One thing we missed during the stringent lockdowns in the last 20 months or so was live music and the vibrancy of a festival. One of these festivals was Basha Uhuru Creative Uprising, where one always walks away having discovered new music or a new artist.
Bonga Kwana was one of those talents that many discovered at this year’s Basha, which again was hosted at Constitution Hill in Braamfontein, Johannesburg. Bonga Kwana was one of the night’s last performers at together with her band and she owned the stage. She gave so much of herself, not only vocally but also in her dance moves.
“I was a dancer, I always loved dancing…I just love entertaining people,” says the former ballerina. She says her love for music began in high school where she was part of the choir and a couple of jazz ensembles. “When I started performing with live bands, I was like ‘hell yea I like this,'” Kwana speaking of her school days which was around 2014 and 2015 when she matriculated. “I earned my tripes since high school.”
Bonga Kwana is an alumni of the Bridges for Music, an NPO which has for years now hosted tours and workshops in disadvantaged communities alongside internationally recognised artists like Ed Sheeran and Black Coffee.
Bonga Kwana quips that she is a Nando’s baby because she is a beneficiary of the food chain’s collaboration with Bridges for Music in educating young artists on the business side as well as the creative. “In 2019 I made the decision to join the Bridges for Music Academy. In the first month of joining, just shortly after joining there was an opportunity to be part of the Nando’s music exchange which was in London in 2019.”
Her performance at Basha showed that she is a student of the arts and has she learnt a thing or two while in London.
That performance was just a week before she released her debut project, New Faces to Old Problems on November 5th. Her single Ndifuna Wena featuring Ntsika of The Soil has been getting some airplay.
This COVID pandemic has done wonders for the South African music industry. Obviously Nathi Mthethwa and his ilk have ruthlessly filled their pockets with Madiba notes meant for the arts in this god forsaken country of ours, but that is no surprise. Gangsters will be gangsters.
What I think has improved is the level of creativity in our music. While celebrity musicians have been making all kinds of reality TV shows in order to sustain their seemingly glamourous lifestyles, the ‘up and coming’ are pursing new and game-changing sounds, instead of chasing a big cheque with an easily forgettable club banger. New Joburg based musician Fatheroursons is one artist trying to father new dope sounds.
His debut EP titled Child, is a self-aware daddy complex project which swings between remorse, inconsideration and neglect.
In the opening track Bluewaters, the young man affirms his need for absolution as a sinner. “…bluewaters…cleanse my skin, I have sinned…our farther…our farther true forgiveness comes within…bluewaters…how far is it to fall?…but through it all you know yourself “
On the closing track Stupid bitch, Fathoursons chastises some poor soul for not knowing their position in his life. “…drink some water, your blood is thickening, close your eyes and start listening, don’t make me say it more than once, you little stupid bitch…you are a bitch I am a monster….keep pretending you know shit, the truth is you don’t know shit….you little stupid bitch”
The tension between these two antonymous perspectives existing within one entity is a condition which haunts the Bantu male to no end. Fatheroursons explores this curious tension in his debut project. He poetically recognizes the monster he sees in the mirror as a product of circumstance who ironically perpetuates a karmic cycle of pain. He is both the villain and the victim in his story. He just can’t help himself.
Fatheroursons operates on top of low tempo percussive grooves which are filled with all sorts of delicious pads. He has a minimalistic approach to his music and I am generally not a fan of such an approach to sound but the length of the project negates any such inclinations. While his writing slaps harder than your momma after you lost her change on your way back from the store. A case in point is the fourth track on the five track EP, titled Don’t call me.
“…Don’t call my phone, I don’t want to hear it, the thought of you makes me nervous, don’t call my phone, we’ve been here before, that shit used to work on me, it don’t work no more, don’t call my phone…” The level of relatability I have with the above words is beyond my powers of expression.
The Child EP is a fire introductory project for Fatheroursons. It forced a serious bout of self-examination even though it won’t stop me from smashing the thirsty hun in my DM’s who clearly got daddy issues by the ton. It is what it is.
The earliest form of illustration would have to be paintings on caves and rocks. I imagine these weren’t created for mere decorative purposes. The art was for posterity. They were passing on knowledge. I also imagine that such an undertaking was a spiritually-laden one, whether the illustrator was aware of this or not.
Queue Nkosana Nkomo. The boy must be his ancestors’ wildest dreams come to life. His work might not be etched on caverns, but his old Wacom Bamboo tablet which he uses to illustrate is sufficient to carry the sacred works he makes. Again my imagination informs me, that he creates with the spirit kindred to that which led the cave illustrator. “My work is heavily inspired by African spirituality,” Nkosana tells me.
“When I first began it was for a purpose of putting black fantasies in the light it deserves, but as time went it became clear that it wasn’t a case of a black fantasies, but was more spiritually inclined work. This became clear to me when I saw majority of my audience being spiritual individuals who took a great liking to my work and some even said they receive messages from their elders from my work. What I thought was imagination was actually me being guided. The significance at play here is that my artwork just doesn’t reflect me and my “imagination” or that place I get taken to, but many others that can relate to the sacredness and magic in spirituality. I didn’t know the greater purpose of my art, until spiritual healers commented on my artwork and the more I created, the clearer things became.”
He goes by the moniker Nkosana The Art and the devilish algorithms brought me to his work while I was loitering them Instagram caves. The composition of Nkosana’s work is attractive but I was more enchanted by what he describes as the “spiritual realm dwelling beings” he depicts. They are surreal, undeniably African and are portrayed with an enlightened meticulousness.
“Commission based artwork is where I deal with real life people, they send me their photos and tell me to do what I do, and I do what I do. Surprisingly some even think I am a divine, because of the outcome of the art. One time I created for this lady and I just went in and placed in all sorts of elements according to how I felt she should be represented, like a crown made of corn cobs and Protea flowers and after she saw her piece she asked me why did I place all those elements in there and I really had no idea, so I made up some reasons as to what they each represent and she gave me a description of how each of those elements relate to her growing up and till present. Crazy right?”
Born in Heilbron in the Free State, but grew up in the Vaal in Sebokeng, he describes himself as an old soul, young at heart in a body of an artist. “Isintu is everything to me and my work. Abantu is everything to me and my work. Amadlozi is [sic] everything to me and my work.”
“I grew up in a Christian family and a lot of isintu wasn’t taught in the household, my grandmother who was a sangoma lived far, but I picked up a lot in the little best time I had with her. The elders who made rituals every year passed on when I was at a young age and as I grew up, I drifted away from isintu and got involved in cosmetic churches in my teen years. All of that didn’t make sense or relate to me as time went and I withdrew from being a Christian and am now learning more of isintu. Can you believe it? I am 30 years old and only knew izithakazelo zam four years ago by asking what they are. But ever since I have been on this path, isintu has been working wonders for me and with every chance, I am learning,” says the now Ranburg based artist.
It’s a generational thing; the infatuation with spirituality be it heeding the calling yok’thwasa, the fascination with astrology and numerology- the peoples is tryna find themselves. In finding self, this generation draws strength from owning and telling their stories. As much as Black Panther brought excitement on the continent and in Africans in the diaspora, the story was originally created by white men who aren’t from here. There’s a growing number of comics or graphic novels created by Africans.
Nkosana has a skeleton of a graphic novel which he’s working on together with two writers and an illustrator, but won’t say much about the project. “The story [is] about African mythology and is based in ancient times. I will end that there,” he says laughing out loud.
Music artists have utilized Nkosana’s skill for the album covers. “Some of these artists are from the United States and Europe, but most are from home. I worked with Piff James, Liqwa, Masta Roach, Vic Mover, Dominque Ivory, Lilow NTK, Fnote and Mandingo Bay Warriors. There are more who enquire and tell me they will be back for the art cover when the music is ready.”
I imagine the fella from the cave smiles to know that Nkosana sees everything as a canvass to impart messages from the other realm. “…T- shirts, billboards, carpets… I would love my work to be received by anyone out there in the world who sees it for what it is and fulfilled by it. The space I wish my art to occupy is the heart, mind and spirit, even if it is for a second, it will have served its purpose.”
This segment of the show is aptly titled Dripping On Drip. Where Bukho and Finesse Keys each select a stylish personality and pit those individuals against each other in three different rounds, to determine which personality has more drip.
Each episode will see one fashionable female against another…and will have two style-conscious males face-off. The first episode features Black Coffee and Thapelo Mokoena.
Who decides the eventual winner? You do as the viewr.
“The conqueror writes history. They came, they conquered and they wrote,” an elegant Miriam Makeba once said in an interview on TV in the 1960s. She was talking about how colonizers justified their invasion on the African continent, by writing history from their own perspective.
At the core of Makeba’s poignant words, is the importance of keeping record of your story. There’s a mighty child-like sincerity, you get from a tale relayed by someone or a people who have lived that experience. Curious Caucasian could immerse themselves in the various pockets of Black culture, for as long as one could, but they still wouldn’t truly know what it is to be Black. Such funk can’t be faked.
In art, like in most things, women’s voices have been stifled and not championed as the men’s. Females have been a muse for a long time, but a glaring gap of work inspired by women, made by ladies remains-although that space is being rapidly filled in modern times. Multi-award winning fine artist, painter and performer Selloane Moeti is one of the womenfolk occupying that space with the deliberateness and consistency of Apartheid architects.
“For me art influences society by changing opinions, documenting history, to teach and heal the next generation,” says Moeti. She is fully mindful of her contribution and the impact it can have. “Our stories are best told by ourselves, so to get to contribute and be part of an African woman narrative that will be documented and archived for decades. That alone means the world to be, an honour. I think it was Tracey Rose who said ‘When you make an artwork you’re not just doing something at that moment, you’re contributing to an entire history of artmaking,'” shares Moeti.
The sophistication of her work is in its simplicity. With a style that’s free-hand, one might mistakenly look at Moeti’s oil paintings as rudimentary. But the work is compelling. Beyond the eye-pulling aesthetics, you inevitably connect to the souls of the depicted black women. You feel the paintings. In one of her works in progress titled Amabutho, she painted black bodies adjacent to each other, looking ahead or marching forth. Their faces don’t include any facial features but are covered in red clay, yet you feel as though you’re gazing into eyes of fierce warriors. “I think people who interact with my work are able to walk away with the type of energy I convey on my work. It’s intentional that my style of painting is more rustic and free hand and that my characters or figures have clay masks as faces.”
Clay plays a significant role in a number of African tribes, for various reasons. Red clay, which is a symbol for protection and purification has an equally important role in Moeti’s body of work. “My work speak loudly about cleansing, healing, dislocation, and relocation. Even though my work is an attempt to trace and understand my lineage it still talks about my spiritual journey.”
“I dream like everyone else and chose to incorporate the characters, the compositions and certain components of my dreams in my work,” she says. You could say she acts on her premonitions. She has the proactive and determined spirit of the faceless women she paints. In 2017 when she longed for a space where she could exchange ideas with likeminded creatives in Durban and couldn’t find one, she established SketchIN-which is a figure drawing and conceptual development movement held every three months.
Due to lockdown restrictions throughout 2020, for two days late last year she turned her home studio into a makeshift gallery where people could come view her work. “Imagine creating work the entire year and having to just post it on an online exhibition or on IG (for me that was an anti-climax and depressing really). I’m a believer that art belongs to the public, but because of safety reasons I could only limit to a number of people and stretch it into a two-day open studio,” says Moeti.
“I’m definitely planning on having at least two open studios yearly.”