That “Boom Bargain Bust” Bastard

25 Aug

The first invitation SMS to this Sunday evening performance said, “…Its called boom bargain bust. A very unique collaboration with a few artists. If you want your imagination stretched this is for you…” a tempting invitation by any standard. More so in a capital city where, in the middle of bitching about the lack of entertainment or the relatively high price of alcohol (a libation that used to be considered the cheapest form of entertainment) one would serendipitously happen upon some frankly mind blowing function mid-sentence. The cryptic SMS didn’t have much info about what to expect so anticipation was nicely whetted.

A day before the fun a reminder SMS* comes in this time mentioning some artists, Steve Jobson (probably the most respected artist in the performance collective,) Juju Boy (the singer/graphic designer with the biggest main stream profile in the collective,) and what they would all be doing – namely a 40 minute long multi media stage performance work-in-progress according to the SMS. Then the disclaimer came in, “It is a confusing piece which I doubt makes any sense. However it’s a hell of a work of art.” …Yaaa neh. With that motivation in mind people arrived in dribs and drabs right up until 20 minutes before the end of the performance.

*Turns out I was the only one to receive the second SMS… so the late comers were just being themselves.

At Thapong Visual Arts Centre, a sparsely furnished area (it was a case of BYOC – bring your own chair) featuring three screens, a key board, a small guitar amplifier, two speakers and two wire frame birds atop the central screen served as the scene of the crime. The performance was kicked off with a bird themed dance piece by Moratiwa Molema which saw a figure in a bird mask (featuring a miner’s lamp) building a huge nest of branches. “There is going to be a big bonfire here!” quipped a member of the audience, to which Kgotla Ntsima (Juju Boy) giggled then responded, “No it’s a nest. She is building a nest.” He then asked one last time, “Do you get it?” Kgotla may have been in the moment but he was acutely aware of unconscious critique from the audience.

 

Confusion did set in indeed when a poet’s performance featuring shadow play to help enhance his words came on next. The relationship between the first and second performances was never made apparent; add to that the bridge between performances provided by animation pieces, which were reminiscent of animation by Mzanzi art behemoth William Kentridge. It became clear that it may be better to view all pieces as self standing components rather than as part of a whole… unless the whole was a “hell of a work of art.”

So to review the performances that stood out this is how it went down.

 

BUNDULAMA

A vocalist who shuffles on to the stage with a walk that could be part of Caliban’s persona in a Shakespearian play, The Tempest. Actually Bundulama (government name, Dzikimani Lekopanye) has got a honey smooth set of vocal chords, something that can join the ranks of that whole neo soul thang that Khethi, Erykah Badu and Platinum Pied Pipers bring out… but he is another of Botswana’s potentially great talents that need strong management to fulfil their artistic potential.

 

B-NOTE & JB

Killing it on the keyboards was B-Note, yet another prodigiously talented musician and producer badly in need of a solid game plan and management. Ask about B-Note in the right circles in Joburg and you get a momentary pause of recollection; followed by a gasp of recognition; then comes a sound that BaTswana tend to make when they remember something vital that we didn’t mean to forget… Ijoooooooo! Yep, he is that good, but… So anyway B-Note was accompanied by JB on the guitar as they provided the musical score of most of the performances and this was about the most coherent part of the performance as it linked everything else.

 

ANIMATION

It turns out this part of the experience had many hidden hands, names that include Steve Jobson, Kgotla Ntsima, Inga Ritter, Andrija Klaric, Nikola Gaytanjie, Vivek Karmokar. So in actual fact only the Kgotla Ntsima animation (apparently an ode about Juju Boy which is Ntsima’s alter ego and other day job besides graphic design) was immediately attributable to him. The most striking animations were the charcoal drawings that were reminiscent of Kentridge and just as haunting… however as most of the artists were faceless talent I am still not sure who was guilty of which animation on the night. Oh yes there was one other animation that was a total remake of the Madonna’s video  ‘Ray of Light’ substituting Botswana roads for the neon tinged highways shot by Swedish director Jonas Åkerlund in the pop star’s video.

MORATIWA MOLEMA

Miss Molema, an often rudderless talent adrift on the relatively unmarked canvas of world class contemporary art in Botswana, donned many hats in Boom Bargain Bust. Her jack of many trades approach to her art has its moments, which unfortunately become unsustainable due to a lack of artistic commitment to her audience and an over commitment to the euphoria of creativity for creativity’s sake. Molema served up three different dance performances from her perpetually bubbling creative cauldron, the aforementioned bird building the bonfire/nest (which caused the bonfire comment); a captivating burlesque routine conducted behind a screen (“I must use this in my performance,” mused a mesmerised Juju Boy); a gymnastics tinged performance between an animated parrot and a long bit of black elastic which ended in a satisfying little SNAP! This part of the performance could make a powerful ending once the whole performance is sorted out.

Only days later did it register that there had been an off the cuff speech by Steve Jobson that basically underlined the fact that the art to be presented was honest, and that they were in the middle of trying something out, but more importantly there was a sort of game plan to the night’s proceedings. TJ Dema, a gush worthy poet and underground artpreneur had a better handle on the game plan in her blog. Here is a little unacknowledged fact, TJ Dema was responsible for the Face of Africa waif that is now known as Kaone Kario… so keep an eye out for her commando unit of creative peoples from Sauti Arts.

Yebo, so the performance was a total bastard to take in all in one go…

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