Root Music Concert @ Nirox Sculpture Park – Cradle of Humankind

Imagine a huge, beautiful garden, with lakes, amidst low rolling hills and some higher and rockier mountains lining the horizon – welcome to the Cradle of Humankind! Many of the earliest superlative superlative human fossils have been found here, and what a better place than this to create Nirox Sculpture Park along with a residence for artists. Well, you’d have to open it for concerts and mini-festivals, and they did for the Root Music Concert this past Sunday …

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Chiwoniso

24 July this year sees the fifth anniversary of the passing of Chiwoniso Maraire, one of the world’s greatest musical talents, and revered as the Queen of Mbira in Zimbabwe and elsewhere. Born 5 March 1976, Chi died in 2013, aged only 37, the same age as Alberta, my ex-wife, at that time. I mention this because they were school-mates in Mutare for a while. My introduction to Shona culture and music owes much to her, and I added considerable efforts myself, reading and doing research, to the point of learning to play songs by Oliver Mtukudzi and, of course, Chiwoniso. I explored Zimbabwean music more and more, and Chi has since become a musical icon for me. Her music speaks to me more than many others. It is a sorrowful case of historical irony that I didn’t know her when she appeared at the W├╝rzburg Afrikafestival in 2011. Some of my favourite live recordings were taken there. 
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Melville

A five-minute walk from my home, and you enter Melville. It’s a beautiful suburb, many streets are lined with trees, there’s artsy decoration in the streets even, you find small charity shops as well as up-market boutiques, galleries, restaurants and clubs. Especially around 7th street and 27 Boxes, nightlife is hot as it is a major attraction for students from the numerous nearby residences and for Jo’burg’s gay community.  

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Sauti za Busara 2018

I finally made it! After a number of years during which I considered going, now Zanzibar was just around the corner – relatively speaking. It’s three-and-a-half hours flight to Dar es-Salaam, then two hours ferry, plus the odd transfer to airports and so on. Still, it was my big opportunity, and quite in line with the past few months during which music had been a dominating theme: Sauti za Busara, “Sounds of Wisdom” – African music under African skies!

And whatever effort it took, it was well worth it. Sauti za Busara is perhaps the best festival on this continent (“African music under African skies!”). It certainly beats Lake of Stars (Malawi) in its choice of more traditional music, or music which makes more use of traditional elements. And it focuses on East Africa. Or as one website puts it, Sauti celebrates Africa’s DNA. Let me illustrate this.

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Photowalk with Chimz

Mark, of Jo’burg Photowalkers, had arranged for a meeting at Victoria Yards – a place that is currently being developed into an attractive area for artists and artisans, in the middle of town. Which can be a tricky thing in Jo’burg, not least because of crime …  when Chimz and I went to this area to go drumming with some people the night before, the taxi driver wouldn’t stop at any red light out of fear of being mugged or even shot, like one of his colleagues the previous week. So, in the company of a bunch of photo nerds, we went and explored this emerging “new Maboneng” – and loved it. And since it was a Sunday, we would later move on to the “old” Maboneng and its gorgeous market on Fox Street.

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Images of homosexuality: Ayanda Mabulu and “Inxeba – The Wound”

The last weekend offered two very different encounters with homosexuality, or rather: images of (male) homosexuality here in South Africa.

The first was during a brief meeting with artist Ayanda Mabulu in his studio at Victoria Yards. Ayanda was busy working on a new painting, but he had a few moments and shared his visions on how we should help change views of women in society (or so I recall). A nice guy, and good to talk to.

Ayanda in conversation with Chimz

[There is an explicit image coming up as you scroll down. I’ve warned you.]

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