Art

Clement Gama07/16/2019
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4min400

“The future for me is already a thing of the past-you were my first love and you will be my last,” said Bob Dylan. These words were echoed by the French government as they honoured Dr. Esther Mahlangu with the Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres award during the Bastille Day celebrations.

The French were the first to show love for Mahlangu’s beautiful works back in 1986, long before her own beloved South Africa saw her as a national treasure. A group of French art lovers were in Dr. Mahlangu’s neighbourhood Kwa Ndebele over 30 years ago, viewing a slew of Ndebele artworks but it was Mahlangu’s work that caught their eye- so much so, that they came back for her to exhibit in France.

“I feel very happy, I thank the French a lot. They found me in Middleburg, at a gallery in Botshabelo and asked that I go to France to show my work. This after they had taken photos of the different works in Kwa Ndebele, not mine but everybody’s there…when they got to France my work was selected as the best among the photographed works,” she said speaking to news channel eNCA.

“Young artists shouldn’t let go of their heritage. I started long time ago and I keep teaching the young ones, some of them have been overseas already because of the artworks,” said the 83 year-old Dr. Sitting adjacent to Dr Mahlangu was Ndebele legendary musician Dr. Nothembi Mkhwebane. “We are very proud of our Ndebele culture, and to be able to even do the kind of work we do at our age. We are very proud of uGogo Esther as the French honour her- we currently have two doctors in the Ndebele culture who’ve been honoured, may this encourage the youngsters too,” the singer said.

The award, Officer in the French Order of Arts and Letters, was given to the Dr Mahlangu artist last Friday at the Bastille Day celebrations at the Residence of France in Pretoria, by French Ambassador to Mzansi Christophe Farnaud.

“This award is all the more deserved for the efforts you have made during your life to share with the world your heritage,” said the outgoing French ambassador Farnaud.


Clement Gama05/17/2019
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7min1641

IN child development, by the time they get to the age of four they sould be able to speak clearly and have a better understanding of their surroundings. In the music industry, four years could have you still rehearsing in a garage or performing in front of multitudes. In their fourth year of existence, PG_13 will reach a milestone by performing at Fête de la Musique next month.

“Since the inception of PG_13, this is the one festival we have always wanted to play, the Fête line up has always consisted of a group of musician that we have always wanted to learn from and interact with, so playing here is the next level of our education for our future musical endeavours,” says vocalist Bongiwe Nkobi.

Originating in France in 1982, the Fête de la Musique is celebrated in 700 cities in 120 countries across the world in June, including South Africa. The free concert which celebrates live music, takes place in the Newtown precinct, Johannesburg on the eight next month.

For lead guitarist Zweli Mthembu, who also is part of The Brother Moves On collective which performed at Fête years ago, seeing PG_13 on the Fête stage shows that they’ve worked very hard in a really short time and these kinds of gigs mean the band is reaching their goals.
The band is made up of poet Angela Mthembu, Harry Thibedi, Wandisile Boyce, Steven Bosman, Zweli Mthembu as well as Zoe Molelekwa and Neo Mabena.

THA VOCALS: Angela Mthembu on the left and Bongiwe Nkobi on the right. Photo by Indoorstreet kid

They’ll share the stage with Msaki, reggae band Tidal Waves, the DRC’s Grace Attalie, Mozambican Afro-soul artist Deltino Guerreiro and Soweto’s Urban Village among others. The head of IFAS’s cultural section Corinne Verdier said in a statement “For us, for the artists, for our partners and sponsors, we all share one common goal: to put on a really fun and free music festival with that unique French flair! We also want to promote this new generation of wonderful artists.”

PG_13 released their EP Hekaya last year and will be performing songs from that project. “…Our set will be mixed up with songs that are both new and old. Songs we haven’t played in a while and songs that are still being written. Because the stories we tell are constantly evolving,” says guitarist, Thibedi.

THA BAND ON STAGE. Photo by VM Photography

That project included vocalist Thando Msiza who is no longer part of the ensemble. “We as PG_13 are not in the business of hiring or firing people. It is a fluid space that allow people to come in and out depending on where they are in their lives. I mean look, our lead guitarist will be going on tour with The Brother Moves On which gives us space to collaborate with people. When Zoe Molelekwa came into the space of PG_13 it was a collaborative project, but now he holds his own space in the music and plays a very important role in the collective. And he himself has a solo project of his own,” poet Angela says. “If we do ever work with another vocalist it would never be to replace Msiza but rather for the development of the sound,” adds drummer, Bosman.

The Fête gig is part of their busy winter schedule which also sees them playing at the Grahamstown Arts Festival in July, but before that they’ll host benefit concerts around Gauteng as a way of raising funds for logistics of that tour. “It’s going to be wonderful to play in my hometown naba ntwana base khaya,” the band’s bassist from the Eastern Cape, Boyce says with excitement.


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13min2230

Miles Davis once said time isn’t the main thing, but the only thing and had it not been for time, the band T.U.G wouldn’t have been unveiled. With a name like Time Unveils God, the significance and respect of time to this ensemble is apparent.

“I feel like time is the thing that connects us. Time connects the people who’ve come before, the future and us. It puts it in a line, and if you understand that line you pretty much understand the godliness about existence,” says Tony Dangler.

Made up of five black men; T.U.G is a Hip Hop collective with two emcees on vocals, Darkie Umnt’Omnyama and Tony Dangler with three masked fellas playing drums, acoustic and bass guitars. The three instrumentalist are unidentified, but elected to take up abbreviations from the band’s name, for the purpose of this interview. T plays the bass, U acoustic and G is the drummer.

From L-R: T, Darkie, U,  G and Tony unwinding on the couch. Photo by Sip The Snapper

“The important thing about time is that, we must work and make music for the people, heal them and carry on working,” bassist T, tells me.

“To me mfwethu, time is everything ya bo. Because everything happens in time. Time is lifetime. God is lifetime, there’s no start and there’s no ending,” adds G.

My photographer and I are welcomed by the scent of impepho, dank blunt and kindred spirits-I couldn’t help but embrace the calmness in T.U.G’s working space in Zondi, Soweto.  I interview the band crammed on a couch, like TV-watching siblings. The masks bring a tad bit of awkwardness to the setting, as I struggle to make eye contact with the three players of the band.

“It’s the unveiling part-we’re unveiling what’s not unveiled in a way. In essence regarding music, it shouldn’t be about the guys in the background. With Hip Hop, it’s just the rapper and the beat, so we try to represent that,” says U, who is the co-founder of T.U.G.

“The mystery is kinda interesting as well. It leaves more room for people to think, ‘oh okay, I hear the raps, but what’s going on?’ and you end up not paying attention to us,” the guitarist adds.

Lebohang ‘Page’ More, Sun Xa Experiment’s manager, is the other co-founder. “We thought we should have two guys who aren’t the same, and luckily Tony is from PMB and uDarkie is from Jabulani and it made sense.”

Gods behind the mic, in the zone. Photo by Sip The Snapper

It’s Hip Hop in that these kats rap, but more spiritual in the manner in which they present their art. Their music talks to identity and all round knowledge of self as an African child. According to Page, they had planned to have a beat-maker before assembling the band. “We were pissed [about not having the beat-maker] and ended up going with the band. So it’s an idea that came to all of us differently, maybe I spoke about it, but everyone contributed enough and equally to what it is today.”

T.U.G’s abode is also the Digging Thoughts headquarters and home to Zen Groove Project and the well-known Sun Xa Experiment. I’m uncertain if it was the carpeted floors, the graffiti-laden wall behind me, and the number of joints being passed around or simply the people who gave me a distinct feel of serenity and one that inspires creativity.

Being privy to the band’s rehearsals displayed how they benefit from working here, in this space. “It give us a lot of creative freedom, ya bo. Everyone plays a role in expressing themselves and creating ideas; he [pointing at Darkie] doesn’t necessarily play instruments, but he’ll come to me with a hymn and say to me ‘yo, I hear this melody in my head..’ so the creative process just keeps going,” says U. Darkie Umnt’Omnyama adds “Eintlik die dang e deep. It’s the thing you’re feeling-we can talk about it, but can’t explain it. What brought us together here is what we feel,” he says.

Darkie unwinding. Photo by Sip The Snapper

Darkie is more of an enigma than the masks covering the band- his dry humour has everyone in stitches when he answers questions and seems to assume the father-figure role in the group. But he and Tony Dangler complement each other pretty well, despite their unique differences which set them far apart. Like Q.Tip and Phife Dawg. While Tony is the animated rambunctious character with a fine twang, uDarkie Umnt’Omnyama is the reserved rapper who has the grit that can only be found in rappers from the hood-but both delivering rhymes with equal intensity and honesty, remaining in the pocket.

AMANDLA: Tony sits behind U in their rehearsal space. Photo by Sip The Snapper

Darkie predominantly spits in vernac, while Tony raps in English but both are able to switch. Tony is known from Hip Hop clique Revivolution, which he’s still a member of. “Ain’t nun change man. A few of them niggers [from Revivo] were like ‘yo, what’s happening’ and some of them were like ‘ayt, it’s cool’. Illy pulls through some time to check out what’s happening and also, I guess it’s just a matter of time dawg. Some niggers have time to come through, some don’t.  But everyone’s happy. Even Inferno’s back on his band business…it’s good that, that energy is vibrating out.”

T.U.G has only been together since late last year, but have performed at different places to gauge people’s reaction to their sound. They were at Smoking Dragon last year and will be at the Roving Bantu Kitchen in Brixton this Thursday. “So far yonke into e grand ya bo, I don’t recall us ever boring people; they can hear and understand what we’re about,” Darkie tells me.

They’ve also performed at Beverly Hills High school. “You hear that name and think ‘yoh, Beverly Hills’. It’s a school in the Vaal. We performed in front of those naughty kids, which felt like performing at a prison. But they responded well to our sound.”

“There’s a case where we performed for abantu abadala and e message e yaba thinta. We’ve also performed for drunk people and the message also went through. So the contrast of the audience is there,” Tony says.

Their association to Sun Xa puts them at an advantage, of gracing certain stages they wouldn’t have, had they been some random stand-alone band. They performed at one of Durban’s most sophisticated Jazz bars, The Chairman. But they are now carving out their own audiences, to distinguish themselves from Sun Xa, organically though they say.

Paraphrasing one of their songs, Heal Your Soul, Darkie says he wants people to walk away healed by their songs. “Kufanele aphole, phakathi na nga phandle. Whether someone has a headache or a sore finger, they should find healing and be good. This music doesn’t incite any violence or hatred, it makes the black person feel good.”


Makgosto Nkosi05/06/2019
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7min4230

“If you are hungry you eat, if you are tired you sleep, if you want land you take it”.

Masello Motana, founder and leader of Matlama Anaha which means soldiers of the land, began her journey to reconcile with land some few years ago.

She founded the task team Matlama Anaha to address issues of housing through art and occupation of abandoned buildings. Her first attempt was unfortunately met with an arrest of the dubbed, “Noorwood trio” made up of Masello, Gugulethu Bodibe and Ntsikelelo Lokwe after being criminalised for occupying an abandoned house in the Southern suburb of Johannesburg in 2016. Motana at the time had declared the arrest only heightened her quest to reunite herself and others with land.

Two years after the arrest, Azibuye was staged at what Motana calls “prime land” in Observatory, Johannesburg. The project is regarded as an experiment in emancipatory use of expression through occupation.

The artistic performance of occupying spaces seeks to address the spatial injustices that Africans still face 163 years since the first legalized act that dispossessed Africans of land. These numerous “legal” instruments through staunch legislation played a pertinent role in legitimizing systematic land dispossession.

Azibuye is meant to address concerns of the artists’ livelihood, who do not make monthly incomes but survive on hand to mouth. This industry does not enable them to pay rent on a monthly basis, nor qualify for financing or be eligible for public housing since they do work.

“The homeless artist will through occupation of land, attempt to take art practise out of standardised commodified cycle of the gallery system. It intends to bring forth a challenge to private ownership patterns in the most unequal society in the world through a class based African analyses” emphasizes Motana on the collective’s mission.

The collective of artists aims to speak to the continuation of spatial injustices not only through occupation but also through dialogues, readings, historical re-enactments and other forms; by interrogating significant historical characters and events, and their consequence in the current narrative of land reform.

The occupation of suburban private property per the collective’s reputation is to address the issues of many South Africans who work in the cities like Johannesburg, and yet are veered into the edges of the city into townships like Alexandra and Soweto. The few who live the city and pay rent Motana concludes that they participate in their own oppression.

Motana’s choice of the “prime land” is to dismiss the continuous occupation of inferior land by skwatta camp dwellers which is in areas that always underdeveloped and overcrowded. To understand such peculiarities that the indigenous people of South Africa find themselves in one must go back into the past, into the history of land dispossession and how Settlers accumulated the land and the wealth. However, one will also have to go into the current condition of the law and leadership to have a clearer understanding.

Land control system constructed by the Apartheid regime. Photo by Siphiwe Mhlambi

The 14 different land control system constructed by the Apartheid regime as noted on the walls of the occupied property by the collective, have not been countered by new laws to ensure a proper land reform that close the spatial inequalities long assembled by the apartheid regime.

While the occupation in Observatory by Motana maybe be considered a small act, it is essential in challenging racial land ownership patterns which continue to favour whites a quarter century after the end of apartheid.

Azibuye is a necessary and pertinent movement which not only serves to speak truth to white power, by addressing issues of dispossession within the city but also a force that edges the ruling party to address and heal the spatial wounds inflicted by the apartheid regime.

As Motana says “Asilikhaleli. Siyalithatha”



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