The importance of storytelling is that you can’t really move forward until you know the environment you’re in and you also understand what your own story is, and this is critical in an environment like South Africa,” says Oluko Moche.
Born in Germany and raised in Zambia and Canada, her nomadic upbringing led her to becoming the “storyteller and curator” she is today.
“I always found that, wherever I went, having to explain myself was, and continues to be, a constant in my life. Additionally, the various cultures I have lived within have informed my identity. In my late teens and early twenties, the idea of stories giving us entrance into other cultures became very important to me and I see this in South Africa, where our multicultural nature requires us to understand each other in order to meaningfully move ahead,” she says.
In addition to studying media and broadcasting, Moche also has an honours degree in anthropology, with a specific focus on the African diaspora and transnational migration. She has worked on a number of independent fiction films, socio-political documentaries, television shows and coached numerous emerging fiction and non-fiction filmmakers, as well as media personalities, through the development and production processes.
While festival director for the Encounters Documentary Film Festival, she curated award-winning international films and, in partnership with Al Jazeera English, managed a pitching forum for African documentary filmmakers. She has also served on the Jury for Arts Programming and Documentary for the International Academy of Television (iEmmys) and the South African Film and Television Awards (Saftas).
For Moche, being a woman in this particular industry is not without its challenges. “Asserting yourself becomes a challenge, because people automatically liken it to anger or being hostile or [too] serious. Boys are raised to just speak. They are raised with a particular level of freedom that girls are not raised with. So by the time they enter the workplace, it’s an extension of how they were socialised. With women, you have to actively break down your upbringing to say, ‘You belong in this space’. The challenges women face are not specific to my industry; they exist across industries, because our society has been shaped by a history that puts men first,” she says.
“Over and above being a woman, because I’ve never been a man, I think my personal life influences what I do. My life of migration has influenced how I produce for television, curate for festivals and run my workshop sessions for corporate companies and individuals. Understanding what shapes and inspires people to be who they are is paramount to the work I do. In the most recent festival I curated — the European Film Festival — one of the major curatorial points of departure for me was to showcase a diverse Europe, that there isn’t this purist national identity that some like to think. And this was definitely because of my upbringing.”
Through her work Moche would like to see a South Africa and a world that gives people space to share themselves; a space where people can listen and be heard.
“In South Africa, we don’t speak to each other, we speak at each other. When you’re speaking at people, nobody is listening and you’re just concentrating on having the most airtime. What I hope my work can achieve is a more nuanced understanding of people; a more in-depth and textured understanding of each other, and the ability to really listen to comprehend. This, I believe, is one of the ways we can move towards the society we speak of in our Constitution.”