Cape Town - Both the visual eye and political voice of film maker Jabu Nadia Newman, the creator of web series The Foxy Five, are creative and strong.
She smartly uses her artistry to challenge structural oppression and there’s a feminist energy coursing through the show that’s brought to life by characters who are witty, cocky and badass, yet gentle and playful.
So who is this new voice that everyone’s talking about?
A place called home
Like many of us, Newman’s earliest memories of being enthralled by stories are made up of the likes of Winnie the Pooh and Alice in Wonderland, favourites as a child, and watching films like The Lion King in the cinema, which she says had a lasting effect on her. “Bambi was the first movie I cried to,” she adds.
South Africa’s latest web star grew up all over Cape Town, from Grassy Park to Woodstock to Kenilworth, finally settling in Plumstead.
“I attended a Waldorf school for most of my life [a system which emphasises the role of imagination in learning], which I believe really made me the creative person that I am.
“I studied at UCT for three years but left before I graduated. Now I reside in Woodstock and actually stay in the flat I grew up in, which has been in my family for generations – so it’s really nice to write and be creative in a place I call home.”
The nearly famous five
Her break-out project as a writer-director and collaborator, The Foxy Five, is a six-part web series that follows the daily lives of five womxn who are best friends. They’re trying to navigate towards a safe space in a world that is trying to kill them.
“It takes about one to two months to fully write, shoot, edit and release an episode. This season has come full circle as the first episode was released in June 2016 and our final episode will be released in June 2017.”
Newman says that the womxn of The Foxy Five are actresses, writers, academics, artists and musicians. All of them are names to look out for, steadily shaping a new generation of black womxn’s voices.
“There’s Duduza Mchunu [Unity Bond] doing her final year at Michaelis art school; Nala Xaba [Womxn We] an artist and curator who graduated at UCT and is currently an editor of the prestigious pan-African platform for writing and critical thought Chimurenga; Qondiswa James [Femme Fatale] an actress and UCT graduate who writes and directs her own theatre pieces and has just written and starred in a new Jenna Bass film; student Tatenda WekwaTenzi [Blaq Beauty] who is a singer in a band with the talented Andy Mkosi and she’s also a professional model; and then there’s Qiniso van Damme [Prolly Plebs] who is looking to do her masters while she’s also a professional model.”
The idea of creating The Foxy Five came from Newman witnessing the #FeesMustFall protests that rocked campuses in 2015 and experiencing the progressive and revolutionary spirit of the new generation in that period.
“The womxn who were leading these protests taught me things I had never even heard about at university.”
Creating a safe space
So, after a successful crowdfunding campaign, Newman was able to produce the first season of the show, and wants to keep telling stories through the medium of film.
“I’m looking to do longer narrative formats, but web series content is an interesting and instant way of getting your story to your audience. Photography is also a means I want to tell stories through by learning how to convey a lot in one image. The subtleties and nuances in an image can say a lot.”
One of Newman’s dreams, something she is already actively doing, is to create more opportunities for black womxn in the film industry.
“I try to work with an all-female crew as much as possible but have realised that we also at the same time need to create avenues for more womxn to learn and work in this industry. We need to have a safe space for womxn of colour to tell their stories and share with the world. It’s also important for us to be driving authentic experiences of South Africa when we’re presenting to an international audience.”
Award-winning Cape Town director and screenwriter Bass is one of Newman’s industry favourites.
“I really enjoy Jenna Bass’ work and the process of how she creates films. Others that I am inspired by include Buhle Ngaba, Jody Brand, Zandi Tisani and many others...”
“I’m currently writing things that I’ve personally experienced and using my writing time to reflect, as if I’m writing in my diary.
“My family have such interesting stories and have lived such colourful lives that I’d love to honour them by telling them. A lot of who I am is because of my family, and learning about their experiences has helped me to understand human existence and specially humans enduring suffering.”
Newman says having been raised by strong matriarchs has influenced a lot of who she is as a storyteller.
“My maternal grandmother comes from Zimbabwe and built a home and a life for her seven children in Cape Town. My mother was an activist and taught me a lot about politics and feminism.
“Although, I would say my dad was the first feminist I knew and often played the role of being the mother and father when needed. I owe everything to my parents and value their upbringing.”
Watch The Foxy Five on its YouTube channel The Foxy Five TV.