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It is easy for me to speak politics and social issues. It is easy for me to comment on things happening around me. It is easy for me to maintain a certain distance between the subjects I address….it however…is not easy for me to tell my story. I don’t have the courage to tell my real story. I am scared to tell the story which explains my anger, the rage and my passion.
I am aware that there are many myths surrounding my name. There are many assumptions. I have had to learn to adapt to being misunderstood and attacked. Because people are not exposed to my realities they come up with fabrications. I am still not brave enough to tell you about my childhood, especially after my mother died. That part of my life is DEEPLY traumatic and my friends will attest to the fact that I have seen and survived FLAMES. I will save that part of my life for my autobiography…when I have done some healing.
I want to tell you the story behind my move to Grahamstown.
I would like to put it out there immediately….2015 was one of the most difficult years of my life.
I had to deal with a direct brand assault from Media 24 as they sometimes made up stories about me to sell a certain image of me. I have come to learn that, the powers that be, hear and recognise my voice. So much so that they KNOW it is the kind of voice that must be broken down. It is a black consciousness voice that seeks to free the mental state of the African. Media 24 cannot afford that. As an apartheid construct, they are designed to maintain a white supremacy status quo. Along came this young black woman speaking things which make black people think…and I became a problem. Media 24 went out of its way and reported negatively on me weekly……not my work…..but bullshit. They would misinterpret my tweets and sell them as fact. I was a lone voice against a machine.
I studied marketing. I know that repetition work. If you put out a message for long enough…people will start to take that as fact. So despite my +10yrs of self sustaining success in the industry…all the people got fed, was supposed twars. Anyone who really follows my tweets will know that unless I am pmsing on someone….I don’t really get into back and forth twars. I block when the need arises. And anyone with a thinking mind can see that all my ‘subtweets’ are deeply rooted in a social issue, wether it is white capital, black identity or the rights of musician. I don’t just subtweet….I engage the social issue.
So 2015 saw me dealing with the white supremacist media24 deliberately smearing my name every week. On no level is that good for business. 2015 I saw a bleak year where I was painted into something I was not. I just had to be strong about it. I had to be strong about gig cancellations as corporate companies googled my name on the internet and found negativity surrounding my name. Thing is…if I was guilty…I would own up….but here I was getting judged and punished for how people MISINTERPRET me.
Media 24 tried by any means necessary to break my spirit.
Then there was the ANC…..I find it fascinating how the ANC has not woken up to the fact that white media sets us up against each other. True hate is when you are indifferent to someone…..but if you’re still throwing tantrums, it means you care. I am an African person….it goes without say that I am on team Africans. When I call out what I see, that is an opportunity for you to show off and up your game. I am a poet. If you understand the role of a poet…you will understand me better.
ANC spent 2015 trying to put me in my place. They stopped booking me. As most of us know, artists in this country live off the state. Yes, that is why you always see artists sucking up to anc on twitter…they literally pay our bills. The state is the entity which has regular gigs which sustain us.
2015 is the year I saw my own government take away my platform and food.
As a blacklisted artist, I had to make a way. It felt like a child, being kicked out of home and having to find their own means to survive. What ANC didn’t know is that….I have already learnt that lesson. I am fuelled by antagonism. So I would sit at home being fuelled by this anger, this energy.
Sometimes I would weep. It’s one thing not to be given the stage….and another thing all together when the stage is your healer. ANC had taken away my favourite part of myself. It took away my joy. 2015 I was incredibly hurt. It was a year of deep sadness for me as I was forced to live a life off the stage.
I love being on stage. I am good on stage….actually I’m more than good. The stage is where I do my REAL work. When I am on stage I release an energy which inspires people to better themselves. An artist like me, SHOULD be on stage. I am a healer. Silencing my voice is like stopping to take your antibiotics…..for both me and the audience. Silencing my voice is toxic, because we don’t get to ‘release’ the frustration.
Anyways….ANC silenced my voice and took away my stages on important days like youth day, Women’s day, Africa day…Marikana Day. Days that resonate with the message I carry. They say every generation has its own heroes…in my generation, I have proven, beyond a reasonable doubt that I AM OUR POET.
The frustration brewed by May 2015 I was a wreck. I was an emotional accident site.
The State and the Media had broken my self esteem to smithereens. I was nothing but ashes. I kept a brave face to the world, but inside my flat, I was a broken animal bleeding. Waking up every day was a horror. The google alerts on my phone about this scandal today. The frustration of not performing was building up. My art is like breathing to me…I suffocate when I can’t express myself.
After calling out his fixation with beyonce, many journalists tried to please minister mbalula by writing trash about me. They were vigilant…again I just had to take it.
I suppose many may argue that I should just shut up….I need people to understand that it is not in my nature, not to want to better things. I believe that we should all at least be trying to do our best with what we have and the platforms we are given.
I do not speak out of ill intent. I speak because we can do better.
By gods grace I met a hot man during June who would come visit, thing is…this brother was so damn fine, I was not about to give him the broken down version of me. I have never wiped my tears so fast lol!
This guy knew my work from my first poem, Hey Black Gal. He knew the talented Ntsiki Mazwai, the queen of the streets. He is one of the people who have been watching me since day one. That guy didn’t stay long in my life, but he stayed long enough to say ‘sister, you have already built your foundation. People know who you are.’
Another man walked into my life randomly in August, by this stage I was past the weepy stage. Some random dude at the spar I had a chat with.
I was having one of those days where I need to offload, I told him all my 2015 problems and he just packed out laughing.
He looked at me and said…’wow Ntsiki….it’s like you have an expensive cell phone in your hands and you are saying ‘if only I had a cell phone.’
On 17 August I heard these words and the penny dropped.
I have already built my foundation.
At this stage I was feeling feelings of resentment towards Johannesburg…..I wanted OUT. I felt unappreciated. I felt like Jozi never really gave me the respect I truly deserved. I felt like Jozi was always antagonistic towards me and constantly comparing me to my sister… And that is a whole chapter in my memoirs. Lol.
Under no circumstance should an artist EVER be compared to another. You cannot do that. It is insensitive, wicked and cruel. EVERYBODY is on this planet expressing their own voice. The minute you dismiss a person’s voice, you deeply offend them. Johannesburg, over the years has deeply offended me. I was more than ready to leave Johannesburg. Unfortunately we cannot run away from our demons so I am sure Grahamstown will at some point deeply offend me too. Lol. That’s life.
I got an invitation to a poetry festival in Durban in October. I was happy but I was also pissed off. My journey with my art had traumatised me. I had lost trust. My art and I have always had a trusting relationship. I always knew it would carry me, but for the 1st time in my whole career…..I was doubting myself. I didn’t know anymore.
I would genuinely be baffled when people said to me ‘you’re so damn talented.’
I didn’t understand. If I was so talented…then why was my ship wrecking. Why was my heart breaking? Why was I drowning?
Contrary to popular belief my father has never had my back. He almost resents me for being an artist. It is not an easy thing to say, nor confront. It is hard to have a dream that your parent does not support. It is a painful journey. Nothing that I do impresses him. I have released albums, published a book, run a fashion range and am an avid contributor to social dialogue and development….not once have I heard the words…’I am proud of you.’
The internal conflict of being such a big spirit in your generation and being rejected by your parent has left wounds which will take a life time to address. In time I have had to learn that, as much as our children do not belong to us, neither do our parents.
I have had to learn how to affirm myself and carry myself financially since my early 20s.
So basically….through all this financial turmoil, I did not have anyone to help me along.
It is said UMNTU NGUMNTU NGABANTU, it is through 2015 I learnt that this is true. I survived based solely on my relationships with people. 2015 is the year I was carried by people. I don’t mean financially.
I mean that, at face value, one could not see my pain. That is because people around me didn’t let me suffer. I learnt how to budget better but my lifestyle was still pretty good. I swam in debt so gracefully.
At the poetry festival I had a chance encounter with the man who wrote the foreword on my book, Wena. In a long conversation he expressed how he has been watching my journey, and was in awe at how I could give so much, to an industry which does not acknowledge me.
Then he mentioned something about a writer’s course at Rhodes University. I made a mental note.
After the festival, I sent him a sms asking him for a link to the website, for that course he told me about. He sent the link.
It was a Masters Degree in writing. I had to put together a portfolio of my work and send it with my application. Although I had not done my undergrad in English, there was allowance for people who have already achieved in their industry.
I must get a copy of that application….my bank statement was in negative numbers…I sent it anyways. Hahahaha. I trusted the Fees Must Fall campaign and was not deterred. Then in an attempt to ‘Daddy Please,’ I asked my dad if he will help me finance my studies. He agreed. I know that education impresses him.
Based on past disappointments, I also took the initiative to apply for scholarships lol. Kahle nje.
I applied in mid October. Then I focused my energy on other important things like boys.
Beginning of December in my email account, BOOOOM, Rhodes accepts me.
I call my dad in excitement, and he is busy. I send him an sms. He texts me that he is happy for me but then tells me that he can’t afford to pay for me.
Kanti, BOOM that evening I had received another email. I text him back….’khululeka, I got a scholarship.’
I don’t think anyone will ever understand the poetic justice in that moment. Here was this man who had told me my career was a failure from day 1…..and here I was standing….with a FULL scholarship I got BECAUSE of my failure career. You know that awkward moment when your own parent has underestimated their own seed?
I told him I want to continue and do a phD…and he said that will need a ‘fresh’ idea….something he maybe thinks I am incapable of…..I told him the same thing I tell everybody, NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF BEING UNDERESTIMATED.’
I am now happily settled in Grahamstown and my stars are aligning. I have received a queen’s welcome here. I already have shows and community work I have committed to and I have only been here a week. My energy is vibrating on high frequency as walking away from jozi and family has rid me of a certain level of toxic energy I was carrying.
I am sitting here in my little room in res….and my spirit has never felt more at peace.
Just when I thought I had nothing…….the universe gave me everything.