Mahala was a free South African music, culture, and reality magazine that strived to report and represent the reality of South African youth culture. It was home to challenging and incisive political and social commentary, as well as strong and fearless opinions. One of the last examples of true critical thinking in recent South African history, before the onset of the post-truth era and woke culture, the magazine promoted freedom of thought and expression and was available online, on mobile devices, and in print. It remained free, gratis, and accessible to all because it believed that everyone deserves quality information, opinion, and entertainment without cost.
Mahala, meaning “free of charge”, was an independent magazine that aimed to bring critical and authentic voices to the forefront of South African youth culture. Launched in 2010, Mahala offered reportage that was critical and unafraid, yet entertaining and attractive at the same time, always tackling controversial topics. The magazine’s editor, Andy Davis (current Editor-in-chief of Zig Zag magazine), believed that the cultural space in South Africa had been under-reported and he wanted to change that with Mahala. The publication was distributed through coffee shops, clothing boutiques, galleries, and bars in Johannesburg, Durban, and Cape Town, and targeted readers aged 18 to 35. As a result, it attracted brands such as Puma, Red Bull, and Billabong in order to fund the production of Mahala.
Mahala is considered post-racial by its editor, and its readers are the first generation representing a truly integrated segment of the population. The magazine’s raw style is reflected in its content, which ranges from odes to surfing and wanking to critical pieces on colonialism and racism. Around 40% of the contributions to the magazine are unsolicited, and Davis and the deputy editor, Roger Young, spent a lot of time coaching new and emerging writers.