By Darren Gilbert

So that is what he did, starting Creative Nestlings in 2010 with a photographer friend. Back then, though, they had dreams of documenting the public arts scene via a blog. The duo attended exhibitions; were invited to fashion and music shows and chatted to creatives to find out more about their processes. However, it was all for fun. The real nitty-gritty work only started when Phiri was asked what he wanted to do with the platform.

By then, the circumstances had changed dramatically. “My wife – Lunga – had asked to get involved,” says Phiri. “She is into fashion and wanted to know what I wanted to do with it. However, I didn’t have a decent answer.” The truth was Phiri didn’t know where it was going or what was going to happen. His friend had since left to pursue other ventures and Creative Nestlings was in flux.

However, instead of leaving and doing something else, he set about finding out where it was going. “Lunga and I started talking about what was missing,” he says, “and we soon realised that there was no creative community for youngsters. Yes, there is content available to creatives but it wasn’t directly relevant to South Africa. It was all recycled from around the world.”

And with that, Creative Nestlings had found its purpose. “We want to nurture young people by helping them with their ideas. To assist them creatively but also help them get funding and give them the resources and tools that they required to make a success of themselves.”

One way of doing that is through The NEST. “It’s a creative network that connects young people across the continent to each other to talk and help share ideas,” says Phiri. “It’s a peer-to-peer network with an aspect of mentorship.” Currently there is also a membership aspect to it but Phiri is acutely aware of the challenges of running it.

“Everything we do is responsive to the needs of young people across the continent,” he says. “For example, the membership programme that we run costs R750 per year but it’s not been as successful as I would have hoped so we are currently re-evaluating it.” Regardless of whether people will need to pay in the future, Phiri wants it to become the network around the world for young African creatives.

Then there are the events that Creative Nestlings host. Conversations on Creativity has become a staple event where Phiri invites creatives to come and share their journey. As the title alludes to, it’s more a conversation than a talk. “We connect people through our events, giving them an opportunity to talk and share ideas,” he says. Come the end of the year, Phiri also hopes to launch their first conference, which will expand on their monthly event.

On top of that are the Nestling Awards, which celebrate hard-working young African creatives. Phiri is aiming to bring them back again following a successful first outing last year. “The response was extremely overwhelming, and it was exciting to see the support young Africans had for each other,” says Phiri. “The experience also showed the importance of recognising and celebrating those who are sacrificing themselves for the greater good.”

This is the current state of Creative Nestlings. As for the future, Phiri is less certain. He has a business to run. It needs money to survive. However, one thing will never change: “Creative Nestlings will always strive to nurture, connect and celebrate young African creatives.”

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