GOOD

Ravi Naidoo

The relentless dot connector elevating Africa’s creative reputation

Ravi Naidoo tends not to falter. One wonders when he rests. His energy fills any room he enters, and despite his broad frame, he moves lightly, swiveling on his toes as conversation dictates. He speaks in paragraphs, not sentences, with a radio presenter’s attention to phrasing. He laughs quickly. He remembers names. After 20 years in the engine room of South Africa’s creative economy, which in the same period has grown from a backwater industry into a thriving international hub, Naidoo has mastered the art of engagement and building relationships. It’s a skill that appears effortless but demands great focus and drive. In Naidoo’s company—which is charming, but also taxing—you can just about hear him think.

At 51, Naidoo is one of the leading figures in Cape Town’s vibrant design scene, coordinating its premier annual event: the Design Indaba Festival. Indaba is part conference, part expo, drawing together a wide mix of creative professionals from around the globe in a celebration of artistic endeavor. Speakers this past February included Burning Man co-founder Larry Harvey, Senegalese photographer Omar Victor Diop, and William Kentridge, one of South Africa’s most highly acclaimed visual artists. “Other events have started emulating what we do,” says Naidoo. “Imitation truly is the sincerest form of flattery.”


When he was younger, Naidoo was strongly encouraged to enroll in a “bankable” university program. “I studied medicine because it was reliable,” he explained. “We were expected to pursue safe, stable careers.” And though he graduated a physiologist, his heart urged him toward more creative pursuits.

“Apartheid was ending, and I felt compelled to help build the new South Africa,” he says. “There was a tremendous sense of opportunity. So many people were trying to change the country. I was convinced that design and creativity had a major role to play.”

In 1994, Naidoo launched his own firm, Interactive Africa—“a strange hybrid between a creative agency and a production company,” as he describes it—which was instrumental in such notable projects as the 1999 African Connection Rally, the 2002 First African In Space mission, and the successful South African bid for the 2010 soccer World Cup.

“I recognized a need for something different: design that met the needs of people and society, not of brands,” he says.

Key to Naidoo’s philosophy is positioning Africa as a source of inspiration, flipping the script on colonial approaches that value the continent solely in terms of extractable assets. “This stuff wasn’t appreciated,” says Naidoo, tapping his forehead. “Africa has resources that were never invested in. It’s time to embrace the ideas economy.”

Design has become a particularly hot topic since Naidoo first started in the field, both globally and locally. Cape Town was even named 2014’s “world design capital” by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design, due in no small part to seeds Naidoo sowed two decades ago. Yet, he has watched the ideas industry grow with tempered enthusiasm.

“We’ve been driven by the belief that design can improve the world,” Naidoo says. “It’s great that people have started thinking like this, but change isn’t just about talking. It’s about rolling up your sleeves and getting things done.”

Features
Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

Millions of people in over 150 countries across the globe marched for lawmakers and corporations to take action to help stop climate change on Friday, September 20.

The Climate Strikes were organized by children around the world as an extension of the of the "Fridays for Future" campaign. Students have been walking out of classrooms on Fridays to speak out about political inaction surrounding the climate crisis.

"We need to act right now to stop burning fossil fuels and ensure a rapid energy revolution with equity, reparations and climate justice at its heart," organizers say.

There's no doubt the visual images from the marches send a powerful message to those on the ground but especially those watching from around the world. GOOD's own Gabriel Reilich was on the scene for the largest of the Climate Strikes. Here are 18 of the best signs from the Climate Strike march in New York City.

Keep Reading Show less

September 20th marks the beginning of a pivotal push for the future of our planet. The Global Climate Strike will set the stage for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, where more than 60 nations are expected to build upon their commitment to 2015's Paris Agreement for combating climate change.

Millions of people are expected to take part in an estimated 4,000 events across 130 countries.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Apple

When the iPhone 11 debuted on September 10, it was met with less enthusiasm than the usual iPhone release. A lot of techies are holding off purchasing the latest gadget until Apple releases a phone with 5G technology.

Major US phone carriers have yet to build out the infrastructure necessary to provide a consistent 5G experience, so Apple didn't feel it necessary to integrate the technology into its latest iPhone.

A dramatic new feature on the iPhone 11 Pro is its three camera lenses. The three lenses give users the the original wide, plus ultrawide and telephoto options.

Keep Reading Show less
Health
via I love butter / Flickr

We often dismiss our dreams as nonsensical dispatches from the mind while we're deep asleep. But recent research proves that our dreams can definitely affect our waking lives.

People often dream about their significant others and studies show it actually affects how we behave towads them the next day.

"A lot of people don't pay attention to their dreams and are unaware of the impact they have on their state of mind," said Dylan Selterman, psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland, says according to The Huffington Post. "Now we have evidence that there is this association."

Keep Reading Show less
Health