Presenting an introductory workshop to isiBheqe soHlamvu at Umuzi, Pule kaJanolintshi, an artist and linguist, projects an image of what appears to be an “upside-down” map of Africa onto the wall. Someone in the audience quickly remarks that the map is facing the wrong way. “You mean, the right way round… We’re in the South why can’t we be at the top? Whether the map is the right or the wrong way around depends on your orientation”, Pule pushes back. Decolonisation in practice, Ditema tsa Dinoko, challenges us to recondition and develop ways of understanding beyond conventional Western practices. Much like the disputed map, isiBheqe is an exercise in reimagining and reconstructing.
Developed over the past three years by a team of linguists and designers, isiBheqe soHlamvu, also known as Ditema tsa Dinoko, is a syllabic writing system, meaning the symbols are expressed as syllables as opposed to individual sounds like alphabetic letters. The system is informed by indigenous Southern African symbolic design traditions, considering Sesotho, isiNdebele and isiNguni symbols, like the beading artform ibheqe.
IsiBheqe soHlamvu makes use of triangular forms prevalent in these traditions that can create patterns as a means of communication. And while isiBheqe is a writing system the triangular symbols aren’t like conventional alphabets but, like music, representations of sound. Also known as a featural writing system, isiBheqe symbols are informed by articulation – the use of physical organs such as your lips, tongue and jaw when pronouncing the syllables of words – the way words sound.
The first featural writing system of the 21st century (featural writing systems, such as Korean Hangeul, date back to the 15th century), the developers of isiBheqe hope to encourage the use of the writing system through their website isibheqe.org which boasts an isiBheqe keyboard, and eventually have isiBheqe recognized by the Unicode Consortium.
Bringing isiBheqe to life, Umuzi in collaboration with Afropunk, an influential community of young people of all backgrounds speaking through music, art, film, lifestyle sports, fashion, and photography, present Ringa, an exhibition exploring the concept of language in Southern Africa as a complex singularity, rather than languages as separate entities.
On 5 October, as part of the Braamfontein’s First Thursday programme, a group of Umuzi young artists, partnering with Sandile Radebe and Pule kaJanolintshi, will use Isibheqe, an indigenous writing system for Southern African languages, as a medium to convey an everyday, pan-lingual experience.
As summer rolls into Jozi we are back at 70 Juta Street for our 5th First Thursday collaboration RINGA! Exhibition of Taal.
Umuzi are excited to be partnering with Afropunk, Sandile Radebe and Pule kaJanolintshi to offer up a thought-provoking exploration of language in Southern Africa as a complex singularity – a river system in dynamic flow full of all the varied styles of speech around us, and their graphic representation in different systems of writing, not just the Roman alphabet that we learn at school, but the writing systems that are indigenous to this continent.
Language as a fundamental part of experience is actually a special kind of natural code we use in conveying thoughts between us, whether it be with the voice (spoken languages) or with the body (signed languages). We further encode the code of language graphically through writing, which is nothing but a cultural technology that transports words across space and time. Speech, sign and writing are as much markers of identity as they are ways of expressing our beliefs, desires and history. They are the inqolobane where we store culture, through which we often unconsciously reflect and share collective memory.
This exhibition, mounted by young South African artists of Umuzi Academy, explores these relationships between the visual and oral of language in this region of the world.
It features artworks that speak to both official and non-official everyday language, from Is’Camtho and Tsotsitaal to IsiMpondro and Tshivenḓa, incorporating various writing systems, such as isiBheqe Sohlamvu (Ditema tsa Dinoko), Adinkra symbols of West Africa, the Mandombe script of Congo, the Zẖȝ n Mdw-Nṯr of ancient Egypt, or the Jawi ajami for writing Afrikaans in Arabic characters.
Ringa! brings language to the fore in a way you’ve never seen it before. So be sure to make your way to 70 Juta Street this First Thursday as we exhibit unusual reflections on taal in sound and image.
Plan of the Exhibition
We invite you to enter umuzi wethu, the walls of which extend onto the pavement of Juta Street, eGoli. On the ground you will see isibheqe characters spelling out U-MU-ZI. Inside the main spaces there an ‘oceans’ which represent the groups of structural similarity in language of this region of the continent. On two walls you will see the works of Umuzi Recruits, sharing thoughts on what language means in this country, and on the facing walls, a ‘topographical map’ depicting a river system, flowing between planes of elevation. These rivers are Language. Zwakala ublom’ emlanjeni nathi, o jaje Ringas van die plek ya rona, ma-Afrika.
A River of Language…
Mulambo wa Luambo. Umfula Wolimi. Noka ya Leleme. Mulabho Whelilimi. Gowab di Kai! Garib. Nambu wa Ririmi. Xoaki se G!ari. Rivier van Taal.
An installation on both sides of the conjoining wall – that simultaneously acts as part of the isibheqe character spelling the ZI of umuzi on the floor of the space – depicts language as a flowing river, made up of ways of speaking. The water is speech, as it runs it says:
khuluma, bua, thetha, bolela, vulavula, amba. But it also says: bhobha, tekela, ndrondroza, tshefula, ngangaza, yeyeza, apa, bola, and bolabola; and it even says !hoa, khom, ǂxoa, ||ãla, and tana.
These are words we use to describe how we talk. Styles of speech connected to each other in specific ways, ordered logically here in a kind of topographical map. It is a dynamic flow of language forms around the country: three kinds of river systems that run from the three sources in three mountains of linguistic heritage called: Ntu, Khoe & !Ui-Taa. They pool into lakes that are natural collections of language in a cultural context forming a specific linguistic variety with its particular features.
But they also are forced into dams, that are man-made artificially formed varieties – the standardised dictionary languages that are used as official languages…
We usually only think in terms of dams. We freeze language in the walls of dictionaries. Let us begin to flow from them and hear the different sounds of the water as it runs.
CLICK HERE TO RSVP ON FACEBOOK.
It’s a new month and what better way to keep the winter blues at bay than to party them away? We’ve put together a list of things to do and see from First Thursday happenings to vinyl sessions and farewell parties, this is the best of Jozi’s nightlife this week.
Thursday 6 July 2017:
Mixed Spaces, Keleketla! Library.
Address: 6 Verwey Street Troyeville, Johannesburg
On Thursday 6 July, multidisciplinary visual story-teller and music collector Zara Juluis screens her documentary film, Mixed Spaces at the Keleketla! Library located at King Kong, Troyville.
In conversations with various middle-class young adults who identify as mixed race, Mixed Spaces takes a look at their experiences and how they navigate ”Rainbow nation” South Africa. Formed from focus groups in her apartment while still living in Cape Town, Mixed Spaces interrogates the restrictions of racial categories in South Africa and how mixed race people defines themselves in a post-apartheid South Africa that obsessed with labels of black and white.
Doors open at 6:30pm and screening starts at 8pm. Following discussions the night will be rounded off with soulful tunes by Mma Tseleng and Zara.
Moses Tladi (1903-1959), Wits Arts Museum (WAM), Braamfontiein
WAM, corner of Bertha (ext. of Jan Smuts Ave) and Jorissen Streets, Braamfontein, Johannesburg
The Wits Arts Museum presents works of Moses Tladi produced from 1903 till 1959. Previously on show at Iziko South African National Gallery in Cape Town, the Wits Arts Museum offers Joburgers the opportunity to view and experience the work of one South Africa’s lesser known landscape artist.
Born in the Limpopo village of Ga- Phaahla, Tladi was the first black artist to exhibit at the South African National Gallery in 1931 and the first Black artist to exhibit at the now Johannesburg Art Gallery in 1939.
Friday 7 July 2017:
DJ Slovo Vinyl Session, The Orbit Jazz Club
81 De Korte St, Braamfontein
Kicking off an exciting addition to Johannesburg’s nightlife and a welcome addition to the otherwise traditional jazz club, The Orbit presents their inaugural vinyl sessions this Friday, 7 July.
Featuring award winning filmmaker Bro Slovo aka Dylan Valley, the first Vinyl sessions promises an inclusive mix of sounds from hip hop, funk and groove jazz. Preceded by a live performance from GP Riot upstairs at 20h30, the Vinyl Sessions take place on the lower entry level of The Orbit from 23h30 at a cost of R50.
Jojo Abot Farewell, Kitchener’s Carvery Bar
71 Juta St, Braamfontein
After a whirlwind tour of performances, photoshoots, impromptu gigs, collaborations and exploring, Ghanaian born musician and enchantress Jojo Abot bids Jozi farewell in an epic send off this Friday at Kitchnere’s.
Featuring live performances from Jojo and Mthwakazi, party goers can also look forward to DJ sets by bass queen DJ Doowap and DJ Okapi among others. Event is free before 21:30
If there ever was a way to bow out of Youth Month with a bang, landing a feature on Mail & Guardian’s Young 200 Leaders list would be a great attempt and that is exactly what photographer and Umuzi multimedia recruit, Tshepiso Mabula has done.
A Design Indaba Emerging Young Creative 2017 member, Tshepiso Mabula is a Soweto based photographer born in the Lephalale district of Limpopo.
An encounter with renowned photographer Santu Mofokeng’s book Bloemhof, during a family visit in 2012, ignited her passion and intrigue for photography and there has been no stopping her ever since.
After completing her course at the Market Photo Workshop in documentary and photojournalism, Tshepiso joined the Umuzi Academy in 2016. She later went on to participate in Intercambiador ACART artist residency programme in Madrid Spain, where she produced and exhibited a body of work as part of a group exhibition at the Quinta del Sordo.
Reflecting the times and spaces she occupies in various bodies of work such as Makoti Kapa Lefetwa and her ongoing series Four Room, Seven Colours, Tshepiso captures ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances while concurrently commenting on societal ills and challenging various forms of systematic oppression such as patriarchy.
From all of us at Umuzi, wishing you more prosperity and light as you continue to use your voice and photography as a tool for advocacy and resistance.
To follow Tshepiso and keep up with her latest work follow her on:
Instagram: tshepisomabula and kasinomics_ 101
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.
When Umuzi decided to host its first InstaMeet and the Cohort 4 Digital Marketing Team became the group that was officially entrusted with the brief, I don’t remember once feeling burdened with the responsibility but mostly excited to be taking determined baby steps towards making company history.
Almost immediately the team interpreted the global theme into a spirited commemoration of Food, specifically focusing on how food continues to bring us together, helping us celebrate special moments and show our loved ones that we are always thinking of them.
Umuzi was determined on putting its own personal imprint to the whole event, so we derived a hashtag that was inspired by the different kinds of foods that would aid all foodies in reminiscing the countless memories of very significant times in their lives.
The event planning consisted of innumerable meetings, purposefully driving us to our predetermined goals, there were as many frustrations in the two weeks of preparations as there were major victories. The biggest success of them all being the day of the amazing event.
The event began with our invited guests arriving, registering and being given tokens that allowed them to freely fill up their empty goodie bags with ten things from our Spaza Shop; a deliberate replica that mimicked the same invention as those we still find everyday on pavements and street corners. The only difference with our Spaza Shop is that it was stocked with items that would reawaken childhood memories, everything from Apple Munches, Drink O Pops, Fizzers, Bibos, Nik Naks and more. The reactions to our creation were all so worth it, each item inspiring our foodies to share a sentimental story relating to what they chose.
The Umuzi InstaMeet consisted of different visits to three locations; a starter at Thabo’s Chesa Nyama that was made up of Kebab Sticks and Mealies; a meal that was intended to embrace diverse memories as well as comprise of a unique and modern touch. This is where we spent most of our time, jovially enthralled in casual bursts of conversation and laughter.
The main course was enjoyed at the Downstairs Diner, where our meal options ranged between Dombolo & Beef Stew and Pap & Tripe. For some, the decision was quite difficult to make, I was pleased to observe that most of our guests refused to choose and asked to have their plates filled with both of the meat options.
As the sun began to set, we made our last walk of the day, all the way into Maboneng to Coco Bella for our dessert. The idea behind this one was motivated by the coloured ice cream cones we all ate as children. We had to unfortunately alternate that option for the sweet cones they offered, but nothing was lost as we giddily licked on the dripping caramel and enjoyed our vanilla flavoured ice cream.
The whole weekend consisted of creating new memories, unlocking and reliving memories that we hadn’t even realized had long been tucked away. Even the Umuzi Recruits that weren’t with us on the day were encouraged to share their most nostalgic food memories on our InstaMeet hashtag #DownFoodieLane, so they could join the global event by letting everyone know what they were eating. Our Instagram Influencers also did a great job of posting very beautiful pictures of the event under the same hashtag.
If you missed the event and the chance to participate, please search the hashtag #DownFoodieLane on Instagram to better understand what our day was made of. It is said after all that seeing for yourself always leads to unquestionable belief.
Written by: Sinawo Bukani
Images by: Sipho Biyam
Being young, black and bred in a city like Johannesburg makes for interesting discourse in the conversation of heritage. What does culture and heritage mean when your “homeland” is a dusty township as opposed to some vast plot in an idyllic village? What are your claims to lineage and ethnicity when your first language is not indigenous and your expressions are void of the ambiguity and poetry of our mother tongues?
If heritage and culture is the result of social and demographic influence, what traditions and languages are we creating in a city such as Jozi? Having being born and bred in Johannesburg , attended multiracial schools and being encouraged to speak English for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, what claim can I lay to my heritage and culture? The nuances and mannerisms that are a result of living in the melting pot that is townships and urban spaces, what do we call those? How long are the ways of people in urban areas going to be reduced to sub and popular culture?
For Heritage Month we’re doing things a little bit differently ,we’re looking at our bodies, the spaces we occupy and the way we express ourselves as a culture and future reference for heritage. We’re looking at music, fashion, colloquialisms and urban lifestyle as valid culture. Join us as we celebrate the quirk and complexity of being young, black and what culture means in an urban context.
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