“I’ve always viewed myself as a storyteller and I’ve always had a wild imagination,” says University of Pretoria (UP) graduate Fezekile Msimang.
He is also a man with vision, judging by the leaps and bounds he has made in his career: Msimang has gone from being a student photojournalist at UP’s campus newspaper, PDBY, to owning a digital media and marketing company and, most recently, making inroads into the nascent cannabis space.
The Cape Town-born serial entrepreneur, who holds a BSc in Human Physiology, Genetics and Psychology, founded his digital media and marketing business at only 19 years old. Nzuri Pingendo, which translates as “beautiful portrayal”, counts some of the biggest local celebrities and organisations among its clients and specialises in portraits; graduation, events, fashion and wedding photography; and various forms of videography.
“The aim of the company is to take an idea from seed to distribution, and create the content and marketing pull around it so that it can reach a target audience in a way they can engage best with it,” Msimang says.
He discovered his passion for being behind the lens at a young age, having started playing with his dad’s camera from the time he was six years old. While Msimang always had an interest in photography, he started honing his skills much later in life. “I got a camera in 2014; I was a first-year at the time. I started taking pictures of flowers, like everyone does,” he says with a laugh. “In second year, I wasn’t in a good headspace; I wasn’t enjoying my studies and that’s when photography became my refuge, my safe space.”
In that same year, Msimang shifted his focus from taking pictures of flowers to telling compelling student stories while working at PDBY. “Once I started working at PDBY, I unintentionally started building my brand.”
Although, he has worked with big brands like NetFlorist, UP and the Church of Sweden, his personal career highlights include images he took in the hope of documenting the need to change existing systems.
“Documenting protest action during the #FeesMustFall protest and highlighting rape culture in institutions means a lot to me because it relates to people’s lived experiences. They are pictures I took for a purpose, and it prompted change.”
Msimang also hopes to prompt change in the green energies and nascent cannabis space through the Mendi Msimang Innovation Hub, an organisation named after his late grandfather. Msimang’s role in the company is to focus on business development and marketing. “Through this business, we work to secure the inclusion of more African farmers in the space and support them being paid at a fair market rate,” he explains. “We have positioned our company with off-takes and advisory services.”
As a young entrepreneur, especially in this space, Msimang says he has faced several challenges, some of which includes a lack of access to funding, trying to grow in the market and being undervalued.
“I’m young and black, and people don’t like being told what to do by young black people. Often, you have to fight for your space in the room – once you take that space, never give it back!” he advises.
He has found a way to transcend any difficulties he may encounter. “I’ve probably spent thousands of hours perfecting my craft and learning as much as I can. That’s what helped me improve and in turn manoeuvre the challenges.”
Msimang is also involved in a youth-led NGO called Ambitious Africa, which connects young changemakers, entrepreneurs and industry leaders in Africa and Northern European and Northern Atlantic countries, in the hope of building community-conscience entrepreneurs and finding sustainable solutions for problems in Africa.
In the immediate future, Msimang hopes to travel and document his experiences, listen to and learn from others, and use that knowledge to refine and implement impactful