After an amazing morning of exchange and dialogue over ricoffy and (yes, the healthy man of simple tastes, sisonkepapu!) water, with the creative minds behind the upcoming event, Between Absence and Presence… Here’s what we came up with… Just for now! I intend on a follow-up! These two guys, the ones-and-only’s sisonkepapu and Unathi Slasha, are simply brimming with energy, grit and determination, and (goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway!) ideas (a crucial mix for any artist!)…
HP: Would you say that building symbiotic relationships is key to your practice of building a sense of community in the art that you do?
BAP: It is almost unimaginable today for any artist not to form some kind of relationship with other artists, and with various institutions dedicated – in some way – to the arts. This is the economy of the day. This does not only help the artist lobby infrastructure and resources for their practice, but it also situates them in a position where they are not living and practicing in a vacuum. By this I mean, you can create your work in your own space but you will need to get it to your audience. For you to do that you need, say a space to exhibit, some kind of marketing strategy accompanied by marketing materials to promote your exhibition, and – I’m playing at the ‘starving artist’ trope here – some financial aid to get your project off the ground. So, forming relationships with people from different sectors helps you get a step closer to what you would like to achieve. Collaborations have become a very interesting and growing topic in South Africa in the past few years. I feel that this is an important time for us as artists/creatives to start investing in each other.
HP: You mention too, that it is a difficult time to be a writer in South Africa right now. Do you choose to include all? Do you speak to a single audience at the intentional exclusion of other? It is a tricky terrain to navigate especially in such times of often fraught racial tension.
BAP: I think that art is inherently exclusionary. If we can consider art as a cultural artefact, we can begin to understand that some of the cultural nuances that are intricately embedded in an artist’s work will not be immediately available to those who do not belong to a certain cultural group. However, the artist is also able to alienate, for lack of a better word, the members of her cultural group because the work they create is always an internal dialogue – it is the artist negotiating their own unique experiences as a member of that certain group and within a context. Interestingly enough, this is how art becomes communal. When we begin to seek to understand this internal dialogue, this cultural artefact, art, we begin to gain insights about the community’s collective un/conscious.
Certainly, those who do not immediately belong to that cultural group need to familiarize themselves with the culture first in order for them to appreciate the art that has been produced. Idealistic as this may sound. But I think this is why it isn’t only difficult to be a writer, or artist, in South Africa, but everywhere in the world. Especially in an increasingly globalising (or globalised?) world that continually ‘Others’ most cultures and facilitates the world-wide distribution and assimilation of one culture.
HP: How are participating and co-ordinating storytelling events key to your practice and key to the spreading of your words, integral to getting your bookbabies out into the world?
BAP: Writing, more especially poetry, isn’t considered as something worth investing in as much as the sporting, beauty or prison industries, among many other things that make volumes of profits. But like athletes, writers also need to train and stay fit in order to ‘perform well’. This is why reading and attending literary events play an integral part in the writer’s career. This allows writers to think about writing and also observe other writers’ writings. We can call this the training or research component of being a writer. This component is as important as participating in literary events, be it book festival readings, poetry sessions, or the like.
It is also equally important that writers try to be a bit more multi-dimensional. We shouldn’t always wait to be invited to perform or read or be a guest at some event organised by other entities in order for us to share our work. Rather, we need not to only gain confidence in our work but also in our efforts to co-ordinate events by ourselves to promote our own work. Between Absence and Presence (BAP) is a desire to do exactly that. The literary landscape or industry exists because there are people who write and those who desire to read. If the writer and reader were to vanish off the face of the world, the literary industry would not exist. Yet, if no literary industry existed, the reader and writer would still exist, somewhere. BAP, as a book reading and dialogue series, therefore seeks to work within this margin; to promote an interactive reading culture where the reader and writer are not absence from one another, but present. This way, through dialogue, they engage in a ‘dialogical’ process of meaning construction and, we hope, enjoying each other’s presence and other cool and fun stuff that people do when they are together, like laughing.
The End… For now! #watchthisspace
In case you, like me, can’t wait to see what these incredible artists have to offer our local community later today, here are the deets…
To follow Unathi Slasha on Twitter: @Bardslasha
Photo credits for feature image: Siphosethu Jim
To follow Siphosethu Jim on Instagram: @sets_gem