Creative entrepreneur and digital creator Plot Mhako says growing up surrounded by artistes influenced his career path.
Mhako (PM) opened up about his life and career in an interview with Alpha Media Holdings chairman Trevor Ncube (TN) on the platform In Conversation with Trevor.
Below are excerpts from the interview.
TN: Plot Mhako, welcome to In Conversation With Trevor.
PM: Thank you so much. It is an honour to actually be sitting next to you.
TN: You know your brother is Chad Mhako?
TN: What an amazing young man? You know for me this is also an opportunity to say what a beautiful soul, what a beautiful human being. Are you like him?
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PM: I think our mother modelled us in almost the same fashion, so if you meet one you may feel like you have met the other one.
TN: Talk to me about what your mother did in terms of raising you? What did you learn from a mother?
PM: Our mother taught us very important lessons.
One of the most important lesson(s) [was] to be humble, and to be sincere and honest in everything that we do and to work hard.
Never cutting corners, so even if an opportunity presents yourself to cut corners our mother taught us never to follow that route.
So those lessons have never departed from us even if we have left home and we are now staying on our own. We still feel like we our mother's kids and our father also gave us the same kind of teachings.
TN: But doesn't the world abuse and take advantage of sincere people?
PM: The world does but I think the world has also sincere people that appreciate genuiness, and the world has A beautiful place for such people.
So you would find largely the abuses there, but in the rightful places sincerity does make a big difference.
I see it from the moment that I left my former employment to get into the creative industry, the kind of ethics that I used there were based on the professional ethics that I learned from work, and it is almost the same that I am using now.
From just learning you know with the Germans, you learn you cannot lie, you cannot be dodgy and those are some of the ethics that I am also learning [to] bring home.
But you will find, you know in a space like Zimbabwe it is not an easy space if you try to be very honest...
PM: But ultimately it pays off.
TN: Yeah it does. You know you mentioned one thing there that I value a lot, and that is you can never run away from yourself.
TN: You know some people say oh I am quitting this job because they have not been fair with me, but you have not taken the opportunity to learn from that job.
I always say to people that you cannot run away from yourself.
We might be in a different geographical setting, but there you are, have you dealt with yourself?
PM: That is very true because you would find I mean the principles of business are universal wherever you go.
The ethics, the values, the norms, they apply universally and if you default, if you do things differently you would find yourself wanting, yes.
TN: So that is what your mom taught you? Your father is late now?
PM: Yes my father is late.
TN: What do you remember from your upbringing on your father's side?
PM: Well his entrepreneurship acumen. We always thought our father was a pharmacist, but he was just a salesman in a pharmacy...
TN: Hahaha I remember Chad saying that! So this guy tricked you, you thought he was a pharmacist but...?
PM: It was us believing that he was because he was working in a pharmacy.
So at school would tell them that our father is a chemist, a pharmacist, and how he managed to take care of all of us because we were many of us and having so many siblings and all being able to go to school and how he managed to set up an enterprise in our village.
You know he had bottle store, [a] general dealer as well as a workshop.
The things that he was doing at that age, if I am just to look at how old he was and I look at my generation now and how easy we want things to be I am like oh.
So, some of those teachings were really important.
I mean for me he gave me a chance to connect with the community at a different level, to experience entrepreneurship also during school holidays we would go to the village, work in the shop, work in the field and those experiences you cannot find them anywhere else.
TN: Did you enjoy it whilst you were doing it or you are looking back now and saying ‘wow that was awesome’?
PM: Working at the shop I enjoyed.
PM: Because it looked fancy, it felt so good. But working in the field I detested it, but now I have grown to appreciate [it] because I have seen how my mother raised us.
PM: Using the proceeds from working on the field.
TN: Are there any mistakes that you saw your dad encountering that have remained with you?
PM: I think mainly is to do with just creating a legacy business-wise, where your children are able to really master what he mastered, and we carry on with that business.
If I look at some of the biggest enterprises in the world they are family businesses, but for us when our father died we did not know what to do with the business, so we just had to rent it out.
Over [the] years we have not been able to actively revive the kind of business that he had set up for years.
So I think those are some of the things that I mean for my kids I would teach them the skills, what I know so that if they do decide to follow my path they know that there's a way.
TN: I have been wanting to ask you this question since you sat there: Why are you based in Dortmund Germany?
PM: I am based in Germany, [in] Dortmund because I moved there with my family.
What first took me to Europe was work.
I was touring, travelling with a lot of artists, creating dance theatre music productions [with] a number of other musicians that I have had a privilege to work with.
So we were touring and then I ended up settling in Germany and for the past eight years now I am literally based there, but my heart is home.
That is why I am constantly back in Zimbabwe.
TN: Let us take a helicopter view of what you do, and I do not know where you get the time to do what you do, but you’re going to share how you do it with us.
So you involved with City Boys, we would want to go there at some point, with Hifa...
TN: You set up Jibilika, worked with Jah Prayzah, Nutty-O and Pro-Beats?
TN: You set up Kuenda Productions and Mafuwe International Festival of Dance.
TN: You are involved with promoting youth culture and creativity through Skate Zimbabwe, Zim Hip-Hop Summit and Zim Dance Hall Summit.
You are involved in fighting for fair competition for the creative arts through Creative Rights Zimbabwe Trust.
TN: You are the chief editor for earGROUND Africa. You are involved with Amplifaya Festival, you founded it in 2022.
Have I left anything out?
PM: Not really, some of them are small projects that come in between, but that is the skeleton.
TN: Why do you do this stuff?
PM: I just love art.
Growing up music was the soundtrack of my life, so I was surrounded by music.
Just a house away from our house lived Emmanuel Vore, who is the general manager at Grammar Records, but then he was the air and marketing manager.
So he had a disco every weekend.
[He] would set it up, play music, so he exposed us to so much music.
At home my sisters were listening to a lot of music, my uncle also [brought] a lot of reggae music and my brother also and my late uncle Ashford Masango.
You know these are people that inspired me a lot.
PM: And just the stone throw away there was a sound system crew called New Generation, and they were playing a lot of music and going to school I would pass through Simon Chimbetu’s house you know.
I was in the same class with his son and there was so much music around me, so much art around me.
Watching TV, what I would watch on TV I would imagine and all of these things made me desire to be in the creative space and when I got a chance to do so after working for five years for Fidelity Printers & Refiners, I decided to set up Jibilika and Jibilika became the root for everything.
I always wanted to get into the youth culture, I did that. I wanted to get into the media because I had already started journalism and finished in 2004 but never got a chance to work as a journalist because they were limited jobs, but you know drawing inspiration from institutions like the ones that you set up with AMH, I always desired one day to set up my own media house.
Five years ago, I set up earGROUND Media, and it has been interconnected.
At one point I am doing this, at one point I am doing that, but I feel like it is all one story that revolves around the creative arts, the media and just the passion to contribute towards Zimbabwe.