“It was a strange, crazy and wonderful place to be”
This was the overall sentiment expressed by the Lively Hoods artists who made the long, gruelling yet performance rewarding trip to AfrikaBurn in the Tankwa Karoo during the first week of May 2019. Artists Simmah, G Major, Tremaine, Bongz and Lucas, who hail from all over South Africa, made the arduous trip with the SLF crew, braving gale-force winds and dust storms to perform. Our deepest gratitude and thanks goes to all those individuals who supported our crowdfunding campaign that got us to AfrikaBurn. Without your support, we would not have been able to pull off the greatest shows in these artists’ lives.
Having never been to AfrikaBurn, knowing nothing more than what we’d been told or seen captured visually, our expectations were hazy. Feelings of discomfort around unfamiliar spaces, apprehension of how the performances would be received, the excitement of making new contacts, new friends and meeting other creatives were ever present.
But what a fantastic experience it was. The camp mom (aka head of logistics) ensured that the Lively Hoods team were fed and everyone had what they needed, while the performance team searched for venues for the artists to perform their gigs. We had many “come back tomorrow morning and we’ll see what the lineup looks like” or “go to that tent over there. They might have a spot for you” and “the question is, when”. We succeeded in pinning down a radio slot on Radio Tankwa 99.9FM and held four performances on stages. We worked hard and it was worth it.
For some of our artists, this experience had a profound impact, beyond the exhibitionist displays of artwork and people:
“Going to AfrikaBurn was a mightily fulfilling experience for me because when I first heard about it a year ago or so from my friends who had been there, I knew I had to find myself there too. Unbeknownst to me I’d be there a year later through the Lively Hoods [project], in which on top of that it’s gifted me with even so much more and a chance to grow as an artist, for which I’ll be eternally grateful. I feel like being part of the [State of the Nation] album will open so many doors for selected artists and I’m very elated to be part it.” – G Major O
“Freedom of Expression is often misunderstood in everyday way of life and in our society, and therefore we (humans) live according to societal expectations and standards. At Afrika Burn, I was able to forget about what our exclusive society expects of me as a black male from a Township. I was able to live the life I so dream of living every day. I was free. I was happy. I was peaceful. Mostly, I wasn’t scared of being violated.” – Simmah
Read an article about AfrikaBurn last year and told myself I’d like to attend it. Little did I know what was in store just a few months later. Thankful to have met and worked with the amazing Sustainable Livelihoods Foundation music collective with my fellow talented artists, it has been such a beautiful journey. Getting to experience life how I personally believe it was intended for us to be living was absolutely magical. The love, FREEDOM, safety, peace, happiness and sense of community… Not needing to use…In nature, one with the earth and skies. I still feel dreamy. AfrikaBurn was everything I had imagined it to be and so much more!!! We did it. I’m already going to start preparing for 2020” – Tremaine
It is a privilege to be part of a project that provides an opportunity for these extraordinarily talented artists who have limited access to the networks that can make a difference, to pull the hard punches and belt out their songs. SLF’s process of artist evaluation and recording has allowed the team to showcase their talent to an audience that loved every bit of what they had to offer. These songs that have been co-produced in collaboration with London musician Arthur Collier, will culminate in the debut studio album, “State of the Nation”, due for release later in 2019. It reflects on contemporary South Africa 25 years into democracy, and includes a wide variety of musical influences and artistic impressions from poetry, Rap, R&B, to ballads and break beats. This process, including detailing the travel, encounters, artists’ stories, recording and release of the album has been captured in a documentary that is being collaboratively produced with Substance Films.
As we bid farewell to the dust, grit and endless space and quiet, and head back to the land of dense built environments and permanent connectivity, I hold tight to the words of one of our crew members: “To the wild wind and journeys. To being alive and simply being. To the musicians who are the state of the nation. It’s been magical meeting you.” Because why not try and live a different life. To do better, be better and give more than we take.
Thanks again: to our Thundafund supporters without whom this would not have been possible; to AfrikaBurn for supporting us in going; and most of all, the artists who were the reason this was such a success.