Bois Noir is a unique Mahala project that aims to shine a light on the dark heart of Africa.
JR, Montle and McGee are three broke Jozi-based creatives with big dreams and empty wallets. Driven to despair photographing, reporting and participating in South Africa’s street culture scene they hatch a simple plan. Leveraging off JR’s family connections to the Democratic Republic of Congo’s ruling elite, the self-described Good Time Mafia of South African youth culture plan to make some hard cash by establishing a photographic studio and media shop in Kinshasa. Lord help them.
Bois Noir (Black Wood) is a unique creative multi media project presented by Mahala, that aims to document the lives and experiences of three of South Africa’s freshest talents, as they struggle to establish themselves, and their business, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In so doing, they will act as the crowbar that lifts the lid and exposes the culture, politics, society and creative industries of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Through photographs, video clips, interviews and the written word, published online with weekly video blogs, in print and in film, the Bois Noir crew will allow audiences to track their daily exploits: triumphs and failures and journey with them as they try to make art, and their fortunes.
Imagine Creme Cartel meets Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness at a Bush Meat barbecue Big Space is behind the decks, JR is amping the vibe and McGee is shooting the pics and drinking the tequila out the bottle. It’s a story that cuts to the heart of the crisis of being young, creative and broke – set in a truly African paradigm and providing insight into the cultural workings of Africa’s sleeping giant.
The Bois Noir project aims to uncover a huge amount of photographic, video and written content, which will be released through three media channels:
– Website featuring stories, photographs, multi-media and weekly video blogs
– Feature length documentary film or a 12 part TV series
– Hardcover Coffee Table Book
Jean-Rene Onyangunga – The Connection
JR aka Kid Congo, aka Dr Pachanga is a 26 year old photographer living and working in Johannesburg. He was born in Kinshasa but his parents immigrated to South Africa when he was seven. His father is a medical doctor and his mother a business-women, he has lived all over South Africa before settling down and finishing school in Durban. Jean-Rene is the central protagonist of the project, because the entire enterprise follows his first “homecoming”. The Onyangunga family is relatively well connected in the DRC, his great uncle is a minister in the government and the celebrated musician Papa Wemba is a distant relative. The Bois Noir creative studio aims to leverage off these connections in pursuing work for the studio. Jean-Rene himself is an effervescent character who has carved a niche for himself photographing Johannesburgís party scene. He is a trained and accomplished fashion photographer and stylist as well as having a diploma in fashion design. He’s also the life of the party and like many young, talented creatives in South Africa, he’s totally broke. He dreams of using his family connections to set up a thriving creative studio in the heart of Kinshasa that stimulates, and becomes the central hub of the Congo’s creative revival, and also fills his pockets with freshly minted dollar bills.
Justin McGee – The Professional
Photography runs in Justin McGee’s veins, he’s a third generation professional photographer. Self taught, he moved to London after dropping out of photography at the Durban Institute of Technology, considering it too technical. Soon after his arrival in the UK he got a job working at Dazed and Confused Magazine where he worked under the tutelage of famous fashion photographer Rankin and shot everyone from Bono to Helena Christensen. On return to South Africa he has assisted and learnt from all the big names in South African fashion photography from Marc Cameron to Steve Tanchell, Crispian Plunkett and Justin Polkey, before striking out on his own. He’s shot editorials for Volcom, Fox, Lee Jeans and Iron Fist as well as magazine covers and fashion for SWG, Nike and SL magazine. Along with Jean-Rene he’s the staff photographer for Mahala. Justin McGee brings a professional head to the project. He’s the experienced photographic entrepreneur with all the skills and maturity required for managing the business-end of the studio. Justin envisions the Bois Noir project as his springboard to international fame and fortune. Right now though, he’s broke.
Montle Moorosi – The Pretty Boy
Montle is a wordsmith. He’s got an honours degree in journalism and media studies from the University of the Witwatersrand. More than that he’s one of the most popular commentators on Mahala. Montle captures the world in words. He writes from the gut with a playful inventiveness and an elevated perspective that cuts to the heart of the subject like a hunter’s knife through bushmeat. Montle’s primary role is to document the experience for the Bois Noir website. He’ll also be scripting and curating subject material for the weekly Bois Noir video blogs. Apart from that he will have a role working in the studio and generating any copy that is required for Bois Noir clients. But more than that Montle brings a certain, incisive joie de vivre to the project. He is discerning and perceptive and works as an intellectual counter-foil to the visual talents of JR and McGee. Montle will be driving a lot of the research as well as the social and political commentary. Like his two partners, Montle is also broke and looking to the Congo to make himself some serious ching to bring home to Jozi. He’s also too good looking to spend anytime in a Kinshasa jail, so he’ll be tasked with keeping the group on their best behaviour.
“Serious business no manga manga!” – Dr Pachanga
The central and most valuable branding position is the headline sponsor, opening credits in the documentary feature and the hardcover photographic book. In order to provide support and value for our sponsors, the project offers unique and creative opportunities for product placement throughout the production. From in-studio endorsements such as logos on the Bois Noir studio uniforms to branded fridges and photographic equipment. We can also offer sponsors prominent advertising space on the Bois Noir website, which will be linked to the Mahala site (which receives over 22000 hits a month).
Bois Noir is produced by Mahala the South African Music, Culture and Reality magazine, and will leverage off Mahala’s audience of integrated, intelligent and discerning South Africans. Mahala will also promote and advertise the project through all its mediums, media channels and partners.
The website (augmented by Facebook and Twitter pages) offer fantastic pre-production visibility and promotion of the project, as well as building a global audience and fan base.
The Documentary film is to be released via local cinemas and entered onto the circuit of global film festivals.
Once that process is complete, the documentary will be screened via a local broadcaster.
The book will be produced and finished by the time the film premiers at cinema and released and sold with the DVD of the film, through all the major retail outlets in store and online.
Finally we’ll look to sell the film to international territories, airlines and other channels over time.