It’s said that working with family can be the hardest thing to do, with internal politics, differing interests, and sometimes the difficulty to separate professional from personal dynamics. However, the Ribane siblings make it all seem too easy, taking their combined love for style, design and music, and using their strong family dynamic to form the powerful creative collective, Dear Ribane Collective that they are today.
I recently had the great privilege to interview the Conceptual performance artists trio – Manthe (29), Tebogo (28) and Kokona Ribane (24), who have found a way to use all their various strengths in the arts to make incredibly striking statements through theatre, film, design, music and fashion – making careers out of their creativity.
Team work really makes the dream work in the case of this multi-talented collective of siblings as each has a specific responsibility in making sure they run a tight ship that you hear and see. Manthe is of course the star of the show as the inspiring muse, voice and set designer, while her sister Tebogo takes care of all things design related followed by Kokona making the magic through his musical talents.
Their musical journey cannot be defined linearly but their afrofuturism vibe chose them. “Our form was to change the narrative of African stories and give the youth a more impactful way to express their art without boundaries. We had to find different disciplines coming to art performances and how we can collaborate that in our stories. Hence, we tell them musically, visually and have people to interact with them in different ways,” said Kokona.
Their vision for their sound is to be global using their fluidity and seamless movement between artistic mediums an experience. “Music is a global language. So, we want to speak to the world in a global voice, keep moving with the times and always transcending our sound into different narratives. Keep it vibrant and youthful and what we want to eject to the youth. The process of creating a piece all begins at home, what you want to communicate and want to hear. It’s like a letter to yourself forwardly, like sending a letter to the future and what you want to hear to motivate you and give you strength. It’s mostly about inspiring the youth and ourselves within the process and finding words to match that feeling,” Kokona continued.
The idea of the family unit is huge for the Ribane clan after they were divided for about thirteen years, they decided that once their brother was old enough they needed each other more. “We got the privilege to live in one household and that’s how we started. We realized everyone has a certain strength in the art world. So, we felt that it would be good for us as siblings to work together and inspire our Black families that it’s possible to work with your family and enhance each other’s strengths,” said Tebogo.
In 2013 they formed Dear Ribane Collective to communicate their encounters with each other, their parents and followers of their works — fusing graphic design, dance, music, and performance and drawing attention from local and international collaborators.
“Dear Ribane has been around since we were born. We had the best parents in the world to instill the journey of self-discovery. They helped us discover ourselves, through the experiences that they have created for us. In 2013 that was the rebirth of it. We were ready because we were finally living together. Everyone had a strong impact to see where we want to take this mood board to the world. It gravitated overseas mostly but gradually South Africa will in time,” Manthe added.
The Dear Ribane Collective has exhibited internationally and worked on global campaigns with fashion houses such as Kenzo and Chanel as well as i-D magazine, Nike and Red Bull.
Dear Ribane pride themselves in making their work align with their conviction of walking in cosmic spirituality instead of creating and consuming in secular unawareness.
“Finally getting the best manager has been such a dream. Wow, it has been a hustle to be self-employed and make sure that everything runs well. So, it means a lot to finally have someone that believes in us and that can also protect us,” said Manthe.
The future is female, so what does that look like for the South African music industry. Manthe said, “Music is very important. Music is education. So, what we say also instills something in someone else. We need to be careful on how we handle the mic because once you have the mic, you voice is stronger than everyone. So, everything we navigate through our wording, our vocal challenge is very important also for women to understand the value they have through their voice. What we say is very important. A 12-year-old could be inspired by what you said through that music. The future will be healthy. How we take of ourselves and how we look, are we healthy? Are we well dressed? You don’t have to sell yourself or your body to get a certain position. I think the power of your mind, body and soul. Your intentions will create reactions. Let’s be QUEENS not…(she laughs naughtily).”
As we near the end of the interview, I asked each of the siblings what was the best advice they have received?
“Be yourself to the utmost and always find ways to bring a moral distinctive to who you are,” Kokona said.
“It’s always exciting to think and consider how it can change the now because we are living in such an amazing time to be alive tight now. Digital spaces allow you to breathe and be yourself. Always put your thoughts and emotions first because will unfold beautifully because you have dealt with yourself and allow everyone enjoy what you have built,” said Tebogo.
“Stay vigilant. Stay healthy. Find a strong balance within your craft and the business side of it. If you can’t do something admit and find help. Don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t do things that will degrade your value in years to come because this is your craft. You want to look like a wealthy, healthiest person years to come. So, you have to maintain yourself,” said Manthe.
It was a great pleasure to briefly hangout and chat to the Dear Ribane Collective. They are truly humble, kind, genuine and nice people – which is something I have found to be rare (more so than not) in this industry we call entertainment.
If you are still living under a rock and have not yet caught on the Dear Ribane Collective wave, then take a listen to Manthe Ribane and UK based producer and dj Okzharp’s Closer Apart album released earlier last month.