“Sheshisa isikhathi siya hamba” those words were spoken by our parents when we were preparing to go to school. Those words never mattered to us when we were young because we didn’t know what was at stake. We took our time waking up; some of us even wished school never existed.
I was on my way back from Durban with fellow Faces and Phases family on July 24 2016, when I received an email from 89+ project. They were congratulating me for being chosen to be part of a residency in Johannesburg. I had the opportunity to be one of the artists chosen to carry on with their project at the Google cultural institution in Paris, France.
I was sitting next to Lerato Dumse and full of excitement. As I was reading it there was a part of me that thought I shouldn’t share this information with anyone until they finalise everything. Lerato then asked what the excitement was about?
Lebo Mashifane, who was also part of 89+ was sitting next to us; my mind froze for a second because Lerato’s question caught her attention. I couldn’t lie to my family so I told them the truth and deep inside I hoped Lebo was also chosen.
On the 1st of August I was on my way to a talk at the African Leadership Academy in Roodeport when I received a call from the 89+ people congratulating me for being chosen as one of three artists, letting me know what was going to happen and that I should wait for an email from them. Full of excitement, I even forgot about my talk, but once I got there I focused on what I was assigned to do which was to talk about how being a young activist is like. I addressed students from across the world including a friend of mine that invited me over named Amelia whom I met while I was in Virginia, USA after her mother mistook me for someone else’s daughter.
Within a few days I received an email from Missla congratulating me and to my surprise she asked for Lebo’s contacts because she couldn’t reach her. I thought to myself “Thank God she was chosen” because I was going to feel bad if she wasn’t. After receiving that email she sent me another email which she attached a document that explained everything and at the end I was suppose to sign and send it back. The document clearly stated that we come up with any kind of project even if it is something we have worked on before or a brand new one and it was said that the one with a strong project gets to go to the Google cultural institution to evolve their project.
I believe inspiration is everywhere; it is all about how you view things. My project titled ‘Artistic Healers’ was inspired by a question I got from a student from the UK who asked me how I manage all my crafts and have I found a way of merging them all together?
As I was answering her it clicked to me that this is what I am going to do, my idea was to merge Music, Photography and Traditional Healing. My project ‘Artistic Healers’ is about young lesbians who are artists and healers at the same time. The project is a slideshow of images displayed while my music plays in the background.
Every week we were supposed to meet with Rangoato, who we refer to as ‘Ra’ and also meet with Melose. They were helping us to expand our projects and mentoring us at Keleketla library in Troyville. Once I had an idea I drafted a one page synopsis of what it was about and handed it in, Melose and Ra edited it and gave us more ideas on how we can expand. I went around searching for artistic healers that I can document and I found a few in Soweto.
We spent 4 weeks in residency from the 15th of August until 16th of September.
On the 21st of September we received emails about the results. I opened my email and started reading, they were thanking me for participating and how I came up with such a wonderful project blah blah, hehe bese (then) they said and I quote “Your project definitely has a lot of potential, however it would be significantly harder for the Google Lab team to help you realize it in its full potential as it requires specific skills and engineers that Google could not provide unfortunately“, I was torn apart because I wasted so much time that will never be regained and I felt I deserved a better response than this.
I immediately contacted Lebo to find out if she got it, to our surprise we got the same email, I thought to myself ‘ayibo labantu baganga ngath’i (they are playing with us). How can two different projects receive the same results and as for “specific skills and engineers” what the hell were they on about because I only needed space and the rest I could do for myself. It just didn’t make sense to me. I replied to the email with questions because I needed to understand what they were talking about and I was still not answered.
A few days went by and I received a call and I finally got an explanation that what Google wanted was a project that focuses mainly on the technological side of things. I asked why we were not told about this before because I had asked what are the requirements. They said, “sorry, it is our fault, the Google team is always busy and they took time to respond.”
I took a deep sigh while anger built up in my veins and then I told myself its not worth my energy I have wasted a lot of time with these people already. They continued apologizing and sent me links for grants I can apply for and I was not really interested.
What a waste of my precious time, I could’ve done something worth my while with the 4weeks I was there. Being an artist is ‘nie pap en flies,’ (not easy), you meet people who will promise you izulu no mhlaba kanti ayi shame bayaku dlala (heaven and earth).
My fellow artists watch out. The world has scavengers waiting to take a huge bite of your success and remember ‘Time wasted is never regained,’ use it wisely and keep doing what you doing. I for one am not stopping because of this little hiccup.
Stay blessed and stay humble and true to who you are.
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