Art

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8min3840

LAST week I randomly posted on Facebook that it would’ve been dope to hang out with Busi Mhlongo. I really don’t know where this longing for her presence came from, but I missed the Queen of modern Zulu music.

This is possibly because I’ve become more Pan-African in the last five years and  I’ve grown to appreciate Mhlongo’s work more as a young black man living in a modern world. She was conscious and proud of her Africaness, and wanted to share that with the rest of the world. Like other young black South Africans today, I’m very proud and mindful of who I am and I have an urge to share my story with the rest of the world, in my own words. I feel like that’s why I have this connection to her.

Her adlibs would make any of these modern rappers jealous.

I unfortunately never had the opportunity to meet her nor see her live in performance. Today marks eight years since the passing of this giant.

“The industry will always miss how Busi Mhlongo made traditional Zulu music sound so cool and so global. A traditional, urban, global and true Kasi woman who conquered the world with her twist of Zulu music, appropriately coined ‘Urban Zulu’,” says Native Rhythms boss Sipho Sithole speaking to Tha Bravado.

With a career that spanned over 40 years, Mhlongo was ahead of her time. Her music had elements of Jazz, Funk, Mbaqanga, Maskandi, Marabi and traditional Zulu music and more. Her vocal dexterity was brilliant. You can tell when someone enjoys what they do and you it’s clear that she enjoyed to sing-it was a catharsis for her which healed those who got to hear her belt out a song. Her sincerity and vulnerability was a mainstay in her music. I remember as a young boy, first hearing Yise Wabantwana and just feeling her pain, although I couldn’t comprehend what the song meant at the time. Sithole says what made her special was

“Her stage presence, her artistic expression, her pose on stage, her gaze and how she occupied and owned the stage whilst rendering hair-raising performance unparalleled.”

In 2007 the SABC hosted the Vuka Sizwe Benefit Concert, which was to honour Mhlongo who was battling breast cancer. Sithole was assigned by then SABC head, Adv Dali Mpofu to lead the project. This meant spending some time with the great artist.

“Busi Mhlongo was very special and her ability to make everyone feel so special as well was her greatest strength. There was that sisterly or motherly disposition about her that made everyone around her feel so connected to her. She had an amazing personality. She displayed a strong character even in times when you could see that she was really sick. She never wanted people to see how sick and weak she was.”

Her strength and colourful personality was palpable in her music. Just listen to Yapheli’mali Yami, where she laments that her lover doesn’t respond to her letters. I’ve always found the intro of the song humorous, where she talks over the guitar strings saying that Yokugcina le ncwadi practically giving her lover a last chance to respond.

Her adlibs would make any of these modern rappers jealous. Culoe De Song captured them perfectly in the House remix of We Baba. It is for this reason that Sithole says her name and music will never vanish into the archives because young people connect to her and her music heavily.

“She continues to influence established and emerging artists today. Most artist still list Busi Mhlongo as a major influence in their career, whether one is talking about Thandiswa Mazwai, Xolisa Dlamini, Siphokazi, Simphiwe Dana, Zoë Modiga, Khululiwe Sithole, just to mention a few.”

She passed away at the age of 62 in 2010.

“I had been prepared for her eventual transition to the other world, having seen her battling with cancer. I knew there and then that she was rested and united with her Creator and her ancestors,” says Sithole.

I think there’s a connection to her passing away in South Africa’s Youth month, just a day before the historic holiday. She was young at heart and today’s young people connect to her music because she showed the world that African culture is cool- she never conformed nor displayed an inferiority complex as a black woman. She had so much bravado.

It certainly would’ve been dope to hang out with Busisiwe Victoria Mhlongo.

Image source: Medium

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Today marks eight years since the world lost the Queen of modern Zulu music. Here are five of her best songs selected by Khulisile Nkhushubana.

1. Uganga nge Ngane (Album: UrbanZulu) “uyisonka elinjani…lishela nge mali” roughly translated this means what kind of player are you, if you use your money to get women.  This line has stuck with me from the first time I heard the song because it was the first time I heard a truly, tribally, African women questioning the unprogressive behaviours of man. Questioning patriarchy with calm and the sternest of Table Mountain, with prophetic undertones.

2. Yehlisani’umoya Ma-Afrika (Album: UrbanZulu) “kodwa kade madoda…si bulalana sodwa…wa phele laphi unembeza…sibulalana sodwa”  I do not believe the construct of Pan-Africanism will be operationalized in my life time. Should it ever happen, Africans will have to stop killing Africans, plain and simple. In this joint you can hear the pain in Mam’ Busi’s voice, as she begs us to lower our anger and stop the ridiculousness of black on black violence.

3. Sonke Siyamangala (Album: Freedom) – for me, there are very few things in this world which are more beautiful than the sincere proclamation of love through an African voice. Growing up in an environment where public displays of affection are taboo, it blew my mind to hear Mam’ Busi expressing her love for a man in Zulu, which is a culture were the objectification of women occurs far more often than the objectification of man. This joint clearly made me understand that desire is bidirectional in the dichotomy of heterosexual romantic relations.

Listen to Sonke Siyamangale

4. Yapheli’mali Yami  (Album: UrbanZulu) – I smile when hear this joint, the fact women have been crying about men not returning there massages from day one is just funny to me. Before Whatsapp, Mixit, cell phones and telephones, there was hand written letters which had to be sent via the post office for a price.  Mam’ Busi is scolding her lover in this joint, shouting at him that she has finished her money writing to him why does he not answer. The more things change the more they stay the same.

Listen to Yapheli’mali Yami

5. Tingi Tingi (Album: Babhemu) – Women generally value security above most things, Mam’Busi was no different.  In this joint she makes it clear that her fellow workers must leave her money alone and keep it for her when she is not around to collect it. This is another humorous joint because as fans we often idolize our favourite artist thinking that they have transcended their humanity.  Mam’ Busi always made it clear that she was just human from day one, always honestly sharing her vulnerabilities in her music. Which makes most of people feel like they knew her personally even if they didn’t.

What are some of your favourite songs by Busi Mhlongo?

Image source: Medium

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11min3711

They are at the bottom of the food chain, but black women are the most resilient and beautiful beings. They are a perfect muse for artists because of their supple synchrony of belle and vigour.

“Celebration of great black women remains an inspiration in my work. Telling the history of these powerful African heroines is my source of inspiration,” artist Kehla Chepape Makgato says.

He has done a lot of work in his 20 years as an artist and says the common thread in all the work is the celebration of pigmented females.

His current and eighth solo exhibition, Chronicles From Makotopong which is showing at the RK Contemporary art gallery in the Western Cape’s Riebeek Kasteel, pays homage to the village he grew up in. It’s abstract portraiture of some women in that village. If you’re black, you’ll instantly connect with the work, as some women are portrayed in doeks and faskotis (traditional apron made from Shweshwe fabric) which is common for black females.

Veronica Zondeni ‘Mother Of Azania’ Sobukwe, Mixed Media, 2018
“What’s special about this show, is definitely a celebration of the village that made me the person and the artist I have become. It is more of a celebration than anything else,” Makgato tells me.

The exhibition opened on May 27th and will run until next Wednesday.

Earlier this year he had a two month residency at a US gallery. The idea was spawned through his visit to artist workshop, the Zygote Press in Cleveland Ohio, where he made his presentation to the staff there. This, he organised with Meg Harris Stanton of Harris Stanton Gallery, that represents him in America.

“I exhibited mixed media collages and Monotype prints. Prof. Zakes Mda visited me especially in Cleveland, so that he gets to see my show and that we continue to work on our future two-man show. This is one of the greatest highlights of my residency,” a proud Makgato says.  The reception to his work was amazing in the US.
Mother Azania Monotype 2018

Although he’s been a practicing artist for two decades, he only became pro 10 years ago although his résumé is the envy of many artists. In 2015 he collaborated with the distinguished William Kentridge on a project. He was one of two Mzansi delegates to the 2012 Africa Utopia Youth Arts, Cultural and Olympia Festivals of the World at the Southbank Centre in London. He has won a studio art bursary from the African Arts Trust to be a resident artist at the Assemblage Studios from June 2014 to May 2015. South African great, David Koloane was his mentor.

“What I have taken from these giants is humility, dedication and passion to the talent. Those are important qualities I took from them. They have many things in common and that is love for books and a thoroughly inquisitive minds.”

Currently, some of his work can be viewed in Grenoble France, the United Kingdom, Museum of Contemporary African Art in Washington DC and other private collections.

Azanian Portrait, Monotype 2018

Makgato works across three mediums; printmaking, painting, drawing and collage. “Printmaking is a traditional medium of art that is now graphic design.” he says “However printmaking has different techniques and processes that result in hand printed limited edition of prints done using press machine, sometimes collaborating with a studio technician or master printer. My approach to art is life, my everyday social, emotional and spiritual make up.”

Born in Johannesburg and raised in Makotopong village, outside Polokwane in Limpopo, Makgato was introduced to art at a very young age.

“I remember back in primary school when I was doing sub B, my teacher who was also an artist; instead of punishing one boy who made noise in class as a form of reprimand, he surprisingly made this boy pose for him as a model for drawing. The exactness of the boy on that piece of paper he shared with us after drawing him, which left me fascinated and that is how I got introduced to the arts.”

He has a professional three year certification, which is practically a Diploma when you look at it.

“Education is the most important engine that drives one’s career, however, hard work and dedication to one’s career is the walk that makes one achieve anything when the engine, say of education, fails or delay. Thoroughly journeys you to the destination of success. Education from academic institutions alone cannot deliver you a successful career, especially in the arts. Most of what we learn at institutions are basic skills and theory around the practicality of career. The work is our hands and passion, not academic institutions of learning, especially in the arts.”
Mother of al wisdom, Mixed media

A philanthropist at heart, Makgato from time-to-time is in townships and rural areas teaching kids art and shares literature with them.

“I have managed to inspire and mentor people who share the same passion for the arts and literature. My ever so busy schedule, when doesn’t permit my meeting with these beautiful children, my colleagues continue with this mission in my absentia.”
Chepape wearing the Chepapeism shirt

He has a passion of taking the arts to rural areas because kids there are often neglected. He started a socio-artistic movement called Chepapesim which “seeks to take ownership of our narratives and solve problems or difficulties we face as a new generation of art practitioners when it comes to funding. It’s an art merchandise that will gradually fund all arts and literacy educational developments in rural areas.”

“When you buy a #Chepapeism T-shirt, sweater/hoodie you automatically support the art programs for the youth who can’t access art education because they live far from cities because half percentage of the proceeds goes to funding such programs instead of waiting for external funds that is hard to access.”
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13min1810

Like Rizla bought at a Somalian spaza shop, theatre doesn’t stick to the minds of the greater South African public. Good productions are always on show, it’s the masses who aren’t coming into watch these plays. But the work of Moses Rasekele D remedies this situation in the way he packages his productions.

It is the coldest day yet, of this winter season, on a Tuesday afternoon and I’m sitting with Rasekele in the cosy second floor lounge at the Joburg Theatre in Braamfontein.  So snug are we, our coats off and bennies too. I’m only realising as I write this that a cup of coffee wouldn’t have ruined this occasion.

Spaces such as this one can be intimidating for some people with all the carpeted floors and important-looking individuals walking around downstairs and just the whole theatre as an institution. This, Rasekele say, is one of the reasons why some people don’t walk-into theatres because they think it’s for a certain type of person.  “Everyone is focusing on a particular market of theatre, which is limited. But there are a lot of people who wanna come into this space are intimidated. Even here where we’re sitting you might find that there’s someone who has been passing here who works in Braamfontein for more than 10 years now but they’ve never even attempted to come in, because this building has that repelling factor I guess.”

“…There are art groups [on Facebook] where it’s mainly artists and people advertise among themselves to themselves and not to the public…”

Having grown up in Limpopo with no theatre infrastructure around, Rasekele says theatre took place in communities or any space which they could convert to perform in. “That’s where my love for taking theatre to the community arises from,” he says.  Whilst in high school, on weekends he would attend the School of drama by Paul Rapetsoa in the area. At home he also dabbled in corporate and industrial theatre working with government, Eskom specifically, in the community producing and directing some of the work.

Arriving in Johannesburg in 2007 Rasekele enrolled at Wits University for a four year Degree in Dramatic Arts then post-grad in Arts Culture and Heritage Management in block releases -focusing on producing, marketing and sponsorship. “…And then I did a post-grad in Applied Theatre, which is more about community intervention, addressing issues and using theatre as a tool for communication and education.”

Whilst a Wits student he was frustrated by the paucity of fellow students at plays; so he took it to the people. “I had a show but within the residence. We performed on staircases, the kitchen and then to the corridor. To close the play off, we had monologues on the seventh floor in about five rooms where people could go in. Those people have always asked ‘what’s next?’ I tell them I’ve got a play but it’s at a theatre and they would come…”

The inflections in his voice when speaking about community work are a dead giveaway of how much he relishes interacting with people through his work. Working with a company called Themba Interactive in 2011, Rasekele was ever present at schools and prisons. “The work I did in prison I loved the most because I never imagined myself working there. But because of drama, I’ve had the chance to work at Sun City prison, Leeuwkop and a couple of other prisons. It was a good and humbling experience that I enjoyed. I have to find time and ways to do it again.”

What Rasekeles does today is a culmination of all that he’s studied. Through his company Moses D Arts & Media, he has undertook the D Activation project which has a particular focus on the arts and entertainment, specialising in hosting workshops for drama, play productions, marketing and activations. “I’ve always been interested in getting first time theatre goers and keeping them. Even this past Saturday, those who can for the first time were excited saying ‘please! Please! Invite us again’ and whenever that happens, I know I’m onto something” he tells me.  He collects data base and whenever he has a show and he talks to his audience directly.

“Believe me, people love theatre. They don’t know how to access it and there’s no one going to them.”

“There are a lot of people we starve [of theatre] because we want to invite colleagues and other people in the art industry. Even if you look at Facebook for instance, there are art groups where it’s mainly artists and people advertise among themselves to themselves and not to the public. So I try stay away from that and create my own audience.”

He credits this thinking to his time working with Eskom doing industrial theatre where they would sometimes perform at packed stadiums, gripping the attention of the masses through acting. “It taught me that theatre is not about the infrastructure but it is about the people. Once you know that it’s not about the space but the people, you are able to perform anywhere.”

The first edition of The D Activation was last year which was a collaborative partnership between Moses D Arts & Media and Hillbrow Theatre (Outreach Foundation), where Hillbrow Theatre hosted the event. The activation served as a tool to break negative perceptions about downtown Johannesburg, which is often perceived as derelict. “Believe me, people love theatre. They don’t know how to access it and there’s no one going to them.”

The last activation was at the Joburg theatre earlier this month. The project has produced several works in South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. It has also partnered with Royal Art House in the annual project of taking drama and visual workshops to schools in Limpopo, through the Creative Community Platform. In its third year, the project saw the two companies hosting drama and visual arts workshops and donating books

Rasekele’s marketing is Nyovestesque in how he knows how to use gimmicks around his brand but doesn’t look foolish doing it. His D brand, which started out after a friend asked for a t-shirt he had on that he printed the D on for himself, has now taken a life of its own. The D is now on bennies, caps, T-shirts and cups. “I’m trying to create some sort of D Nation because whenever someone buys a T-shirt they ask me to take a photo and post it.”

People want to belong and Rasekele is very aware of this and branding around his company gives people that sense.

“There’s a choir in Limpopo that ordered T-shirts that read listen to the D in us- which I don’t know what it means.”

The D is his middle name that he never uses, but because of the connotations to this simple fourth alphabet, has triggered something big.

“People don’t know what the D means and that creates a lot of misty.”

RASEKELE’S PLAY THE VOID IS SHOWING IN MOZAMBIQUE AT TEATRO AVENIDO ON JUNE 15

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10min1350

Lebogang Motsagi’s work is akin to that sought after mineral his hometown Kimberley is famous for. In that it’s aesthetically impeccable but dug out of some of the darkest holes in his personal life.

The 22 year-old photographer and storyteller is inspired by a wide range of things which have a common thread.

“My past basically. I’m inspired by my emotions, loss, death, loneliness, old people and old things,” says Motsagi.

It’s one of those unwritten laws that the world’s best creatives must through agonising personal experiences that force them to delve deep into that pain which produces works that etch themselves in your memory for a lifetime.

Motsagi is no different after having lost nearly all his family at a young age. “My uncle was shot, my father murdered (as I was told by my parents-I never met my father), my mother passed away when I was in grade six, the following year my granny passed away, my aunt took her own life when I was in high school, my grandfather passed away while I was in my matric year and my uncle is sick at the moment and he’s the only one I have left back home,” says the now Cape Town based artist.

“We do get verbal and moral support but nobody really wants to work or buy your work…”- Lebo Motsagi

It’s because of those experiences that one is taken aback by Motsagi’s age when talking to him. He has a calm and sensibility that isn’t found in youth his age.

“I realised at a young age that I just couldn’t chill with my peers. I grew up in a spiritual family, spent a lot of time at church building a strong relationship with God and I chilled a lot with married men and priests. That’s where I gained a lot of my wisdom and got to discover this old version of myself because my friends refer to me as an old soul.”

Motsagi’s strong connection to things retro is palpable in his work. His photos would blend in without being ordinary in any edition of Vogue or Harper’s Bazaar of the 1960s-80s because of how he faultlessly celebrates fashion through artistic and idealistic photography. “It is personal photography…it’s like the moment I grab my camera and look through that lens, it’s like I’m painting a picture with my emotions and with my thoughts. I see it [the camera] as a third eye. It’s more to do with how it makes someone feel rather than how the image looks” says Mostagi describing his style of photography.

Lebo Motsagi photography
Lebo Motsagi photography

Mostagi was in London late last year for his first exhibition, Thoughts in a Suitcase: The Life of a Wandering Man at the Brick Lane Gallery after it was turned down in Cape Town. The images prompt a feeling of loneliness and sadness as the muse is a seemingly young man with his vintage brown suitcase and a teddy bear. The red and white barricade tape which covers the muse’s skin in the images emphasise despondent state that the man might have entangled himself in.

Because of the upbringing Motsagi had, his friends’ parents treated him like their own but this was limited to weekends, hence his suitcase in every image. It was always just him, his thoughts and his suitcase on the go, searching for affection and acceptance from one family to the next; chasing pavements with only one item on his wish list; getting adopted.

Lebo Motsagi photography crown

It’s become too commonplace for some of South Africa’s most endowed creatives not to receive the same appreciation and gusto for their work at home as they do overseas, as with the case with Motsagi’s work being rejected in Cape Town but accepted in London.

“Abroad, these countries take these things seriously. In South Africa we do take it seriously as creatives but our organizations and government don’t give us the attention and necessary support we need. We do get verbal and moral support but nobody really wants to work or buy your work.”

“I’ve come to understand and notice that you can’t be famous in your own country or where you’ve been or where you were born. Because you grew up around these people and they feel like they know you and understand you completely. African people don’t appreciate African art or African stories because they feel like they’ve seen too much of it; it’s cliché,” he says with tone of disappointness in his voice.

The Thoughts in a Suitcase was warmly received in icy London and Mostagi has been invited to come display his works again this year. “I went there to exhibit and I did some networking and build partnerships. Now I’m going back to have another exhibition that’s expected to happen in May at the South Africa House (High Commission of South Africa), but it’s yet to be confirmed. They invited me there after my work gained momentum through media in London.” Mostagi is also expected to show his work in New York at the Soho Photo Gallery later this year.

The photographer applied to study Fashion Photography ay the London Collage of Fashion and was accepted last month.

“I’ll leave the country around September and will be staying that side and working from there while schooling. I just need funding right now.”


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