The power of three: Pap Culture x Phoebe

The ladies of Pap Culture embody what it means to be a modern day muse today; with their breakthrough Vlog on Youtube, they have turned everyday conversations into dialogue that thousands of viewers tune into.

Photographed by Phoebe Apondi, the trio consisting of Bongeka Masango, Thembe Mahlaba and Nwabisa Mda,  let us in to their realm of creativity; from the intimate setting of a home to the streets of Cape Town dressed in local designs from Afrogrunge.

A muse is…someone who inspires creative thinking and rejuvenates your creative energy. They are not necessarily someone who gives you creative ideas but can also be someone who makes you feel better and helps you get back in tune with your creativity -Bongeka

1. What word comes to mind when you think of the colour “red”?

Nwabisa: Bold

Thembe: Lipstick. Wine. Sports car. Commercialized love. Blood.

Bongeka: Intensity

2. As black womxn, as creatives, imagery plays a big role in the way you choose to portray yourselves. What did you wish to communicate with these images?

Nwabisa: True to how we approach our content, we let the process play out and we let the interaction between us amongst each other and Phoebe in a way tell it’s own story without overthinking or over-directing it too much. Bongeka, Thembe and I are very comfortable being in each others space / company so it was important for me to have images that reflect our connected relationship.

3. It’s the month of “love”. Can you mention one way that you show love to yourselves as individuals? Whether it’s through affirmation or self-care etc.

Bongeka: The best way for me to show love to myself is to take time out and just be alone. I really love being by myself so having an opportunity to block out a day and do my own thing is probably the best way for me to show love to myself.

Nwabisa: This is such a work in progress for me. Sometimes I get it right and sometimes I really get it wrong. Self-love for me right now is a state of mind and not so much what I do for myself. It’s being aware of the conversations I allow myself to be exposed to, being conscious of what I say and how I say it, knowing when to tap out when its not in my best interest to engage. It’s being cognisant of the way I talk to myself. I’m very hard on myself sometimes and I say some of the worst and weirdest things when I’m not feeling myself but I try to create a mental space that allows me to exude confidence and more than anything humour. I live for a good laugh, even though at times it’s an easy scapegoat for me. So any chance I can get to have opportunities to laugh…I’m there.

4. What do you wish you loved about yourself back then that you do now?

Thembe: My mind and the way I think.

Bongeka: I wish I loved my culture more back in the day than I do now. I think African cultures are so beautiful and so interesting and I wish I appreciated mine more when I had the opportunity to really learn from family. I now have to actively search for information when I used to have people around me willing to pass the knowledge onto me at any time.

5. What role does your identity as PoC play in what you do? In your creative process?

Nwabisa: The ability to speak and believe I deserve to be heard. Young PoC have been silenced for so long under “respect your elders”, “it’s not your place to speak”, “wait your turn”, “you still young, what do you know”…the list is endless but for the first time, I feel like our time is now. So with Pap Culture we’ve made sure to create in a way that’s truly authentic to who we are and how we express ourselves because nothing we say is scripted. We have real life conversations and we’ve become more confident and bold enough to take a chance on ourselves and say hey this is who we are, come through and join in on the chats.

Thembe: It plays a major role. I guess needing to having conversations regarding being a POC and the issues that relate to us to show that sometimes your pain/struggle is not unique and that there have been other people who havare gone through it and this is how they dealt with it. Also the conversation around representation. Seeing someone like you, being it race, gender, ways of thinking/living share their experiences/thoughts allows for yours to seem acknowledged and confident

Bongeka: My identity as a POC plays a HUGE role in my identity and creative process. I always tell people that I’m Black first and female second, simply because I feel I navigate the world as a POC before I do as a woman. Being a POC is a huge part of my culture, my thinking and my experiences of the world, all of which influence my creative process.

6. What’s the one thing you feel like the industry/media should promote more of?

Nwabisa: Welcoming and celebrating different kinds of creators. More times than not it feels like you need to look and dress a certain way, you need to hangout at certain places with certain company, you need to do a certain job in order to be considered amongst the “real” contributors to SA’s media / entertainment industry. A lot of us have a lot to give but we just don’t have the resources, platforms or connections to be heard. So I wish decision makers allowed for more people to be included and just take a chance on those less known but who are just as talented if not more. Cause more times than not, those are the people willing to give it their all, willing to learn / be groomed and willing to work the hardest because break-through opportunities are few and far between.

Bongeka: I think the media should promote different kinds of creativity within different races. I can’t stand that there is a certain type of creative narrative reserved for different races. We aren’t all the same, so there’s no reason that all black people have the same creative expression.

7. In the age of influence and fast, consumption and culture, how do you stay true to yourselves?

Nwabisa: Humour. Like I said I love a good laugh, even at my own expense. There’s a lot of pressure to be a certain type of person and go about life in a certain way. But I’ve always been the girl who’s there but people don’t really notice me. So it’s always been easy for me to just be me…overly dramatic, loud and a sometimes random cause in a way, “nobody is watching”. So the only person left to entertain / impress is me.

Thembe:  We just do. I think it’s because of the nature of our business. We don’t take ourselves too seriously to make fun of ourselves and when we make mistakes etc. pap Culture has received some attention of what would be considered small numbers so I think it’s testament to the fact that you can still make a difference without the backing of the million double taps

8. To be young, black and womxn in 2017 means….

Nwabisa: Using and creating opportunities to empower ourselves as Womxn and creating spaces that celebrate and encourage the need to work together to uplift each other

9. What’s on your mood board?

Thembe: Tracee Ellis Ross. Ciara. India Love. Tahiry. Kim K. Missy Elliot. Charlamagne the God. Childish Gambino. Issa Rae. Tina Fey. Amy Poehlr. Kristen Wiig. Kate McKinnon. Shonda Rhimes. Don Cheadle. Denzel Washington.

I want my own production company. I want my own movie reel. I want a mini-series show(s). I want to master the art of growing plants and flowers. I want love, I want to be fearless with it, to knock me over.

I want to travel Africa. Morocco next would be amazing. Just all of Africa. I’m interested in us.

Nwabisa: It’s a range of things: from skin, body, hair, style goals, to places I want to travel to, images of décor I want for my apartment and photography & photographers that inspire me.


Concept Pap Culture, Phoebe Apondi

Photographer Phoebe Apondi

Designer Anita mfinyongo of Afrogrunge.

Make-up Artist Anita Atuanya



Creative Visual Expressionist.