Ntsikimazwai music is about female identify
01 January 1970
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When Marie Claire leaked the picture themselves because I mean pictures don’t just leak right?
AN: Uh hmm, no I understand fully where you’re coming from. If it was taken at a studio by Marie Claire –
AN: It couldn’t have landed in another, it couldn’t have landed in Sowetan’s hands, do you know what I mean or the Southern Times, whatever publication?
N: No, ja the pictures don’t leak themselves.
AN: Of course.
AN: When this happened what was your reaction?
N: It was a gross violation on many levels of many of my rights and I actually still feel very strongly about it. I must still figure out if I can still take it up legally because I’m like, “No, you violated me actually and we need to address this. This wasn’t the context that you said that this picture was going to be in and now because you want PR you use it in abusive manner which was not what the contract said”.
You see so I’ve got an issue with the publication that used and it’s white publications that used Black young stars and exploit them but in such a personal and such an offensive and such a, you know that’s the worst anyone can do to you. It’s such a vulnerable space to put you in because I remember in that time, now I’m not exposed to them. It’s not the Marie Claire audience I’m dealing with.
AN: Of course.
N: Because once it’s out of the Marie Claire magazine, it’s no longer part of that campaign. Now it’s on the front of the Sowetan, anybody’s grubby hands get on the Sowetan and now even the journalists, the way they’re speaking about it from a disgusting point of view which has cheapened the whole campaign. So for me I need, I think there’s a re-education of journalism that needs to happen in our country because there is a purpose that journalists pay and journalists are, they disseminate information and they’re educators.
AN: Of course.
N: If you’ve got this platform where you’re going to write something that five million people have access to. Can you write that thing responsibly so that the five million people are growing in consciousness and not going backwards? I felt that, that’s what happened. I felt like the weight was put out, took away from what it actually was and it confused a lot of people. Yeah, I just felt it was such irresponsible journalism and we could have had, it was such a powerful campaign.
AN: I’m so glad we had this chat Ntsiki. Sorry to cut you off because I feel like when people refer to you, never mind the social media rants and the cyber bullying but I feel like that’s the first thing that comes to mind. The way you’ve just explained it so powerfully and your reason behind actually taking off your clothes for this Saying, “This is for rape, this is to represent women who have been violated” and for you to come, I might even add that it’s sort of a poetic injustice that it comes back to you now as a violation. When you were trying to stand up against violation. Are you planning on taking this matter forward legally maybe?
N: I do still kind of feel like that but also what I found out is that all the media is owned by one corporation. So Marie Claire couldn’t really sue Sowetan because in the end they’re all owned up under one person. Because then they were trying to schmooze me and still cheat me on top of it all and act like they don’t have the same lawyer, you know. So there was just that whole lot of dishonesty and violation that happened in that situation and I think as a Black community we need to address Marie Claire.
AN: All right.
N: Because this is also now, now they just euphonic in the shoes campaign, a domestic violence campaign.
AN: That caused a lot of uproar and I mean –
N: You understand.
AN: We might have differences in opinions because we know that the person that laid the charges against you, the DJ in question later withdrew the charges. I still feel Marie Claire should have been more conscious in selecting the people that they used for this campaign. Personally –
N: It was deliberate. That’s how they operate. That’s sounds like, that’s why the Black community needs to address this Marie Claire that keeps disrespecting us.
AN: All right, moving onto other things. Why the reason we are here to talk music.
AN: Now, I know you’ve, since back in the day, Ntsiki, you have been very powerful especially about woman issues. I know you’re very passionate about women issues that you’ve had. Sessions, your Fila Sister, you’ve had Mama Said, what else haven’t I mentioned? Why, what was the reason behind these and what was the production like and seeing it all come together like for you? Just tell us a bit about the projects and how they came about.
Some of my greatest projects
N: Well, obviously like you say I am a woman and I live in this world that is against woman and I feel very strongly about it. I’m always trying to create opportunities where we team up and gang up as women. Fila Sister came about, I think I was like 23 or something and I was at a writer’s workshop and it was full of men so Maisa Jenkins and Nopomashane were also there.
We went out for a woman’s business and we were just chatting there and we were like you know there’s too many guys here. We need to do a session where it’s just women and just women’s voices. Then we were like “Okay, when we get back to Joburg, let’s send out a call to all the woman writers and let’s meet somewhere” so we sent out a call.
We called all the woman writers we know, whatever, sent out emails and on the day of the meeting Maisa, Nabo, myself and Lebo Mashile were the ones who pitched up. That’s how Fila Sister came about and we were like okay, let’s do a show. Then that show became a movement and people were like, “No, we need another show and another one” and that is how poetry was catapulted into the mainstream.
I think we were the first group of poets that were like Nswaiswi and all this fancy tabloid stuff and ja, so that was about women coming together and claiming their space. In that journey I think we can see the power of women and what ja because that, people, I mean, Fila Sister you had to experience. That was such a magical era in South Africa. You can’t even explain it.
It’s just, ja it was just like a magical thing and then obviously I’ve always tried to work with women. My first album, I did with a woman beatboxer Nicky Palm. Currently I work with a female DJ, DJ Lefty and we’ve got a contact called African Girl and we just go around to Sanjamas and clubs and mix the house music and the spoken word.
Then the Mama Said Sessions which should have been funded by the Department of Arts and Culture but owing to the mishandling of leadership things like that just blow in the wind. Mama Said Sessions was a concept that I ran at the Roodepoort Theatre where I would get our icons and like serious icons Ngugu U Thandiswa, Bo Mandomsamanaka, Gethanbulu, Umilo Khumalo and I would come get them to come and talk to young artists about their journey.
Mama Said Sessions were about mentoring
So as to mentor young artists and in the same session they would sometimes perform with these artists and there’d be open mic sessions. People would come monthly and these artists would, like young poets and MC’s were being developed through this Mama Said thing. It was almost becoming an institution where you’d come, would be the class every last Sunday of the month and then you just suck in the information.
You go home, you digest it for the month. The next month you come do your craft and you suck in more information. You know it was a really, really beautiful concept. You can, there are some clips online if you just google Mama Said Sessions and Ntsikimazwai you should be able to find them. But those were really, really, really powerful too
The dream was always just to make sure that the woman’s voice is heard. There’s a huge imbalance in our industry. Even now when Woman’s Day, was coming up, I want you to pay attention to the flyers and the posters. The Woman’s Day gigs are full of male DJ’s and male performers and I’m like, “How is it a Woman’s Day gig?
Oh, what do you think the women want to watch you perform and that’s what Woman’s Day is to us?” you know. On Women’s Day we want to appreciate being women. We want to see woman DJ’s, we want to see woman performers, we want to see woman poets. You know we want to see the women step forward. It’s not a platform for men. Men have 364 days of the year already. Can they step aside and just give us Women’s day to at least make our money on that day.
AN: Ntsiki, just finally, you know I love your state of mind. I love the way you think, I specifically love your passion for your people and you want to see your people advance. I want to share a story with you. I was watching the, let’s just say an awards ceremony recently from Durban a week or so ago. So, this is an African production, well, it was meant to be an African depiction but we had a host that was from the States.
N: Not African?
AN: Not African.
N: Well, African, African but not –
AN: African American but not African.
AN: I think what I couldn’t finish the awards ceremony. One, because we had our artists, people we look up to, South Africans can relate to, performing for two minutes and you have –
AN: The international artists coming in to do three songs.
AN: Do you understand what I’m saying? What is going on?
Africa needs to stand up and honour it’s self
N: Yup, when does Africa get prioritised in Africa?
AN: That’s my thing. Do you feel like, would you say, Ntsiki that sometimes we Africans want to be so much like the West that we are willing to put ourselves down and let them take centre stage even, even when we are hosting them?
AN: How do we even, where do we even begin rectifying this? How do we get Africans to say, “You know what” and you know if you really look at it Ntsiki, I think you would agree with me that we spent so much, South Africans spend so much of their time trying to copy the West but the West is trying to sound like us. Even in their music they’ve got African drums, they, even in the way they dress, print is big in the US.
N: Yup, that’s because Africa’s the beginning of creativity. We are the beginning of humanity, like it’s a really sacred thing that we are. We are the big sisters of the world, we are the mothers of the world and we haven’t owned up to that.
AN: How do we get to that point, Ntsiki? How do we get Africans to value themselves, value their music, market themselves and know that you know what I am as good as the next person?
N: The system has to change. The education system has to change. It’s too European, it does not prioritise African people, it does not give Africans, the African child their own story. A story that makes them proud of their own heroes. Our radio stations are inundated in American music which is so embarrassing. Why are our platforms going to Americans? You know, I’m like “Do you know Rihanna? Do you know Beyoncé or like?”
AN: Of course.
N: What’s so important? Like why and this is, why can you not see that Ntsikimazwai is your context and she’s speaking about things that you go through and you experience. You can’t relate to this stuff, the lyrical content of someone from Brooklyn because Brooklyn has got its own unique experiences.
So I’m like it puzzles me that you can hear someone from Brooklyn better than you can hear someone from Soweto when you guys are from the same hood. I’m just like wow, baby, like are you even serious? It’s like you’re such a liar, oh my God, that’s like dysfunctional. Do you know that kid in class?
N: The one that acts like they’re not from a certain neighbourhood and that kind, you know.
AN: Ja and they can totally relate.
N: Do you understand and I’m just like, you’re like that kid who is acting like they don’t speak Sesotho but your English is broken. You understand, it’s a very broken thing not to claim your identity. It’s embarrassing. You’re like a people pleaser. I was saying on Twitter the other day, imagine if America and South Africa were two people walking together.
Can you see that South Africa’s going to be the one being the lapdog and copying America and then America has got this arrogance and is going to walk tall and America doesn’t have the creativity and every once in a while America has to take from South Africa.
South Africa’s like, “Ja, no yeah, you can have it, no take it. Oh my God, you’re so amazing, take it” and then America takes it, doesn’t acknowledge and it looks like, “Oh my God, check out my swag. I’m doing lanay and you’re like, “No but you got lanay from me actually”. You know you’ve got to actually picture us and imagine this thing where you’re trying to be somebody else.
AN: Wow, Ntsikimazwai it has been an absolute pleasure chatting to you and how can, are you performing anywhere any time soon? If you, or maybe you can give us your Twitter handle and people can follow you and find out where your next gig is.
N: That is always the best. My Twitter handle is @ntsikimazwai. I’m a very random performer but I do need to do one big gig at some theatre at the moment that shows that Ntsiki ain’t a kid no more.
AN: Old Mutual Radio might just, you know I think it’s about time we had a poet in at the botanical gardens.
N: Thank you.
AN: I think we should work on that.
N: Thank you, with my full band, thank you and let’s experience this ball of energy that we keep judging. Can we actually see what she does. You might actually like her.
AN: Let’s give it a shot, shall we?
N: You know you need to inform us about her –
AN: Thank you so much Ntsikimazwai, you have yourself a lovely day.
N: Thank you all the best. Ciao, Ciao.