Q&A With Nkateko Masinga

WOKE: It’s so inspiring to watch you grow and flourish in your journey. As Nkateko Masinga the individual, what would you want the world to know about you?
Nkateko Masinga: Thank you for your kind words. I want to be remembered as someone who pursued her dreams unapologetically. When I wrote my first story at the age of nine, I had no idea I would eventually want to pursue writing as a career. After completing high school, I went to medical school (The University of Pretoria – Faculty of Health Sciences) and studied to become a doctor. In my fourth year of med school, I published my first poetry collection. It was a turning point in my life. I realized that I can pursue more than one dream at once.

WOKE: As a multi-talented person, was is it an easy decision to try to pursue a creative career? And what inspired you to take this route?
Nkateko Masinga: Not at all. Before I decided to study medicine, I contemplated studying journalism or literature and was discouraged by the feedback I received from the people around me. I was told that there was no money in the arts and I should pursue a career that would guarantee job security. My inspiration came from the passion that I have for telling stories. When I wrote and published ‘The Sin In My Blackness’, In felt a sense of fulfilment because I knew that even when I am no longer on this earth, my poems will remain.

WOKE: What does it mean to you to be able to do what you love and are passionate about?
Nkateko Masinga: It means being free – having the freedom to express myself through my art and indirectly giving others the courage to pursue what they love.

WOKE: What does it mean to you to be young, black, creative and woman today?
Nkateko Masinga: It means not feeling safe in the world: being afraid of leaving home and never returning, afraid of disappearing and never being heard from again. But it also means creating safe spaces for yourself and others. Holding others through songs and poetry. It means demanding that your voice is heard when you can speak because you don’t know when you might be silenced.

WOKE: What drove you to start “Pass the Mic”? And what are you hoping to achieve through this initiative?
Nkateko Masinga: I was tired of hearing men write poems on behalf of women instead of passing the mic and allowing us to speak for ourselves. On the ‘Pass The Mic’ blog, women can tell their stories on their own terms. My goal is to have an anthology of the work that has been featured on ‘Pass The Mic’ in the course of a year.

WOKE: What are some of the upsides and downsides you’ve faced in this career thus far as a woman living in this country?
Nkateko Masinga: I believe we all face numerous difficulties in our chosen careers. I choose to see the difficulties as opportunities to learn and grow. The upsides are getting to travel the world and meeting new people.

WOKE: I, and I am sure others would agree that you’re very gifted. Do you personally feel like there is any truth in the idea that every gift has its downsides? That when you are talented, and your career feels like a calling in a way, pursuing it comes at a sacrifice and some unexpected burdens? That it’s not just the pure bliss it’s made out to be?
Nkateko Masinga: Thank you. Yes, every gift feels like a curse sometimes. I have had to make many sacrifices to make this dream work. I have lost the support of many friends and family because they didn’t understand the path I was taking. Now they congratulate me and wish me well but the pain of being told you are wasting your time and potential never quite goes away.

WOKE: If the above is true, what do you do to push yourself to surpass those unexpected hurdles in your journey?
Nkateko Masinga: I am at a point where I am no longer dependent on the support or validation of others to keep me going – I encourage myself to keep going when it’s tough because I know what I want to achieve, even if it doesn’t make sense to other people.

WOKE: On a lighter note, what is your dream or wish for other young women in South Africa thinking about pursuing such a career?
Nkateko Masinga: Stay true to yourself. Choose purpose and passion over a paycheck - Do something because you love it and the money will follow.

WOKE: Do you feel like there is more support today for people trying to pursue creative careers? And would you say there is still untapped growth prospects for creative economies?
Nkateko Masinga: There is a lot of support. There are residencies and fellowships for writers as well as literary journals that are always looking to accept previously unpublished work. There is indeed untapped potential - we need to make books accessible to children while they are still young. It is difficult to become a writer if you don’t read. We must teach and encourage young people to read and in that way, they can discover their passions. Even if they don’t become writers, they will still discover a new world in the books they read.

WOKE: What has been your greatest achievement in 2017? And what are your hopes for the next coming year?
Nkateko Masinga: November was the highlight of my year. I travelled to Nigeria for the ‘Ake Arts and Book Festival’ in early November and performed in front of writers from all over the world. On the 25th of November, I gave a TEDx Talk IN Pretoria. My topic was ‘The Unapologetic Pursuit of Multiple Passions.’
WOKE: Any last words?
Nkateko Masinga: Thank you for the interview