Featured Artist: Sam Nhlengethwa

14 Sep

Play this before you read:

I noticed Sam Nhlengethwa’s art work out of the corner of my eye while walking through the SABC 1 office building last weekend and I immediately fell in love.

"Midnight Blues" - 1999 - Mixed media & construction

Nhlengethwa has said he paints jazz pieces as “an outlet for expressing [his] love of the music,” so he listens to jazz music and visualizes the performance as he paints.1

"Tribute to Miriam Makeba" - 2002 - 7 color lithograph

Nhlengethwa adds that in jazz, “there are vocal styles that include freedom of vocal colour, call-and-response patterns and rhythmic complexities played by different members. Painting jazz allows me to literally put colour onto these vocal colours.
“Jazz is rhythmic and it emphasizes interpretation rather than composition. There are deliberate tonal distortions that contribute to its uniqueness. My jazz collages, with their distorted patterns, attempt to communicate all of this.”2

Nhlengethwa also notes that he is not the first artist to call on jazz composition and jazz musicians for inspiration. He cites Romare Bearden as one of his predecessors.

"Showtime" by Romare Bearden. I took this photo in The Rose Theater at Lincoln Center in New York City

I was ecstatic to find out Nhlengethwa’s works are currently showing in the Goodman Gallery here in Johannesburg (through 20 October)! The exhibition is titled Kind of Blue, after American jazz trumpeter/composer Miles Davis and his quintet’s iconic 1959 album (this quintet included John Coltrane on the saxophone). Davis’ Kind of Blue is playing on loop at Nhlengethwa’s exhibit, so I included one song from the album in this blog post to invoke a similar audio-visual sensory experience for all of you who aren’t here in Joburg to check out the show for yourselves.

"Kind of Blue" - 2009

I’m definitely going to check out Kind of Blue later this week!

What is your take on Sam Nhlengethwa’s collages? Do you think this medium is overdone?

Until next time,



Featured Artist: Miriam Makeba

8 Sep

Miriam Makeba aka Mama Africa isn’t lying – I don’t know about other cities/countries on this continent but the sunsets in Johannesburg are stunning!

Here’s a photo of a sunset I took in Soweto, Johannesburg

What’s your favorite Miriam Makeba song?

Until next time,


Featured Artist: Spoek Mathambo

30 Aug

“My Machine Gun” is the title of Spoek Mathambo’s latest album, single, and band (in English). The actual (Zulu) title of this Joburg-based New Wave/Afro-beat rapper’s album is Mshini Wam.

Check out the video:

A Little Background

Umshini wami, also known as Awuleth’ Umshini Wami (bring me my machine gun), was a popular struggle song that was used by the military division of the African National Congress (ANC) political party while battling the Apartheid regime of the 1970s and 80s. President Jacob Zuma went under fire in recent years for singing the song at ANC rallies (prior to becoming president last year), but in 2008 he denounced the singing of Umshini Wami by rioters after violent, xenophobic attacks against immigrants from neighboring African countries became increasingly prevalent in the country.

(Unrelated: please note the crowd’s 4-part harmony!)

Protest Songs in 2010?

Mathambo views himself “as a part of a new wave of energy in Africa, which is intent on nurturing a sense of progressiveness while maintaining a pride in culture.”1 With the political issues he refers to in the title and in the songs of his album Mathambo describes how much South Africa has grown as a nation, and yet how far there is still left to go. Machine guns and protest songs, while they represent once “necessary” components of the evolution of South Africa and are undoubtedly melded in the history and culture of the country, must be substituted with other means of “communication” if the country is to continue moving in a positive direction.

Want a sneak peak of Mshini Wam album?

Preview Mshini Wam on The FADER (only 48 hours)

Listen to Nike Sportswear x The FADER’s Pitch Perfect Mixtape #6: Africa by Spoek Mathambo:

Mathambo’s latest album drops on Tuesday 31 August (tomorrow) on BBE so make sure to check out the album and get yourself a copy if you feel so inclined (the FADER preview link will only work for 48 hours so…no time to procrastinate). I was listening to the album while writing this and I’m diggin it…

What do you think of Spoek Mathambo’s new album?

What do you think of the controversial title?

Until next time,


Ever Been on a Soul Safari?

16 Aug

African Jazz Pioneers

If you like soul/jazz/funk music then you should definitely check out this informative music blog called Soul Safari which highlights South African and other African artists in the aforementioned genres. The blog is the brainchild of DJ/producer Eddy de Clercq.

Also, I think the blog name is witty…


Until next time,


Birds of a Feather…

14 Aug

I’m no ornithologist but the birds in South Africa put American ones to shame. Though I will admit that might be an unfair judgement to make, seeing as how the State Bird in New York is basically the pigeon (ew).

I’m sure other states have more interesting fauna…

My Favorite Bird...

But I digress…According to my very legitimate Google research one bird in particular that I’ve been noticing for the past couple of weeks is called a Southern Masked Weaver (note the intense nest-making skills they’re famous for):

Southern Masked Weaver

Ain’t he a beauty? Please also note that I’m in the city of Johannesburg, so No, you don’t have to be on some safari or specialized bird-watching tour to catch a sighting of cool birds (wild cats, on the other hand, are another story). I’m just saying! Until next time, -Mbali-

Please Don’t Stop the Music – Mafikizolo

11 Aug

I haven’t been listening to nearly enough South African music so I started doing some “research” today. One of the first bands I stumbled onto was Kwaito/Afro Pop group, Mafikizolo, and I’m liking what I’ve heard so far (which is only one song haha).

Check out their “throwback” hit, “Nisixoshelani” (rolls off the tongue nicely, doesn’t it?) after the jump –

Apparently (based on You.Tube comments below the video) they’re singing, “Why are you chasing us away…when the party is so nice,” which is a theme anyone who’s been to a prematurely broken up high school house party can attest to!

Anyone have other South African music to suggest?

Until next time,


South Africa to Act on Workplace Gender Equity

11 Aug

Yesterday was National Women’s Day here in South Africa, in honor of the march 20,000 women staged on August 9th, 1956 to petition legislation that required Black South Africans to carry a pass book (identification documents) to prove they were allowed to enter certain areas. 54 years later over 5,000 people gathered at Kings Park Stadium in Durban to commemorate the historic march.

During his address to the crowd at this commemorative Women’s Day event President Jacob Zuma stated, “Some urgent action is required in the private sector to improve gender and race diversity at top management level.”

Hear, hear!

Let’s hope some cold, hard results come from this initiative! In a country where people of color are the overwhelming majority it makes no sense for the corporate world to reflect otherwise. Read more at SouthAfrica.info.

Shades of Old

9 Aug

I wasn’t planning on using this blog platform to share my sartorial desires but I loved these too much not to share:

Sir & Madame Vintage Shades: Cazal 740

Sir & Madame Vintage Shades: Gucci 1301

Visit their website here: Sir & Madame Vintage Eyewear

Until next time,


Do Black Covers Sell?

22 Jul

Such was one of the headings on the 14th anniversary April 2010 issue of ELLE Magazine South Africa.

Alek Wek on cover of ELLE South Africa

Well I bought it, didn’t I? As did thousands of other South African consumers, I hope! In fact, I gravitated toward april’s issue of ELLE with magnetic-like determination – I was drawn to the magazine by a force I can’t easily explain. Amidst a sea of white, Wek’s dark brown complexion was the answer to my subconscious prayers.

I’m an avid reader of fashion and lifestyle magazines, but over the numerous years I’ve been purchasing and perusing various publications, I can count on my digits all the covers I’ve come across sporting women of a hue similar to mine – and that’s a very disheartening fact.

Though the numbers still aren’t where [I think] they should be, one thing I do appreciate about being in South Africa is seeing positive portrayals of people of color more often than I do State-side. I came across an old issue of a (now defunct) South African magazine called THE DEAL from August 2007 and I became more impressed with each passing page. 33-year-old Ghanaian multi-millionaire Kenny Andam is featured smiling on the cover (with good reason haha) and inside are inspiring tips and success stories from different African countries.

Kenny Andam on cover of The Deal magazine

I salivated over an article on another Ghanaian named Fred Swaniker, who is the CEO and co-founder of Jo’burg-based co-ed independent boarding school – African Leadership Academy (ALA). ALA’s mission: to create and develop a generation of African leaders who will dedicate their various areas of expertise to improving their continent.

Sounds like the perfect medicine to some of the continent’s maladies.

– Let me know what you think –

Are there enough people of color on magazine covers? Do you think it matters?

What do you think of the ALA school and its mission?

Until next time,


World Cup Soccer Madness

21 Jul

So I’m a little late with this post but better late than never, right?

I didn’t purchase any tickets but I luckily managed to attend one of the World Cup soccer matches (my brother surprised me with tickets!) and though I’ll admit I’m not any type of sports fan, I had a BLAST!

I went to the USA vs. Slovenia match on Friday, 18 June at Ellis Park Stadium in Johannesburg, which unfortunately resulted in a 2-2 draw (would’ve been nice to see USA win).

Disappointing final score aside, it was a thrilling experience to be amidst all the energy and excitement (and noise) that occur when 60,000 people gather in an enclosed space…armed with vuvuzelas. Below are some photos from the game:

Enthusiastic USA fans

Soccer fan wears Makarapa Helmet

Soccer fan shows players support with his Vuvuzela


USA fans

Most of the country seemed to be on a soccer high throughout the month of the World Cup, so it will be very interesting to see how quickly the energy fades over the next couple of weeks.

How long do you think the spirit of Ubuntu will remain?