SA Artists Crowdfund to Cover Festival Costs While Government Debates R22M Flag

Getting to Makhanda to perform at the National Arts Festival is notoriously difficult and expensive. Lacking any other kind of support, Jozi musician Meropasoul has launched an online crowdfunding campaign to make it happen...

It’s National Arts Festival time again, and it’s hard to ignore the irony that well established artists, musicians and actors are being forced to crowdfund to cover the cost of participating in the event while South Africa’s arts and culture minister tries to spend R22 million on a flag monument.

“It’s always been like this, hasn’t it? says Meropasoul, a musician who has set up a digital campaign to raise money to cover the festival production’s participation.

“Our artists have never been supported. But the struggle makes us strong too! We know our people, our community. We will do what needs to be done, because we’ve been hustling like this forever.”

Muziwakhe Mabizela, known on stage as Meropasoul, has been a cult figure on the Jozi city scene for many years thanks to a unique ability to cross cultural and traditional boundaries with an acoustic guitar and a socially conscious hip hop ethos. He started playing in the city in the midst of the vibrant spoken word scene of the early 2000s, which featured many of today’s established creative names. His first album was recorded live at Unity Gallery 2009 to a live audience. He released his next studio project, Inkanyezi, in 2022, and now he's taking a stage performance of Inkanyezi to the 2022 National Arts Festival.

Hosted at the Graham Hotel, the Inkanyezi show is combination of a live concert, theatre and a spoken word experience that tells the story of a man heading to the city to support his child and wife, and the challenges he faces.

“It’s the story we all live, and are always living,” says Meropasoul.

“The South African story of trying to make it all happen on your own. It’s the story of an artist participating in a festival, and of a father feeding family. For the festival production we’re telling it with a mix of spoken word, the tracks from the album and a bit of performance. We’ve done different versions of it in Soweto and Jozi, and people have loved it. Now it’s Makhanda’s turn.”

Inkanyezi is crowd funding on an innovative online platform – Buy Me A Coffee – to get the production to Makhanda.

“We liked the platform because it’s not a charity thing like so many of the others you see,” says Meropasoul.

“This is a simple equation. We have a lot of fans, and we’re reaching out for their support. If enough people make those credit cards work just a little bit, the show is on the road.”

Inkanyezi features some of Jozi's brightest musical and poetic talents, including bassist and long-time Meropasoul collaborator, Ndumiso Ntshangase, and poet and performer Sabelo Soko. Soko has taken the South African spoken word scene forward in recent years with a focus on telling local stories, in local languages. He released Umkhondo, a poetry album, in 2017, and more recently has been the force behind Spin Venek, a conceptual art piece that serves as a museum for memories and aspirations. He also curated the first Basha Uhuru Poetry Showcase in 2018 – which has now become a flagship program for the Constitution Hill annual festival.

“Appearing at the National Arts Festival 'aint cheap!’ says Meropasoul, explaining his crowdfunding project.

“We’ve only just been notified that the production is on the line up, and until the booking was confirmed we weren’t able to speak to funders to cover transport and accommodation costs. Now we only have a couple of weeks to make it happen. The Department of Sport, Arts and Culture Arts could be a massive help in these situations, but there’s none of that. We have to do it solo. One more time, the usual South African story!’

Supporters can visit Meropasouls’ crowdfunding page at https://www.buymeacoffee.com/meropasoul to contribute to getting Inkanyezi on the road.

Contact details:
Muziwakhe Mabizela - 067 066 4193 / meropasoulmusic@gmail.com

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