This year was my second time attending the Cape Town International Jazz Festival. I attended as part of the festival’s photojournalism programme, which trains photographers on how to take pictures in a jazz/concert setting. I spent most of my time at the Rosies stage, where I took pictures of artists like Buddy Wells, Tune Recreation Committee (TRC), Thandiswa Mazwai, SkyJack, Siya Makuzeni, etc. I went into the festival with a knowledge of the kinds of images I wanted to come out with – hence I stuck to the Rosies stage. I wanted intimate, classic, moody pictures. But, when in a festival like this, one with a line-up so diverse and legendary, I took to other stages where greats like Jonas Gwangwa performed.
I was interviewed by Sophie Schasiepen for the Austrian feminist magazine an.schlage in 2016. The interview covered issues surrounding #RhodesMustFall, #FeesMustFall and feminism within the movement. It was originally published in German here. This is the English translation of the interview. The translated piece is longer than the German version.
In April 2015, the #RhodesMustFall (RMF) movement achieved the removal of a statue of Cecil Rhodes* from the campus of the University of Cape Town (UCT). Debates leading to this event soon included demands for much more radical and extensive changes than just the removal of a statue: the protests were aiming for the decolonization of South African universities – and the country as a whole. Out of these discussions, many more initiatives were founded on different campuses throughout the country, amplifying the momentum of RMF. In October last year, a new climax was reached when students, parents and staff protested against an increase of tuition fees in, forming the #FeesMustFall (FMF) movement. All major campuses in South Africa were temporarily shut down. Jacob Zuma´s promptly following promise for a 0% increase of tuition fees has not put an end to the struggle – on the contrary, this year, at the beginning of the new term, protesters have been interrupting the registration processes and are continuing to take their demands to the streets.
“Sometimes we ask flowers to speak for us, to tell our love, jealousy or gratitude; but flowers can reveal other truths if we let them. They can tell about the love and hate of our past and the controversies of our present, unlocking the political history of their beauty and poetics. The same inquiry would unveil the sinless space of the garden itself as a place of symbolic and material production. It is here where the sublime beauty, accessible to few, emerges as the surplus value of the dirty hand labor of the many.
History Begins With A Garden is an exhibition by Khaya Witbooi curated by Mariella Franzoni, that explores the colonial genealogy (or counter-history) of gardens and gardening in South Africa, bringing to light its relation with slavery, land dispossession and nationalist propaganda. Questions like, “how the beauty of South Africa’s nature is produced, protected and celebrated? For whom? At whose expense?” motivate the exploration of the notion of garden as an ambiguous space of beauty and violence.”
History Begins With A Garden is showing at Gallery MOMO from 16 March to 16 April 2017.
Annually, the Cape Town International Jazz Festival, hosts a career development workshop for high school students who wish to make music their career. The Music and Career Live Performance is “aimed at high school students with an interest in event production and performing.”
Throughout the process, the learners are imparted with basic stage production, arrangements and stage etiquette.
Schools that participated in the performance were Livingstone High School, Worcester High School, Wynberg Senior Secondary School, Alexander Sinton High School, Heathfield High School, Groote Schuur High School, Cedar High Scool and Settlers High School.
The live performance happened at the Artscape on 26 March.
On 18 July 2016, 26 members of the Black First Land First movement (BLF26) engaged in protest action at the Office of the former Public Protector, Advocate Thuli Madonsela, which resulted in them being arrested and subsequently imprisoned for 8 days in the Pretoria Central Maximum Security Prison.
BLF had been putting pressure on the former public protector, Advocate Thuli Madonsela to investigate and report on the complaint of R26 billion as indicated in the CIEX report, stolen by white capitalists including ABSA bank, which was lodged at her office in 2011. They also wanted her to investigate and report on State Capture by white capital.
BLF26 are appearing at the Pretoria Regional Court tomorrow. Click here for the full details.
I took portraits of the BLF26, which were originally published on the Black Opinion website.
A previously unpublished story I wrote after an interview in 2013 with African American trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire.
“Oh my, I think I am going to cry. This is too beautiful” The lady sitting next to me whispers in my ear. We are sitting right in front of the stage, on the hard-floor, cross-legged, wide-eyed with eager ears. As the Ambrose Akinmusire quintet serenades us at the 15th annual Cape Town International Jazz Festival, my mind wonders and I think of the history of jazz. From its inception in New Orleans in the 1920’s and 30’s, the radical years of the 1960’s and 70’s, to the innovative musicians of the 2000’s. I ask myself, do jazz musician consider this rich history when they make their music? How do jazz musicians respond to our current social and political climate using music? I decided to speak with Akinmusire about my questions; an award winning African American trumpeter, bandleader and composer.
We met on a Sunday afternoon at the Cape Sun hotel, where most of the artists performing at the festival were staying. The lunch time buzz of the hotel restaurant combined with the racket of exhausted musicians checking out made it a bit hard for us to hear each other, but because when Ambrose speaks, he is committed to a conversation, listening attentively and picking his words intelligently, the noise slowly died away as we became immersed in our conversation.
After briefly talking about the rise in the number of protests in South Africa, the Marikana massacre – where 34 miners were fatally shot by police – and about the minimum wage in South Africa versus America, I decided to kick off the official interview by asking him whether he felt any pressure creating his new album considering the resounding success of the previous one. “When I create an album, I really try to figure out what that album is missing or what I’m missing, then I try to address those in the next album. I didn’t feel any pressure, but I do more than ever feel a sense of obligation because I can no longer convince myself that people aren’t watching me or that I don’t matter…” the trumpeter confesses. “I feel a sense of obligation for my community that I grew up in, I’m starting to feel a sense of obligation for, I haven’t formulated it yet and I don’t even know how to explain it, for Africans… I want to bring people together, especially black people.”
Ambrose’s father is Nigerian, so he grew up with some connection with his African side of his family. “You know it’s so cliché to say, ‘you need to go back to Africa’. I’ve heard this all my life but coming here I’m like oh shit, it’s true!” Refreshingly though, Ambrose also realises how cliché it has become for American artists to think of Africa as ‘the motherland’, without making an effort to learn about African history and how that connects to Africans landing in America through the slave-trade.
We then later walked to Greenmarket square, an African market in the Cape Town city centre that is always buzzing with vendors eager to get their display items purchased by fascinated tourists. Interestingly, the market is filled with exactly those people Akinmusire speaks off, that exoticize Africa.
As we walk through the market we discuss some of the hardships that befall young black men in America and the world. One of those is the high rate of young black men being brutally murdered by the police. He addresses this problem in Roll call for those absent, a song where a little girl reads out the names of various young black men who were victims of police brutality and an unjust system in the States. He explores the same concept in a song from his previous album called My name is Oscar. There is a confrontational posture to the song, it could be the vibrant drums or Akinmusire’s repetition of Oscar’s name, as compared to Roll call… which is much calmer, meditative even as it awakens a sense of loss.
These songs then drive home the message that in the current social and political climate, black people dying in numbers with no action – or justice – is nothing new. His concern with his community and expression of that concern through music reminds me of the zeal and commitment of the Black Arts Movement in the 60’s and 70’s. A sister to the Black Power movement in the States, it focused on radicalising art so that it represented what the people were going through at the time. I therefore find it important to listen to Akinmusire’s work with an open mind, not only to the different, engaging sounds he brings, but also to what he is saying about his social and political environment.