Photography: @gee_msft

Nandi Dlepu on running some of Joburg’s freshest events

HYPE catches up with Nandi Dlepu, the brains behind events  Feel Good Series, Pantone Sundays and Bloom.

Written by: Boitumelo Molamu, Images: courtesy of MAMAKASHAKA

Feature image: courtesy of @gee_msft 

Feel Good Series and Pantone Sundays, events curated by the company MAMAKASHAKA, have become staples on the Joburg party scene. And now they are expanding to Cape Town. Feel Good Series launched in Joburg in 2017 as a live performance event with the ideology of shining the light on up-and-coming and alternative musicians. Feel Good Series has hosted artists such as MoneyBadoo (Left), Muzi and Ricky Tyler (Middle).

A year later, MAMAKASHAKA introduced another in-house event called Pantone Sundays, a colour-themed fashion event. Intending to celebrate contemporary African fashion and style, Pantone Sundays has not only hosted some of the most stylish people in the country but has also opened events where local brands can pop in and also occasionally collaborate with them.

We caught up with Nandi Dlepu, the founder of MAMAKASHAKA, to chat about these events and the business she’s grown over the past six years.

“I LOVE MUSIC MORE THAN JUST THE CONSUMPTION OF IT, AND I WANTED A WAY TO CONTRIBUTE TO IT”

How would you introduce yourself to someone who has never met you?

First, hiii! (laughs). I’m Nandi, I’m an entrepreneur and a mother, the business owner of MAMAKASHAKA. I usually just introduce myself using those two nouns, simply because a lot of my life’s energy is split between those two, trying to be the best parent and the best in my business.

MAMAKASHAKA is responsible for some of the best events in Joburg. Tell us how MAMAKASHAKA came about and what exactly it is.

Funnily enough, MAMAKASHAKA, started as a nickname I got in high school, I was going through a Black Consciousness phase at the time, and my friends would tease me and call me ‘Mama ka Shaka’ (Shaka’s mother).Before starting the business, I used to run an event called The Weekend Social with five other women, while we all had our nine-to-fives. Ever since we curated the first one, I was bitten by the eventing bug. I always felt fulfilled by the events we’d host, and although I loved my job at the time, the fulfilment was not the same. I then started MAKASHAKA.

For the last six years, we’ve operated as a studio that runs in two parts, one being our brands such as Feel Good Series, Pantone Sundays and Bloom, and the other being our agency, which is more client service.

The events you just mentioned – Feel Good Series, Pantone Sundays and Bloom – are some of the best out there. How did they all come about?

When I was deciding the “why” of the business, I wanted to inspire, empower and entertain. I was also very specific about “where”, which was arts, culture and lifestyle. They are our brands, so they are all based on personal interests and passions.

For starters, I love fashion, and I’m very passionate about the fashion industry and seeing it grow – that’s where Pantone Sundays started. It’s a colour-themed fashion event, and as much as it is fun to dress in all the colour themes, it’s also a space where we celebrate and showcase local brands; we even collaborate and have them pop up at the events, furthermore introducing them to our community.

Then we have the Feel Good Series; you need to understand, I love music more than just the consumption of it, and I wanted a way to contribute to it. I thought long and hard about it and figured all over the world there are always platforms for the big artists but not enough for those coming up. I wanted to create that platform for the up-and-coming, and I also wanted it to force me to search for those artists. Lastly, you have Bloom, which is our oldest platform. This is our platform, created by creative women for creative women, and the intention is to empower and nurture one another. It was a platform that was meant to feed and  celebrate a creative woman.

I think it’s safe to say that your brands have contributed immensely to attracting some of your clients, such as Archive, Shelflife and Nike. Besides your work speaking for itself, how have you also been able to build and nurture relationships with those clients?

We’ve built the business by believing in ourselves and the work we put out. Our work does speak for itself because we’ve had clients say, “Could you do something similar to Pantone Sundays?” Clients usually do reference from our events, and how we usually keep those relationships is by putting out what they expect and beyond; trust also makes those relationships, and this also applies to the brands we work with for our brands.

I’ve had the pleasure of attending one of your events, and I can distinctly remember the feeling of creativity, safety, fun and care evident throughout the event. Is that intentional?

Very much! What people usually don’t pay attention to or perhaps miss is everyone and everything else involved, from the security to the well-staffed bar to the project manager. I never want the success of the event to be based on whether people see me or not, because there is a whole team behind this.

With about six years of you doing events, from pre- COVID days, during and post-COVID, what have you learnt so far, and what do you think might be the next era of events?

I learnt that you’ve got to start with “why” in marketing, and it might sound clichéd, but because all our properties have a strong why, when COVID started, we didn’t pack it up but asked ourselves how we could communicate our why beyond gathering in person.

Then, if we are going to talk about the future, I think we are going to be more innovative. We are going to have to consider the relationships between different things, to create more integrated and immersive experiences; just having someone perform is going to get vanilla at some point. We need to look at the things available and see how we can make it work.

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