Ntsikimazwai – where did it all begin?
01 January 1970
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Aphiwe Manono: Today on Old Mutual Live radio we profile poet, author and musician Ntsikimazwai. Ntsiki who has been a pioneer in lyrical poetry also has a passion for the African continent. Though she has found herself in the centre of debates for defending this cause Ntsiki is undoubtedly the most influential and recognised artist of our generation. Ntsikimazwai, welcome to Old Mutual Live Radio, how are you today?
Ntsikimazwai: Oh wow, after that welcome I’m awesome actually.
AN: Now, I mean everyone knows the name Ntsikimazwai, you know. You come from a good family, a well-known family but let’s start with; everyone thinks they know Ntsikimazwai or at least think they know that they know you. Let’s talk about U MaMiya.
AN: A clan name that was not only given to you but is a representation of even those that came before you.
AN: Let’s talk about your background and where you come from.
My history and up bringing
N: Yes, I was born in Soweto. I’m a Xhosa-speaking woman. My mum was from Empangeni in the Eastern Cape. My dad was also born in Johannesburg but he’s lineate is also in the Eastern Cape. I was born into a pretty awesome family like my mum and dad were writers so we were exposed to consciousness. We were exposed to words and we were exposed to expression as young people. So I think that base was a very fortunate background to come from.
AN: Now, you talk about you were exposed to writing and Pan Africanism at a very young age. What would a typical Sunday morning be like in your household?
A home of artists and creative expression
N: Oh wow, I don’t, we never really had any typical gauge in our household because it was a home of artists and creative expression. One of the main things I remember that I think that a lot of other young parents can use is that we used to have daily meetings in our house and the children would be like the head of the meetings.
Whoever wanted to address an issue would put it forward at the meeting. So there wasn’t like drama or whatever but it would be like, okay if something comes up like my little sister didn’t like eating cereal then it’s like okay we need to discuss it at the meeting.
Then at the meeting they, we put forward the issue of the cereal and how I’m going to get around and why we have to eat cereal and the importance of being strong and whatever. We had a family that was very, very open. I remember my mum would tell us about rape and difficult issues from a young age. I think ja, that was a blessing.
It was a very open environment where the parent and child spoke and they spoke deeply. It was like deep issues and we had to know ourselves. I remember we weren’t allowed to process our hair as little girls. Our mum was like, “Why are you trying to look white?”
AN: We are definitely going to get that but now that we’ve established who Ntsikimazwai is let’s talk about the Street Queen. Who is she? Is this a woman who relates to her fans and is one with them and therefore associates with them?
AN: Where does the name Street Queen come from? Give us a background of who the Street Queen is and how she came to be.
Where does the name Street Queen come from?
N: Well absolutely. I have a personality that I can’t really contain. It kind of walks along with me and then it picks up people. It’s like “Yoh man, what’s up? Join the party” but then I’m also me and me is very, quite introverted. Very like a homebody and I stay home a lot so we’re almost dealing with a schizophrenic here, ladies and gentleman.
AN: I wanted to add that bit to my script but I thought, you know what, let her say it. I will not label her so we are dealing with someone who has multiple personalities.
N: Ja, it’s like straight up, you know. I have, ja there’s many variations and I think that that’s why I touch on so many different people because there’s like these layers of diversity. They’ve just been put into one person and I kind of have to deal with all of that and have to deal with the fact that I actually am also just human. Just a girl and you know I feel the same as other people whatever and ja, it’s a very interesting journey. But it’s also a nice gift to have to almost add colour to black and white situations everywhere you go, so it’s been an interesting journey.
AN: Well hello Street Queen, nice to meet you.
N: Thank you very much.
AN: Now that we’ve met, Ntsikimazwai the artist, we’ve met the Street Queen, let’s talk U Nonsikelelo, the one whose mother was a teacher and the father was a journalist. Who is-?
N: Okay, wait, wait, wait can we just go back to the Street Queen? I also have the name, how I got given the name Street Queen well, besides the personality stuff. There were these hip hop sessions that I used to host in Soweto in like the mid-2000’s and it was the first of its kind. It was live music and Boom Rapper but it was like a culture and there was a difficulty in the beginning of, I was one of a collective called Street Pop.
It was three guys and myself and we had issues with patriarchs in the beginning of the show because that and hip hop is so male dominated. The guys were struggling with having a host of such a big event being female, so they were like, “No, she doesn’t represent us. Who’s this chick on stage?”.
Then there was that beef between, “No, that’s the Queen of the Street, you’ve got to recognise her and she’s not going anywhere” and there’s the beef of “No, who is she” and then it’s like, “No, this is the Street Queen”. That’s how the name came about with the Street Pop Sessions and me being the Queen of the Street and the boys having to recognise and just sit down or bow down.
AN: I’m glad you touched on that because I am going to get that as well including your Mama Said Sessions but now that we’ve established the Street Queen, how different is U Nonsikelelo Mazwai from Ntsikimazwai from the Street Queen?
I am actually quite a homebody
N: Nonsikelelo is very, very chilled and laid back and a homebody and likes close –
AN: This will be the person that you are when you’re with your family, when you are with your aunts and you know –
AN: What kind of issues does U Nonsikelelo discuss? Is she the same as the Street Queen but only a bit calmer like you say, a bit chilled?
N: Absolutely. Also when I’m around family and friends environment nobody’s provoking me or judging me so I obviously am much more relaxed and more jolly and more playful. I think that’s a side that lots of people don’t know. I like to play and I like to laugh and I like to, I’m very animated in storytelling.
So when I’m very comfortable I just want to tell funny stories and act them out and everybody must laugh and you know. So Nonsikelelo is the Cherry grand, the girl next door kind of vibe, the one you can talk to. But the older I’m getting, I’m finding out that apparently I’m like the mamadea of my generation so whenever. Because I’ve just reached, I’ve just come into adulthood.
I’m turning 35 and I’m being a grown up and now people come to me and I’m like “What do you think of this?” then I’m like “All right, fine” and everyone’s like, “Okay, call Ntsiki, we’ve got a problem with this, call Ntsiki”. Then I go and sort out whoever’s been misbehaving or out of line you know.
So I’m starting to become that person but at the same time it’s with a jolliness and a softness and a funness. Like I’ve got these parties that I have every year on my birthday where you can just see the reflection of me. Like I always attract free spirits who are just happy. I attract free, happy spirits and it’s always like that around me.