Journalist and filmmaker Santilla Chingaipe

At Collective Closets, we believe in individuality, authenticity, and celebrating the power of a woman. As businesswomen, we share the story of our influences and upbringing through our designs and the beautiful textiles we grew up with. We created Collective Conversations to spotlight the amazing women in our community and find out how they share their own stories. This series spotlights members of our tribe, gaining insight into their values, passions, and the drive behind what they do. 

 This week we're talking to Santilla Chingaipe, a journalist, award-winning filmmaker, and author whose work explores migration, cultural identities, and politics. She's a regular contributor to The Saturday Paper, a member of the Federal Government's Advisory Group on Australia-Africa Relations, and is currently working on her first book. We spent the day stepping into her world at beloved Northside Records, where Santilla took us through an eclectic vinyl discography, a mix of West and North African records, 70s gems, hip-hop, and her favourite: jazz. Recognised at the United Nations as one of the most influential people of African descent in the world in 2019, Santilla has solidified herself as an internationally recognised key player in the journalism and media worlds. Currently, you can catch her hosting the fortnightly series The Future Of, an exploration of the cracks in our systems and how we can all create positive changes in the way we live, learn, and play.

1. Describe yourself in three words? 

A curious pan-Africanist storyteller.

2. Where do you feel most at home?

When I’m around the ones I love. 

3. What do you do to nurture your individuality? 

I’m a professional observer and question-asker, so anything that exposes me to different ways of seeing, thinking, and being nurtures my individuality. 

Besides, Maya Angelou once said, “If you’re always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be”. So, I try my best to be courageous, and pursue things that fulfil me – spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically – even if they go against convention or the status quo. It’s not always easy, but you only get one shot at this life thing and I really want to spend every second enjoying my time here. 

4. What do you love most about yourself? 

My sense of self –It’s taken a long time to get here, but I’m liking the woman I’m becoming. 

5. When did you last push the boundaries of your comfort zone? 

Everyday! I have a career that, fortunately (or unfortunately) exposes me to new ideas and ways of thinking and looking at the world. That requires me to push myself out of my comfort zone and not let fear get in the way of living life to its fullest potential. 

6. What does it mean to honour yourself?

Telling the truth, always. To yourself, and to others.  

8. What have you recently become obsessed with?

Naps. Can’t get enough of ‘em!

8. Where is your favourite place to escape to?

Anywhere without a Wi-Fi connection. Give me a good book, great company (and a cocktail), and I’m happy.

9. What are some things that you are leaving behind, letting go of, or unlearning in order to move forward? (These could be beliefs, attitudes, emotional blockages, habits, even relationships)

Anything that doesn’t serve me, or where I am at this stage of my life. I’ve learnt the importance of boundaries and doing what’s right by me; Self-preservation is how I see it or in the words of the late, great, Toni Morrison, “You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.” 

I’m trying to get better at sleeping earlier – I’ve been writing a history book for the past 3 years and generally go to bed around 3am. Hoping to hit the hay a bit earlier in the new year – ‘hope’ being the operative word. Sigh. 

10. When was the last time you laughed so hard you cried?

With all the crazy memes on the internet, it’s practically every day. The ShadeRoom is also an undeniable source of uncontrollable laughter. 

11. What's your favourite Collective Closets piece at the moment? 

The Uzuri Dress! I love linen, this is like my everyday uniform.

You can follow Santilla on her Instagram here, visit her website here or catch her on "The Future Of..." here. Some of her previous work that we love includes her festival "Not Racist, But..." her SBS show "Date my Race"  and her short documentary series, "Third Culture Kids."