<p style="margin: 0px 0px 15px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; font-size: 12px; color: #666666; font-family: Helvetica, Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 16.796875px;">Expat South Africans live all over the world. They are found in the UK, Dubai, Australia, New Zealand, America, as well as South Korea, Japan and Malaysia. They engage in a multitude of professions, from lifting plaster board on London construction sites to working on the interior design of Porsches. They’re commended for being friendly, loyal and hard-working people.
In this issue we’re going to interview three South Africans who each do something very different, but have still made their mark in the big world out there. Let their stories inspire you, and let their individual successes make something stir inside. After all, the only difference between achieving your dreams, or not, is the power to recognise the opportunity.
I chose these three South Africans based on three elements: wackiness, inspiration and interest, in that order.
Their encouraging tales have provided them amazingly different means by which they have excelled, but with a common factor of believing that no-one can achieve without a lot of amount of hard work. And lots of time spent watering their dreams in the garden of life.
The unfortunate skills shortage currently affecting South Africa is evident in the achievements of South Africans abroad, as I take you on a journey around the world, where we speak to Ramshackle Rally creator Greg Powell-Rees in Europe, have a quick word with advertising legend Julian Watt in Australia, and end up in London where we speak to versatile SA rocker Arno Carstens.
OWNER OF RAMSHACKLE RALLY, EUROPE
Ramshackle Rally sounds exciting: please tell our readers more about it.
It’s a bit of an eccentric adventure across Europe in a bunch of old bangers which are completely unsuitable for the journey. Chuck that together with the decorating of the cars, the fancy dress and the ever present risk of being stranded along an isolated road in the Slovakian foothills, and you’ve got yourself an unusual combination of a 1500 mile white knuckle ride and a 4 day, 4 city, mobile fancy dress party.
It sounds like something only a South African could dream up, what inspired you?
I couldn’t believe how much fun could be had driving a tin shack over the Alps dressed as Shaka Zulu – the rest is history.
The various Ramshackle Rallies take place in Krakow, Valencia and Croatia. Are there certain legalities that need to be followed in these countries in order to host the rallies?
Organising the three events each year is something only the clinically insane should attempt. Moving a hundred tons of metal and rubber across Europe with up to 350 party hard Ramshacklers is just some of the reason why what hair I have left is going… grey. We operate in 10 European countries so it’s a job on its own remembering which language to pretend to understand.
In order to win one must compete in daily challenges during the race to score points. What kind of challenges?
The challenges are a light hearted way to pass the time between cities and ultimately to decide a winner. We’ve done all sorts from pedal boat races on Lac d’Annecy, competitions to produce the highest Coke and Mentos fountain to having a photograph taken with a policeman while one of your team members give him bunny ears. The challenges are all designed to get the Ramshacklers interacting with each other and the locals because that’s when the funny stuff happens.
Your website states ‘willing participants must put their trust in a hundred quid’s worth of scrap metal’ and prepare to drive 1500 miles. What kind of people make up the bulk of your entrants?
A real mixed bag. The oldest Ramshackler we’ve ever had was Derek, 78, from Ramshackle Valencia 2007. Each rally has a selection of professionals, students, families and couples across all age groups. There’s no rule. The great thing is how the journey brings all sorts of people together. The camaraderie is amazing.
Tell us about your most memorable Ramshackle Rally ever.
It’s a tossup between Team 118 118 (£100) meets Maserati (£75,000) on a blind rise in Monte Carlo, thankfully Maserati driver’s fault, or the arrest of three 40 year old men dressed as cows at the cigarette counter of Tescos in Bratislava (The cops tried to take their cow suits off them but they were starkers underneath!) These are the things that make rallies memorable.
Please elaborate on the best ever South African entry into the Ramshackle Rally.
Probably going to have to go to Doug Turvey and his Team Gijima from 2007. They had an old Audi station-wagon done up like a zebra. They had a Ferrari logo on it but even the Ferrari stallion was a zebra. They’ve entered two teams on the Split rally this year: Mama Afrika and Madiba Magic. It’s going to interesting to see how they top Gijima.
The word ‘Granny’ comes up a lot on your webpage. Any particular reason?
This would be the 2006 challenge of convincing a Slovakian granny (head scarf mandatory) to pose for a photograph in the banger balancing an egg on the back of her hand. The teams had an egg which they had to look after for the duration of the rally and have photographed in lots of interesting places. It was only the threat of legal action from a Swiss farmer that put a stop to that challenge after he caught one of the teams chasing a bull around his fields!
Any messages for all the South Africans abroad reading this article?
CREATIVE DIRECTOR AT 303 SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA
You headed up Net#work BBDO in Johannesburg, one of the world’s top creative advertising agencies. What made you leave home?
I think we need to take a slightly bigger view on ‘home’. We’re living in an increasingly global world and advertising is a global business. This said, a number of factors around LIFE and WORK influenced my decision to move abroad.
In retrospect, do you still consider it a wise decision?
Yup. I highly recommend that people step forward boldly into their future. Whatever that might be. The unknown is a cool place. It hasn’t got a map, so it’s a bit like following your feet, in a world where TomTom’s guide us everywhere, not knowing is refreshing.
When did you know that advertising is what you wanted to get into?
I didn’t really. I was a semi-good artist and writer as a kid and hated math. And graphic design lead to communication lead to advertising. Ten years later I’m in the business – Probably too far in to back out. What I like about it is that it’s essentially problem solving with creativity. And that’s a kick. Sometimes a kick in the teeth, but most times just a kick.
How do you bring South African flavour to your position at your ad agency in Australia?
People look at me oddly when I talk about having a ‘jol’ with their work. To complicate it further, there’s a new sweet that’s launched here called ‘Jols’, and people pronounce them ‘joles’, and I keep saying, “Rubbish. They’re Jols.”
Do you prefer to mingle with the local culture or do you find yourself looking for South African things to do?
Local is lekker, but I didn’t come to Australia to simulate home. I have found a shop that sells All Gold though.
The South African ad industry is very creative, and ranks well globally. Can you tell us a little more about Australia’s industry?
It’s busy. It’s competitive. It’s got high aspirations to be the best. Keep an eye on it. It’s on the up.
Do you get quality biltong in Australia?
I take what I can get.
Tell us your best – and worst – Australian slang words.
Best: Bogans – the derogatory term for Mullet heads. Worst: Saffas. Take a guess?
Is it true that Australians party just as hard as South Africans?
Oh yes! They know the ‘jol’, but not the word. There’s great beer here.
You’ve won a Cannes Grands Prix and multiple Loerie Awards. Does Australia offer you the same opportunities to win awards?
Less chance to win Loeries. The rest we’ll have to see.
Please tell us your personal best ever South African television advert.
Hmmm…I think Isuzu’s Operation Rachel was way ahead of its time and to this day defines advertising that actually has something to say, vs gratuitous ¾ carshots.
Any messages for all the South Africans abroad reading this article?
Yeah, make us proud and may the jol be with you.
To date, the Springbok Nude Girls remain one of South Africa’s most successful rock acts. What made you leave South Africa?
I left so that I could grow as an artist and ultimately broaden my market. Being in the UK has allowed me to experience how our industry operates in a different territory. It’s taken me out of my comfort zone. I’ve been hard at work here, recording a new solo album.
Springbok Nude Girls formed in 1994. Did it share any significant correlation to the new, post-apartheid South Africa?
Yes and no. Back then there was a huge sense of “magical togetherness” that was fuelled by the dreams of what could be. Now the realities of world crises are contributing to an already shaky local situation. But for most people, I think optimism still exists.
The Nude Girls have successfully toured abroad. Which international markets have a penchant for your music?
There are thin layers of Nude Girl lovers all over the world. We get emails from everywhere.
Why do you think South African bands struggle to make it at home?
Bands struggle to make it anywhere in the world. South Africa is a small market and traditionally it looks to either the UK or USA for its popular music, as do most global territories. However, there are South African bands that have made it at home and abroad in varying degrees. It becomes tougher when they try to make it in territories outside of SA. It comes down to hard work, commitment and management. And of course, something unique about your music.
Brian O’ Shea recorded your latest album, The Hello Goodbye Boys, as well as Seether’s multi-platinum first album. What is it that Brian brings to the game?
Brian brings an objective view point, great musical understanding and he has a good way with people. He also has a great sense of humour.
Since you’ve been overseas you’ve played with legends like Metallica, Amy Winehouse, the Rolling Stones, the list goes on. Who’s been the best – and hardest – act to follow?
We are all very individual, so to be honest, that thought never really comes to mind. I think my best gigs this year were opening for The Police in Germany, opening for Suzanne Vega in Piccadilly and touring the UK with Celine Dion. Those were my favourite audiences.
Which other celebrity band or singer parties the hardest behind the scenes?
I never hang around back stage long enough to check it out, we’ve been on a tight touring schedule, hopping on busses or planes straight after the shows.
You recently recorded an electronic album with producer Urbitro, called Bhelltower, due for release in 2008. Can you tell us a little more about the project?
It’s a low key endeavour, that’s out in SA at the moment. We paid for it ourselves, so there was no pressure to produce radio hits. It was a very rewarding experience creatively, but it’s not everybody’s cup of tea. It was something I had to get out of my system, and now that I have, I might like to do it again! Those left of centre might like it (www.myspace.com/bhelltower)
Can the revival of the Springbok Nude Girls in 2006 really be attributed to the return of your trumpeter Adriaan Brand?
Yes, I think so. At least we were all together again. We’d been talking about it for a while – we missed each other musically and Peace Breaker (the album we released last year) was a labour of love, and totally worth it.
Frank Sinatra was once quoted as saying: “Rock ‘n Roll is the most brutal, ugly, desperate, vicious form of expression it has been my misfortune to hear.” How would you have responded?
The beauty about anything artistic is that everyone can have their own opinion. Music is a powerful tool that can evoke strong emotion. The frightening thing is that it can leave you exposed, when it manages to touch a chord. Frank was confronted with his own mortality as a musician and a new generation’s music that he could not understand, so he reacted in a defensive way. It’s human nature.
What message do you have for all the South Africans living and working abroad?
I hope you all enjoyed my performance at the Toast festival at Kensington Olympia Conference Centre along with Freshlyground and Just Jinjer!