Words by Sanele Mawisa

Engaging. That’s the first thought that comes to mind when analysing the effervescent personality of Sibu Mpanza. His YouTube channel has taken South Africa by storm as he candidly discusses a medley of important social issues, ranging from rape culture to white privilege. His social commentary has reached all corners of South Africa and I spoke to him about where he comes from, his journey so far and what the future may hold.

Sibu was born in Mpumalanga but moved to Cape Town just a few weeks later. The initial days proved tough, “our first place was a shack in Khayelitsha, a few years later we moved to a house in Mandalay.”

Things began to look up when he started school and his love for music gave him the confidence he needed. “I went to Wynberg Boys from grade 1 to Matric. A very Upper middle class school in Cape Town. I was a very quiet kid growing up. I started growing into myself when I started doing music lessons in grade 8. I played percussion, mainly the Drum Kit. By grade 11, I was playing for the Cape Philharmonic Youth Orchestra and the Cape Philharmonic Youth Wind Ensemble. I had done some appearances with the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra and was accepted to play for the South African National Youth Orchestra. Music was my life.”

After matriculating he attended UCT but experienced a few hurdles before deciding on the path which felt most natural to him. “I went to UCT after matriculating. After trying a few courses I settled with a BSocSci in Social Development & Gender Studies. I dropped out in my final year to pursue blogging full time.”

He reminisces about his childhood and what he wanted to be when he grew up. “Two things I was really set on when I was a kid were ‘creating adverts’. I loved watching adverts on TV and I really wanted to be one of the people making them. At the time I did not even know that was called Marketing. By high school, I had started music and was set on teaching music and playing in an orchestra for the rest of my life. It’s very interesting now because my job is in Social Media Marketing.”

With a fascination with marketing, social media and the desire to share compelling content, he decided to start his own YouTube channel. “I had found YouTube content creators while I was browsing YouTube in the labs at UCT. 2 weeks later I decided I have to start my own YouTube channel because I had enjoyed watching YouTube so much. I also noticed there weren’t that many people doing it in South Africa, especially young black people.”

Being relatable is a key component of Sibu’s content and thus felt the most effective route to create a connection to people would through YouTube “The medium sort of found me. I loved the connection I felt with the YouTubers that I was watching. I wanted people to experience the same thing with someone who was closer to home. Video content had to be the way to go.”

In comparison to what’s happening globally, the YouTube industry in South Africa is still relatively small; however, it’s growing rapidly, so much so that for some it has offered career opportunities. “It’s growing faster than ever before. More and more people are seeing the potential of creating video content. Brands and companies too. It’s evident in the fact that I can now have a full time career in creating YouTube video content.”

His unique style of delivering his content and the attention to detail when engaging with pertinent social issues isn’t easy and preparation is key. “The topics usually come from the news as I do current affairs or from my own life. I then think about the topic for 24 hours, thinking about all the different angles and ways to package it because YouTube videos need to be short and to the point. It then becomes a thing of creating a quiet space with good lighting to film my videos. I write down some key points to not forget. I then film for about 15minutes. I try to edit my videos on the same day, if I leave it for too long, I get lazy. Editing a video can take anything from 2 to 8 hours. I then upload it onto YouTube and then market it all over my social media platforms.”

Building a brand is a pivotal aspect in the world of marketing and social media; however, sticking to your guns and believing in your work is fundamental as Sibu references the controversial moments that have come his way. “I put out a lot of hard hitting controversial content. I have received death threats and being called countless things that would be referred to as hate speech. It is all part of the job.”

At this stage of his career he has been able to stretch his creative muscle by working on a number of brand campaigns, his highlights being the #Today campaign with Standard Bank, Takealot.com’s campaign for cheaper textbooks, Burger King’s #BKBossBars and Vodacom’s #JustSwitch.

As a content creator there are sources of inspiration everywhere, people you look up to and admire for the work that they do. When asked who his role models are, Sibu mentions people who have impacted his life directly and those he has come to admire within the entertainment and creative industry. “Jo-Ann Strauss, she is the first person within the media industry who saw potential in me enough to want to mentor me. Nomzamo Mbatha, she is an incredibly hard worker with a ridiculous amount of humility, I think she is a great form of representation. Trevor Stuurman, an incredible content creator and Austin Malema, one of the hardest working photographers I know. My mother and my closest friends who support me in everything I do.”

Sibu really believes in the massive potential within the category and as an avid consumer of South African YouTube content, I ask him who he believes is the next big thing. “Anarchadium & The Microwave Boys. They are taking the South African YouTube space by storm!”

“Branching out and seeking fresh opportunities and new perspectives is crucial to staying on top of one’s game and to keep pushing boundaries,” says Sibu when talking about his move to Joburg. “It made sense to me. This is where I felt like the creative space was thriving, especially for young black creatives. I did not see a lot of young black YouTubers so I decided to come take up the space and build up the YouTube community with the YouTubers who were already here.”

The creative industry evolves and re-invents itself constantly. A key component of this is collaboration. So I asked who would be his creative dream team. “It would definitely be Trevor Stuurman and I See A Different You.”

Through his controversy with fellow YouTuber Renaldo Gouws, Sibu gained an unprecedented level of support which resulted in the hashtag #WeStandBehindSibu. He again garnered amazing backing and encouragement through #GetSibuOnRealTalk, which culminated in him being a guest on Anele’s show.  He is on the Mail & Guardian list of 200 young South Africans for 2017 and was ranked among The Plug’s 100 most influential individuals within South African urban culture. He is a young man, breaking down barriers and trailblazing through a difficult industry, discussing relevant social issues with a courage and determination that is incredibly endearing.

Visit https://www.youtube.com/user/SibuMpanza to subscribe to Sibu’s YouTube channel.