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7min1050

At the age of 22, Nyota Parker’s musicality and worldview is mind-blowing to say the least. Born in Ireland, with a Congolese and Irish heritage, a non-conformist with a sharp South African upbringing and global appeal.

The first instance I heard the music, I got struck by her eccentric and soothing vocals which instantly took me to a frenzy. She’s currently based in the United States where she’s pursuing her music career as she puts it “I’m really enjoying the opportunities here, it’s a lot easier to create something for yourself here”.

When listening to her music, one can’t go without mentioning her great command of language and an understanding of the complexities of prosody. Nyota Parker’s sound is experimental and impressively finely tuned; a fusion of different elements. What stands out the most and that which is reminiscent is her undeniable forte for Rap and Soul music which she dives into when creating her own records. To date she has released four music projects beginning with her first mixtape, Age Of Enlightenment in 2016, followed by Purification, then Energy and now her most recent album Spectrum in 2021.

On Her Seat: Nyota Parker. Photo supplied
In Her Seat: Nyota Parker. Photo supplied

She approaches music with sophistication and simplicity. You’d have to read the lyrics to understand what I mean. On Spectrum, which she says is her most solid album, she explores ideas about self-growth, identity and freedom of thought as demonstrated in the song Run: “But you proved that you will bend to all their rules. While I bend the rules”. And on track 2-Spectrum, she continues to reaffirm the notion of independency: “I just want to make my own songs and end up being stable. I don’t want no label sitting in a play round table. I don’t want no CEO telling me who to relate to. I’ve already learned that through trials and tribulations”.

The album is a precognition of the type of artist she is and what she stands for. She attributes her confidence and sense of independence to her upbringing “I was raised by my mom and her side of the family in South Africa, I’m really thankful for that. I’ve been shaped into the person and artist I am today because of the values that were literally drilled into my head, like never allowing someone else to dictate my life to me,” she says to Tha Bravado.

On her pre-eminent eight track album Spectrum, liberty to choose who she wants to be is a bastion to the theme and encapsulates the core assertion of the project. I’d describe the album as an enthralling enabling emergent collective consciousness of sonics tied together elegantly in harmony. She uses her voice and talent as a vehicle to ignite the spirit of freedom and emancipation. The tonality and lyricism exude an enigmatic and imaginative groove coupled with rhythms and poetry. I applaud her for the track variety and assortment she went for on the 2021 released album, for it sounds serendipitous. On certain songs she curated a “wavey” flow even if the songs are of an alternative genre which brought a youthfulness vibe.

My personal favorite song is Terms/Seasons, I enjoy how poetry and soulful it is – the opening lines resonate with me: “Music gets me through things but rap gets me. I think I’d rather suffer for my dreams. And die happy”.
Moreover, she won my heart when I watched her NPR Tiny Desk Concert submission performance. It convinced me she’s an all-rounded musician. I am looking forward to the new project which is said to drop sometime this year, mark my words she’s a star on the rise and it’s all thanks to that first amateur recording session back in 2016 in a “shoe closet…the homies shoe closet”.

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11min2350

Director and Chief Curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York City Thelma Golden once said an exhibition is in many ways a series of conversations. Between the artist and viewer, curator and viewer, and between the works of art themselves. It clicks when an exhibition feels like it has answered some questions, and raised even more.

In his first exhibition as the University of Johannesburg Art Gallery Curator, Thabo Seshoka has managed to facilitate the series of conversations between the artwork itself, the observer and the paintings and without imposing himself in the conversation, he lubricates these dialogues in Privileges of Proximity. “When I started curating the collection and working through it, I wanted to see myself, because as a curator you develop a relationship with your collection, you fight for it and you look after it. It’s interesting that we never show our collection and what’s in it and I wanted to start doing that. It was also about how there’s different messaging that exists in certain works and certain paintings, but we never really engage with them and that’s what I wanted to do,” Seshoka tells me on the opening of the exhibition, at UJ’s Auckland Park campus in Johannesburg.

Willow trees by PIERNEEF, Jacobus Hendrik. Photo supplied

The first item in the exhibition hangs on the wall on the left as you walk into the UJ Gallery. It’s Maggie Laubser’s Landscape with Sheep, while below it is Jacobus Hendrick Pierneef titled Ladskap. “I intentionally curated it this way because the Maggie Laubser is placed above the Pierneef, and Pierneef is considered to be a master and etiquette says it should be on top and by himself. But for me it’s about saying Maggie Laubser is also a master given she was painting at a time where women were either not allowed to paint and if they were allowed to paint, they painted still lives because that’s the only subject they had access to,” says 28 year-old Seshoka walking me through the works.

The first paintings depict various South African landscapes which some date back to the early 20th century. But Seshoka warns me about landscapes as I get immersed in the artwork. “Landscapes are problematic, especially the ones commissioned by the Government made by Pierneef. They depict South Africa as being empty but it wasn’t!”
A John Meyer painting of a house on what seems like a farmland hangs on the same wall- the house in the painting is in the Cape Dutch architectural style. Shoka encourages to look directly back to the opposite wall in the gallery where a line of black and white images of District Six dangle, buildings with the same Dutch architectural style feature in some of these images.

“I wanted to raise the question of land ownership. Because people from District Six were forcefully removed and their houses were demolished. Now in our new democratic dispensation they claimed back the land, but they haven’t been able to fully settle back in the space. For me it’s about how we exist, but also about how we present certain things and certain individuals,” says Seshoka. Adjacent the photos is a Willem Boshoff painting titled ‘n Huis in die Hemel (Kykafrikaans) which pays homage to individuals who were forcefully removed from District Six, but never got a chance to go back.

Landskap by PIERNEEF, Jacobus Hendrik

Seshoka took up the role of UJ art gallery curator in January following the retirement of Annali Cabano-Dempsey who was at the helm for 24 years. “Building on the work of the legendary Annali Cabano-Dempsey has been a tough act to follow, however, I am up to the task. Annali had deep commitment and dedication to the UJ Art Gallery over the past two decades, and I am able to build on the foundations that were laid by her. It is important to note that curation is diverse and complex. Every Curator has their own style of curation, operating a gallery, and executing their priorities. Since, my assumption of the role, there has been a lot of change management. We are repositioning ourselves within the broader South African and International Arts Communities,” says Seshoka. He previously worked at Robben Island Museum’s Exhibitions and Development, Research and Natural Environment units, as well as the institution’s Creative Team and Mayibuye Archives.

From questions of land, the exhibition changes gear through Gordon Vorster’s Gebroote-grond. The 91,4×182,2 cm oil canvas which depicts a male and a female obscurely drawn but with vivid eyes gazing at works on the opposite wall, conversing with it. It’s paintings and photographs of various women, including a picture of an African Jubilee Choir member which Charlotte Maxeke was also part of in the late 1800s. “The space here is to raise questions around gender, the role that women play but more especially the unseen role that they play and how they’re not actually appreciated.”

President Kruger by Van WOUW, Anton. Photo supplied

Everything in the exhibition is strategically place, serving a purpose. A sculpture by Naomi Jacobson titled Bushman looks out the window of the gallery. “For me he’s admiring that how much we have advanced, at how UJ has advanced. He intentionally looks the building called Madibeng because when RAU started you would have not seen a building named Madibeng,” Seshhoka poignantly says.

Privileges of Proximity has given me the opportunity to critically engage with and reposition the collection, I am not disregarding what has been and in no way are my curatorial decisions absolute in nature. They seek to be questioned, engaged with and most importantly create dialogue,” Seshoka says.

“Our art collection is still in the process of evolving, there are major gaps that exists within the collection, especially when it comes to female, queer, black and differently abled artists. Privileges of Proximity recognises and highlights the gaps that exists within the collection, hence the desire to create conversation and dialogue about the limited representation of marginalised groups.” He says the University will be hosting more exhibitions in the near future, Privileges of Proximity being the first conversation of many that leave observers asking themselves questions.

Clement Gama11/12/2021
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4min19370

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.

GIVING HER ALL:Bonga Kwana at Basha Uhuru. Photo by Sip The Snapper
GIVING HER ALL:Bonga Kwana at Basha Uhuru. Photo by Sip The Snapper

“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 TO THA PEOPLE: Bonga Kwana on stage at Basha Uhuru. Photo by Sip The Snapper

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.

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7min30770

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 FATHER'S SON: Artist Fatheroursons. Photo by Tshepo Errol Msimango
HIS FATHER’S SON: Artist Fatheroursons. Photo by Tshepo Errol Msimango

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”

ON THAT BEACH: Fatheroursons. Photo by Tshepo Errol Msimango
AN ALL STAR?: Fatheroursons on that beach. Photo by Tshepo Errol Msimango

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.

NATURE BOY: Fatheroursons. Photo supplied
NATURE BOY: Fatheroursons a man in touch with self. Photo supplied

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.

NEVER INA HAYWIRE: Fatheroursons. Photo by Zanoxolo Mthiyane
NEVER INA HAYWIRE: Fatheroursons. Photo by Zanoxolo Mthiyane

“…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.

Fatheroursons Child EP Cover. By Fatheroursons
Fatheroursons Child EP Cover. By Fatheroursons

You can stream the EP Here

11min14690

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.

iSibusiso esivela eDlozini
iSibusiso esivela eDlozini

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.

Work by Nkosana titled Jarabi.
Work by Nkosana titled Jarabi.

“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.”

Tha Man: Nkosana Nkomo. Photo supplied
Tha Man: Nkosana Nkomo. Photo supplied

“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.

Koite by Nkosana.
Koite by Nkosana.

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.”

Inkomo Ka Mtungwa by Nkosana The Art.
Inkomo Ka Mtungwa by Nkosana The Art.

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.”


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