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Nobuhle Ashanti – pianist, composer, performer – hails from Cape Town. Her musical journey performing with various ensembles has led to her very own project, Ashanti Tribe. The project’s concept and compositions are brought to life by various Cape Town-based artists. For Ashanti Tribe’s performance at the First Thursdays Sessions on 5 March the band will consist of Jodi Fredericks (vocalist), Sean Bratz (bass guitar), Kurt “Kurt B” Bowers (drums and percussion) and Nobuhle on keyboard. We asked Nobuhle a few questions in the lead up to her performance at the Gin Bar. Read on to see what she had to say. 

What has your journey been as a jazz musician so far? Where did it all start? Over the past couple years, my journey in music has been a rewarding one. I’ve been extremely fortunate and blessed to have had many great experiences and opportunities leading me to where I am now. With music, I have been exposed to art in its most magnificent form, and the many beautiful people placed on my path because of it.

Where did it start? My earliest memory of music was Natalie Cole’s “Unforgettable, With Love” album at the age of 5 (maybe 6). Obsession would be an understatement. Over the years performing at various festivals with local ensembles, the countless workshops, masterclasses, mentors’ guidance and the consistent listening to not only American but South African Jazz has been undeniably inspiring.

What is it like to be a jazz musician in Cape Town in 2020? And what would it be like if you could have it any way? It’s interesting being surrounded by musicians who respectfully tribute and celebrate the older generation of musicians and their music (Bheki Mseleku, Hotep Galeta, Chris McGreggor), as well as celebrate the moulding and evolution of the “New School”.

If I could have it any way, there’d be more venues for live music performances, where people are able to sit and listen, and artists are respected during a performance – not pegged as background.

How did you end up on keys? Or do you play any other instruments? My father, him being a pianist, started me off with a jazz standard “Blue Bossa”. He’d only ever teach me a new song once I’d gotten the first one right. So when he’d leave on tour, I’d practice till playing piano was the only thing I KNEW how to do. I picked up the violin around the age of 9 (It’s harder than it looks! And more rewarding than it seems).

If you could rewind a few years, what advice would you give yourself as a young jazz musician trying to break onto the scene? Practise! Not only your technical ability, but practise improvisation – the spontaneity and creativity of it all, practice the freedom jazz provides you.

Network. Walk up to the artist, introduce yourself. Even the smallest conversation helps show him/her you’re there and keen to work.

Who else is doing interesting stuff on the local scene that you’d recommend checking out? Mandisi Dyantyis, Refentse Ramathlodi, Sean Sanby, Blake Hellaby, Digital Sangoma, Maya Spector, The Unity Band, Dylan Fine, Brathew Van Schalkwyk, The Pedestrians, Androgenuis and SO MANY MORE! These artists are incredibly inspiring and just genuinely dope at what they do.

Top 5 desert island albums (of any genre)?
Seba Kaapstad – “Tagores”
Solange – “When I get home”
James Morrison – “Undiscovered”
Bheki Mseleku – “Home at last”
Bob Marley and The Wailers – “Uprising”

Where can people follow your musical movements and find more of your music? In the meantime, my music can be found on Soundcloud and YouTube under “Nobuhle Ashanti”. And to follow my musical movements (and the release of our album) on Instagram: @nobuhle_ashanti and Facebook: Nobuhle Ashanti

Nobuhle performs with her band Ashanti Tribe at the March edition of the First Thursdays Sessions, presented by Grolsch. The performance takes place at the Gin Bar, 64A Wale Street, and is free to the public. The performance kicks off at 9pm sharp, followed by a DJ set by Illa N (JHB). Swing by from 6pm for Opihr Oriental Spice Gin tastings, and try one of the Opihr signature cocktails served up by the Gin Bar team.

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The RMB Turbine Art Fair kicks off this week (12 – 14 July) at a new location – 10 Fricker Road in Illovo. Now in its 7th year, the Johannesburg-based fair continues to play an important role in opening up the visual arts to a wider audience. With artworks generally priced between R1 000 and R50 000, the RMB Turbine Art Fair caters to a wide range of new buyers and established collectors (A little tip: No matter what the price, many galleries will be open to buyers paying off a work over a number of months. Keep that in mind for when you find that one work that grabs you). With plenty to see, along with good food and good vibes, we highly recommend checking out the fair this weekend. For tickets, click here.

We’ve highlighted 5 exhibitors and exhibitions that we’d recommend keeping an eye out for.

1. A Meeting of Minds: Louis Khehla Maqhubela and Douglas Portway

Strauss & Co presents this museum-quality exhibition as the third in a series of exhibitions at the RMB Turbine Art Fair. Maqhubela and Portway met for the first time in St Ives, Cornwall, in 1967, after the former won the prestigious Artist of Fame and Promise award at Johannesburg’s Adler Fielding Gallery, which included the prize of a trip to Europe. The meeting impacted both artists’ thinking and the manner in which they painted subsequently. The aim of the exhibition is to examine the intersection of the work of these two artists, looking at their art training and early influences, and how their styles developed after they met.

2. The Graduate Exhibition

Curated by Kefiloe Siwisa in collaboration with Maja Marx, this feature returns for its 5th year at the fair. The exhibition features graduate work that has been selected from across the country, amongst which there might well be some names that you’ll see a lot more of over the coming years. Graduate exhibitions are often a good opportunity to buy a high standard of work at affordable prices. 

3. 50ty/50ty

Launched by Black River Studio in 2016, 50ty/50ty is an initiative that makes work by high calibre artists more accessible. Through the close collaboration between artist and printmaker, each work is produced in an edition of 50 prints. Not only a great stand to find nice work at affordable prices, it’s a great opportunity to ask them about the fine art printmaking process (these guys are some of the best printmakers on the continent).

4. Market Photo Workshop alumni exhibition

Founded by the late David Goldblatt in 1989, the Market Photo Workshop continues to play an invaluable role in nurturing young talent in photography and visual literacy. We can’t tell you what will be on exhibition at the fair, but knowing some of the alumni that have come out of the MPW, we can only imagine that it’s worth paying a visit.

5. Guns & Rain

What we like about Guns & Rain is their mission to give greater representation to African artists both online and on the international scene. They work with emerging visual artists from the likes of South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique and Nigeria. Their programme presents a refreshing diversity of work from beyond just South Africa. 

That’s five, but there’s no doubt there will be a lot more worth seeing at this year’s RMB Turbine Art Fair. 

For tickets: click here
For more info: click here

To win 1 of 10 sets of double tickets to the RMB Turbine Art Fair 2019, simply sign up to the Thursdays Projects (First Thursdays / Museum Night) mailing list by 5pm on Wednesday 9 July: click here

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Rosie Mudge is an artist based in Cape Town. She’s our selected visual artist for January’s Official Warm Up at The Gin Bar. You’ll be able to see some of her work and catch her DJ set from 6pm to 8pm. We asked her a few questions. Read on for what she had to say.

 

Rosie Mudge


You work as an artist but you also have a ‘day job’. How do you balance everything and manage your art-making practice?

RM: When I left art school I got a job working at my brothers furniture factory. At first I worked part-time and had a lot more time for art. I had a studio and went to it almost every afternoon for a few years. At this stage in my art-making process I was experimenting with new techniques – focusing on my enjoyment of materials like nail-polish, body glitters and make-up – there was no end result in mind. The work I made during that period was truly repulsive to most of the people I showed it to. Even my family couldn’t find anything to like about it. But it satisfied a part of myself, and I kept going. I was also balancing being a curator, with transitory exhibitions put on through Jnr (a project space I co-developed) and curated a number of group shows as well as Mitchell Messina’s first solo exhibition, Mitchy! As my role at the furniture factory grew and developed, I took on more responsibility and physical time for art-making became harder to get. I gave up my studio and started working from the factory after closing hours. As my work has transformed, the techniques I developed lent themselves to an industrial space, and so this ‘balance’ has become less of a dichotomy and more of an absorption – one into the other and visa versa. I am continually ruminating on ideas and have works in progress which I have been thinking about for well on 5 years now. There’s a lot of time and I try not to put too much pressure on myself to finish works in a restricted timeline. They get finished as and when that happens.

Much of your work is produced with automative paint and glitter glue. How did you end up working with these rather unconventional materials?

RM: I felt massively burned out when I graduated from art school. My previous academic inspirations were all bitter, and my previous techniques felt forced, disingenuous and part of a greater machine of art production, rather than anything to do with myself. So I decided to do a 180 turn and start from the beginning. As it happened, I placed my personal beginning around the age of 12, sitting in my bedroom alone, making things up, playing with polly pocket (yes, still at 12), writing diaries, listening to music, experimenting with make-up and nail polish – enjoying my own solitude, imagination and development of self expression. So, after art school, I spent a few years playing around with materials that inspired me back then, trying to get back into the magic of childhood. After a few years things started to clear up in my mind and I was driven to scale up the visuals I was making. I experimented with manufacturing larger quantities of nail-polish, but then I discovered that automotive paint and nail polish share very similar properties. I loved thinking about those two materials side by side – the tiny, precious nail polish bottles in the hands of girls (and other) vs the industrial automotive paint in the hands of men (and other). On top of this, the enormous tubs of glitter-glue are too good to be true! It’s the real “dip your whole arms in it’ experience.

 

Rosie Mudge

 

In your recent solo show at SMITH, ‘In my room with Mazzy Star’, you refer to your room as a space of psychological safety and creativity. Obviously there’s a specifically domestic or psychological reference there, but the space in which art is made is an equally interesting factor and often one that is hidden from the public. Where do you produce your work and how does it affect what you make?

RM: I guess that in that name I was referring to the psychological space of the mind (your personal, private ‘room’). Although I don’t produce my works in a bedroom, or even a private space, I felt that this analogy speaks to the personal experience of creating things, a private relationship between artist and artwork. Because my current art-making practices are toxic I have to kit myself out with full protection: eye mask, respiratory mask, gloves, fully clothed, sports shoes. Added to that are my playlist and headphones – and I really am blocked off from everything around me. The production process is very physical and gruelling. I usually work for 8 hours at a time without stopping. The music I listen to draws out emotions which feed directly into the works. This goes on and on – it’s very special personal time for me.

How do you find working as an artist in Cape Town – down here at the bottom of the world?

RM: I have no idea what it’s like to be an artist in any other place, I’m not sure being elsewhere would help but I guess I find it difficult here. To feel on the one hand free and at liberty to make what you chose or whatever comes to you, without needing to define yourself, or your practice or outline your own mind. And to have that contrasted by the desire to belong to something, the desire to be understood or related to, to connect to people in conversation… it’s a constant internal battle. I suppose this does not directly relate to Cape Town, but this is how I feel about being an artist in general. If I were at the top of the world, I imagine that it would either be a lot harder, with the saturated markets and art frenzy, or maybe a lot easier as there is more art writing that happens there and two-sided conversations might occur more fluidly.

 

Rosie Mudge


Do you have any advice for people trying to start out in the world of art-making?

RM: Firstly, get a job which gives you enough money to act freely financially with your art-making. It doesn’t have to be in the art world and it doesn’t have to be creative. I have found my ties to a world outside my own creation very energising and the income means that I do not pressurise my art into being successful – it can be a wonderful failure. Having a lot of responsibility outside of your own practice does mean a lot of work, but having less time encourages me to make better use of the time I do have. It also helps me to think quickly in the moment, and ruminate outside of the moment.
Secondly, get involved. Put the ideas you have into practice in any way you can, and try not to rely on the positive affirmation of other people for the valuation of yourself and your art.

Top 5 ‘desert island’ albums?

RM:
MGMT – Congratulations
Of Montreal – The Sunlandic Twins
Beach House – Depression Cherry
Alanis Morissette – Jagged Little Pill
MGMT – Oracular Spectacular

Where can people find you online and find out more about your work?

RM:

https://www.instagram.com/rosiesmudge/
http://www.smithstudio.co.za/content/rosie-mudge
https://rosiemudge.tumblr.com/

 

Catch Rosie Mudge at the First Thursdays Official Warm Up at The Gin Bar, 64a Wale Street. She’ll be doing a DJ set from 6pm to 8pm, with an exhibition of some of her work up as well. The party goes on until late. The First Thursdays Official Warm Up is produced by Thursdays Projects in partnership with Maker’s Mark Craft Bourbon Whisky. 

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Cape Town Johannesburg