Supporting Local in 2016

jazz2I have said it once before and I am going to say it again. Art, in whichever form has a language that can reach out to one’s soul. Whether you are spiritual or not, we can agree on the emotive tug that a good piece of art invokes within you. 2016 finds South Afrika at a very key place in terms of Black voices rising and asserting themselves against different forms of oppression. It is a time where we can no longer deny the reality and pain that comes with Blackness.

Various forms of art therefore become very important as tools of liberation for an oppressed group. It goes back to the debate of “art for art sake” on the value for art. Although I am not in favour of putting an artist responsible on how the audience receives their art, I do believe that (black)artists have a big role to play in convey messages to different groups. With #BlackPain being a reality, art in any form helps us go through each day with hope knowing that we will occupy what is rightfully ours.

I look forward to all the offerings in 2016 as we make a conscious decision to support local at all cost. It not only builds confidence and consciousness, but it adds to the economy as well, making it possible for currency to go around black hands.

NB: I am not apologetic for focusing on #Blackness for that is my cause.

#MzansiBrewed

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Out there sessions – Poetry and Jazz

 

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A  final installment of what has been a series of sessions enough to feed your soul. The Out There Poetry and Jazz sessions first started in March and has seen well known poets and musicians such as Prof. Pitika Ntuli, Nova Masango, Prof. Keorapetse Kgositsile, Vangi Gantsho, Prof. Mongane Wally Serote, Napo Masheane, Makhosazana (Khosi) Xaba, Afurakan Thabiso Mohare, Phillippa Yaa De Villiers, Richard Quatz Roodt, MoAfrika a Mokgathi, Lefifi Tladi, Vuyelwa Maluleke, Sarah Godsell, Gloria Bosman, The Simphiwe Shiburi Trio and finally the session which I attended on 17 November 2015, Lebo Mashile and Mandi Vundla  grace the stage of the Orbit jazz club in Braamfontein. Hosted by Natalia Molebatsi and Myesha Jenkins, this was one treat for the soul.

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With the country currently going through much hardships and strain, there is no other place to retreat than in the safe arms of Poetry and Jazz. Because when our souls are crushed from the realities of black pain. We can but express in Jazz and Poetry… Because through the melodic notes do we fully feel the dehumanisation that had taken place amongst our people. Within our hollow chambers , our souls cry out, orchestrating the feelings we can’t quite comprehend. This black pain that torments us. The words and song that floats is but a mirror to our bleeding hearts. They explain fully what we feel. The thud and pulse we can’t quite put a finger on. ‪#‎Ubumnyama‬!

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Lebo Mashile and Mandi Vundla were enough to leave us empty yet full – speechless yet full of sentences. It was an amazing night. I look forward to the 2016 sessions

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Side Note: I managed to get myself a copy of Home is Where the Mic is, co-edited by Mandi Vundla and my good colleague Allan Horwitz , an international anthology featuring 24 young influential writers.

Let us continue supporting local. It is an act of activism!

Empty Hands Book Launch – 31 November 2015

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I recently had the opportunity to be part of a panel at the Empty Hands by Sister Abegail Ntleko ‘s Book Launch. Set up on the hill, the venue was absolutely breath taking. The Olive Lounge could easily be the best venue I have ever seen in a long time. I am a sucker for natural beauty so I am sure the view that the audience got to indulge in is the reason for my favouritism.

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Where do I even begin; Gog’Abe as I have come to refer her by, is an amazing human being. A humble soul with a heart of a lioness is an inspiration that many of us can only hope to possess an ounce of the strength that she has. She is a 81 year old woman who has dedicated all of her life to caring for a community of South Africa in whichever way she can. Empty Hands, a very fitting memoir where she details the story behind who she is. It is important that we as South Africans, women in particular tell our stories. It is said that if you want to wipe a generation, wipe out their history. Empty Hands makes sure that HerStory remains told for generations to come.

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Faith giving the outline

The programme kicked off and Faith from Take a Bow publicity opened up outlining the purpose of the book launch. As much as it was about telling Gog’Abe’s story, the proceedings of the book sales would go on to fund some of the projects that Gog’Abe was busy with. Faith introduced Gog’Abe to come on stage and I was never prepared for the gracious force that would stand in front of us. I lost my grandparents at a very young age and one thing I miss about them is gleaning the old age wisdom off them. This is exactly how Gog’Abe made me feel. She is a story teller of note, as she related a bit of what she had written about in her book. The book launch could have not come at a better time as many times in our lives, we wonder if we have made the right decision in choosing the various paths presented before us. Gog’Abe became a comforting whisper into my soul that “it is well”.

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As a panellist , I was joined by two powerful change makers and ours was to simply share our stories. Stories about why we have chosen to do what we have. One of the panellist members, a woman by the name of Tshego Monaisa is also an author. She has written three books and I managed to get myself a copy of one of the books, Three Sisters, on the day. She will be launching the book soon in Johannesburg on the 26 November 2015. I am looking forward to attending that book launch.

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One of the moments I will carry for a while with me is when I got to sit with Gog’Abe and she took my hand and shed a tear as she reassured me of my strength. It was a beautiful moment indeed.

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To the Take a bow team led by Faith Moliea, thank you very much for organising one of the most heart-warming book launches. For honouring and recognising the life long service that Gog’Abe has been to a community of South Africa at large.

The Seed SA presents the Emerging Leaders Summit 3 October 2015

Personal development is very important and it is crucial that every single individual takes responsibility for their own lives. Although it is a personal responsibility, there is a group of people who have a burden in their hearts to assist others find their way to development. Amasi Mwela is one such person. Mwela is the chairperson of The Seed South Africa, a non-profit organisation dedicated to Planting Leaders Globally. Their mission is “to develop and sustain global communities of socially relevant leaders and mentors”. with a vision “to positively influence the global corporate, political & social leadership landscape, being a leading voice in maximising human potential, while remaining socially relevant to the communities within which they serve.”

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The Seed South Africa recently hosted the Emerging Leaders Summit on the 3rd October 2015 at the Hyatt Hotel in Rosebank. According to the event page, the event was ” A gathering of a group of aspiring leaders with established leaders. The full day event seeks to ignite a sense of ambition, present a fresh approach to leadership, capture and direct the hearts and minds of the next generation of leaders and encourage personal accountability as well as bringing about agents of change.

Events such as this excite me as I believe that it is important as I stated above that every individual take responsibility for their own personal development. Many people often times look up to individual and wish they were like them but when it comes to putting in the work – they fall short. In a country where we are fighting for economic freedom, it is absolutely imperative that we start development from the roots. We are excellent beings and it must show in our dealings. And so, I had to be part of this event. I arrived at the Hyatt…

The atmosphere was amazing and with a meaty programme, you could tell that all who attended were highly expectant not to mention hungry for knowledge. The event was professionally executed and had a theme of excellence to it. What particularly made me smile was the attendance. There was a full crowd in attendance. Gathering a crowd in these present times is extremely difficult. There are many events to choose from and we are living in the times of many American wealth seminars so people choose their seminars carefully. That and the fact that people don’t attend events, sometimes out of apathy and sometimes because they are just plain ignorant and that is the reason for this blog. We need more people to attend such events so that we could have some sort of progression in society. To get a full house like that was great so well done to the team. I also ran into familiar faces so I guess it’s true what they say. Your vibe chooses your tribe (is that right?).

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My great friends and I 🙂

From my side, being in the development field for almost all my life, much of the things that were said were not new to me but perspective is always important and some things offer valuable insight and reminder. I’m really glad that we are becoming an authentic people. Gone are those days when all we cared about was developing the external and facades without interrogating self awareness etc… I loved the personal touch to the topics with Mali’s talk coming out tops on that. I had to leave early but feedback has it that the final part of the programme was amazing with Gobodo adding a very personal touch to her message. This is what is all about. It’s not enough just to share the good stories, but we need to hear those painful moments that ultimately make the good stories. How is a new budding Entrepreneur to know that it is ok to fail within the first years of their endeavours if no one shares that with him/her? So this was very well done!

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The Amazing Mali

I do have a concern though: We must start realising that big names don’t usually translate to great speakers. People filter what gets presented to them so they are most likely to see if someone is a great speaker or not. I felt that one particular speaker did not do justice to a powerful topic and that is too bad. I also noted that the organisers followed the American model of summits. I would advise on developing your own unique model as this becomes exhausting to the audience and psychologically a time comes where they stop absorbing all the information. Overall it was powerful and amazing and the atmosphere was inspiring… Well Done once more!

I ran into many folks I know and asked how they felt about it and here are some phrases I picked up from conversations

“They spoke about mentorship, Malebo I am serious about my life – will you please mentor me”

“This is exactly what I needed. I am tired of living a mediocre life”

“I thought I would get bored because such things are not my things but I can’t believe how much I am enjoying it”

“I wish they would also stress on blackness but I’m enjoying it”

I also managed to get tickets for two Lady Leaders to accompany me as I felt that the summit would be great for them. Here is some feedback:

“Ausi Malebo  I learned a lot. I felt like it was another puzzle that I needed to forward. Thank you once again. I needed this.

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I thought the event was epic. The leadership lessons that where taught, I imagined how great it could have been if I got this lessons while in high school. It made me realise that this is something that is needed in our high schools. It made be realise the value of paying for personal growth. There is hope for the future when the are events like this taking place of like minded people. (I also asked myself why are this events mostly in urban areas).

It meant that I am also great to be amongst such greatness.It taught me to live my truth so that I do not rob the coming generation of the lessons they could learn from me and that I am leader in the space that I occupy and I should take responsibility of my own life.

I was given hope by the men who stood at the podium. There way they spoke about their families ignited hope inside of me to believe that there are men out there who are raising a generation of men who care about family.”

Well done Amasi and the team. A little birdie says that a leadership bootcamp is underway in 2016? Oh Gosh – I can’t wait!!!!

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Standard Bank Joy of Jazz 24 – 26 September 2015

if you have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know – Louis Armstrong

If you are a jazz enthusiast, then the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz should definitely be up on your list of gigs to attend. Ranked amongst the top 10 festivals in the world, it promised the “raw emotions and passion of jazz like never before”. With a tantalising line up, it sure promised to be something else. I love jazz – wait, let me rephrase that – jazz loves me. I recall telling someone that my blood reeks of jazz in a beautiful dark way. I love words, I am a dancer, I am literature junkie and all about blackness. It is impossible to exist within all those things and not believe in jazz.

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The week before the festival was particularly a hard one and so I was literally counting sleepies. I only got to attend the session on the 26th September due to a hectic schedule but Alas – I made it. In all my excitement, I could not wait to see Bra Hugh Masekela as he heals me in every possible way. Forget all the ‘weave’ story – the man’s music makes magic in my veins. The line up was so crazy that I could not make my mind up. The point of jazz is to consume the music in its entirety so it is not advisable to listen to it for entertainment. The programme was soul watering so I had to make my choices and stick to them. And so I started with the Mbira Stage which was offering Simphiwe Dana. I love Simphiwe Dana, she can do no wrong in my ears. For reasons unknown, she arrived late on stage and performed a similar set she had performed the previous day at the Sacred Heart Music Festival. I love Simphiwe period and any experience with her is healing. Because she started 30 minutes late, she could only give us 30 minutes instead of an hour. With disappointment after her performance, I quickly rushed to the Diphala Stage where Nduduzo Makhathini was performing. He was joined by Karl-Martin Almqvist, Zwelakhe Duma, Omagugu Makhathini, Ayanda Sikade, Robin Fassie Kock , Mthunzi Mvubu. I missed Makhathini at the Grahamstown Arts Festival so you could imagine how I felt catching him on this night. No matter how many times you sit in on him – you cannot get enough. He is something else I tell you. Not being selfish he went over the one hour set time  and gave a stellar performance as if the ghost of Mseleku was right there with him.

Still basking in the glory of Makhathini’s keys, next stop was Larry Carlton. I ran into an old friend (fling tl tl tl) and we sat at the back as we played catch up while serenaded by the sounds of Carlton. Brilliant, velvety and smooth in texture, he reached into our souls and showed us flames. Good thing he finished when he did otherwise I would have declared my love for my long lost friend (DXN).

Next was the Conga stage where double bassist William Parker took to the stage. He was joined by Leena Conquest who was something to behold. Her voice is amazing and I truly enjoyed watching her. With a bit of time between the end of William Parker’s rendition and Bra Hugh’s performance, I had to make a “do or die” decision. Marcus Miller would grace the Dinaledi stage and I could catch him for 30 minutes before rushing back to catch Bra Hugh 15 minutes into his performance. This is where one must make a decision. You cannot listen to everything and so I decided to sit and wait for Bra Hugh to come on stage.

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picture property of Standard Bank Joy of Jazz

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Bra Hugh and Mtukudzi

Joined by Oliver Mtukudzi, my soul could not handle the wait. and so after waiting for about an hour (felt like 3 months) the time had come – my moment had arrived and I was all about seizing it with all I had. Mtukudzi graced the stage and so little raindrops of joy fell out of my heart. When Bra Hugh walked on and gave me his ever warm and loving smile – I burst out into tears. The moment was magical in every way – I felt like that was the reason for my existence (this could also be influenced by the wine I was drinking since I don’t drink alcohol at all #JustSaying). The beauty of the performance was that they performed each other songs (something that Bra Hugh does brilliantly). The energy levels were high and we were served hleng. The performance also featured the Shai Shai Mbira Ensemble who were brilliant but I feel they took too much of Bra Hugh and Mtukudzi’s time. It was magical.

Anyways, my only qualm was the venue as Newtown comes with the vibe you know. But I am sure there are politics involved in that whole saga. What an 18th edition. I called Uber and buzzed myself to sleep dreaming of sweet melodies as the whispers of the beat rocked me to slumber.

See you next year akere!

3rd AFRICAN WOMEN WRITERS’ SYMPOSIUM 17 – 19 September 2015

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September was truly a literary fest for literature junkies such as myself. This year Arts Alive brought us the 3rd African Women Writers’ Symposium which took place on the 17th till 19th September 2015. It promised to be a treat hailing some of the most amazing thinkers and writers in attendance. The programme was jam packed and one needed to make sure that they were fully present to capture the true essence of its theme. The theme was ‘Looking back, looking forward:Heritage, Turmoil and Transformation – Asserting African Women in The World’. I personally was interested in this theme as it spoke to me on many levels which I will share as this post progresses.

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The symposium kicked off with a keynote address by American bestselling author Sapphire. According to the press release, Sapphire in her keynote was to “unpack positional topics around the role of the art and being an African woman in the world”. The first time I came across Sapphire was when I read her bestselling novel ‘Push’ which many would identify with the film ‘Precious’. I deliberately did not attend this opening session as I am always baffled at the ‘American envy’ that we keep displaying as Afrikans. With many capable Afrikan authors, I do not understand why an American author had to tackle this specific subject on opening night.

18 September 2015

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The plenary session took place at 6pm titled “The Drum is a Woman, Celebrating the Life’s work on Jayne Cortez”. This was by far for me the highlight of my weekend. Friends and familial speakers gave poetic tributes to Cortez and her work. It was heart warming and a moving sessions as speaker after speaker recollected memories of what Jayne and her work meant to them. Prof Kgositsile and Linton Kwesi Johnson in their brilliance did some of their pieces and also read from Crortez’ collection. John Murillo read a brilliant peace where he really showed how important it is for writer’s to read their work at gatherings such as this. His poetry was filled with amazing hip hop sound effects that I would have never known how to translate if I was the one reading it. The Phenomenal Natalia Molebatsi read the pice “Find your voice and use it – use your voice and find it”. This line speaks on what I will share under the 19 September section. Sapphire read an amazing piece titled “Rape” by Cortez which sent shivers down our spines reminding us of the realities that RAPE presents and how we still sweep the topic under the rags and asks the question “What was the woman being raped supposed to do?”

“What was Inez supposed to do
for the man who declared war on her body
the man who carved a combat zone between her breasts
Was she supposed to lick crabs from his hairy ass
kiss every pimple on his butt
blow hot breath on his big toe
draw back the corners of her vagina
and hee haw like a Calif. burro…”

19 September 2015

I missed the first session titled “Writing history, writing fiction – interconnections and elisions takes centre stage” and just made it for the second session which started at 1pm. “Between violence and peace – narrating the conditions of Africans in the world”. Chaired by Nomboniso Gasa with panel members: Mmatshilo Motsei, Kadija Sessay and Zukiswa Wanner. I was  looking forward to this discussion and hoping that it would the violent condition on women particularly and how we narrate them in a form of literature. I did find that the topic did veer into another direction. I can’t begin to explain where it veered off to because I zombed out. I do remember some guy in the audience saying that how we respond to physical violence is all in the mind. That no matter what you do to the body, as long as you in your mind tell yourself positive things – it can do nothing to you. he went on to explain how he got mugged but nothing happened to him as he made it to the session still in a positive mood. I felt like punching him and asking if he had ever been raped…

I wasn’t feeling that session…

This was followed by a session at 2:30pm titled “Choosing poetry, choosing hope – asserting the voice of poetry and its transformative power in our lives” facilitated by John Murillo with panel members: Barbara Schreiner, Myesha Jenkins and Khosi Xaba. What a redeemer – pheeew! I found this particular very helpful to my personal journey as a writer.  The panellists got to share their writing journey. Each of them started off by reading a piece from their work before tackling questions from the facilitator and audience. Xaba shared how she did not know she could write poetry as essays were her first love. It took people drawing the poetry out from her essays that she started to venture into poetry. Jenkin’s shared how she only started writing poetry in her 40s; this goes to show that there is definitely no timeline for the soul. One particular interesting discussion point that Murillo brought up was the: “art for art sake” topic- do writers have a certain level of responsibility towards their readers?

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I got to catch up with John Murillo after the session just to discuss some of my reservations towards sharing the poetry that I write. I still don’t know if I write poetry or just a bunch of ramblings. Jenkins interjected in on our conversation and said: “as long as you are true to your voice honey – keep on writing”. This session took me a step closer to believing in my poetic voice. One day I will have the courage to share the poetry I write . I don’t mind sharing my essays, work of fiction, article etc… but poetry – oh my goodness! You see – I had Metrophobia whilst growing up (can you imagine?) – only because of the mindf*ck that took place every time I read poetry. I love analysing and poetry would just mess with my mind. I confronted it with time but only conquered the ear and not the eyes. Then I started writing and reading (poetry). It was liberating. But I could still not share my poetry. I am trying to confront this fear but my heart races at the thought of undressing my poetry. Oh the trauma.  I shared a piece (courage!) with one award winning poet that was there. He said he could taste my ink. Said that a time will come – my day will come. He said I should stop being hard on myself. “Find your voice and use it – use your voice and find it”

The last session took place at 7:30pm and was titled:” Inaugural Nadine Gordimer: In Memorium Lecture: On Literature and Freedom” which was presented by award winning author Aminatta Forna. She managed to make us reflect on the reasons why we write. Made me reflect on something I once heard said by one of my favourite authors of all time “Do we write in order to collect prizes and royalties or do we write to save lives?”

Overall the programme was great and I was elated to be amongst some of the greatest minds. The networking was priceless. I was particularly excited when I saw that African Flavour books had a stall at the gathering. African Flavour Books is a bookstore dedicated to promoting Afrikan literature. They are based in Vanderbijlpark and are what I may call – a dream come true to some of us Afrikan literature junkies. I got to catch up with Fortiscue Helepi, the owner and it was a breath of fresh air hearing that more and more people are supporting his store. Please follow them on facebook on African Flavour Books

I left there feeling quite fulfilled and happy but … I do feel we could do more to get more people to these sort of programmes. This is a brilliant platform to get writers together and those who aspire to be writers. In the future it would be worth considering organising focus groups. I am aware that master class workshops were available but focus groups allow for more conversation and dialogue. I cannot wait for the 4th installation ❤

@malebosays

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supporting local is activism

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it was very disheartening to hear that tell me sweet something has been removed from 20 major cinemas (read more here). following many posts on social media, i realised how much some black south africans do not believe in their own home brewed craft. i wondered how the afrikaans movies were doing in contrast to movies such as tell me sweet something. honestly and truly though, my thing is that we must start somewhere. if you are going to compare the south african film industry with others such as hollywood for example, can we take a moment to remind ourselves of how it got there? in the same breath, can we stop using the west as some standard? (only when something is in america has it been put on the map?).

anyways, the expectations on our film industry is a tall order taking into account the budgets at their disposal. people should read about the challenges of the arts and culture sector in our country. keep yourself informed so it helps you make informed judgements. i applaud Nigerians for supporting their own. when nollywood came into the fort, it was hilarious and the production was …errrr – yep – but nigerians supported their own and look at where nollywood is now – the production keeps on improving and they stay winning. Supporting local is key; it is an act of revolution in fact. it benefits the economy and keeps the currency rotating around black hands (something the mental enslaved would never understand).