, this was an example of the power of collaboration. Probably someone is just waiting for you to call and say, “Hey, can we work on something?” Like it came, and it was a leap of faith and prayer. I don’t think I would have done it without prayer and my family. That project was massive and a lot of work, but the team behind me, the respect, and the integrity everyone had from start to finish was something else. On top of it, the Nike global team from New York invited me to the Nike forum because of Arte. That project opened up an international conversation. So there is power in the energy you give into a project is the energy you receive back. Being consistent every morning, every day, mastering your morning is like grasping your whole day. The more you master your morning, the more you master your month and year. That was the energy I had to understand and be part of because if I didn’t, it wouldn’t be what it was. 

Image from Artebotanicalive
Image from Artebotanicalive

How do you discern choosing something that actually aligns with the project you’re focusing on at that moment?

Throughout my journey, I had to be present to understand myself and what is gravitating toward me. Paying attention to what makes me feel somehow, like your intuition, is your secret voice; it is your guidance. It is also about the practice of what you align yourself with. By practice, I mean the books you choose to read, the music you listen to, and the lifestyle you choose to live. There are different choices, and you must assert yourself because you have nothing to lose. I always think about the child in me from Soweto, and I know there is someone else from Soweto who’s looking at me and my journey. I think about people who are in a position to be influenced by me. I believe significantly in my choices because it’s not about me anymore – It’s about the next generation. So, therefore, I always try to avoid conflict with my direction now. And also, having a good team, like a good management team, that you would go back and talk to. “Like, I don’t know where I stand. Is it aligning with me? Where am I? Where’s my vision board? Who am I?” You know, we must go through some challenges that constantly test us. I’ve lost opportunities where I have felt like money could have helped, but is it about the money? Or is it about the impact you want to create for the future? Or the effect on someone that’s going to be watching that? We need to understand the magnitude of influence- it’s so intense. So it is crucial to interrogate ourselves: who are we, and what are we doing with this platform that we have, this WiFi, and all these apps. What are we doing with them? What are we saying? How are we helping each other? How do you understand your calling? Not even in the traditional realm, though, that is now permeating into the living. But in what you say, what you choose to do, what you decide to allow people to see of you.

In the beginning, you crafted this career around dance, then moved to music and got people to Tell A Vision. With your performance, I remember seeing you/Dear Ribane captivate an audience at Afropunk and Design Indaba. Do you miss that execution of your artistry?

Wow! What a time to be alive and in a world where opportunities unfold through your ideas and have people see that. It takes a lot of people to say yes to you, and it takes a lot for us to believe in ourselves. We had to simulate a specific energy because everything is energy. At that season in my talent, I was ready for it because the foundation was my belief that I would be able to achieve this at a particular time. But through the journey, I had to go through it. I had to understand my hunger for this and the consistency- what it takes to be there. Talent is only a minor percent of what it takes to be in these conversations and these opportunities to be called out for other things globally. I am grateful for that season in my life because now I can expand into other things. I needed to understand that time I was in my 20s, and then the lockdown happened. I am developing and redirecting myself differently. It would be very different if I had to go back into performance. I would be more in control. Experience teaches you to understand that your calling can be presented differently in your own eye, your vision, and your curation. I look at Solange and how she always curated her direction, like when she curated the stage in the middle of an open garden- I love those kinds of setups. So if we come back, we would instead come back with a very curatorial, mindful, thoughtful process and performance experience. 

Dear Ribane performing at the 2020 Design Indaba. IMAGE COURTESY OF STAR SHONGWE.
Dear Ribane performing at the 2020 Design Indaba. IMAGE COURTESY OF STAR SHONGWE.

In the documentary you mentioned “I’ve landed safely, I know who I’m becoming.” I got goosebumps listening to that- how does that feel, what does the knowing look like in your case? 

Wow, yoh – quite a moment. Landed safely. That question is so heavy. I think what I was speaking about in the short film is that I’ve landed in different parts of my life. I see the landing as a season that, okay, I’m making music now, I’m doing this or that, I’m traveling or coming back home with the family. And then there’s a season where I’m 35, and I’m married now, and I’m seeing life quite differently. I’m allowing myself to be part of my new voice. Every journey that I went through, I needed to lead in that journey; I needed to understand myself and build myself to that landing place. After the lockdown, it was different for everyone. I had to let go of 20 years of being a performing artist. You know, you let go of something that has created you to be where you are today. From being on TV at a young age and doing TV commercials and you start travelling and going through the motions. It’s you trying to figure out this journey. At the same time you have to be a mother and a sister and my brother has to be a father. I have to help everyone to find a way of building each other. It was never about me anymore. It was about everyone, and the mission, I was always on this mission- ready to go. I think, to understand that statement was that I’ve landed ,and I’ve landed safely. Not that I was not safe but I landed where I’ve accepted my journey, my season. And I’ve learnt to appreciate it because it opened up the right doors and now I’m in a different space where I would like to create doors now. I’d love to open the door for the next one, the next talent, visionary because someone said yes to me. Someone believed in me and said yes, “Manthe, let’s call her for this project” but I would like to be the one that also does that for someone else. So I think now to just rephrase that statement. It’s like I’ve landed to a place where I feel like I can’t say I did that, done that, got the t-shirt- no, no, I didn’t. I think I’ve landed and my desire is to help lead someone else into different paths, open that door for them, open that light for them, you know, either team up, curate a space for them, or if you have an idea, let’s work together, I can help you to do it well for you. Because someone else also helped me to discover myself. 

You’ve been a part of the House and Leisure team for a while now. What does a day in the life of being Editor-at-large look like?
To be honest, being selected as one of the editors-at-large was a dream come true. Because I grew up reading many magazines, I’d sit down with my granny reading one; I always had a magazine in my hand or bag. Looking back, it was the perfect timing from where I started to where I am today and to be aligned with the right team with the new set, toning, and curation. Before I got the email, I was doing a lot of research and assisting with Farmhouse 58, also situated at The Cradle of Humankind. And I was also helping in the beginning when they started the restaurant, and then there was a fire, but I still do decorations and interior design from time to time just to lift up the face. So I’d been really building myself into the Interior Design world by consulting and helping, you know, on projects that are very successful now. So when I got that call from them, it was actually at the right time because I had to practice something, you know, sometimes, if you want something, it won’t come to you quickly. You get fed through your gift and opportunities, and House & Leisure was an eye-opening gift for me to realise that, oh, this is my calling. This is it, and it’s possible to be part of such an aligned and well-curated team. To that effect, I started my shop Natura, which also radiates the same energy as House and Leisure, especially with the look and feel. To be part of that, it also helps to talk about local designers, what we’re doing at the Farmhouse, Nirox, and, you know, other projects that are coming, and I love the fact that it’s seasonal. So it gives you time to experience the volume; it is very intentional and well-curated from start to finish. More to come, but so far, I’m genuinely honoured with this alignment.

What does community mean to you in this phase of your story? 

I’m a bit of an introvert. Not even a bit, but this new season helps me investigate that a lot. I’m more at home, curating, working, doing other projects, making candles doing all that. But the power of community, you know, as much as you’re an introvert, there’s something about having someone to rely on and someone who shows up for you as much as you would them. It is such a great moment; people are here FOR me. I don’t think I ever allowed that to happen freely, but I’ve had many moments of experiencing that people care. Community is something that I’m really fond of, and I’m allowing myself to rely on my people and my community more often. Social media is also a community. So how are we building each other? What are you creating, and what influence are you pouring into that community? And that’s why we are starting all these projects, and, you know, creating jobs, creating opportunities for other people to understand themselves, to build themselves spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and financially.

Any other current/ongoing projects we should look out for?
The only current project on my books is the Nirox Sculpture Park. There’s a new Villa exhibition studio space is launching in December that I’m excited about. Also, my store Natura, which is inspired by Arte Botanica, has given me an amazing and beautiful year of discovery and learning (technically it’s been open for only eight month, though, for the record). We sell unique locally-made garments, hand creams, toiletries, and beautiful candles. There’s gorgeous furniture from Dokter & Misses and some that we create ourselves. Interior design has taught me that you really have to employ a major amount of empathy when you’re creating for other people. I want them to use this experience as enlightenment in their own spaces. When they get home, they want to elevate their spaces. And, of course, collaborating with Nike is a consistent project I’m a part of. They believed in me when I didn’t even have Instagram, Facebook, or any other social media platform. To have such a brand believe in you and stick by you consistently has been fantastic. So I’ll still be doing a lot of creative directing, interior, and set designing, amongst other things. As long as I’m alive, I want to stay growing.