ADA recently interviewed Elizabeth Janse van Rensburg, editor of Chew Magazine. Chew magazine is the new generation online publication. It is has an energetic spirit oozing a personal, edgy style and an experimental nature. It is a high quality publication with substance, which doesn’t conform to mediocrity or the traditional idea of what a magazine is. Photography, fashion, design, illustration and journalistic features on issues relating to our immediate society and culture, from sub cultures to global warming to creative migration, form part of Chew magazine’s content. The content is lead by what the readers want to read and see.
What is Chew magazine?
Chew magazine, the pioneering online magazine based in South Africa, is aimed at the new generation searching for a fresh, smart, funny, edgy, unusual, underground-graphic-online-culture magazine. Chew magazine does not restrict or limit contributors but rather promotes freedom of speech, creativity and opinion. We aim to challenge traditional perceptions of magazines and magazine design and so pushing the boundaries of creativity and expression. Talented individuals have the opportunity to explore with their creative ideas whether visual, verbal or interactive and have them published in a high quality, freely available, digital magazine, making it accessible to people from all walks of life. This allows for experimentation, exploration, collaboration and above all, the opportunity to having fun – making this a magazine for the people, by the people. Chew magazine is a platform to promote work locally and globally, an online networking space and voice, an online community experimenting and sharing inspiration for a new generation.
“The Bite Sized Guide for Creative Junkies”
So tell us how Chew magazine came about. When were you founded? Where does the name come from?
Working in the print publishing industry a few years ago, I was faced with the reality of retrenchments, publications closing down and creatives not having the opportunity to do conceptually creative work due to client limitations, so I looked towards other avenues that would keep creativity alive, share creativity globally but most importantly support the creative industry and community. I turned towards the booming online industry. This is what inspired the birth of Chew with the first issue going live 7 August 2008. ‘How did I come up with the name?’ is probably the question I get asked most often, so I guess the name definitely sticks! I wrote down thousands of names for about a week. Somehow the phrase ‘something to chew on’ popped into my head and I instantly knew that this was the right name for this creative, new magazine with Chewy content – we give you something to Chew on!
What is your definition of creativity? How does Chew Magazine encourage this form of creativity?
Defining creativity is really difficult as it’s not really measurable and it’s incredibly subjective. For me personally I would say that creativity is defying convention and pushing the boundaries of what has been done before. Creativity is the courage to create and do things differently even if people question it. Chew magazine celebrates those people who do things a little differently, who have the courage to do what they are passionate about and defying convention along the way. In the ‘Creative Junkies’ issue, Chew featured a young trio of filmmakers, ‘Fly on the Wall’, whose passion and dream was to do a documentary on South African punk-rock band ‘Fokofpolisiekar’ (f**k-off-police-car).
Even thought they were told that it would be a failure and that they are wasting their time, they pushed through and after 3 years produced their first full-length feature documentary Forgive them for they know not what they do. It has since made the official selection for the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam, the biggest documentary festival in the world including many other accolades. This is just one of the many examples of creativity we celebrate in Chew. Another way we encourage creativity is to produce a high quality, creative magazine each month – the design is of the highest standards and the content and structure of the magazine is always different, there is no set formula. We were also the first magazine to give users the opportunity to select their favorite cover (they have 3 options to choose from) for each issue.
Chew has a dedication to strong visual concepts, where do you find design inspiration for your issues?
The inspiration finds us! There are so many people out there who want to share their inspiration with Chew magazine and the world – it is such a blessing working with these wonderful people from around the world.
Although Chew has a focus on talent from across the globe, you are based in South Africa, how do you think you influence the African creative community?
I hope that we inspire and encourage not only people from our own continent to push the boundaries of creativity, but also to show the global community what we are capable of. We also hope to promote projects like fashion label Johari, a non-profit social enterprise which was set up by the Sumerian Foundation a few years ago and has now produced its first crop of graduates, in future issues. Since this article was featured in Chew, we have already received requests from people who want to order the clothing. Read the full story in Chew’s latest ‘Africa’ issue.
Briefly, could you run us through the creative process of producing an issue, from start to finish?
Each issue is based around a specific theme. In a nutshell: I start off researching creatives from around the world and either send them interview questions to answer or ask for a short bio on themselves to feature in our ‘Spotlight On’ section. Journalists will also contact me pitching feature ideas including interviews with bands. I receive pitches from creative photographers who wish to have their editorials featured in Chew. After I have received all the material by set deadline, I start designing and art directing the issue. Once the design is completed, we copy edit the layouts and export all pages as jpegs. These get uploaded to Chew’s online magazine editor, developed by Symfony Digital Solutions, where I upload and add music, video clips and links. After many long nights (and lots of tea and biscuits), we update the website with the latest covers and send out a Newsletter to let our readers know that the latest issue is available for download. Then we do a deadline detox, which normally involves chocolates.
Chew recently featured a project in partnership with PUMA creative? Could you please tell us a little about it? How did it come about?
Internationally acclaimed artist Kehinde Wiley exhibited four original artworks as part of a collaboration with PUMA during the world cup in Cape Town from 23 June to 4 July 2010. The portraits featured African soccer stars Samuel Eto’o of Cameroon, Emmanuel Eboue of Ivory Coast and John Mensah of Ghana. This traveling exhibition started in France and ended in South Africa in June 2010. PUMA asked Chew magazine if we would like to host an event during one of the evenings that the exhibition was on and we jumped at this great opportunity. Chew magazine, in collaboration with PUMA, hosted ‘Creative Unity’ in the Kehinde Wiley Cape Town exhibition space on 2 July 2010. Collaborating with various creatives and past contributors of Chew magazine – including fashion designers, illustrators, writers and musicians – Chew put on a creative extravaganza. Read the full story in Chew’s latest ‘Africa’ issue, which was also brought out in partnership with PUMA in celebration of Africa and South Africa hosting the FIFA Soccer World Cup™.
Are there any upcoming projects or issues we should know about?
There is something in the pipelines but it is still early days, so watch this space!
Finally, how can African digital artists get involved? How can we contribute to Chew?
Contribution to Chew is open to any talented creative. We have dedicated a special section on our site where potential contributors can find their Essential Chew Pack. The pack contains upcoming themes and deadlines as well as a document explaining, step by step, how you can contribute to Chew magazine. Find out more here: http://www.chewthemagazine.com/contribute-to-chew-magazine