Eastern Cape

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12min213117

Creativity, check. Technical astuteness and the ability to communicate ideas through design, check. Great visual awareness, check. There isn’t a prerequisite box that set-designers need to tick that Noluthando Lobese hasn’t. Being a hip black female and with a uniquely dope moniker like Hashtag Texture, she’s an off-kilter set-designer that tells stories authentically.

Lobese is currently the Art Director on the hit drama series, Vula Vala. The show is directed by Mandla N with Tiyane Nyembe as the DP (Director of Photography).

“Having an artistic leader as Mandla N, everyday was a wonderful challenge that my team and myself had to overcome. I think we really did well from transforming spaces to fit within our world to serve the story,” Lobese says.

As art director, Lobese created the world that the audience has been immersed in on the drama series. “From creating our own mealiemeal branding, newspaper branding and logo designs for the  soccer team ( Scorpions team) that includes banners, soccer balls and flags. It was all in the detail that can sometimes be overlooked by the viewer.”

Detail is imperative in this type of work, hence her nickname. “It definitely has to do with my work, telling stories through texture plays a great deal in my work. Texture is everything. It is authentic, through landscapes of texture stories can be told in an authentic visual aesthetic,” Lobese says of her nickname given to her by film director and friend King Shaft.

ALL SMILES: Noluthando Lobese. Photo by Zac Modirapela
ALL SMILES: Noluthando Lobese. Photo by Zac Modirapela

An award-winning designer, Lobese has been in the industry for over a decade now. She was introduced into the world of theatre by renowned set-designer Nadya Cohen.  “I studied fashion, however I’ve been lucky to have met Regina Sebright in 2008 at The Market theatre who introduced me to my mentor Nadya Cohen and James Ngcobo.”

“I design stage and costumes in theatre, production designer in commercials, TV and an art installation artist. I use my hands to create and mould materials that take a different form or shape. I call this work Mutation by using found materials, thread, and wool, plastic and other objects. Theatre and television is more collaborative, bringing a script to life through sets, locations, lighting and costumes. To be inspired and cautious of your surroundings plays a huge role in my work,” Lobese tells me.

Under the guidance of Cohen as set-designer and Ngcobo as director, Lobese made her debut as a costume-designer in 2009 in the production Thirst which was rewritten for a South African context and drew from Nguni mythology, which resonated with the past and the future.

Along with Cohen, Lobese credits Ngcobo for having given her opportunities to learn and immerse herself in the theatre world. “The Market theatre has been my school of design knowledge through the connections and collaborations I’ve made whilst there. Not so many directors are willing to give young designers / talents a chance like James Ngcobo.”

In 2008 Lobese studied in Stockholm Stadsteatern, Sweden as a design apprentice under the mentorship of Charlie Koroly. Four years later she was a designer in Salzburg at the Young Directors Festival as a production designer. She was accepted in New York, at the MacDowell Colony (NH) as an installation artist for work she developed while there, titled What It Is and it continued as an installation piece at Studio X, Johannesburg (GSAPP Columbia University).

OUT AT WORK: Hashtag Texture. Photo by Que Ntuli
OUT AT WORK: Hashtag Texture. Photo by Que Ntuli

She was an observer at the Glimmerglass Opera Festival (Cooperstown) New York. Lobese also worked on the Floating Stage (Bregenz Festspielehaus, Austria, 2013) as a design intern. She was part of the group of artists from ‘JHB Massive’ that went to showcase at The annual street festival in Accra, Ghana 2015.

Lobese is a consummate professional who has earned her stripes through her extensive travels, but even so, she says she still comes across people who don’t give her, her due respect as a working creative. “Being undermined especially the first time people work with you. It’s a constant struggle of convincing and proving yourself. Sometimes it’s because you’re laid back and do not feel the need to be dancing and sell yourself in the most basic way that the industry is expecting. I prefer the work to speak for itself and be given the freedom to create.”

She has a range of work and finds it difficult to say which stands out because the work is all unique, but said “Trapped that I costume designed in 2012, Salzburg Festspiele. It was directed by Zinzi Princess Mhlongo; It was also my first set design which was aired on SABC 1(Life is a stage) we had a crew of film makers (Born free media) documenting the behind the scenes process. A recent one is Rhinoceros which played last year at The Market Theatre.”

“I’ve designed most productions directed by James Ngcobo and have collaborated with various directors and other designers who are the best in the game. This involves working with friends and international collaborators”

Lobese spent her early stages of childhood in the Eastern Cape and then moved to Yeoville where she grew up. Being raised in a cosmopolitan space like Yeotown can nudge one into eccentricity and Lobese wears her oddness well.

She finds Yoga and shooting hoops as some of the best ways of unwinding. “I believe that I’m an inspiration to most people out there, I have not met most of them but they exist. I need a clear mind to keep moving forward and reach my highest, if I don’t do it I will never know how far I can bend my mind and remain fluid,” she says.

THA WOMAN BEHIND THA THA BRAND: Thando rocking one of her U Ts. Photo by Norman Maake
ROCKIN’ MY SHIII: Thando modeling her Unongayindoda Ts. Photo by Norman Maake

Unongayindoda, a term shoved at a girl who is said to be a boy-lookalike, has become Lobese personal task.

Unongayindoda is what I was called by the village community growing up in the Eastern Cape. Most Xhosa girls can relate to the term.  So Unongayindoda is a personal project and for the ones that can relate, I’m embracing the term. It is time we embrace shameful words that have been given to us through hate. The same way we have learned to love Soweto even though it was not by choice to vacate Sophiatown,”she says.

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6min2351

The industry is a dirty place man. Not the Moonchild Sanelly gyrating her assets on stage, pleasing kinda-dirty. But I mean the witnessing of someone getting robbed in the streets of Joburg, in broad daylight, ice-cold kinda dirty.

That’s why having an experienced and genuine individual, who has your best interest at heart is a miracle in this entertainment industry. This Sunday, Dumza Maswana hosts his Celebrating African Song show, at the Joburg Theatre. Last year the Molo singer held a similar show at The Orbit Jazz Club, where he unleashed a teenage boy wonder in Vuyolomzi Solundwana. This year he’ll share the stage with 15 year-old Likhey Booi, who Maswana is mentoring.

A Young Star: Vuyolomzi Solundwana performing at the Orbit Jazz Club. Photo by Sip The Snapper

“I am very passionate about young talent. When I started in the industry I never had a person who was already in the industry to help me take my first steps. No one was willing to share their platform. I believe young artists need a mentor who can help them develop the inner and outer resources essential for staying true to the joy of creating,” says Maswana.

“Whether they ultimately become artists or not, the experience of working seriously with a mentor can be valuable. I always refer them to other artists or producers in the industry who can give them something different to what I can offer.”

Celebrating African Song had sold-out shows in the Eastern Cape in the past three months, at venues such as the East London Guild Theatre and the Port Elizabeth Opera House. “I was accompanied by my industry friends Ntsika, Max Hoba, and Eastern Cape based artists Ohayv Ahbir and the two that are also performing here in Joburg, Likhey Booi and Odwa Nokwali. I never expected such reception, love, energy, especially in PE, where the theatre was much bigger. I also did two nights at the National Arts Festival, and both nights were a success.”

Ntsika, Jessica Mbangeni and Mbu Soul are the other artists on the bill for this Sunday.

Maswana went to Canada at the Sing! Festival, travelling with the Mzansi Ensemble earlier this year.  While there Maswana says he “…had the opportunity of collaborating with a Canadian musician and producer Aaron Davis. I really hope I’ll do more with him, we had a very limited studio time- we only had three hours.”

A touch of Xhosa at the Orbit(From L-R): Jessica Mbangeni with Dumza Maswana enjoying their time on stage together. Photo by Sip The Snapper

The baritone and bass singer is raising funds for post-production of his live DVD on Click N Donate, which he says has cost him close to 400K. “It’s such a beautiful production. I pray for this campaign to be a success, also hoping for sponsorships. I’ve already spent close to R400K, the remaining amount is just a quarter. I really urge my supporters to show up and help,” says Maswana.

The money generated from Celebrating African Song shows isn’t plentiful to cover post-production costs of the DVD which was recorded a year ago . “In most cases the money I make from these shows is just enough to pay the band and petrol, literally. But whatever change we make will go to the DVD.” He plans to release the live DVD in November this year.

Should you want to donate to Maswana’s cause, click here.


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