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Moses Taiwa Molelekwa 17.04.73 - 13.02.01.jpg





Talking of global jazz spirit conductors, foremost African in American jazz letters, and chronicler of Miles Davis and Cecil Taylor, Greg Tate once said to me: " Look, if I were to stage penultimate jazz show in heaven, I would include Hugh Masekela, Bheki Mseleku, The Chairman (Louis Armstrong), Ella Fitzgerald, and Kippie Moeketsi, round it off with the Duke Ellington Orchestra, sit back and watch the angels dance as all of them perform the Afro-Latin love poem, "Angelitos Negros" as an African orchestrated piece." I can't fault him for not including South Africa's best: Lemmy "Special" Mabaso, Jeff Hoojah, Wilson King Force Silgee, Barney Rachabane, Winston Mankunku Ngozi, Churchill Jolobe, Brotherhood of Breadth, Dorothy Masuka, Sathima "Bea" Benjamin, Jonas Gwangwa or the best global jazz formation of the 1990s/early 2000s, ever: Zim Ngqawana,  Moses Molelekwa, Lulu Gontsana, Fana Mokoena, and on vocals has anyone roused the angels like Sibongile Khumalo? South Africa has some of the most gifted jazz visual poets across all disciplines. Artists such as Fikile Magadlela, Thami Myele, David Koloane, and Sam Nhlengethwa, among others. The last ten years, though, have seen Jürgen Schadeberg composing, via their apertures and click-no mkatakata, a body of photographs that are as culturally significant as the music issuing out of the musician's live sets. Siphiwe Mhlambi has proven to be at the forefront of that movement: Photographers as the public's psalmists of the gospel of African Jazz. Through his dogged dedication, collection, and immersing himself within the lives and art of jazz musicians, Mhlambi has achieved something his peers and forebearers are yet to achieve, namely: humanizing and capturing intimate portraits of legends of Our Kind of Jazz that matches the music, trials and tribulations and the South African condition without which there would be no music, period. He is patient and is forever studying and investing in photography even when he is already regarded as a Young Master of Art. His annual jazz exhibition at Rosebank's FotoZA has become a welcome part of the South African cultural calendar, often with little sponsorship, if at all. Selfless photographers like Mhlambi will eventually perish if they continue without significant institutional support or government intervention. I am writing here as a music historian, photography curator, biographer, and fan of Mhlambi's dedication to putting the country's visual and musical heritage on the global map.

I have also seen how he empowers youth and women photographers and artists through his self-funded mentorship programs. When he approached me to collaborate with him on this application and exhibition, the first open-air jazz of its scale in the country, I could not have been more inspired by a better project. No one deserves your support and material, economic and intellectual support than Mr. Mhlambi. As I write this, I'm complete in spirit, knowing we do not have to wait for South Africa's dearly departed innovators to be included in an American Jazz Festival in heaven, for Mhlambi has taken the full responsibility to stage a parallel photography and live show that will create jobs and stimulate the cultural the economy in ways unseen prior for a photographer.

Seeing Visions
Jazz Voices

Bongani Madondo (African Correspondent of "Aperture," author and curator of the Ray Chikapa Phiri Photo exhibition, author of "I'm Not Your Weekend Special: The Art, Life, Style & Politics of Brenda Fassie. (Picador Pan Macmillan) and other books.

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