Mdantsane is a unique, vibrating, eclectic, African place. Follow us on a pilgrimage to Mdantsane to discover the street culture, fashion, food, people, music, homes, taverns, humor, businesses, history and what's hot in the second biggest township in South-Africa, located close to the city of East London in the Province of the Eastern Cape. Join us on this journey while we capture the spirit of this amazing place for you in the here and in the now. We are going to introduce you to many individuals, artists, musicians, groups and associations.
They are the HEROES OF DAILY LIFE. They are the people who create, innovate and improve their life and their stories deserve to be told. This is a place for only good and positive stories of humanity, that will send out a message of courage, endurance and strength to the world through their pictures and words.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Nqontsonqa, The Praise Poet Of The Eastern Cape

We have the pleasure to publish today an article written by the 2nd year journalism student Ikhona Pahlane of the Walter Sisulu University in East London. Our informal cooperation with the Media and Journalism Department of the University has allowed us to serve as an incubator for students by publishing their articles in our magazine. 

Today's article is a profile of Nqontsonqa, a spoken word artist who claims his girlfriend is a book. He has recently performed at some major events in the Eastern Cape.

Born and bred in Grahamstown, Nqontsonqa, a praise poet, is rocking stages of the Eastern Cape with his thought-provoking and straight-to-the-point poems.

Siphelo Dyongman, also known as Nqontsonqa, inspires through his poetry and has established a name for himself with his range of colourful T-Shirts branded Nqontsonqa Imbongi Yakwantu  – the praise poet of the people.( Image Ikhona Pahlane)  

The 21-year-old Siphelo Dyongman, known by his poetic name Nqontsonqa said his journey began in Grahamstown, at Andrew Moyakhe Primary School where he was doing grade five in 2002.

“I was part of an Inter-Schools Development festival. I stood up and started to recite a poem and that’s how my poetic career began,” he said.

He has recently released his 2nd album entitled “ANC – Ayindim Ndenzeni Compilation” with a hit single Iphupha that has been aired on radio stations such as TruFm and Khanya Fm.
His album has sold approximately 800 copies, under Nqontsonqa Productions. It is available at Vincent Park and Hemmingway’s Musica stores.

Nqontsonqa is a third-year student studying towards his diploma in journalism at the Department of Media Studies at Walter Sisulu University. “I strongly believe that even with art you need to be educated,” he said.

Through courage, curiosity and confidence, Nqontsonqa has become an inspiration to many people through his poetry. Not only that, but he has also managed to make a name for himself that has transformed him into a brand when he introduced the Indoor Sessions, a platform for unplugged art at Walter Sisulu University in 2012.

“I’ve been in and out of the province hosting and headlining shows until I started my own Indoor Sessions held at WSU’s Heritage Site Campus,” said Nqontsonqa.

He has performed at the Steve Biko Ginsberg Easter Festival and at the Buffalo City Metro Municipality Summer Carnival for the past three years in a row. He shared the stage with newcomer Berita at the Buyel'ekhaya Festival in 2012 and at the Chris Hani Choral Competition. He also features on Berita’s album.

Nqontsonqa has also won awards such as the Best Solo Poet at Injongo Productions talent search and a bronze award in the speech and drama competition held by UBOM Drama theatre. He markets his own t-shirts self-titled “Nqontsonqa Imbongi yakwantu”.

The minute he realised his poetry had a strong hold on people he “pulled up” his socks and saw he could make a living out of it. At the same time he lends an educational voice to those who do not have one.

From the first poem he performed, “My girlfriend is a book”, to many others like “Andiphilanga”, Nqontsonqa’s journey is nowhere near the end. – WSU-SNA

Article and Picture By Ikhona Pahlane, Walter Sisulu University

The Can't Get Car - Wire Art Made In Mdantsane

We came across a very interesting find - entirely made in Mdantsane some twenty years back.

The Can't Get Car - Wire Art Creation By Philipp Ntliziywana

The "Can't Get Car" - so called because one can't get it anywhere is a wire art creation, that was made by Philipp Ntliziywana, a resident of Mdantsane, when he was in his 20's.

Side View of The Can't Get Car

The car found its way into the King Williams town museum in 1989. It was purchased in June 1989 for a 100 Rand from its maker and is still exhibited there at what is called the Amathole Museum today.

A Scrap Metal Detail Of the Can't Get Car

"It is undoubtedly one of the most unusual and comtepmorary art pieces that found its way into the collection of the museum in recent years," so says the Amathole Museum.

Santa Claus as side decoration

Philipp, the talented artist has included in the construction of the "can't get car" all standard automobile details as well as many unconventional parts and ad-ons. The wheels are fitted with tyres and the windows with perspex windshields. There are front windscreens wipers as well.

Everything inclusive, engine, battery...... and a lot of extras

The car has front and tail lights, a battery, an engine and a radiator complete with the radiator cap.

Moreover the car is fitted with a fan, a telephone, a stove and a television set with a large T.V aerial mounted on the roof of the car.
Pimp my ride! Does that sound familiar? With his can't get car Philipp has probably realized more than one of his own dreams. 

The Can't Get Car In all Its Beauty

Like many more others and simpler wire motor cars, that can still be found in the rural parts of the Eastern Cape, the luxurious can't get car can be directed and manipulated through the help of a fitted steering wheel.

For A Quiet Ride.....

Where is talented Philipp Ntliziywana now? He was in his twenties, so the museum says, when he created this piece of art in Mdantsane. He must be in his late fifties now. Is he still making art, amazing wire creations? We would love to know but probably we will not. One thing is for sure, Philipp was far ahead in time with his creation. His can't get car is largely constructed and crafted from discarded metal and scrap metal pieces. Recycled Art and Design at its finest!

The Amathole Museum in King Williams Town

Where to see it? At the Amathole museum in King Williams Towns.

The maker of the can't get car, Philipp a Mdantsane resident!

The Amathole Museum in King Wiliiams Town in The Eastern Cape

The Drivers Cock pit of the Can't Get Car

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Traditional Pondo Dancers

The following images of traditional Pondo Dancers in their ceremonial clothing were taken by Rob Mellin in 1976 in King Williams Town. We are pleased to show more of the work of ex Daily Dispatch Photographer Rob Mellin, who has documented many parts of the Xhosa culture during several decades.
To read more about Rob Mellin click here.

Pondo Dancers in King Willimas Town in the 1970's

Traditional Dancer

Detail of a traditional beaded necklace worn at ceremonies

Traditional beaded bag

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Dance And Drama In Mdantsane - The Imonti Arts Company Under V.S.T.C

Acting and Dancing In Mdantsane

There is a lot of dance and drama in Mdantsane. You just have to look for it! Some of it takes place at the Mdantsane Arts Center, that is presently going through a revival period.

The Imonti Arts Company Under V.S.T.C
On our last visit to the center we surprised the "Imonti Art Company Under V.S.T.C" during a training session. The guys and girls of the Imonti Art Company were busy rehearsing a dance and drama play, that they have created themselves in the studio of the Arts Center. 
Their play is a mixture of dance, song and poetry.

Expressing the spirit of Mdantsane

A little bit surprised by our intrusion into their domain they did however not hesitate a minute to give us a taste of what they were working on. What we saw was pretty impressive!

Local Talent Made in Mdantsane

These young Mdantsanians are no amateurs. They have already traveled to Germany and performed there with their group before larger audiences.

Mandla Sanelisiswe
The group of young people share between them a whole range of talents, that combined make up a contemporary drama and dance performance, that has the power to mesmerize the spectator. Infatuating rhtymn and singing, dancing, stamping feet, mixed with poetry makes you keep your eyes on the actors. 

This is no boring drama and dance play, not one of those plays where you politely wait until the end has come and you take a deep breath when outside, lucky that you can go home. No, this is not one of those. This is Mdantsane's power and talent combined and you just wish they must continue to perform in front of you..

Member of the Imonti Arts Company
The group's performance covers topics that arise from the neighbourhood, they live in. Their stories talk about the daily life in Mdantsane.
And nobody is more qualified to talk about it than they are.

Masindwa Ntsingisela (right) is the poet of the group
After the rehearsal Masindwa Ntsingisela said: "Can I say a poem for you?"
His poem talked about young people that have choosen the way of crime as their career.

Born to be a dancer

Looking at the images we have uploaded for you, you can even feel a little bit of that intensity and passion, that showers the spectator.

You will be able to see more of them in our documentary movie "Mdantsane - Another African Story".

Friday, January 18, 2013

Nguni - The Cattle Of The Xhosa People

Nguni Cattle at the Wild Coast

The Nguni cattle breed is indigenous to Southern Africa. A hybrid of indigenous and Indian cattle they were introduced by the Bantu tribes of southern Africa from the north of the continent. They are medium sized, adapted to grazing on the Highveld. The ancestors of Nguni cattle were brought by the Xhosa, Zulu and Swazi people, during their migration to Southern Africa between 600 and 1400 AD. 

Since then, the Nguni have played an important social and economic role in the development of these societies and are used as a bride's dowry (lobola). 

Photography by Chocolat Negro
Nguni Cattle on high mountain slopes at the Wild Coast

Nguni cattle are known for their fertility and resistance to diseases. They are characterised by their multicolored skin, that can show many different patterns, but their noses are always black-tipped.

The Wild Coast - The Land of the Xhosa People

The number of animals held by a village or an individual determined much of their importance to the rest of the world. 

Nguni Cattle on their way back to the mountains after a lazy morning at the beach

The skins of the Nguni cattle have many different patterns and colors such as white, brown, golden black and yellow, dappled and spotty.

Nguni cows at the beach at the Wild Coast

Spotted beauty

Resistant to many diseases

Nguni on their way home

Africa's Pride
The Nguni are famous for their skin

To understand the culture of the Xhosa people better one has to reflect on the value and importance of cattle in the African society in general.

Even today in urban regions like Mdantsane and other towns cattle can be seen on the streets. They are slaughtered on ceremonial days and on most of all important family happenings.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Incede Womens Project - Art And Recycling In Mdantsane

The Incede Womens Project recycles glass bottles and turn them into beautiful liquor glasses

Nomunde (Patience is her English name, so she tells us) and Zameka are the two savvy ladies behind the Incede Women's Project. The Incede Womens Project's workshop is located in a large room at the Mdantsane Arts Center.

Several women of Mdantsane, concerned about the situation and the future of young people in this country have founded this project a couple of years ago, with the intention to help young people to gain skills in the art sector and thereby allowing them to earn a little income. 

Incede is in the lucky position to be now funded by the Department of Arts and Culture. The efforts of these women, to help create a better community and trying to keep the young people of the streets have been finally recognized.

My name is Patience but I am actually not patient at all, she says!

The Incede Womens Project creates a variety of products with very different materials including pottery ware, mosaic work and has started a line of products, that are made from recycled glass, but we are concentrating in this article on the pottery products, that the women design. 

The products are strongly influenced by the Xhosa culture and the local tradition of the Eastern Cape but they also incorporate many other non-typical Xhosa elements of daily life.

Zameka - a strong vision

Zameka at her working area in front of pottery wares, destined to be painted and glazed
The workshop at the Mdantsane art center seems large to us, but the ladies say it is still not big enough. It is used by many young people, who come there after school to paint or learn the skill of pottery.

Beautiful, colorful handmade and completely RECYCLED glass tiles

The raw material is bought in Gonubie, a little coastal town outside of East London.

The project is well equipped and has all the material needed at its disposition, but the women say what they profoundly lack is marketing, business and selling skills. 

"Once our products are finished, they rest on the shelves in the arts center, Patience says, we don't know how to get them to the clients and we don't know how to attract clients."

The Kiln

Unfinished products

A mosaic clock

The large workshop of the Incede Womens Project

Patience at work

The women belief in their project
The women who have founded Incede believe in the power of work and that if one learns a skill it changes one's outlook on life.

Learning something adds a sense of worth and self respect to your life

"If you are not working, you feel useless. You feel useless and you do not have an income. Sometimes this can not be changed easily because of external circumstances. But if you learn a skill, even if you still have not an income you feel proud and more re-assured of yourself than before," says Patience.

"You have added value to yourself. Life is also about understanding your own value. May be your income will come later or there is the possibility, that you will find money through the skill you have learned in another way, that you have not thought of!"
Many women in their later years in life have a deep concern for the future of the young people in South Africa.

Representing the tasks of daily life in the Xhosa culture
If the old traditions die the teachings of these traditions reserved for the young people die as well. But it is a fact of life that certain traditions will die because the effort it would take to uphold them is too big. New ways have to be found to establish values and recognize the value of life. Art can be one of these ways.

The tradition of the rural areas of the Eastern Cape is reflected in these sculptures

Looking at the sculptures one can see, that they have been inspired by daily life. The easy and simple things are shown here. The things, that have to be repeated day after day and that can be a burden sometimes are modeled into sculptures.

I do know nothing about art!
"In fact, I do know nothing about art! But I am very interested in art and all the things that are linked to it", says Patience. 

It is hard to believe, that she grew up "knowing nothing about art", as she says.

Religion is always there

The traditional way of dressing

The traditional way of living

some humor

and something foreign

Makes the eclectic mix of todays South Africa
If you want to support the women or if you are on the look out for some beautiful gifts - Mdantsane is not that far. 
Here are the ladies phone numbers:
Nomunde 0738522088
Zameka  0735794244


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