Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Lefifi Tladi

South Africa has a long history of beret wearing, typically among activists and artists. Earlier Gerard Sekoto featured on The Beret Project, this long post is about Lefifi Tladi.
The thinker, poet and painter, Lefifi Tladi was born in 1949 in the township of Lady Selborne in Pretoria. The township fell victim to apartheid’s forced removals as a so-called Black spot, an area of land that Black people bought legally in what the government considered as White South Africa. People who lived in Black spots were told to leave their places and later removed forcefully to make way for White people.
Owing to his goatee beard, he was nicknamed Jomo after Kenya’s post independence hero, Jomo Kenyata. In 1966 Tladi co-founded a youth club, De-Olympia in the township of Ga-Rankuwa. De-Olympia organised art exhibitions around the townships and homes of diplomats in and around Pretoria. Unfortunately, after three years running, the apartheid forces closed it down.
In 1969 he co-founded the jazz band, Malombo Jazz Messengers, which was later, called Dashiki Malopo, the trance-inducing music of the Bapedi, influenced Dashiki’s compositions. Initially Tladi played African drums in the band before he focused solely on poetry and painting. Dashiki’s live performances across the South African townships merged music with poetry that was heavily influenced by the socio-political situation in the country.
Tladi burst into the national South African political scene during the 1970s through participation in the Black Consciousness Movement’s cultural events. Groups such as MDALI, Batsumi, Malapanetharo, Black Arts Studios, and others around the country participated in the cultural events. Since most political and cultural leaders were either jailed or exiled, the Black Consciousness filled this vacuum in the country.
In 1976 Tladi skipped bail after he was arrested for participating in the students’ insurrection that begun in Soweto. Tladi went to exile in Botswana.
Tladi returned to South Africa in 1997. Currently his paintings are exhibited in museums and galleries across the globe. He performs with different bands and individuals such as Tlokwe Sehume, Zim Nqawana and The Brus Trio among others. From his home in Ga-Rankuwa, in Mabopane and at different universities, he hosts poetry and art workshops.

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