Converse+Star= Andiswa Mkosi

by Thulasizwe Somdyala

Andiswa Mkosi has been expressing herself in different art forms of expression and has risen to Cape Town’s ceiling in the creative space. Short lady, with a clean no filter look, coupled with a chest filled with presence; you feel it when she speaks. Her knowledge is refined and i had the chance to capture it and share it with you…

Realest: Every time we hear of South Afrikan townships in the media there are undertones of sympathy as if no life or development can be acquired in it. We hear of Langa when shacks are flooded or burnt down or in relation to the N2 gateway. Recently however, Temba Bavuma shed light on the talent that stays underdeveloped in our homes, restricted from showcasing their visions and abilities on the main stage. What does Langa mean to you?

Andy Mkosi: Yoh, like Langa is a hub of a lot of things, a lot of potential. To make an example of where i stay N2 Gateway. Over the holidays i was at home, not much of a social person, so had so much time. Sometimes you live in a space and you desensitized to izinto ezendzekayo around. So i was on holiday for two weeks and three days, before my holiday ended i realised that there has been garbage in front of eza-flats sihlala kuzo; the bins were over filling. Then i decided to call a friend of mine who lives opposite my flat so we can clean up. We cleaned up. So i told my mom about this like, “Eeeh, why we just throwing stuff ubone nje randomly kodwa there are bins there?” The response that she gave me made me realise that although there is potential kwaLanga for a lot of things, our mothers and elders in general have given up. Especially with the people i know, they feel as though, “This is it for us.” Government has placed us here and there is nothing left for us to do. But what i see as someone who has the advantage to be in different spaces and hang out with people who have various perceptions and views in life, i see uLanga in a different angle where i see potential. There is sports in Langa, musicians, but the people- the old generation that lives there and some ababancinci, they don’t realise if we came together and built up uLanga like a cultural hub enophuma pha is madness. So uLanga is a hub of opportunity.

R: What made your mother and older generation give in like this is it for us?

AM: My mom is someone who likes to lead yabo. Many times she has been disappointed by other residences where by people agree on something but on the day do not pitch up. So i think from those disappointments she has given up. I think from experiences it is just disappointment after disappointment. Every time you try to communicate a message as a Black person on the ground you’re not being heard. Also beliefs of being Black as a Black person; mainly i-mentality is one thing that is messing us up as Black people. People have messed up perceptions about doing things, reaching goals, being able to do izinto or having the potential to. People do not realise i-potential yabo especially eLokshini, i am sure you aware of this. It is in small conversations where you try to instil that little bit of light in people, what i know i share with other people. i am not saying i was born with this knowledge that i can achieve this and i achieve that. It was through venturing out, knowing certain people and knowing that i as uAndiswa can break barriers and do what i want to instead of blocking myself and feeling pity for myself. It is a mentality thing.

R: As a photographer, what is the importance of self image versus being defined by images?

AM: i will first say my perception of photography at first was skewed. For the longest time i think i have been projecting my own life and my own people in a kawundisizele type of way. What i am trying to do now from a photography standpoint, i haven’t produced any body of work that i can reference unfortunately. But i am trying to as best as i can to shift from that narrow perception of when you see a picture of a Coloured or Black person it is going to be uMama obeke umntana emqolo omhe ekoneni. i am trying to shift that because sometimes unconsciously i walk through kwaLanga, maybe going to the rank, and what would be appealing to me would be seeing laMama with the child on her back and like “Oh, that would be a nice picture.” It is not a nice picture; it is just a picture that i have seen so many times that now i believe that it is a nice picture. It is instilled in me so much that that is what you should produce. So within myself there are izinto that i am trying to breakdown and ways of thinking that i am trying to reinforce explore and move away from. It is really something that you get to realise when you grow up and interact with people and see eish, but racism is so internalised as umntu who is on the receiving end. It is not just sitting with umlungu and umlungu ekuthuka esithi kaffir. But xa uhleli wedwa your thoughts, it is there. Yinto ehleli enqondweni. So it is how as uAndiswa through my photography do i break away from that?

R: We defined by negative images of ourselves that have been put across, that our people have believed they cannot reach their potential…

AM: Yeah exactly that. Even myself when something has nothing to do with race but because i-system yakudala has bashed us- i think unconsciously i have a low self-esteem. Sometimes ndizibuze like, “Did i just think that?” (inferior thoughts of self) Kodwa what i convey to people is not that. Which means i have a lot of cleansing to do, lot of decolonising to do…

R: Yeah, we have a lot of cows to slaughter…

AM: Need to.

By Andy Mkosi
By Andy Mkosi

R: With mainstream media being anti-black, anti-woman, you find young liberating voices like yours are shelved or once in the mainstream, their images demonised. You and Obie started Jam That Session as an outlet for artists marginalised in Cape Town. How do you see us educating the disinvestment in mechanisms that do not uphold our progression and interests?

AM: i think it’s through not talking about it. There is a lot of talk about lets collaborate and let’s buy Black but we not putting that into action. It will always go back to the mentality thing but i think the important answer to this question is we need to start putting action to plan. There are a lot of brilliant ideas on paper, even among us bantwana abancinci who are creative, even with i-ANC. There are a lot of beautifully written statements about i-Manifesto, ukuba masenze su; vision and mission but how do we start putting that into action. i think that is what is missing. Someone who is really portraying that at the moment in Cape Town is a guy named Dillion Piri of Creative Nestlings. What Dillion is doing with Creative Nestlings is that he is trying to collect everyone, even beyond Cape Town, beyond Joburg, beyond South Afrika. Black creatives, putting us into this one box where we say “Cool, let us brainstorm and utilise resources from this one mechanism.” Instead of outsourcing to umlungu or whatever westernised way of doing things, let us utilise our skills. For instance with Jam that Session; we having one on the 27th of February (2016). The space that we using belongs to a Black owner , the Black owner knows a Black photographer, the Black photographer might know a Black vidoegrapher. Why can’t we network and do things like that where you know cool, uThula can write; Thula please come to my event and cover it. i know it is not going to come from a westernised mind but someone who understands what we trying to do and xa uphana you not going to try find fault. Ewe you will be critical and point out what could have been right. But you know sometimes when you allow abanye abantu into a space that they do not understand so much so they there to mock out what is wrong and not see the potential or ubone what these people are trying to do; collect each other, organise and put out these beautiful things. More action is needed and collaboration is important, people do not realise that. Collaboration is so important, mna i reach out to people all the time. If i see there is an artist i can align myself with and there are things that we can do, i reach out. i think thina as a Black nation sisena lanto yokuba “ndifuna ukushina ndodwa” mna and i learnt that ayisebenzi. i think the only way to move forward and do zonke ezizinto where we are pro-Black even in our actions, i think through reaching out usebenze “noThula” and see what happens. There are a lot of egos outside and people do not want to bring it down and collaborate. Collaboration is important.

R: i see you… So i really love words and your Background track is one of the finest uses of words i’ve seen… What is your creative writing process?

AM: i do not know how to phrase this but at first it was just me at home, no nine-to-five, just writing. Whenever i could i wrote, i wrote, that was everyday uyabo. That was when i was still with uMellow Vision. i used to write all the time without thinking ukuba “Ooo uzocinga ntoni uThula?” i think when people started realising how good i was, people started expecting more from me a lot. i think lanto gave me a lot of pressure, which is good, but at the same time xa ndibala in our days ndiye ndicinge “aaah uzoncinga uThula?” That pressure. So these days andisabali kakhulu, i write when i feel cool, what i am about to write is something substantial. Sometimes when i write i do not go with the idea ba cool, i am going to write about cellphones. i start with a few lines and towards the third bar, the topic comes along. Nowadays phof i find it difficult to write to a beat. i rather collect my thoughts on my own and then sort of siff through what i have beat wise and collaborate beat with words. That is my process of writing.

R: What limits would you like to erase in people writing their lives?

AM: Mmmh that’s a good question. Sometimes we tend to say too much. There is nothing wrong with saying too much but because of people like you, journalists, mmmh. You know what happened with me last year before my EP was released. There was a listening session that a guy named Dean Jates organised for me under his company DLJ Media. He was launching something Ghetto Trekk, where he takes upon an artist and assists you where he can through his media company- he does a lot of cool things. So Dean and i collaborated together and then he provided me with sound and equipment, i-display for the listening session. What i did is i brought my music and we worked out how the whole evening would go. Fine, we ready we cool, we set up at the City Centre Library – this journalist was there. As i was breaking down each song, someone would also be asking me questions. This lady (journalist) was sitting in the crowd and only took the negatives of my lyrics. Like the negatives of zezinto endandithetha ngazo kum culo wam. i was trying to heal through my music and she was trying to build a story, ubone esastori of rags to riches type of thing. So she wrote a story of that nature of “Oh little black girl from the township, ah she is trying to make it through music, ah she is trying shame,” ahh that type of thing. What hurt me the most there was that this journalist was Black as well and is a woman. Write what you can but know that there are people who are vultures. Nothing wrong with sharing as some people are listening to heal. The negatives put it aside. If you know what you want, i should not be able to come and say hayi. i think as an individual whoever you are, whatever you do, plan out what you want. If you sure about your mission; no other factor around should come between you and that mission.

R: i guess it is a confidence thing…

AM: It is! Confidence is so attractive bra, it is. How do you think guys like oAKA and them, they just juice whatever they have up and we just believe ba aahh. It’s the confidence man, confidence is so important.

R: i feel you, i feel you. So it is 2016 now, do you see Cape Town Hip Hop breaking in nationally?

AM: *Laughs*. Honestly i am trying to move away from this conversation of “Is this the year of Cape Town Hip Hop or not.” i feel like once again there is a lot of talk about it, a lot of strategising, nothing ever amounts to anything. i am not saying i have given up on myself or Cape Town as a unit or city. i do not know man, i do not even think i am interested to know if it is our year.

R: We spoke earlier and you said there is a ceiling in Cape Town, what is that ceiling?

AM: That ceiling is the fact that in Cape Town there is no reference to say “Thula” has made it, like we spoke earlier on, no inspiration like in Joburg where you can aspire to be someone. Ayikho lanto apha, yes we have Youngsta but i think the one thing that is missing from us is that there is no industry to motivate or put our things on a pedestal or gas it up. It is a lot of things, like gatekeepers also fall under those ceilings, where we are not opening doors for each other. For instance you get people who came up from cyphers, from those cyphers they move one level up. When they are that level up, they do not want to open and give opportunity to other up and coming Hip hop artists who are still kwi-level ye-cypher. It is also about giving someone else an opportunity; removing the gatekeeper. Allowing other people to build and grow, not being afraid “uThula” uzothath’ i-spotlight sam. Cause “eyi uThula iibars zakhe.” There is a lot of stupid mentality apha yabantu abacinga if someone is a good rapper and i am a good rapper, i cannot give the next man an opportunity. i have moved away from that to where i will actually work with “uThula” cause “uThula” might be that ladder. We do not want to use each other in Cape Town.

R: The conscious Hip Hop is really from Cape Town, the fundamental thing Cape Town prides itself in. People are getting more conscious and Cape Town should be the soundtrack of most of these social movements that are happening currently. How can Cape Town ride that wave, how can you guys build on a wave that you been on? You niggas by the sea man, it should be easy.

AM: *Laughs*. Yo dude, i have always thought of lento uyithethayo. How do we abuse what is there now and we been talking about. Now that people are catching on, how do we catch that wave before it dies out. i really do not know man, i usually have the answers qha i am not Sway namhlanje.

R: *Laughs*. Take your time. Like why isn’t Andy Mkosi talking with the organisers of #ForBlackGirlsOnly and saying i want to perform there, i want to be the soundtrack for you?

AM: That was supposed to happen but then the last #ForBlackGirlsOnly, the weekend, i think happened on the 27th of November (2015), here in Cape Town. i was supposed to perform there but because of this nine-to-five, we were leaving town that weekend, so i could not attend that weekend. The people who are organising these organisations are aware of the artists that can bring about worth or ubone align themselves with the same manifesto that they are pushing. They are aware yabo qha unfortunately for me when the organisers of #ForBlackGirlsOnly asked me to take stage i couldn’t because of the nine-to-five. What i am trying to say is there are talks between artists and these organisations…

R: But no action…

AM: Mmmh mmmh…

R: And that is my real problem with Cape Town, there is no action. There is little action; people talk too much, people plan to plan. But i guess it goes back to what we spoke about earlier where people need to start doing things…

AM: i think another thing ubone is these social networks, Facebook and them. If you notice, i am trying to remove myself as much as i can or rather my career from online. Not to say i am going to deactivate my Facebook or Twitter account but i have sort of told myself that this year i am not going to talk about it. i am not going to say that “Today i am shooting a music video,” what you will see is the end product. You do not need to know what i am doing, yibone. i feel a lot of people feel ba they are obligated ba mabachaze ngoku uba i am eating inton ntoni. So last year mostly i fell kulo trap nam. i became a voice where you just echo ba oo ngomso ndizo yenza lento. Yes i do it, but i do not need to tell you beforehand. You just see the final product. i am trying to put that to the forefront of my life in 2016, where i don’t brag ba i am working with “uThula.” See the product that we did with “uThula,” i think that will garner respect my way and people will be able to differentiate between Andiswa noAndy because it is two different things. And i think in Cape Town people can’t differentiate between the brand and the person. i hate talking brands and persons but it boils down to that. And honestly as much as i hate it, i am trying to build something that people can relate to and not be part of conversations where people are talking about a Sony phone and how good it is compared to an iPhone. i am not trying to be part of those conversations. i am at a point in my life where i know what i want and i sort of need to remove myself from izinto that will distract me from reaching ezizinto ndizifunayo. There is nothing wrong with people tweeting what they aspire to do or whatever the case may be, i just think to progress i need to move away from that.

R: You touched on social media. One of the things i’ve noticed, a lot of things are living in social media and once you there you have a perception as if that is reality. But when you touch down on the ground, it’s not like that. Even the people who are having these conversations online, their actions do not tell of that. So it’s the broader conversation of having notions of who we are and actually being those things. For me as Black people we are not aware of our foundation. And i mean it as in the Westerners are founded on the Ancient Greeks and they’re aware. So they build their houses in different ways but they are all aware where they rooted at. So then what we have currently is a reactionary situation that speaks against white supremacy but because we not rooted in our own foundation end up mimicking its mechanisms. So how do we start to root to our fundamentals so that when we speak we speak from our point of projection?

AM: Generally i think it is an individual thing where you start and take it upon yourself to firstly find within i-family yakho what are your roots, where do you come from? Ekhaya neh we never go back to the Eastern Cape. i have never been told ba kukhona ikhaya in the Eastern Cape. All i know from my father’s side soloko bethetha ngeNgcobo but i do not have a relationship with that family and go eNgcobo. It has to do with a lot wena Thula. Not saying coming from a family with a single parent has to do mainly with that. But where i come from, reason why i do not know a lot about i-roots zam maybe it is because my mother and father were not married. So within that my mother does not have an Eastern Cape background but my father does. But because i do not have a strong relationship with him, i will never get to experience the Ngcobo life bone. To answer your question, ixomekeke kum, ndiya funa na mna ukuyazi. It does not matter whether my dad and mom were married or not, ndiya funa ukuzazi na. It is so when you do this art, uyamazi uMashayabhuqe? That guy knows himself. He knows himself to a point where he does not make the type of sound we make. He has managed to combine the Western sound with echoes of i-background yakhe, his roots and it sounds beautiful. He has merged the two and i think he is the best example of someone ozaziyo and utilised that to his advantage to the point that he can be an established artist.

R: i feel you. i really brought this up cause it is weird for me to know there is a country called Botswana, we have Tswana people here and then Tswana’s from Botswana have permits here and regarded foreigners. Then you have Tsonga’s from Mozambique who are treated the same way. We practice the very same culture and they never came to this country to instil their culture upon us as in the same way we know white culture- which is not validated as foreign. But we so divided that we do not know that we have the same rooting to identify ourselves even though we have built different houses, however from the same foundation.

West and East Afrikans practice similar traditions of lobola and rites of passage into man and womanhood as Southern Afrikans and they too never colonised us. We come from the same source we have forgotten but its knowledge is still very much alive. Knowing of our socio and historical problems this knowledge should be channeled in schools that currently produce colonial knowledge and therefore colonial subjects, voiding the Afrikan. Leaving a lost generation of kids further lost in an intelligence that makes them ignorant and detrimental to self. Kemetic culture is our heritage and foundation of humanity. 2016, discover where you from to direct from within where you going. This is the overall message that resenated in conversation with Andiswa Mkosi. Further connect with her on the various platforms listed below.

Website

Behance

Soundcloud

Twitter 

Jam That Session

Until We See Azania

The Realest

Notes

The “i” small cap is a conscious imagery of not being bigger than the group… The Cartesian principle is “I think therefore I am.” In Afrika we say, ”i am because we are and since we are, therefore i am.”