Seven fresh SA vis­ual artists have paid trib­ute to seven lo­cal jazz gi­ants at a new ex­hi­bi­tion called Con­sid­er­ing Ge­nius. Gar­reth van Niek­erk finds out about the mu­sic be­hind the colour­ful memo­ri­als

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‘What does it mean to be a ge­nius and what bur­dens may or may not come with this state of be­ing?” asks Boi­tumelo Tl­hoaele in her cu­ra­to­rial state­ment for the Con­sid­er­ing Ge­nius ex­hi­bi­tion at Res Gallery in Park­town.

The same ques­tion has plagued any­one in­ves­ti­gat­ing the process be­hind an artist’s ca­reer, but rarely do our trail­blaz­ing lo­cal mu­si­cal geniuses get the his­tor­i­cal ex­ca­va­tion they de­serve.

How else will the next gen­er­a­tion un­der­stand what in­spired the mu­si­cal­ity of Dr Philip Ta­bane’s Ke A Bereka, or what mo­ment made Hugh Masekela’s Stimela? How did Witch­doc­tor come to life for Johnny Dyani? Where did Letta Mbulu find her Ju-Ju? How did Louis Mo­holo form the Broth­er­hood of Breath and how much did Pat Mat­shik­iza’s mu­si­cal fam­ily re­ally in­form the style of his mu­sic?

Tl­hoaele told #Trend­ing this week: “I had just com­pleted a pro­ject on Feya Faku and Her­bie Tsoaeli at Wits, where I’m do­ing an MA in her­itage stud­ies, and started ask­ing the ques­tion of how we pre­serve our his­to­ries, and in which places do we keep this in­for­ma­tion? Who has ac­cess and who doesn’t?

“I al­ways hear peo­ple talk about be­ing in­tim­i­dated by the gallery space, so when Kaya FM ap­proached me, I started think­ing that maybe jazz could make it less so,” she said.

It’s fit­ting, then, that Tl­hoaele col­lab­o­rated with the tal­ents of young South African vis­ual artists to in­ves­ti­gate their in­flu­ence in full colour as part of Kaya FM’s Jaz­zuary month of events.

She told us US jazz critic and es­say­ist Stan­ley Crouch’s book Con­sid­er­ing Ge­nius in­formed the name and di­rec­tion of the ex­hi­bi­tion, and set the tone for th­ese sorts of his­tor­i­cal in­ter­ro­ga­tions into the set­tings of mu­sic, the tech­ni­cal com­po­si­tions them­selves, and the pow­er­ful con­nec­tion be­tween jazz and the vis­ual arts.

Aside from con­tro­ver­sial so­cial critic Ayanda Mab­ulu, the names Bambo Sibiya, Layziehound Coka, Mal­colm Jiyane, Neo Mat­loga and Palesa Mopeli may not be house­hold names in the art world just yet, but what more fit­ting in­tro­duc­tion could they have to the white walls of the art in­sti­tu­tion than through the names and leg­ends of their cul­tural fore­bears? Con­sid­er­ing Ge­nius runs un­til Jan­uary 28 at

Res Gallery in Park­town, Jo­han­nes­burg




Sibiya on Masekela: ‘I love Hugh Masekela’s mu­sic. His im­age, char­coal on can­vas, speaks of my love for his mu­sic, which I lis­ten to ev­ery other day. I re­flect through this work on Masekela’s ti­tle tracks and some of his lyrics, and high­light some of the is­sues he sings about. I look at Masekela the man, who was ex­iled and mar­ried Miriam Makeba, but also the man con­cerned about the so­ciopo­lit­i­cal mat­ters of SA and isn’t afraid to vo­calise them through his trum­pet. While his mu­sic is beau­ti­ful to lis­ten to, it is also very pow­er­ful.’


Mab­ulu on Yakhal’Inkomo: ‘The work is about the cur­rent eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion in the coun­try, but is in­spired by Win­ston Mankunku Ngozi’s track Yakhal’Inkomo, which was per­formed dur­ing the forced re­movals in Sophi­a­town. I find that the peo­ple of the coun­try are suf­fer­ing an eco­nomic lynch­ing, or geno­cide, at the hands of the ANC. The sit­u­a­tion de­hu­man­ises them and puts them in their low­est de­gree, and I feel they’re be­ing dis­re­spected in many ways be­cause they fought for this democ­racy and now they need to die for what they fought for.’


JAZZ NIGHTS Jiyane on Jazz Nights: ‘Louis Mo­holo con­trib­uted much to jazz by play­ing drums and us­ing his mu­sic around the world to fight the evils of apartheid, while Pat Mat­shik­iza comes from an artis­tic fam­ily, his un­cle Todd is the com­poser of a great SA jazz mu­si­cal, King Kong. I cel­e­brate and hon­our them.’

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