Proud alumna puts an innovative spin to 1st virtual National Arts Festival

Proud alumna, Nontobeko Sibisi.
Proud alumna, Nontobeko Sibisi.

When President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the start of the national lockdown with effect from 26 March 2020, it meant a lot of industries would be negatively affected. One of the sectors which were hugely affected was entertainment, arts and culture. While many events were cancelled, the organisers of the annual National Arts Festival (NAF) made the brave decision of continuing with the yearly event online for the very first time in its 46 years of existence. This presented a golden opportunity for many, including Creative Media entrepreneur and Rhodes University Journalism alumna, Nontobeko Mntungwa-Sibisi.

It was Sibisi’s company, ‘Okay Sho! Media’ that successfully pioneered a one of a kind digital offering for the virtual festival. She led a team of creative minds in conceptualising, executing and hosting the first innovative broadcast solution of its kind, now archived in history as ‘vNAF Studio 2020’ #WeAreStillCreating. 

“I decided to work with people who are natural storytellers, those who would bring passion and value to the project and really thrive in the empowerment of being part of such a bigger collective vision. With the help of our head producer and writer Lohren-Rose Joseph and D-O-P Mlingane Dube we managed to produce 22 broadcast quality web-episodes in three weeks roping in big-name sponsors eager to join in on the innovation, something that is rare for any media start-up. This showed me the power of community, collaboration and passion,” Sibisi said.

The multi-award-winning arts and entertainment journalist used the opportunity to employ a team of around 12 talented freelancers who had found themselves without jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the national lockdown. “My amazing team and I put together the unthinkable. Had it not been for the collaboration with other creative minds, it would not have been a success,” she explained.

According to Sibisi, the digital magazine shows felt a lot like a reunion for her, where she connected with old artist friends from different corners of the world. “I love the arts and culture community. I love gathering people and creating meaningful conversations and exchanges. I have a really lively personality and presence, so over the years, I have learnt to skillfully use it to make people feel right at home in front of the camera. The ‘vNAF Studio 2020’ project felt like a natural extension of myself. Okay Sho! Media had to work with that natural organic magic between people in serving a community that needed it the most in this trying time. 

Sibisi is a storyteller who has successfully combined her unique award-winning broadcast journalism experience with her lively infectious personality, collaborating creatively with brands, businesses and media houses. She has a gentle yet clear and potent hands-on approach to her work, taking storytelling and conversations to real and resonating energy space. She creates and delivers wholesome, authentic content that includes presenting live-broadcasts, creating pre-recorded TV shows; original formats, Audio Visual inserts/podcasts, VLOGS, mini-blogs, mobile media, as well as behind-the-scenes coverage.

Sibisi is one of four dynamic women on daily prime time talk show ‘Show Me Love’ on DSTV’s channel 157. When not creating content, her freelance work also includes providing commentary on South Africa’s arts and entertainment industry. She has over ten years’ experience in the media space, having laid her foundation at the Rhodes University’s Journalism School and Rhodes Music Radio.

While studying, she bagged a SABC Radio News Award, the Siemen’s Science Profile Award, as well as a spot with an international media house to cover the Africa Cup Of Nations ahead of the 2010 World Cup.

This impressive professional head start gave her a fighting chance for a position interning at SABC News. Since then she has worked for eNCA, e-TV Morning Show, City Press, the Mail & Guardian and internationally World Press, Free Voice and Lokaalmondiaal (2010 Soccer World Cup).

“I have always been passionate and driven by creative yet authentic broadcast, and Rhodes University gave me a head start in my career. It helped me align and build myself. I was privileged to have been able to use my learnings and skills to set myself and my distinct talents apart. Directly after graduating, I was poached by the SABC in KwaZulu Natal. The university really opened my eyes in terms of creating the future I imagined. This journey has really come full circle for my team and I. What a joy it is to serve with a real raw passion that resonates.