By MZWANDILE MAMAILA
To experience a different side of the fest far from the busy, upmarket activities in town, we decided to try something new: to bring exposure to the lost voice of the fest, the township. Rushing taxi drivers, kids playing soccer on the streets, and dogs roaming about; welcome to ‘ekasi’. With the mission of exposing Makhanda’s illegal dumping sites and bringing art into the township, the visual artist Nyaniso Lindi has welcomed festival-goers into his home in Joza Extension 3.
We relied on the voice of our GPS to guide us there, but without any signs on the main road leading to it, we found ourselves lost and trembling on the gravel and stones. Luckily for us, we are in one of Makhanda’s friendliest townships. Where you inevitably get a smile and a cheer from a stranger. Where everyone knows everyone and no one gets left behind. A lovely young couple came to our rescue and directed us to our destination. It was a journey.
‘THE BACKSHACK STUDIO’; a bright silver sign on the wall of the family house caught my eye. “Sesfikile (We have arrived),” I said internally with relief. Welcomed with light snacks and drinks, we were at home.
Township communities are filled with houses that have been passed on through generations and are sentimental to their families. Lindi decided to extend his family and open his house to the community of Makhanda. (The community of Makhanda, not Joza!). The intimacy of a family home envelops you as you observe the artworks made from recycled materials in the outside room.
The space is neatly prepared, the walls painted in a soothing white to complement his colourful artefacts plugged onto the wall. Amongst them is a sculpture of a building in Makhanda called ‘Ossher Bros’, crafted from cardboard and yellow waste material. A single bulb hangs from the roof of the building, made out of bricks, paint, and tiles.
“You have the face of a creative!” Lindi shouted to our photographer. He is an attentive man, observing how bottles, cardboard, and paper have taken over the streets of Makhanda and turning them into handcrafted pieces of art. The materials he used were so familiar, and everyday, I almost thought I had seen his art before.
Once you have entered the studio, the disturbing view of the bright, colourful litter on the streets fades away and can be seen from a different perspective. Bringing attractive aesthetics back into the township while pointing a finger at excessive consumption and waste, Lindi’s works speak of many things in his Backshack Studio.
Many South African townships are denied basic service delivery such as waste collection, and art has been added to that list. Those living in the township are not encouraged to participate in art, and it is often up to community members to bring creative exposure to people who would otherwise not be. From canvases and paint to cameras and mics, art can be a costly lifestyle. This might further discourage artistic endeavours in the township.
But there is always someone passionate about the arts who will think of an innovative way to bring creativity to the community. Art is a platform for self-expression and should be accessible to everyone. Lindi’s art is unique and revolutionary. Accessing the venue might be a journey, but if you want a true township experience that will bring you closer to the people of Makhanda and the spectators of the National Arts Festival, then this is your go-to place.
The studio runs on 25 June, the 30th, and 2 July from 15:00 – 16:00 at Joza Extension 3. Here are the GPS coordinates for the Backshack Studio: https://www.google.com/…/data=!4m6!3m5!1s0x0…