Nike & Patta unite The Next Wave of Johannesburg creatives  

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The pair’s 2 Day Exchange brought 30 of the South African city’s young creatives together for talks and workshops in fashion, music, photography and more 

“Words can’t really describe it.” Patta’s Gee Schmidt is trying to express the feelings that followed the brand’s recent 2 Day Exchange – an event held in Johannesburg in collaboration with Nike. It saw 30 of the city’s young creatives come together for a series of talks, interviews and workshops by luminaries across fashion, photography and music. 

Lost for words, the co-founder of the coveted Amsterdam-based streetwear brand settles on a sense of the surreal. “It’s just the closest thing to magic – having people come together: working, laughing, talking, listening and eating together, I felt so inspired. Such amazing talent all across the board,” he shares. 

Turning to magic is apt for a Nike x Patta collaboration that began with the dreamily poetic The Wave, a four-part film by London-based storyteller and multifaceted artist Mahaneela, where creative aspirations float through scenes held together by a sense of community and identity. As an extension of The Wave’s digital experience, The Next Wave manifests the ideas that shape the short film’s celebration of Black culture and creativity in real, physical spaces. 

Held at Nike Shapa Soweto in Johannesburg – a training centre grounded in giving the township’s residents free, daily access to a range of sports and built on Nike’s maxim that “everyone is an athlete” – the event saw inspiration flow freely between the multi-generational creatives gathered from across oceans and disciplines to form The Next Wave.

“It’s just the closest thing to magic – having people come together: working, laughing, talking, listening and eating together.” 

As part of the team leading the fashion workshop, Sakhile Cebekhulu of upcycling label Unknwn Projects has been to Shapa Soweto often, collaborating with Nike on workshops. But each time he does, he’s “in awe at how the community is actually using it,” explaining that there’s “always activity happening.” Unknwn Projects – founded by Sakhile and Khotso Mohlokoane – also has its origins in the Swoosh.

Introduced by a mutual friend, “[Khotso] was wearing these crazy dunks – sneakers I had wanted for years, and I never got,” Sakhile says. “I was like yo, where did you get these sneakers and that became the start of our relationship,” he explains. Their creative partnership, however, began when multi-hyphenate South African artist Manthe Ribane, who Sakhile created stage looks for, suggested he rework Nike gear into a look for her. Swamped, he asked Khotso for help, and Unknwn Projects, an “experimental and ongoing research project” that centres upcycling and sustainability, was born.

Working with Nike has “been a fruitful relationship so far,” Sakhile explains, “because for us they are also helping us do one thing we’re really passionate about, which is teaching and giving back through these workshops we’ve done with them.”  

At the event, young creatives found themselves in the same room as mentors further down the creative path – sharing their knowledge, experiences and skills in a multi-directional exchange. Sakhile grew up seeing Patta on Tumblr and blogs, drawn to the brand’s focus on building communities alongside their business, which resonates with Unknwn Projects’ aim to give back, educate and continuously learn, too. “When we started out, we didn’t have many people who we could go to for advice or just how to find supplies,” Sakhile explains.

For another young creative in attendance, Leslie Muzuwa, the opportunity to engage with South African production trio Ganja Beats at the 2 Day Exchange was unmissable. The music workshop mentors’ “contribution to the local hip hop scene” is undeniable – “some of the biggest songs in our industry are because of them,” he explains. With work that includes cuts for rap royalty, including Cassper Nyovest, Youngsta CPT and the late Riky Rick – the producers are sought out for their skills at spotting and nurturing young talent from early on. But for Ganja Beats’ Heemal Gangaram, the inspiration goes both ways. “We were inspired just as much as them,” he explains, describing the incredible experience of seeing such joy in his team’s faces. 

Nike Shapa Soweto in Johannesburg – a training centre grounded in giving the township’s residents free, daily access to a range of sports and built on Nike’s maxim that “everyone is an athlete”

After releasing two EPs, Leslie is focused on learning more. “I feel like it’s a trap to kind of feel like you know enough,” he philosophises – capturing the essence of The Next Wave’s idea of knowledge as an endless horizon. You’re “never too old to learn and never too young” – Gee said. 

The panel discussions and interviews over the two days were incredibly insightful, helping to shape Leslie’s next steps. Featuring a range of experts including music legend Yvonne Chaka Chaka and sports icon Caster Semenya, the sessions imparted the wisdom and essence at the heart of “Each One, Teach One” that’s central to Patta’s ventures in education and culture. 

The panel on how to start a business was a cross-continental meeting of influential streetwear founders. It featured South Africa’s Zaid Osman of streetwear brand Grade Africa and Wireless G of Soweto’s own Thesis Lifestyle sharing their origin stories, alongside the journeys of London’s Clint of Corteiz & Jomi Bello of Nigeria’s wafflesncream. 

“And just that idea of taking things into your own hands and making it happen was very powerful.”

“I never thought that I would be able to relate so much to someone like Clint”, Leslie says, sharing how much he learned. “It’s the way each panelist had to be in certain positions at certain times, or moments to catch on to the momentum of something. Or they had to see a gap in a specific way, which I really resonate with – especially as someone trying to run a creative business pushing R&B music, which isn’t as big as it can be in South Africa,” Leslie explains.

“And just that idea of taking things into your own hands and making it happen was very powerful,” he adds. The Next Wave turned ideas and conversations into practical lessons that went beyond the surface – including talks on how to find funding or build a brand. And it wasn’t just about moments when you’re riding the crest of success.

Being a creative is also about the ebbs and flow; those moments when momentum is lost, and the tides of inspiration turn into a flat sea. And sometimes all it takes to shift this is recognition. “I felt seen,” Zizipho Ntobongwana says. The image-maker, who wants to work across fashion and documentary, was part of renowned photographer Shaniqwa Jarvis’ workshop. 

As a young creative, “you often feel like it’s kind of like screaming into the void, and no one can hear you or see what you’re doing,” she says. But The Next Wave brought new possibilities. “Having your portfolio reviewed? I’ve never had that. And to have somebody that is, like that huge in the industry doing that? That was mind-blowing,” Zizipho shares. For her, The Next Wave was “a building of community,” and recognising the tidal potential of connecting.

“I realised that there was a whole community of people that were around trying to do the exact same thing and how people just have your back.”

“I think having been in the creative world or scene and trying to open the door and failing at it so many times, I realised that there was a whole community of people that were around trying to do the exact same thing..and how people just have your back,” she says.  Instead of competition in the workshops, she found camaraderie and community. And now, her perspective has shifted. “I think after the workshop or the programme, I really felt like, my voice is important. I think that the lens that I bring is important. The stories that I want to tell are important. And so, to do justice to them, I actually do have to push myself a bit more as a creative,” Zizipho shares. 

Her words echo the strength of self-belief and inner voice that was at the heart of Caster’s talk on “The Athletic State of Mind. “She was mostly focused on how there was no room for her to kind of take in and digest all the bad things or the naysayers. She had no room for that, because her internal voice was always so strong – was always way louder than everyone else’s. And that really it still sits with me,” Leslie says.

Sakhile’s take away lesson – no matter how cliché it sounds – is to just “keep going,” “at your craft, keep perfecting it, and think about the next wave [of] people coming up.” He insightfully muses that “sometimes the fruits of our labour will be for next generation. And if we keep just giving back, you know, it opens so many doors, and it makes the community bigger – it allows for more people to prosper.”

The Next Wave implies another, and another – an endless momentum. Thinking about how it continues, Gee finds the words through his co-founder, speaking in chorus. “Edson said it best in his speech at the end of the program. This has been the spark, we look forward to seeing what it ignites. New networks have been built and we keep on building and stand on each other’s shoulders to grow.” Because as aspiring documentary photographer Dineo Mthethwa declared at the end of the 2 Day Exchange, The Next Wave is “coming and we’re strong.”