The last six weeks have been the most exciting, difficult, fulfilling, and overwhelming; on both my physical body and my mind. Spiritually it has been a time of growth, of validation, and of learning to be silent and listen to the flows and rhythms of the life I have crafted for myself. I arrived in New York with a master plan, a fancy high tech video camera, and a tripod, with plans to immerse myself in the cultures of Harlem, the sixties, and their attendant politics. The only problem? I didn’t know who or how to get in touch with the people I sought. But fortune favours the brave so I jumped on that plane and arrived in the New World, settled in immediately and got onto the mission: digging in the archives of the Schomburg centre for research in black cultures, and drawing up a list of who would benefit my research, and expressing that interest to the universe.
The memorial service of Nat Nakasa in Manhattan opened my heart and my sensibilities to just how painful exile was, how alienating and disconcerting it felt, perpetually, to be in this place called New York, with no hope of ever going back to your country which forced your exit and reinforced your banned status. Whilst at this memorial service not only my heart and mind were opened, but my eyes and vision too. It was at this auspicious event that I met my now-guardian mother in the U.S., Rashidah Ismaili, whom, upon hearing of my research which brought fond memories of special bonds shared with Keorapetse Kgositsile and the larger South African struggle, took me under her wing and blasted open all the locks that would lead me to the right people. She was my universe. She has been gifted to my enduring spirit, to guide my sail and be the wind I need to move forward.
After six weeks on the joyous and nerve-wrecking ride of my New York trip, I have finally amassed valuable information to start writing my book and thinking very clearly about a documentary (I am now a one woman show, interviewing and shooting the interviews at the same time, with much ease). As I now sit in Washington DC, only now, in retrospect, I finally appreciate what it means to be still and know that the universe is working. There is only so much you can plan, but further than that is out of your control. Listen and practice the act of vision instead of just looking, only then will the signs be revealed to you. I present to you in images the activities of my last six weeks in New York. Here’s to four more exhilarating weeks as I move from Washington DC to Chicago to San Francisco to L.A, and back to New York to fly out… The golden years are NOW! Always
As much as work was central to my visit, it was great to meet interesting New Yorkers and form bonds with new people from very interesting backgrounds and passions… With Shanita and Koeksista
Jeffrey Allen (centre) is a writer whose book launch it was at Quincy Troupe’s house. He’s hosting various writing boot camps and workshops in South Africa from February 2015
With published authors Jeffrey Allen, Rachel Griffiths, and Mitchell Jackson (from left to right)
It’s been a pleasure having many Harlem-dwellers open their homes to me. Most of them could easily be art galleries, libraries, or music stores. These artists’ houses are living testament of memory as a powerful tool. When you can access the materiality of where you come from then you become unshakable…
This is downstairs of the same house pictured above
When I moved to Brooklyn after housesitting in Manhattan, this retired cop – then stranger – started telling me stories of working in narcotics in the NYPD, and 6 hours later we were still there, with him retelling, countlessly, the horrors of September 11 2001 when he was on duty while his wife was giving birth.
I also interviewed Jeff Allen for my interview since he has been working with Keorapetse Kgositsile on the continent.
The day of Maya Angelou’s memorial service held in New York by family and friends. Pictured above is one of my favourite authors of all times, Toni Morrison, whom I’m shocked to see in a wheelchair. Her talk was inspirational.
The Riverside Church where Maya Angelou’s memorial service was held
Always job-jobbin’. This camera and tripod started killing my back then my guardian mother bought me this pulley
Kurt has been collecting rare books for 25 years, and is sitting on treasure in his house. He has the entire African Writer’s Series collection, and collections of the most obscure publications coming out of the continent over the decolonisation period.
This was an inspirational ceremony held at the Riverside Church. There was wonderful music, great orators who moved us with their speeches, and Angelou’s family who were full of mirth and great humour.
I caught up on some laughter in Little Italy with friends from my world. Life is too beautiful. I am now staying with Rachel’s parents in DC. Rachel is on the right
Quincy Troupe is an amazing all-round artist and ex-athlete. He is the biographer of Miles Davis amongst many of his achievements. Google this great legend. We had the most amazing interview
Quincy’s house is a living archive. He has world-acclaimed painters’ works hanging on his walls, and first editions of many books one could only dream of
Essence Magazine hosted an event for New York Fashion Week
I’ve been enjoying capturing the human essence with my lens. I am captivated by the camera lens. There’s no turning back. In conversation with Quincy Troupe
Amongst the tons of work in his house, this one moved em the most. The medium, textures, and timeless grandiosity of this piece haunts me.
Quincy Troupe with his biography of Miles Davis. I can only hope to be half as good a biographer as he is. Then again, I have to dream bigger!!
I saw these twins with my lens and could not ignore them
Catching Saul Williams’ performance was ordained. It came at a time I needed to feel differently and be rejuvenated. I was half way through my stay in New York and was beginning to feel strong yearning for my home, my husband, my pillows, my tea and my olive oil. He’s a wordsmith
This man’s presence captures all attention. He commands respect and does not fall short on delivering
I had never heard of this Ghanaian high life-punk rock band called Osekre and The Happy Bastards. They sound like younger Ladysmith Black Mambazo with Paul Simon
I’m also proud of this image. I managed to capture a moment and Osekre’s evident joy in what he does
High life is somewhat continental. Any African can move to its rhythms, reminding me that we are connected by the power of sound. Even as he sang in his native Ghanaian language, I could follow and repeat
I never used to get the hype around Saul earlier in my life, but now I am a believer
I consulted with a leading researcher in my field of research, The Black Atlantic, and he, Brent Edwards, is working on a book on Jazz. Right up my alley
It was a great pleasure to visit Columbia University, where Keroapetse Kgositsile received his Masters. This is Brent Edwards, a man whose work I constantly make reference to in my thesis
Wonderfully-spirited women who helped me see the error of history’s ways in representing the fight for equality and freedom as a manly struggle. They reminded me of the role women played in the civil rights movement, and how gender politics are inherently part of struggle for basic human rights. From left is Barbara Killen-Rivera, my spiritual mother and guardian Rashidah Ismaili, and Amiri Baraka
Sam Anderson is a well-rounded artist, educator, activist, and author of The Black Holocaust, amongst many others. In his interview he sounded like he was giving a sermon, and I just sat there basking in his light
Amina Baraka is an activist and a pillar that rises. She is the widow of Amiri Baraka and mother of the mayor of Newark, Ras Baraka
I even managed to end up in the fashion pages of the New York magazine! Now that’s what I call researching in style:
It is my beloved husband’s birthday: my dearest darling, the mover of my worlds and the true celebrity in my life – I am constantly reminded of your transcendental spirit because wherever I am I feel you, I see you, I hear you, and I am enveloped in the safety of your love. I have put this album together, your expression of true love, sacrifice, and undying support, for you on this birthday to hold a mirror to you and show you the person you have allowed me to become. This is the greatest gift you can ever give me: believing in me and validating my passions and higher calling. I wish to celebrate you in this way today, and am in awe everyday of the man you are. You are the nectar that makes my bouquet blossom.