ART STATE publisher Mpho Matsitle offers a truncated month-to-month account on the State of Mangaung Arts for the year 2017.
Like all good things, this year started by shedding off some baggage from the past. Setswana se re, “Senkganang se nthola morwalo.” So, given that I suffered the misfortune of Karl Marx’s impotent love, I exiled myself permanently from a toxic relationship.
But freedom is a dangerous place to be: now that I could no longer sing along to Gregory Porter’s “there will be no love that’s dying here”, I had to go back to Ray Charles’ “don’t set me free and leave me all alone.”
It is a well-established fact that the only thing Mpho Matsitle loves more than love is art, so with #LoveLivesHere off the table, I declared that #ArtLivesHere!
With every manifesto there must follow a programme of action, and Mangaung’s creatives and cretins were only too kind to provide a jam-packed one. And for that, I am forever indebted to them.
Ferikgong – clearing the rubble
Right off the bat the good people at Art Fusion blackened a Sunday – as they would do for the few months to come. The city’s cool kids and their hanger-ons invaded Topaz on the early evenings of Sundays, all clad in black, for a showcase of poetry, music and rap. It was mid-January. New Year’s resolutions were still intact. So we did see some people known to chuck a few cases in seconds slowly sip on water.
It wasn’t as sad as it sounds though. Besides, Topaz was understandably under-stocked after a weekend of firsts for many a student.
It was a first too for poet-activist Neo Motlomelo. She took to the Black Sunday stage to recite her poetry in public for the first time, an experience that, she told the packed club, had her clit shivering – an expression so metaphorically rich we all doubted that she was a virgin of the stage.
Tlhakole – it all comes together
A veteran of the stage, Hlox Da Rebel announced himself to Mangaung at the following Black Sunday. He was testing the waters for what was to come – Sicknatcha spreading its branches from Qwaqwa to Bloemfontein and setting up home at Blend Restaurant and Bar. But back to February, Hlox had the pleasure – even if I do say so myself – of introducing yours truly to the Black Sunday stage, reciting poetry for only the second time in five years. As with any novelty, many were impressed.
Mopitlwe – the beautiful ones are born
None more so than the organisers of Just A Thought, yet another new arts and culture movement that was taking shape. They followed up the Black Sunday with their first Poetry & Jazz session at their home Pitseng African Restaurant.
It is here where ART STATE senior writer Thato Rossouw broke his Mangaung arts virginity, and like any first-comer he went on to tell it to the mountain; penning his most generous review to date on the city’s art for News24. He was of course, like any sentient being is wont to be, completely enamoured by the artistic brilliance of one Duduetsang Matong who headlined that show.
The Dud’girl (as the jazz-men call her) was again the highlight of the next Just A Thought gig on Human Rights day – a refreshing afternoon of music, poetry and discussions. With myself as the host with the most provocations, it was a worthy penance for refusing the organisers’ plea to recite poetry.
Kelebogile Thulo and Phiwe Mathe were the headline speakers for the day, would-be Golden Mic Slam champion Verbalist on poetry, and Mangaung’s very own Brenda Fassie, Duduetsang led Colourful Souls in music.
March also saw a welcome addition to the city’s growing arts and culture media landscape, with the launch of Mantsopa and Soso’s brainchild HeArt Magazine. Pitseng was once again the labour room where all that beauty was born.
Art Fusion Literature’s “Lil Shorty” series was also born in this month. The month closed off on a high with a launch of Maleshoane’s debut poetry and dance album, Mantswe Merethetho.
Moranang-a-nawa – let the eating commence
Exactly a week later was the fifth edition of Bloem First Fridays – a visual art movement that had been bringing life to Second Avenue for five months running, turning an otherwise philistine hub into an art gallery.
Given that it was freedom month, BFF opened its doors to non-visual artists like myself and we did a reading of my book The Pope Chronicles: The Ministry of Deputy Boyfriends. If ever there was a testimony that BFF is diversifying and revolutionising the culture scene in the city, it was this. A book reading on a Friday night in a packed club right in the middle of Bloemfontein’s party capital – whattating!
Again Pitseng, already establishing itself as the city’s arts and culture node, was the theatre of dreams wherein all beauty is permitted. Much like Jazz, an evening of which was celebrated at Coco C. Andile Qongqo, Milton Page and Thapelo Khumisi had issued a clarion call for jazz aficionados to report for a Piano Imbizo, and in their numbers they swarmed, dressed to the nines.
To keep up appearances many also flocked OddZ Creatives’ Smart N Stylish Moving Arts Market to purchase a few timeless garments, lest the next Jazz Evenings catch them unawares.
Motsheganong – rebels with multiple causes
May the Fourth Arts Amuse was with us and several prominent women artist-activists for a Womxn In Arts Symposium. BFF continued with that activism and opened its doors once more to a non-visual art gig at Pitseng, an evening of poetry and music, calling all to celebrate human sexuality & sexual fluidity, aptly called Fluid Mic Night – a precursor to the Sex Concert billed for July.
Winter had just asserted itself, Mangaung artists kept stoking the fire and it was getting too hot. One had to go catch a breather. With no prospects of a baecation to hold me back from greatness, I packed my knapsack and headed to Durban for the ZAKIFO music festival. If for anything else, to benchmark art in other cities against our beloved Bloemfontein – and I am glad to report that we are on the right path, and leading in some others.
Seetebosigo – the youth are lurking
June belonged to the youth. Jazz Evenings put paid to the twin lies that (1) we’re a lost generation and (2) legala le tsala molora when they hosted the superstar’s superstar child Bokani Dyer.
Not to be outdone, new kids on the block Bloem Youth Poetry Slam introduced themselves with an attendance record-breaking poetry slam on Youth Day at (you guessed it) Pitseng. With myself as the host with the most costumes, the slam, won by BlaqSoul, saw the first ever public reading by Ace Moloi of his Sesotho erotica, and closed off on a high by the ever show-stopping Sahrieda May. Prompting Thato to yet again, in his swan song as a freelance blogger, ascend the rooftops and hail at the top of his voice to proclaim that indeed #ArtLivesHere!
Qwaqwa’s leading poetry movement Sicknatcha heard these loud and affecting calls and finally launched in Bloemfontein with a session at Blend that had many who’d been admiring them from afar come out in their numbers. It was a classic case of ‘if Moses won’t go to the mountain, the mountain will come to Moses’.
But some mountains aren’t so well behaved; Nonkosi had to gather the whole arts fraternity at Pitseng to call for the return home of a wayward father-husband. She was launching her brand new single Buyel’ekhaya – a deliciously distinctive definitive turn in her long music career.
Hello happiness, goodbye loneliness
July! I can’t lie about July. All its news – and those of the succeeding months – are authoritatively reported herein. Where art lives and art leads. As they will be for the longest time to come.
It was Letta who advised that love is to be found in the music, lost somewhere in the folds and crevices of the melody. But I will not be so dramatic as to claim art healed me – there is no such thing as healing, only learning to live with and despite the pain. Or better yet; forget about it completely, except as fodder for creativity. Because really, who has time for a broken heart when there is art?
Mpho Matsitle is the publisher of ART STATE and Mangaung’s number one art patron (self-declared).