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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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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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You may find him to be too loud, entertaining or simply just annoying but thing about Kriss Anti-B is that he’ll never leave you feeling indifferent about him as a person or an artist.

It could be his background as a battle rapper that informs his abrasive honesty, but Anti-B is one of the few rappers that aren’t shy to share their opinions about anything; from his thoughts on radical economic transformation to a his opinion about a colleague who eavesdropped on him reciting his lines in the office, thinking that he’s praying. This East-rand rapper will let you know what he thinks and how you feel about that, is really your own indaba.

“…My followers and supporters especially black supporters, think I’m against radical economic transformation because I criticize the leaders of that particular movement. It’s funny how criticizing Julius Malema’s blatant hypocrisy and dangerous vile, divisive knee jerk, one dimensional populist ideals is seen as being anti-black,” says Anti-B.

“I never left or took a break from battle rap. I merely decided to buy my soul back from the owners of the league I was contracted too…”- Anti-B

Having first met him, Mzontsundu Christian Radebe, Kriss five years ago when he was using the moniker Anti-bullshit, I’ve see the artists’ growth from being a disgruntled-sounding underground battle kat to now being a genuine recording artist that is aware of his brand and its reach.

“The streets will forever know me as Anti-bullshit but that can make me lose a lot of corporate money and mainstream plugs because it’s deemed a swear word. It’s not dumbing down but understanding how far your power reaches and meeting them halfway.”

In the five years he’s grown his name as a main card feature on Scramble 4 Money battle league, was a performer at the Back to The City last year and this year too and was a featured in the B.E.T cypher in 2017 while he held the title as a six time Champion on Oskido’s I Believe show on Metro FM.

“There’s a lot that happened. Releasing my debut music project being the most important personally to me.”

His growth was simultaneous with the release of his album last year after he decided to leave the Scrambles league.

“I never left or took a break from battle rap. I merely decided to buy my soul back from the owners of the league I was contracted too. I wanted to battle in different cities, different provinces, different countries and being a part of that particular league stifled that growth so I left that league and started touring the country battling and after every event people would ask about my music so it was a natural metamorphosis for me.”

 

He comes from the school of thought that battle rap is a way of gaining street cred and brand recognition so your music can have an audience, though he concedes to people carving out careers purely from battle rapping.

In June he’ll be in Durban for the Raw Deal Battles and in Limpopo the following month to battle in the Snatch The Mic league. “I’m a hip hop scholar; battle rap just so happens to be one of the subjects I major in.”

Although he wanted to release a Revenge Of the Boombap Vol.2 this year, he’s currently working on three other projects which are collaborations. “I got an EP I’m working on with my U.K based brother Death Star called 2090 while another EP called Beastrands Flyest in collabo with my Eastrand Tree House Clan brothers.”

The other project is a yet to be titled album with Zulutune Records producer and DJ Doctor Bops. “All of these projects will drop before September, but I really wanna do something different. I wanna do a neo soul/trip hop/acid jazz project with some live instrumentalists and female vocalists on that Portishead alternative tip.”

 


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