Live on the Winston stage, eDikeni | “Yakhal’ Inkomo” – …by Lereko Ntshona
An Ode to Winston Ntshona & Winston “Mankunku” Ngozi
I vividly remember a heartfelt moment of impact as a young boy, on a cold and wet winter’s night, in the early 90’s. uMalume (my Uncle), Khulile Ntshona, came to fetch me in Alice (eDikeni), as he would ever so often do, and we drove to another university town, formerly known as Grahamstown, now Makhanda. A lively atmosphere filled the air, as it was the National Arts Festival week, and unbeknown to me, that was our pitstop on the way to eBhayi (Port Elizabeth), where I’d spend most of my memorable school holidays.
We walked into what wouldn’t even qualify as a marquee these days, yet it was full of anticipation and the warmth of people in boisterous conversation and laughter. Anticipating the unknown was exciting, my senses were heightened, and the stage was set for what would be a life changing experience for me. After two hours marveling at the brilliance of the giants on that stage, backing Winston “Mankunku” Ngozi, including Stompie Mavie and I’m sure Bra Lulu Gontsana was on drums… I can almost taste the lukewarm chicken kebab I was having, it was SO good, as a result of being captured by the spirit of the moment. I was struck by the connection that performance had with its audience, in particular a Caucasian lady that looked like a senior Rhodes University student, who stayed glued, tucked in her chair, cross legged, with the lighting on stage shining on her radiating skin, as she smiled to the vibrations that were being imprinted on us all. She was so beautiful… Man – it was magic! That’s the day I fell in love with live music performance, as a nine-year old boy enjoying the spoils of being out with uMalume, way past my bedtime… Only to have the master performer call us on stage before performing their last song, to come and fetch the last CD he was giving away.
Just when I thought that night couldn’t get any better, it was topped off by this legend of a man, asking me to look after his saxophone after the show. “Guard my horn mtshana (nephew), guard it with your life…” Mesmerized, I sat there holding on to Winston “Mankunku” Ngozi’s sax, and I’ve never let go since.
Similarly, my Uncle Winston Ntshona – acclaimed playwright and actor, shared this unrivaled ability to take it to a place where the magic happens. His remarkable stage chemistry with John Kani on what would be the last stage performance, by the original duo of “Sizwe Banzi is Dead” at Market Theatre in 2006, has forever etched an appreciation like no other for the craft and pure artistic expression. However, it was more the one-on-one moments we’d share, where I’d truly be privileged to soak up the essence – malume to mtshana, artist to artist. Further imprinting that we engage at our level of purity, and we love at our level of consciousness. Pure consciousness is where the magic happens – BE PRESENT.
The closure of renowned live music performance venues across the country, such as Kippies, Blues Room, Bassline, The Orbit in Johannesburg and The Green Dolphin in Cape Town, over the years has left a void amongst musicians and audiences alike, way before COVID. The dwindling theatre occupancy isn’t much to write home about either, at a time when the world needs artistic expression more than ever. Storytelling and performance are a vital part of staying human, we need art to remind us why life is worth living and restore a sense of community.
Curating with pure consciousness enables our collective capacity to transcend circumstance, as we turn inwards to create our moments of impact and foster social cohesion. The importance of the celebration, documentation and preservation of South African compositions and works cannot be stressed enough. Many will listen to the South African jazz standard ‘Pata Pata’ – made famous by the late Mama Miriam Makeba – not knowing that’s a Reggie Msomi composition, same goes for ‘Ntyilo Ntyilo’ by Alan Silinga, or ‘Meadowlands’ by Strike Vilakazi, ‘Lakutshon’ ilanga’ by MacKay Davashe… It’s our responsibility, as a collective, to share, collaborate and learn more about our cultural wealth and talent.
Destined to be the premier showcasing ground – “The Winston Stage” will showcase the diversity and depth of the arts through interesting pre-recorded, streamed and limited ticketing live performances in music, theatre and talks all curated at eDikeni Sandton and disseminated to larger audiences through digital platforms, thus augmenting commercial boundaries. Whilst with entertaining elements, “The Winston” will be a stage for artists to explore, share, experiment and showcase new works, pay tributes to other greats with interesting performances and delight with unlikely collaborations… Positioning “The Winston” as the optimism of being able to see beyond though times, through the art of possibility.
Yakhal’ Inkomo – Wamkelekile eDikeni!