”Written byNick Trethowan
I Destroy my Enemies when I make them my Friend.
It was more than a few years ago, I stood outside the original Zula Bar on Long Street and waited to watch some of my favourite live acts in the CT scene. I was excited, very underage and thanks to the leniency of Space Bar and their notorious R5 shots, I was very, very drunk. I had arrived early to better help my cause of getting in before the bouncers wisened up for the evening and while they were still pliable to the extra R50 and a little wink – not too cockily because you didn’t want to over do it but enough to show you were exactly the sort of teen schmuck to be let inside. At that time of my life, I was led by an uneducated belief of what the South African music scene was and was in love with all the floss.
While I waited in the line outside, I saw a legend of mine arrive, one of SA’s Rock heroes and personally one of my favourites. Man, I thought he was the coolest. A punk legend but with a successful transition into international pop music, I thought he was the smoothest. Right up until he got out his BMW, walked up to the bouncer and threw his keys at him, told him to park the car and then pranced off.
After that, it didn’t really matter how cool he was. He was a bit of a dick. No, he certainly wasn’t ordering children to be dashed by rocks but at the same time… Bit of a dick. When I finally saw him perform that evening, the excitement had been tainted. Sure, it was still cool but something felt off about it and I couldn’t shake the basic way he treated someone he thought less important than himself.
And look, I get it, busy man, busy schedule, soundcheck watta-watta-watta but at least be gracious about your presence or the things that you require – you never know who is watching or what people take inspiration from. It sparked something in me. As I grew older and grew closer to the creative scene, I paid closer attention to not just the art but the artist, realising how easy it was to like something without knowing much about who it was that was making it.
I’ve always been fascinated with art and creation. How from imagination an empty space can be transformed, how a lifeless page can be changed into a collection of ideas, a song can be made to convey unspoken emotion. How from nothing comes something cobbled together with experience and expression, fear and hope, doubt and faith in order to say something bigger than just oneself. Expression is not limited and it is one of the most important parts of life. Our souls, our psyche need it. Demand it. Even if it is not an expression I make myself. I do not have to be a dancer to be able to watch a movement so heart-breaking that I am not able to speak, left stripped by an unspoken story that our very soul resonates with. I do not have to understand music theory to be able to take ecstasy in a song or find a quiet solace in the frame of a portrait. It is our way of holding a mirror to the world and to ourselves.
I’ve been fascinated and delighted by art to the point that in creating the CCC and Visceral, the goal was clear: to explore the art that exists in our communities and to encourage each other that in working together we achieve so much more. Our pursuit is to shine a spotlight on the art and the creator. The reflection and that who holds the reflection. To celebrate them, to highlight them.
“As I grew older and grew closer to the creative scene, I paid closer attention to not just the art but the artist, realising how easy it was to like something without knowing much about who it was that was making it.”
However, in this day and age, we have a myriad of distorted and filtered reflections we hold up to reality and where art was once fundamentally a practice of communication and community, it becomes almost exclusively and only about ego. In a recent statement, Andre Benjamin (better known as Andre 3000) said that he had worked on a track for DONDA, Kanye Wests new album, in which both artists explored the concepts of the loss of their respective mothers. A truly beautiful and incredible collaboration by hip hop musical geniuses. However, the collab was cancelled as Ye directed DONDA (an album supposedly dedicated again to the loss of his mother) towards being diss-orientated with his beef with Drake and Drakes release of Certified Lover Boy.
Now understandably that’s macro-cosmic in terms of what I’m saying and only one of the many, many, many modern-day examples of just how much our ego stands in the way of making something transcendentally beautiful, so let’s look at ego and art again back in our stormy city and let’s now look where talent and arrogance fly higher than the clouds over Table Mountain.
It’s the feathered pomposity of the creator, mingled with the millennial howl of insecurity that wrings around the world as we slide hand and hand down the slippery slope that is social media. There is a prevailing sense of entitlement and expectance justified by the demands of the ego. TikTok, YouTube, Instagram and the myriad of streaming services available online, although a revolution in social technologies have ratified the very modern-day self-image that Narcissus drowned in. The haunts and regular drinking spots of Cape Town ring with the sound of it, clique based and image-conscious, the chorus is repeated differently by each group, each just as judgemental as cats. In all of these groups lies an inner hierarchy established by this chorus, a social structure determined by the internet. A couple hundred – one thousand, two thousand followers, ten and sound the trumpets of heaven, yours truly walks on hallowed ground and really, don’t mind how they speak to you! They’re so much better than you, the fact they even deigned you with a response in the first place should see you awed and oh what do they do? They make t-shirts. Or do flash tattoos. Or are in a band and have released an EP, haven’t you heard?
The fact they treated you and anybody they didn’t know like actual waste is excused because you know, big on Insta, couple K on Spotify or blowing up on TikTok. Again that’s not to throw this crucible at the above mentioned, it’s really not. It’s to highlight that the art that I want in my life, that I want to wear on my body and ink on my skin, prints on my walls and have in my collection is art that’s not just good, that doesn’t cut it anymore. The artists I want to see playing live and the movies and films I want to watch, the creators I want to highlight and support, the people I want to buy from, are the raddest, kindest and best people. People whose art reflect the beauty of the artist. The things they’ve been through and triumphed over. The things they fear or admire, the things they’d change. The talent they shine with. The humility that comes with realising that there is more to creation than just yourself. Because being edgy and ‘cool’ isn’t worth a lick of spit if you aren’t a decent human being.
“It’s the feathered pomposity of the creator, mingled with the millennial howl of insecurity that wrings around the world as we slide hand and hand down the slippery slope that is social media.”
And not just the facade of the creator, the ones put on when it’s “time to shine”. But the real, rough grit of whether or not they are genuine. We mass-produce bullshit every day. Corporations and companies feed it to us at every waking moment. Let art be real. No ego, no bullshit, no pretence. Times come to stop talking about changing the world and just fucking change it. Use the tool, don’t be the tool.
Whether you follow me or not, whether you like me or not, try to leave the world a better place than you found it. Because the reality is that we are losing time while we pander. It’s time for ego to take a backseat and instead of saying “this is what I do” ask “what more can I do” or “how can I help?”
At the CCC we believe in highlighting the good, but in order to do so, we sometimes need to talk about the bad. It’s important to look at the things we want to change and be able to open discourse, as uncomfortable as the conversations that follow are. All of us are capable of the most incredible things and as humans, we tamed lightning and have flown to the stars. We are able to change and now while the world is changing every moment with our cursed ingenuity, we must inherently put aside what separates us and find that which unites us. It is the ONLY way we can come together in time to keep ending the archaic and systemic issues that plague not just our beautiful country and continent, but the world in its entirety. It is up to us to decide whether we are the Hopeful Generation of the Future or just the continuation of the Generation of the Doomed. Sound the trumpets. Stand your ground. The War of our lives is not to be fought with guns or bombs, but with dignity and kindness, respect and compassion and a whole load of parties.
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