Bonginkosi Ntiwane

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11min570

THE beauty about inspiration is that it feeds off who we are. Artists aren’t inspired by the same thing the same way; it’s personal experiences that they’ve gone through which trigger the inspiration into action.

For fine artist Patrick Seruwu, it’s his experiences of growing up surrounded by strong but hurt black women in Masuliita in Wakiso-a small village outside Kampala in Uganda. “There is this connection I have with women. I grew up with a single Mom and three sisters, it wasn’t easy growing up without a father. So I use to hustle with my Mom and sisters, moving up and down selling in the streets,” Seruwu tells me.

It’s a blistering hot summer’s day in Johannesburg, I’m sitting with the man in his work space at August House, room 102. I got to the studio with a tad bit of sweat, but had cooled down in Seruwu’s spacious working space, on the brown leather couch where we have the interview.

A painting by Patrick. Photo supplied

His work is appealingly dark and moves you to engage with the stories that Seruwu draws inspiration from. “My mother taught me how to plat women’s hair. Most of the customers were women and most of the people I worked with were women, so they use to talk a lot about their issues of abuse, so I could relate to that because of how I grew up.”
He witnessed the abuse of his mother, sisters and even neighbours back home in Uganda, so much so he couldn’t talk about it on record and the fear of bursting into tears. His current work is focused on women who were in toxic and abusive relationships, but are trying to move on from their past. He first sketches on the canvass and then uses acrylic paints, but he then washes the work with a brush damp from H2O, which he says represents tears of the victims of abuse.

One of Patrick’s works which is a favourite for many who’ve seen it. Photo supplied

“While doing my art, I try and recall my upbringing, the violence and what women go through. So right now, I relate to what women go through because there are thousands of women who’ve gone through all sorts of abuse, but people don’t know about it because most women keep quiet. I’m trying to bring out the images of women who are trying to recover from all sorts of violence, who wish everything could be washed away or who wish they never existed.”
Seruwu has been living in Joburg for about seven years now, after leaving Uganda to visit a friend here in South Africa for a few months. “When I came here, I saw people on the streets selling and I just told myself that I can also survive here, whatever the condition. I started twisting women’s hair on the street, because I learnt that from back home,” he tells me.

From doing people’s hair on a chair on the side of the road, Seruwu grew his business into a salon in the city. His small business was successful enough for the 32 year-old to buy himself a jalopy. It was through that car that Seruwu got closer to renowned artist and fellow Ugandan, Benon Lutaaya. “Whenever Benon needed to go somewhere, he would call me and I’d drop him off at an art gallery. I started attending exhibitions with him and after the shows, we’d come back here to the studio. I started to love art because I started to associate with artists, visiting their studios and galleries.”

In 2017, while unwinding with his girlfriend he decided to draw his partner on paper. “I started sketching her. It wasn’t a good sketch, but I tried. She appreciated it. I then went and showed it to Benon and he said ‘I see something in you, continue doing it'”. It is telling that his first ever attempt at art, was a drawing of a female.

He continued drawing on paper throughout the year of 2017, during his spare time away from the salon. After months of working on paper and encouragement from Benon, he then started working on canvass later that year.

A depiction of a woman in pain. Photo supplied

He created a page on Facebook, of his work around the same time and immediately received positive responses from people. “I got a couple of invites to show my work at galleries, while someone on Facebook from Nigeria also wanted to buy my work. I got addicted to art, whenever I got time I would sketch or paint.”
His work has been part of a number of group exhibitions including the August House exhibition at Absa Art Gallery, Studio Space group show, Rosebank’s Lizamore & Associates and last year he got an invite from the Cape Town Art Fair.

He’s literally been practicing art for three years and his work has been among some of the country’s best works in the most prestigious art spaces. It’s not often that you meet an artist with such overnight success as Seruwu’s. The average artists will struggle for a couple of years to find their own signature and identity in their work and a few more years to get industry recognition. Seruwu understands that his friendship with Benon has richly helped him acquaint himself with influential people in the industry.

One of Patrick’s current work. Photo supplied

“It means a lot to me, it’s an honour to me. It is determination and working hard, focus and knowing where you want to be and what you want. First of all I never thought I’d be an artist, not even think that I could exhibit in a gallery, but I was determined to improve my technical skills,” Seruwu says.
He’s on the verge of joining a local art gallery as their resident artist, which he says will assist his development as an artist. Women are a mainstay in his work and says in future, he’d like to incorporate his connection to females’ hair to his work, similar to friend and fellow artist Lebohang Motaung.


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9min520

IT is like the excitement of a child on Christmas morning. No, it’s similar to what that Idabala track did to people over the festive season. Actually, it’s a combination of the aforementioned plus the eagerness of an avid drinker at the site of an open bar. That’s what an election year does to politicians- it brings out their silly side.

We’ve only 10 days in the year but we’ve already seen and heard some ridiculous things spewing from candidates’ mouths. This article is not about the sound decisions you should make when you get to the ballot box come vote day. No. It’s to help you see through the bullshit that will be dished out, in the lead up to the country’s sixth democratic elections. The IEC hasn’t announced the date for this year’s voting, but it’s expected to be in May.

BELOW ARE FIVE RIDICULOUS THINGS YOU’LL SEE POLITICIANS DO TO GET YOUR VOTE:

THE EMERGENCE OF NEW POLITICAL PARTIES

Hludi Motsoeneng has big dreams of becoming president of this country one day. The discredited former SABC boss launched his party, the African Content Movement party last month. “The new animal, ACM, is [an] African first. Anything that we produce in South Africa will be 90% South African because it is very important to empower people of South Africa. We need to start here at home,” said Motsoeneng at the launch of ACM.
He has an interesting affinity with 90%. This is the same percentage he insisted on a couple of years ago while at the SABC, when he pushed for a quota for state radio stations to play substantial local music. There’s a common thread between these newly found political homes, besides the fact that they die out a year or so after an election, their party names usually sound like incomplete slogans or sentences.
Gupta-associate Mzwandile Manyi hinted at launching a political party too this year. But yesterday he announced that he’ll be joining the ATM-African Transformation Movement, a party formed by displeased Jacob Zuma supporters.

Mamphela Ramphele campaigning in Tembisa for her party AGANG. Photo by Alon Skuy;TimesLive

THE SHOW OF SUPERFICIAL AFFECTION TO THE PEOPLE

Yes, it’s that season where the lips of presidential candidates get busier than that of teen girls pouting for selfies. The kissing of babies while on a campaign trail is a US tradition which political contenders from around the world have adopted. Here in South Africa kissing babies isn’t the only way to show warmth and kindness to hopeful voters.
Smooching senior citizens and going to the homes of the impoverished is also a card that politicians play. As a way of being ‘in touch with the people’ some politicians will actually go out of their way and butcher people’s languages while addressing them. You should hear a Mmusi Maimane promising a better life for rural people in the KwaZulu-Natal, in the most uncomfortable isiZulu you’ll hear.

Jacob Zuma Kissing an old lady during ANC’s door-to-door campaign. Photo by Oupa Mokoena, IOL.

STUPENDOUS HAND OUTS OF POLITICAL REGALIA
Maybe it’s that track by Luther Vandross and Janet Jackson, or that line from Kanye’s Good Life… but whatever it is, people sure do believe that the best things in life are free. Politicians take advantage of people because of that very fact. Citizens are always ready to get on a free bus ride to a stadium, where they’ll be handed free T-shirts just so the arena looks like it’s filled up by active members of that party. Caps and lanyards are also handed out at these mass gatherings.

PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES ANNOYINGLY TRYING TO BE COOL

I cringed at the site of seeing former President Zuma rocking a straight cap dabbing with fellow comrades his age at a rally, campaigning for the 2016 Municipal elections all in a bid to lure young voters. Another trick they’ll pull, is of a celebrity’s endorsement. Photos of EFF Chief Julius Malema and rapper AKA at an event circulated social over the festive season. That was no coincidence.
The likes of AKA, Kwesta and Nasty C have millions of followers who some will be voting for the first or at least second time this year and politicians are very much aware of that. Just like any brand, political parties will lure artists with big cheques so that they encourage their fans to vote for a particular organization.

ANC leaders dabbing at a rally in 2016. Twitter

THE BIG PROMISES THEY MAKE AT MANIFESTOS

You know that friend who’ll randomly call you and suggest y’all go out. You get there and after the bill arrives, that person decides to tell you that they actually don’t have the money to pay because of personal issue. That’s how these political fellas will make you feel post-election.
It’s sad, the promises they make to desperate, destitute and gullible civilians who’ve religiously given their vote to them but have received nothing significant in return for their trust. It’s the major reason for young people’s disenchantment with the elections because history has taught them to never trust politicians’ hogwash.


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5min1820

PRIOR to jetting out the country last week for the NYC Winter JazzFest, Nduduzo Makhathini likened the festival to umsamu, where the spirits of Jazz greats who’ve inspired him and continue to do so, dwell. And one spirit that continues to inspire him, is that of the late Zim Ngqawana who Makhathini was part of his Zimology Quartet the last time he played at the NYC Winter JazzFest in 2008 at the Knitting Factory.

Sharing knowledge with the audience during his performance at The Blue Note Jazz Club, Makhathini said “Thank you so much…there’s so many things that one could say, but I think what I have in my heart now is just one word, gratitude.  I think there’s something special that happens, especially towards redefining what the anthology or cosmology of what an African people is about. And what I find to be very essential, is the idea or gathering,  rituals or the coming together. We believe that when we come together, our ancestors are sort of with us and are enticed in that way .”

Nduduzo Makhathini on stage at New York’s Blue Note Jazz Club. From Nduduzo Makhathini’s Facebook.

Makhathini played Modes of Communication: Letters from the Underworlds Project at the iconic Jazz Club last night, alongside a fine ensemble of musicians who complimented him. He had Burniss Travis on Double Bass, Nasheet Waits on the drums, Aaron Burnett on Tenor Sax, Logan Richardson on Alto Sax and New York based South African Trumpeter Lesedi Ntsane. The latter three made up the horn section in the centre of the stage on Monday night in New York.

Makhathini at The Blue Note Jazz Club

The ensemble only had their first rehearsal on Sunday, literally a day before taking to stage, but from the videos shared on social media, their chemistry was on par with their musicality.  They performed before husband and wife duo, The Baylor Project.

The JazzFest is a weeklong festival which takes place in several locations around New York. Celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, the festival attracts some of the finest musicians from around the globe to the Big Apple, all in the love of Jazz. Makhathini is also in New York with members of the Kaya FM team that includes station boss Greg Maloka, hosts Brenda Sisane and Collin Kgari.

The Blue Note Jazz Club is an abode of Jazz because of its rich history. It first opened its doors in 1981, hosting the genre’s masters; The likes of Sarah Vaughan, McCoy Tyner, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Charles and Lionel Hampton are some prominent names which often frequented the club.

Makhathini’s appearance at the Blue Note Jazz Club received praise from his industry peers, including percussionists Azah and Tumi Mogorosi, writer Natalia Molebatsi, fashion designer Bathini Kowane and his life partner, singer songwriter Omagugu Makhathini.


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7min520

Remember how you’d be at a party on New Year’s Eve and right at midnight, among the huggers and kissers, would be those hastening towards the least noisiest space with phone on one ear, and the other covered by a hand in attempt to block the sound around them.

Ridiculous as they looked doing that, someone out there missed them enough to give them a ring, just a few minutes into the fresh year. Given that the individual calling manged to get through, because lines would be saturated by incoming and outgoing calls and texts from all over.

That scenario sounds like folklore now, looking at how most people received, if any, good wishes for the New Year. Seven years ago or so, I would make and receive a surplus of phone calls at and after the stroke of midnight, from family, friends and some unexpected people I hadn’t spoken to in a long while. This would continue through the night and the actual first day of the year.

“…a call is Platinum. Receiving a text message is Gold, a WhatsApp text is Silver and the status messages take the Bronze.”

Over the years the phone calls have dwindled, with most people opting to text. It’s a generational thing I guess, these communication preferences that we have. Millennials detest making phone calls, this is largely because “This generation grew up with the gradual introduction of instant messaging, texting, email, and other forms of written communication,” a Forbes article on How Millennials prefer to Communicate states.

From Mxit, Mig33, BBM, 2GO and a glut of other social platforms, we’ve been exposed to the rapid exchange of texts, dating back to our school days. But in modern times, a decade this year to be precise, WhatsApp has been leading the pack being by far the most convenient, accessible and affordable platform for people to communicate. And by people I mean Generation X, Y, Z, some Baby Boomers and those in the Silent Generation- that’s the impact WhatsApp has had on how people generally communicate today.

WhatsApp was launched in 2009 by ex-Yahoo! employees, Jan Koum and Brian Acton. Through the popular messaging and Voice over IP service now owned by Facebook, one can send text messages, voice calls, recorded voice messages, video calls, images, documents, and user location without being restricted to the number of contacts since it just requires you to just have someone’s cell phone number on your contact list.

It’s estimated that WhatsApp has 1.5 billion users in over 180 countries. Above 65 billion messages are sent via the App daily. It’s also proven popular among groups of friends, family, colleagues, stokvels and others that add to the total of over a billion WhatsApp clusters.  With only 50 employees.

As WhatsApp grows in numbers, so it does in its functionality too. The introduction of the Status Update has brought much contention among people. It’s either you really like it or it plainly irritates you. Those who the status’ affect results in the latter, will hate it now as pop-up ads are set to be introduced on the App this year.

But I was quite taken aback by how things transpired last week as we entered 2019. Affection came through measly and unambiguous status messages that read “No one sent me a text, so I’m also gonna just say Happy New Year to All!!” or through a video, capturing whatever they’re doing.

In the times we’re in, a call is Platinum. Receiving a text message is Gold, a WhatsApp text is Silver and the status messages take the Bronze.  I received and reciprocated to texts after midnight this year, but dololo Platinum.

Because of the torrent of rain we experienced in Gauteng, I expected lines to be clogged up, assuming most people would be unwinding indoors but it seems no one bothered to make any calls. If a call came in, it was through WhatsApp’s video call. Even most friends and family weren’t moved enough dial someone’s number.

The older generation, specifically the Generation X, Baby Boomers and survivors of the Silent Generation tend to initiate communication,out of concern that comes with aging, juxtaposed to the Generations that succeed them. The further we head this direction, the more numb we become to things that should move us in some way. Our world is slowly becoming the emotionless world that troubled Clerick John Preston in the Equilibrium movie.


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8min720

“Jazz is dying in South Africa, in fact in the whole entire world and The Orbit made sure young Jazz South African musicians had a place to grow in the performance arts…” These are words of bassist Temba Ncetani, as he reflects on yesterday’s announcement of The Orbit Live Music & Bistro’s closure.

In a statement released on the Jazz club’s social media accounts, Kevin Naidoo, who is the Director of the venue shared the news that shook the art industry. “We have unfortunately not been able to overcome the financial constraints we have found with running a live music venue like The Orbit. We had hoped to attract more investment but has proven difficult with the type of business that we are and the current financial realities in the country,” read the statement.

Last year The Orbit embarked on a fundraising campaign, Save The Orbit which seemed to be making some ground, but those efforts proved insufficient. “We’ve always received emails from Kevin, he told us last year about it, he tried to raise funds but it didn’t work. I was so disappointed to learn the iconic jazz restaurant is closing. I never saw it coming. For me it was impossible, it was not going to happen.” vocalist Dumza Maswana says. Maswana has performed at The Orbit numerous times in a space of just two and a half years- he had four shows last year alone. “I believe that our South African government should intervene,” Ncetani says.

The Orbit was launched in March 2014, to much appreciation from jazz lovers all over. It is the brainchild of Aymeric Péguillan, Dan Sermand and Naidoo. The likes of Hugh Masekela, McCoy Mrubata, Paul Hanmer, Siya Makuzeni, Nduduzo Makhathini, Shabaka and The Ancestors, Bombshelter Beast and a slew of musicians who are among the best in the world, have graced the warm stage.  “Its closure is going to leave a big hole for not only the musicians, the jazz lovers but the university students who are studying music as well. It was the kind of environment where you could experience great music intimately, and also a place where we met as the jazz community. Out there there’s absolutely no place that offers what The Orbit gave us,” Maswana shares.

A touch of Xhosa at the Orbit: Jessica Mlangeni with Dumza Maswana enjoying their time on stage together. Photo by Sip The Snapper

Nceteni believes more should’ve been done to keep the lights on in the young but iconic venue. “This actually means Jazz will die definitely because not so many places want to uphold the true essence of Jazz music in this country. There aren’t many Bistros in Johannesburg with in-house sound equipment with a grand Piano except your Market Theatre and other places like The State Theatre, it’s really a pain for musicians to carry sound equipment before performing. This ordeal also means there are sound engineers who have lost jobs as well as the other stuff members,” says the Port Elizabeth based musician.

Bassist Temba Ncetani. Photo by Simphiwe photography

“There were jam sessions facilitated by my good friend Banda Banda (a fellow bassist) now all that will be in vain. There are also regular patrons who are jazz lovers who supported the establishment and the artists.”

Nceteni’s first experience of The Orbit was in 2017 when tenor saxophonist Sisonke Xonti launched his debut album, Iyonde. “We stayed till the AMs and I got to meet my biggest inspiration as a Double Bassist, Mr Herbie Tsoaelie. We jammed till like 4AM.”

In a Facebook post, renowned musician Thandi Ntuli shared a photo of herself, stationed behind the piano with a heartfelt message that read “One of my fav [sic] images taken at The Orbit ’cause it’s reflective of all the great times I had both on and off stage there. So sad to hear that your doors will not open again. Thank you for being a great home to our art and to all the amazing souls who worked there, much love.”

Thandi Ntuli at The Orbit. Photo by Siphiwe Mhlambi

Maswana’s fondest memory at The Orbit was when he launched his album Molo “…People had to be turned away because it was packed. Also seeing Anele Mdoda in the audience. I developed confidence on that stage, I made friends there.”



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