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
Women’s liberation and dusty days are the things South African Augusts are made of. As soon as amber winds make their debut, you’ll be sure to hear the chant “Wathinth’ Abafazi, Wathinth Imbokodo” being echoed somewhere.
60 years after 20 000 women marched to the Union Buildings protesting against pass laws, women world wide are still faced with issues of inequality, abuse and discrimination. And while the constant commercalisation guised as commemoration is tiresome, there is still a very real need to highlight issues facing women in the 20th century.
In a world were millions of women and young girls have their physical and emotional well being endangered purely on the premise of their gender, in a world where men are paid higher and black lesbians are violently killed and assaulted for their sexual orientation, we must make it our business to speak up. We must always be deliberate about our intolerance for injustice and inequality, but for our own growth and sanity we must also learn to celebrate, to applaud those who live their fullest potential against the odds. In a world where being black and being a woman earns you the lowest rank of value, events and ideals such as #ForBlackGirlsOnly and #BlackGirlMagic are not only necessary but affirming.
This month we’re celebrating women in all their variety… sdudla, slenda, straat-meid or mama wasekhaya. Whether uyasonta noma uthand’ uk’jaiva, domestic goddesses or tom-boy. To survive in a world where women are constantly told that they’re not enough, celebrations are definitely in order. Happy Queening, bo bbz!
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
Don’t even bother trying to look up the term ‘Black Girl Magic’ and what it means, because all you have to do is have a simple conversation with Milusithando Bongela aka Miss Milli B to experience it. Umuzi was alive with conversation on last Thursday when the editor of the Mail and Guardian Friday, joined us in studio. At 31, Milli B is like that intangible beauty with star dust in her soul, dark brown skin, wise golden words in her belly and ‘woke’ inspiration for days.
“Our role as writers is to interpret the world for people,” she humbly stated during what she stubbornly refused to call a ‘Masterclass’ session, because she doesn’t even consider herself to be one.
“Me coming in here as a ‘master’ to come talk to you guys is nerve wrecking for me. I don’t like to see myself so superimposed,” she gushed, once more, having a modest view of her importance. Laughs – but we know better. She obviously has a disdain for motivational talking but her story resonates so much truth for the average black creative out there, trying by all means to make it big.
After getting her journalism degree from Rhodes University, Milli embarked on her journey to becoming the sum of so many things.
With the desire to make something interesting out of her life, Milli became a fashion assistant, worked at bars to make extra cash, failed her driver’s license a record of four times! Yes, four times, but still kept on pushing. With her enduring spirit, she eventually hustled her way to the city of gold.
“The train to the Joburg station is closed now. However, now that we are ‘woke’ and ‘broke’ what next?” she questioned, challenging us to really define what it is we are trying to accomplish as creatives in a world full of so much irrelevance.
Touching on the ‘comparison monster’ and how difficult it is to develop a unique voice, she had this to say: “As a writer and as a creative, your emotional health is extremely important.” In depth, her words resonate character and how vital it is to sometimes switch off the internet and harness some alone time. “Listen to your silence,” she urged.
“We get to a stage in life where the hustle is not cute anymore,” she then joked, reflecting on how her overall goal is to shine light on the immense beauty of black people. “I’m not trying to be a New York Times Bestseller, I’m trying to help my people, build a farm at home and educate the people. We need to work for the next generations, so that they don’t have to try and unlearn the cruelty of the world.” There is power in the way she stood so firm on her selfless purpose to enlighten people.
She then spoke on the importance of infiltrating institutions like the Mail and Guardian where she currently works. “These institutions are ours too. Any publication not tapping into what the youth is doing is not going to survive.” Best believe she’s doing some awesome things as an editor and is not going to stop there.
In the spirit of creative endurance, which is what Umuzi is all about, I urge you all to persevere for you never know what your stars hold. So what is it that you’re doing to infiltrate the industry? Food for thought?
By Janneth Mazibuko
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