Countering the exclusivity and inaccessibility of art, First Thursdays is a free cultural exploration of art galleries, live music events and reclamation of the city. Last night academy recruits, alumni and community members infiltrated Braamfontein to attend Umuzi’s very first pop up exhibition at the popular First Thursdays art walks.
Curated by american based photographer Moyo Oyelola and Umuzi creative directors Nthabiseng Lethoko and Odendaal Esterhuyse, the thought provoking exhibition presented an opportunity for new and old Umuzi community members to come together over a glass of wine and thought provoking art.
Forming part of a host of exhibitions and activities for the first First Thursday of the year, Umuzi recruits exhibited a series of multimedia installations and artworks around the themes of spiritual deprivation, gentrification and addiction.
Following a successful showcase in December, the second showing of Lost in the World boasted a surprise performance by writer, multimedia recruit and all round creative Ramoloti Kganakga. Dressed as a vagabond, Kganaka tackled issues of gentrification and other forms of systematic oppression in a commanding spoken word piece. Caught off guard, audience members were challenged to interrogate their own prejudice towards marginalised people.
Despite a downpour of rain,the night was a great success that saw new and old community members network, share ideas and socialise in the name of art.
We would like to thank Southpoint Central for helping us host a spectacular first First Thursday exhibition and look forward to working together and making creativity more accessible.
On the 9th of December 2016, Umuzi Academy hosted a year end exhibition titled Lost In the World.
Curated by american based photographer Moyo Oyelola and Umuzi creative directors Nthabiseng Lethoko and Odendaal Esterhuyse, Umuzi recruits created work that reflected the themes of spiritual deprivation, gentrification and addiction.
From conceptualising, producing and having their work printed and displayed, the exhibition was the first time many of the recruits had organised an exhibition, something they will surely be accustomed to in the future.
Boasting an edible social experiment and selfie station the multimedia exhibition was interactive and encouraged audience members to make their own impressions on some of the artwork.
We spoke to one of the participating multimedia recruits, Jabulile Hlanze’s whose artwork revolved around the theme of nature as a conduit of spirituality, she spoke to us about her creative process and her experience partaking in the exhibition.
What theme were you doing and why did it resonate with you?
The overall exhibition was titled “Lost In The World”, which explored the idea of a lack of direction we all may experience. Under the theme ‘Spirituality’ – I explored the way I take in and experience the concept of spirituality. It resonated with me because spiritual presence is something that is important to me.
Can you explain your piece to us, the name, your intentions with it and what you had hoped people would get from it.
My piece was titled Rooted in Spirit. Not only do trees provide oxygen and shade but they bring comfort as well. Whenever I need to connect and balance my energy, witnessing a person (or beings) and being under a tree to connect with self helps to rejuvenate my soul, it allows me a moment to engage with the present moment – even in the simplest of surroundings.
In the madness of the everyday, spirituality tends to be the last thought that is fully acknowledged so I hoped people would be able to take a moment and absorb the different textures, conclude what would resonate with them within the piece and grant a moment to appreciate the spiritual calmness that trees bring.
What was your creative process in putting together the piece.
Looking at the space that was offered, I wanted to create a mixed media art piece (which is something I’ve never done except in print exhibitions) that would offer the printed image room to expand into a tangible experience. Entering the space the viewer would walk on the African mat ‘incansi’ which lead to the printed art piece framed by actual grass cuttings which were placed inside a circle of different color candles that were lit. Hanging above the grass was, ‘isimbhatho, a traditional church regalia used and worn when prayer.
How was your experience of the whole exhibition?
It was interesting to note and experience the way other people express their spirituality and addictions. It was also interesting to consciously note the different expressions of gentrification and areas going through such transactions.
The thought-provoking exhibition was rounded off with tunes, dance moves and laughter as current recruits, alumni and industry friends bid the year farewell.
More than just apparel, dresses for women have become somewhat symbolic and representative of the different life stages women go through. Most women wear school dresses as young girls, a wedding dress, a maternity dress, in other cultures or religion, a women even wears a dress that covers her entire body to symbolise the sacredness of her body and sometimes a mourning dress to symbolise the death of her husband. These dresses then become a language in which society can identify or classify a certain woman who wears either one of these dresses.
Susan Bordo describes the female body as the “docile” body that has become the language of the ideals and norms of a particular society. In other words what women wear or how they behave is a direct result from the ideals of her surroundings, the body tells one of the culture or society from which they belong to; the body has become the platform to express those ideals. The dresses in this series of photos speak about the ancient menstrual dresses that women used to wear to let everyone know what was happening to them. Women would be excused from their daily chores for seven days, however, years down the line this tradition has allowed men to stigmatise women during their menstruation. Shame and disgust are now tied together with menstruation.
Words and photographs by: Boitumelo Mazibuko
Women’s positions in relation to power are slowly changing as more women become courageous and speak out about issues they face and overcome, this is evident in the various narratives being expressed in the arts.
Kwazinkosi Ndebele or “Kwazi” as she is affectionately known, is a young black female architect/aspiring fine art student who considers herself a free thinker. Kwazi is also a firm believer in the South African communal philosophy of Ubuntu, which states that Umuntu nguMuntu ngaBantu (I am a because of others). Because of this philosophy Kwazi believes in the necessity of helping each other in order to advance collectively, however this is proving to be difficult considering dysfunctionalities in black families as a result of history and acts of oppression imposed on black South Africans previously. It’s been more than 20 years since South Africa’s democracy and a growing number of people are starting to realise the fallacy of this free and fair society. Our women are seen leading the forefront of narratives that have been muted over the years, and question their positions not only in South Africa’s history but one of a whole patriarchal world, where their identity is not just a South African one but an African sum.
Kwazi represents the new age revolution of woman who face such stereotypes and prejudices head on from influences of how she was brought up and where she wants to go.
As an aspiring fine art student; movements like the fine objects movement which is art created form undisguised but often modified objects that aren’t considered art because their functionality is already predefined, her and I drew curation from and created pieces that resemble objects that are objectified just like how women have been by men’s’ predefinition, to reanimated herself in reflection of her own identity and the outlook in which she projects herself as a woman of society.
Through still frames and the use of animated GIFs, Kwazi’s journey since birth to the growing woman she is today, is captured through a timeline from her childhood pictures; inanimate as an old photo book can be, to her finding animation in her becoming of womanhood.
As a young man who is borne into a black family from a womb of history that is made up of discrimination I am also a victim to perceptions of seeing women in vulnerable positions but in collaborating with Kwazi I broke away from what society has misconceived as the true roles women play.
We both hope to achieve absolute emancipation from how women are treated by men in black families by instilling a relationship that sees both sexes in equal harmony
Written by: Afari Kofi
Model: Kwasinkosi Ndebele
Images by: Afari Kofi
Blessed with an abundance of talent in the form of videographers, graphic designers, photographers and writers Umuzi Academy is a creative hub where the standard for excellence is nothing but hot sh!t and to applaud and encourage our recruits for their work, Umuzi launched the Creative of the Month (#COM) competition.
Open to past and current Umuzi Academy recruits, submissions for the first Creative of the Month competition streamed in fast. Ranging from cityscapes, to powerful social commentary and even some humorous videos, the inaugural submissions made it very clear that deciding on a winner would not be an easy task.
Following an intense judging session, two winners were selected, Lungile Mofokeng and Lutendo Malatji. Lungile (or “Steez” as he is affectionately known to the Umuzi familia) reigns as this month’s Alumni winner for his community project Bicycle Stokvel, whilst Lutendo Malatji won the Current Recruit title for his photographic, fashion project Skapadiya.
Till next time…hot shi!t k’phela.
To find out more about Bicyle Stokvel visit their Facebook page: http://bit.ly/29NQAmu
To find out more about Skapadiya, vist Lutendo’s Behance: http://bit.ly/29G64ub
The youngest member of Velocity Afrika, filmmaker and director of Hangman , Zwelethu Radebe came through to the Umuzi studio to give a masterclass on his journey as film maker and story teller.
Perseverance, endurance and the hunger to prove yourself sit on the top of the list of what passion looks like for Zwelethu, that said, the ultimate and most important aspect of it all is telling authentic and relevant stories.
Zwelethu’s love for film-making started from a young age when he would watch and study films and that drove him. He would go to the library and download scripts and work with those to develop his love for the industry. He got through school using the funding he received from film-making competitions.
“There is always something to say or another way for you to do something; limiting yourself because of funding, equipment or situation is allowing yourself failure before you even start,” he cautioned. Zweli never waited for things to come to him, and that pushed him even further. That where his uniqueness lies.
His mantra, and constant driving force is the desire to tell stories and the “importance of the African story.” He looks at situation from all angles and considers just what it means for our country and the local film industry. Zweli sites Nollywood, and how big they are becoming- bigger than Hollywood even – just by creating stories with what they have and however they can. “You can never have enough stories for a lifetime,” and that is where our power lies.
The projects he’s worked on include television ads and promos, most notably Mzansi Magic’s The Road, one for Ster-Kinekor and a more recent project called The Hangman; a movie documenting the story of self-discovery in South Africa during apartheid, which he is releasing later this year.
Take what people say you can’t do as a personal challenge, and don’t be dictated by your failures, is the biggest lesson I have taken from the talk given by Zweli and that in a way has calmed the storm of self-doubt in probably everyone’s head.
Written by: Karabo Seloane
Despite a long and lauded history as art practitioners many black South Africans still find themselves on the fringe of the mainstream art industry. Often secluded to white gallery walls away from townships, lucrative art spaces and exhibitions are things of richness, whiteness and the city.
The conversation of contemporary art is incomplete without accessibility on the agenda, where do young people find avenues for expressions and artistic influence in their own communities? Who are the examples for black artistry? How do we access and engage them?
26 year old conceptual and fashion photographer Andile Phewa responds to these questions through his project, Backroom Space. Andile brings art to the people without the pretence and pressure to dress it up.
Most South African townships have “backrooms”, a single room separate to the main house that is often hired out for accommodation. Backroom spaces signify a rite of passage for the eldest child in the main house, a home for families and the first sense of community for migrant workers. Like all accommodative spaces, the backroom represents independence and responsibility, to bring art into a space like that is not only genius but revolutionary.
Taking place in his own living space, Andile held the first Backroom Space exhibition in Rockville Soweto on the 23rd of April 2016, which featured some of his work. The confinement of a single room forced viewers and guests to interact with the work… analysing, questioning and etching a memory of art in an immediate, familiar and township space.
Backroom Space highlights the need and importance for young black creatives to create within and for their own communities, to create a reference for emerging creative minds and artists and most importantly to take ownership of their work and their spaces.
Words by Vuyiswa Xekatwane
Images by Andile Phewa, Kgomotso Neto Tleane, Khotso Bantu Mahlangu and Thapelo Anthony Motsumi
Umuzians were out mingling with other creatives at the Possible Conference, hosted by Between 10 and 5, which was alive with possibilities of becoming a great content creator. We registered with a hot cup of coffee that warmed us up to what was to come at the Braamfontein Alexander Theatre on a Thursday morning.
Proverb kicked things off opening the platform to questions and turning the discussion to branding – his branding – more than just regurgitating information. He reflected on his journey of building a personal brand mentioning the importance of diversity as an artist and starting with a plan.
The talk jumped to Jana + Koos who briefly spoke about working with brands and pursuing personal projects. “Be brave, be yourself” is key also. They also spoke about the interesting idea of working with friends.
Next up, influencer, blogger, photographer and owner of an agency called Golden, Anna-Belle. She works with other influencers and believes in a visual world and how everyone should, “learn to take a photograph.” She explained that when we decide what we want, purpose drives actions and encourages authenticity without being assholes.
Then onto a talk about context. Punk & Ivy clothing designer extolled the truth of what it means to be conscious of the landscape you live in. Further to this, we were told about putting ourselves out there, that we certainly should not be scared to put ourselves in the position which will allow us to get what we want (but by all means be mindful about intellectual property). Lastly we were cautioned about social media. We might take it lightly but the way we engage with social media represents us like CV’s.
The day didn’t end there though. Ross Drake mentions a few people who have mastered the art and breaks down the points of becoming a brand. Eitan Stern is a creative lawyer who touched on how to structure relationships with different people. Web influencers Kirsty and Sharman talked about raising the bar of their brands. Brett Rogers is an actor and model creating content for TV and known for the food, booze and tattoos project and said, “we need to open our ears because listening to people will give us content.” “The best influencers are the best creators,” YouTuber Grant Hinder smoothly closed things on that note.
So are we all not possible influencers in some way? Well, start Googling these people, learn from the best and get your head in the game.
Friday was short and sweet with the Weekend Social ladies Nandi Dlepu and Vuyiswa Mutshekwane talking about the need to draw from your personal experience. “Be consistent while evolving,”they said. After that, a Master Class on photography taught us a thing or two about shooting. And we were back in our seats for a discussion with Gareth Pon, Karabo Moletsane and Craig Rodney about building their brands. “Be the best in the world at whatever you want to do”, said Craig Rodney.
For creatives it’s not always about sending your CV to be hired at a company. We need to build our portfolios by not being afraid to pursue personal projects. We should brand ourselves in line with our passions and leverage what other brands are doing which will fuse into what we are doing. Our mindsets should be built on going out and doing research. When we find our niche in the market we need to be consistent in our passion until we become influencers. Authenticity will make us stand out, don’t settle! And remember “never be a professional always stay a student,” as Gareth Pon advised.
Written by Grace Zwane
Photos by Lutendo Malatji
Lebogang Rasethaba graced our studios yesterday dripping with swag, charm and humility. With his latest project ‘The People vs The Rainbow Nation’ causing a stir since it aired on MTV Base in April, one would assume Lebogang would kick off his session by enlightening us with tales of his success and accomplishments right? Well – we were delightfully surprised when he took a totally different direction. Being the awesome film maker and radically cool person that he comes off to be, Lebogang literally left the ball in our court with admirable ease by allowing us to lead the conversation.
And so it began. In Q and A style, we got to reflect on his latest and thrilling MTV collaboration short film ‘The People vs The Rainbow Nation.’ This short film is centred on the fallacy that is this ‘new’ supposedly liberated South Africa that we live in. It also effortlessly highlights themes of a failed post-apartheid economy and the evidence of the power dynamics within our racially diverse nation. Mostly told through poignant commentary by thought leaders, media personalities and passionate university students, the film explores the aftermath of our latest and much needed #FeesMustFall movement amongst further insights.
Interesting energy flowed through the studio when we all began to openly engage on the relevance of the project.
“Due to the perceptive view of race in South Africa, the film is trying to address a problem,” stated Lebogang, who proudly positioned himself to honestly receive our feedback and criticism.
“How do I relate to the film? I’m a person who grew up in a messed up society, so I want to help young people,” he then told us. What stood out the most was his gesture to collaborate with Umuzi as a whole on his upcoming project aimed to celebrate the concept of ‘Black Love.’
“What forces you not to love yourself?” he asked, elaborating on the theory of radical liberation as a possible solution to the state of the country.
“Black people must display the principle of love towards one another. Hate is not a solution.”
As Umuzi, we look forward to working alongside Lebogang and many greats like him in our quest to change the African narrative. Promising to come back with his team to share resources, concepts and ideas with us as an organization, Lebogang is the epitome of black excellence and building each other up.
In his words, I proudly quote “Let’s do something about what we face in life.” The conversation is far from over that much is evident, we only hope to spark a fire wild enough to burn down the walls of oppression.
Written by: Janet Mazibuko
Photographs by: Lutendo Malatji