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ARTIST BUHLEBEZWE SIWANI ON BEING A SANGOMA, HER DEFINITION OF SUCCESS AND HER UPCOMING PROJECT

July 7, 2017

An Interview by Mike Abel for Wanted Online

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Image source: Wanted Online

Describe the colour yellow to somebody who is blind. It is a paradox, a spectrum of emotions and senses. It is the warmth of rays of light, the feeling when someone you care about touches you, the brightest and most startling light, the fire that burns the brightest inside you. It is happiness. It is also the sickly smell of pee in the morning, the look of decay and ageing.

What’s the most interesting thing about you that we wouldn’t learn from your CV alone? That I am a certified Sangoma with a solid clientele.

What are you known for? Seeing everything performatively; I believe everything performs: photography, sculpture, installations, etc.

Teach me something I don’t know in the next five minutes. A mixture of cow dung and sand with the right amount of water is stronger than cement.

What inspires you? People who wake up everyday; life is not easy.

What’s the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it? Ru Paul’s Drag Race. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside to see those kweens assert themselves.

What was the last gift you gave someone? Time.

What do you think about when you’re alone in your car? I don’t have a car, it just does not make sense for me to have one if I am never around.

You’re a new addition to the paint box. What colour would you be and why? Red. I LOVE the connotations, it is such a rich colour, so many possibilities.

How do you handle criticism? I read, re-read and listen, seek another opinion and then I chill because people will write whatever they want to write even if you give them a lot of information. Criticism is so subjective, besides the world is full of haters as it is. I like criticism, it motivates me.

What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? Pull the duvet over my head and try to go back to sleep again after looking to see if the other human next to me has switched on the geyser.

Tell me about a time you did the right thing and no one saw you do it. This happens so often when you are an unrepresented artist, I cannot remember when I didn’t do the right thing. We all have some form of an altruistic characteristic.

What do you worry about, and why? EVERYTHING because I exist. Existing is so hard when you are an adult Sangoma, you have a whole invisible entourage with you that keep speaking, so sometimes you can appear to be somewhat schizophrenic.

How do you define success and how do you measure up to your own definition? Success, success, success. I suppose that would be me effecting some form of change. I want to change my world, change how people see each other and view the world. Success is freedom and I still have not freed myself from my thoughts, from societal constraints and norms. If I have changed one person’s perception then I have achieved some form of “success”.

Give me an example of when you failed at something. How did you react and how did you overcome failure? Oh, when haven’t I failed?! I fail all the time so I go to sleep because that depresses me, then I wake up the next day and move on. I refuse to dwell in an abyss of negativity. I love possibilities too much.

Would you rather be liked or respected? Neither actually, I find that they are both impractical as they could impede one’s personal and professional growth if taken to heart.

What is the last book you read? Collective Amnesia by Koleka Putuma.

If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title should be? Pigments of imagination.

What makes you angry? Ignorance.

What was the biggest risk you ever took and what did you learn from it?Quite a story to be honest. I left the comfort of home with R6000 in my account and moved to Cape Town with no idea of where I was going to stay, no job or educational prospects. I learned that you should always leave when what you want isn’t being served.

What’s your most significant project? Tell me about it, what did you get/reach? How? It is the next project I am embarking on, it is something I am most passionate about: Women, traditional medicine, culture and history. With this project I am getting closer to my truth. This will occur in exhibition form using the research I have done. I would love for this to occur soon so we will see.

If you were a brand, what would your motto be? Fuck what ya heard.

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