South African surf brand Mami Wata has debuted a gorgeous film that’s unlike much of the work usually seen around the sport, delivering advertising’s freshest angle on the subject since Guinness’ classic “Surfer” spot. (Outside of, perhaps, this idea.)
The film, “Woza,” tells the story of a young South African surfer taken by the power of the waves. As the noise and chaos of city life cloud his mind — racecars drifting across dusty streets, people dancing in clubs and kids giving shade — he finds peace in the water, while he’s riding a wave or biding time until the next swell comes along.
The film doesn’t interject the typical surf porn of fearsome, powerful waves. It’s almost like those take a back burner to the spiritual tale. The surfer wonders why he’s fallen under the ocean’s spell, and a woman’s voice-over responds, recounting an African legend about the waters’ spiritual powers and how they can change you “in strange ways.”
That, essentially, is the story of Mami Wata itself. The company’s name is West African pidgin English for “Mama Water” or “Mother Ocean,” a mermaid-like African water goddess with a seductive back story: those she takes as lovers return to their everyday lives emboldened with a new spirit.
In the annals of surf storytelling, we’re hard-pressed to think of films or footage highlighting black surfers. “It is not unusual where we come from,” said Mami Wata co-founder and CEO Nick Dutton. “But in terms of global surf culture, it’s still a bit strange. Africa has some of the world’s best waves and no one was telling that story. It also has a wonderful diversity of surfers — black, white, Indian, Muslim, Christian, old, young, male, female, and that diversity of people sharing the ocean experience is something we wanted the brand to be about.”
The film was created in-house out of Mami Wata, which was founded by a trio of creatively-inclined friends who also happened to be passionate surfers. Mr. Dutton is a former ad exec who has served in top management roles at Grey London, AMV BBDO, Arnold and others. Creative Director Peet Pienaar is a celebrated South African designer. And “Chief Surf Officer” Andy Davis is the resident media buff and writer.
“We’re three friends passionate about Africa, surf and design,” said Mr. Dutton. “Africa is an exciting place, not just for surf exploration. It is vast, complex and under reported, valued, misunderstood. But that idea of discovery lies at the heart of the surfing experience. The continent has fostered several indigenous surfing cultures and is busy finding unique solutions to its problems, so this is a great story to tell.”
It was Mr. Davis, a fellow co-founder, who thought to cast the film’s star, 22-year-old Ayuvile Ndamase, originally from the rural South African region of Transkei. Mr. Davis has known him since he was a young teenager.
To produce the film, the company worked with Buenos Aires production company Pantera and directors Pato Martinez and Francisco Canton. “We’re a premium brand and needed some people who could capture that, the story telling we needed and bring a fresh perspective to it,” said Mr. Dutton. “Pato and Frankie handed in a magic treatment and right away we knew it was them. It was also great to have a fresh South American eye on a contemporary African surf story. So it’s global hybrid that delivers a great result.”
The company has been two years in the making, first thought up as the friends stood on the shores of Cape Town’s Kommetjie beach in April 2015. As with the products, the marketing has prioritized quality. The company has focused heavily on its Instagram feed, created a film series, “An African Surfing Life,” profiling African surfers and has crafted brand fiction published in a South African magazine.
“Africa’s time is coming, if it’s not already here,” Mr. Dutton said. “We want to be the world’s first great African brand.”
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