In Conversation series this week talks with presenter, soulful singer-song writer Athandiwe Ntshinga, known to some as Amara Fleur. She talks about travelling the world, responsibilities that comes with being a black artist, what it means to be woke, and of course… music!
What industry do you work in?
I’m currently working in the television industry at Viacom International Media Networks Africa, for BET Africa. I work in the digital marketing department.
Tell our audience a little about your background: What’s your heritage, where did you grow up, where do you live now and what you do for work?
I am South African, Eastern Cape born and globally bred! Throughout my life, I’ve spent time living in Tanzania, India, New Zealand and South Africa through my parents’ work. They live in Hong Kong now, so I’ve pretty much decided that it’s also part of the roster!
What was your biggest motivation for your career choice?
I’ve always been fascinated with the entertainment industry. It’s always been a glamorous space on the surface, and as I’ve grown up, I’ve come across many people working behind the scenes. This part of the entertainment industry is like the little hamster in the spinning wheel; we keep the lights on so that everyone can enjoy themselves. That for me, became the reason why I thought it was a space I wanted to find myself in. During my time, I’ve learnt volumes; the extraordinary, the disappointing. I’ve had my fair share of “wow, so it’s not as wonderful as it seems” moments, but I have no regrets.
You’ve spent majority of your short life travelling around the world, how have you maintained true friendships along the way?
It’s been a real journey maintaining friendships. I have been fortunate enough to have friends that I can still talk to, but distance is definitely felt. I find that a lot of my greatest friendships last because we still have the same interests, even if I don’t speak to those friends everyday. I know who I can call when I reach their corners of the world.
How have you found transitioning back to life in South Africa as an adult after many years of living overseas?
It’s been a lot easier than I ever expected. I feel like I was mature enough to do it, as well. I came home with the mind to immerse and not look at myself as someone who didn’t live here for a long time. I thank my family completely for constantly allowing us to connect with home like we never left. There are still elements missing, but damn, I feel like I never left.
Where is your favourite place that you’ve travelled to and what makes it so?
I can’t really pick one. But I’d definitely have to say that recently it’s been Hong Kong and home sweet home, South Africa. There’s a quickness in the lifestyle there that makes me love it. Musically and culturally, South Africa is a goldmine, and I encourage anyone and everyone to visit any country on the continent for this. We’re the heart of the world for a reason!
What advice would you give to yourself as a 16-year-old?
If you’ve decided what career you want, investigate and stop faffing about! Knowing more about the things that build you is better than anything else out there. Oh, and learn how to save money, ASAP! You never know what you’ll need to do in 5 years time. Most of all, love your family. Love yourself.
If you had the power to change one thing in the world what would it be and why?
I’d absolutely change the fetishisation of black culture, as well as accountability within our communities. We need to be, and are definitely starting to be on the ball when it comes to calling out the appropriation of our cultures. However, we need to also take it into our stride to be ambassadors of our cultures. A lot of African talent are starting to be unapologetically African, and I love it. But there’s this boring aesthetic that’s starting to just look like an “influencer blueprint” - and that’s not what I’m talking about. Your Muholi’s, your Wanda Lephoto/Sartists, Sjava’s (to name only a few) are doing it the way I imagine it being impactful, so I think we’re already on our way.
You’ve recently graduated, how have you managed balancing education, career and motherhood?
Honestly, it’s all been a choice. I think it’s almost similar to running a business, studying, and having a career. One of those is your baby, and it’s something you want to watch grow. I’ve learned very quickly that there’s nothing I can’t do. Sometimes it takes a little bit of reshuffling here and there, and family really come through for me. So, I thank everyone (both my son’s paternal family and mine) for making it possible.
When can we expect an album?
I’ve been making a lot of empty promises, and for that, I apologise! Once I find the sound I’m looking for, that’s when I’ll know. I’m at a different stage in my life now, with new thoughts and experiences. I feel like I wouldn’t be doing my journey justice by succumbing to the pressures of silence. But I promise you, it’s on the way!
Where do you see your work in 10 years?
All over the world, playing a role in the education of how our cultures are aesthetic blueprints, but also being one of the many examples of how African youth are unapologetically becoming part and parcel of the creative space.
How do you overcome self-doubt?
I don’t think I have! That’s why I still don’t have an album out yet. *Hides* haha. But I think for the most part, it’s the pep talks. Sometimes you have to look in the mirror and absolutely love what you see. Read what you write and tell yourself this is the best thing you’ve ever read/created. I try not to let negativity wear me down, and if it does, I remind myself how dope I am and keep it moving.
What has been the best advice you've ever received?
“If you find yourself in a new space but making the same mistakes or coming across the same people that feed you nothing - you are not evolving.” - My sister. I’ve gotten amazing advice throughout the last few years, but this is at the forefront of my mind currently.
As a self aware, young, female, black artist do you feel you must take a stand on social issues and engage in the discourse that is going on globally? And how do you stay true to yourself through all this?
Absolutely. It’s essential to engage, however I also believe I can only engage when I have thought through what I have to say. Africa and Africans in the diaspora are already extremely triggered, and my experiences can also cause further trauma if I speak from a perspective that I assume will work purely based on being a young, black female. There are people who fit the same description who have experienced things that I could never fathom, and in that regard, I have no right to speak on their interactions with the world. So, when I approach social issues, I must fully comprehend what the conversation entails, and throw my weight into that accordingly. We can’t hurt each other more that what we’ve already had to endure.
What brings you happiness?
My son and family!
Tell us about the greatest lesson you’ve learnt from failure?
The only way to bounce back is to get back up!
Who is an Africa creative you look up to, and why?
I’ve got several, and most are pretty much my peers. They teach me what I know. I don’t like to reach too far because sometimes you don’t have to. Other than that, East African Wave from Kenya, Sho Ngwana who create jewellery and amazing tee’s, Mo Matli, Rendani Nemakhavhani, Kgomotso Neto, the list is absolutely endless. I feel bad for leaving people out, that’s how long it is. Let’s have interview for that too!
What's the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
My parents are DEFINITELY going to read this, so I can’t!
What’s on your playlist at the moment?
A lot of local music (Team Mosha, Daev Martian, Buli, Mpho Sebina, Moonchild Sanelly, Johnny Cradle. This is also another playlist!)
Scorpion by Drake
KTSE by Teyana Taylor
Both Kadjha Nin albums
Same as above! A whole new interview is needed.
And finally, where can our audience purchase or find out more about your work?
As soon as my work is available, you’ll be able to find me on all digital platforms.