Celebrating Sydelle Willow Smith

Cape Town

6 Sep 2017

Sydelle 3



Celebrating Sydelle Willow Smith

6 Sep 2017

James M. Barrie put it so well when he said: “Those who bring sunshine into the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.” When you meet Sydelle Willow Smith, even on a cold day, you feel the warmth of the sun.

Sydelle Willow Smith

Sydelle Willow Smith is a visual storyteller working across Africa. Her focus is on memory, migration and identity. 

She holds an Honour’s Degree in Visual Anthropology from The University of Cape Town, and a Masters of Social Science in African Studies from The University of Oxford. Smith works alongside her husband Rowan Pybus to run Makhulu Media - a film production company focusing on media advocacy campaigns. Their partners include The Children’s Radio Foundation, UNAIDS, Open Society Foundations, and Greenpop amongst others. 

Exhibiting globally, Smith was the first recipient of the Gisele Wulfsohn Mentorship Award for her work on migration; she also held the Africa Center Residency Award; focusing on African migration to Spain. For the past two years; Smith has been working on a personal project; which focuses on white South Africans conceptions of belonging in relation to contested histories titled Un/Settled. One of the most exciting features of Smiths work is the extent to which it is accessible to public audiences. It is within the context of public participation that Smith really shines, and where she has drawn together her interests in media, anthropology, and sociopolitical interventions. 

In 2013 Smith co-founded the solar powered mobile cinema initiative, Sunshine Cinema. At this point, the SAE Institute South Africa partnered with Sunshine Cinema to offer a now annual Sunshine Cinema Scholarship at the Institute. 

This scholarship covers the full tuition fees for SAE’s full-time Higher Certificate in Film Production and 2017’s recipient is Onele Liwudni!

Each year the Mail & Guardian profiles 200 interesting young people who have stood out from the pack and who show us what to look forward to in the country’s future. These under-35s are talented and have shown themselves to be leaders. Congratulations to Smith who was profiled in the film and media category of this year’s Mail & Guardian Top 200 Young South Africa’s report!


Sydelle Willow Smith

(From left to right: Rowan Pybus, Onele Liwudni and Sydelle Willow Smith)

Smith offers some inspiring words to storytellers – 

"I feel that you have to have a solid intention for why you want to tell a particular story. You have to want to create something beyond your own self-interest or fame or likes on social media. Storytellers are not heroes, they are vessels through which the intricacies of human emotion can be portrayed. When working with real people’s stories it is a huge privilege awarded to a storyteller that you cannot betray, you have to pack respect and humility in your bag at all times". 

 Mark it in your diary, registrations for the SAE scholarships open 01 Oct 2017 keep your eyes peeled on here: Scholarships    

Dates to remember

16 Sep 2017 Open Day

01 Oct 2017 Scholarship Applications Open 

Spread a little sunshine visit: Sunshine Cinema and Sidelle Willow Photography