Daniel Vusi Nhlapo has always loved the concept of entertainment. “Even as a child I used to love listening to stories and entertaining people,” he says.
After matriculating in 1997, Nhlapo studied musical theatre and then South African television and film scriptwriting and interpretation. From there it was onto various small acting roles, a music record (which by his own admission didn’t do well) and finally a stint teaching arts and culture at a primary school.
“I think after my journey of trying this and that, I felt like I needed to give myself a break,” says Nhlapo. “I asked myself — why I didn’t just start my own company … this was my make or break moment.” Nhlapo registered DV Nhlapo Productions — an integrated communications and media company that operates in Kwatsaduza, the eastern region of Ekurhuleni — in 2015.
The company identifies talented actors and actresses in the townships which make up the region, and then trains them and assists them in entering the commercial industry. “We train them in script interpretation in terms of acting in theatre plays as well as in television and films,” Nhlapo explains. The company is currently boasts a list of 150 clients.
Last year, in September, Nhlapo — supported by the National Film and Video Foundation – launched his inaugural township film festival, which he describes as “phenomenal.” The festival involved the screening of various township films, including Nhlapo’s own “experimental” one, in areas frequented by people, like open spaces situated adjacent to shopping malls. “We didn’t have enough chairs,” says Nhlapo, recalling the first screening. “Two hundred people came – I felt overwhelmed, and even cried.” Nhlapo plans on hosting the festival annually in September.
DV Nhlapo Productions — which is situated in Tsakane Business Park — is staffed by four employees. “I’m teaching them how to go out there and create a township creative economy,” he explains. In Nhlapo’s view, a lot needs to be done in this regard. “Our people are still holding back. They think the creative industry is just a hobby, that television people are just playing,” he says. “It’s not playing. It’s work. And we are trying to change this mentality. This is an industry which is recognised by the department of labour, and which contributes to the economy.”
He also feels that more attention should be given to the cultural and creative industries within townships in the Ekurhuleni municipality. “We are not seeing pride in the creative and cultural industries in these areas because of lack of investment,” he explains. “Our people write stories, are involved in visual art – and we are the gateway to Africa; let’s create a township route that goes into our townships. As we are very close to the OR Tambo International Airport, our cultural and creative industries should be booming.”
Nhlapo believes that the Township Entrepreneurship Awards are valuable in that they recognise entrepreneurs and encourage them to believe that there is light at the end of the tunnel. “These awards show that good things are happening in the townships,” he says. “They show that there are people sacrificing their time – they are trying to fight against the ills in townships – these awards should be national, other provinces should copy them.” He also hopes that the awards will serve as an inspiration for young people from townships to study after school and then return to the townships to start their own companies. “Townships should up their game in terms of black economic empowerment.”
Nhlapo hopes to invest his prize money into branding and marketing, finally initiating a website, which to date the company hasn’t had.