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Photo courtesy of Boskasie

Cape Town's Boskasie Wants Everyone to Know Her Story

The eclectic soul singer discusses embracing natural hair as a form of challenging Western beauty ideals, her diverse music influences and her new single that's about to drop

Growing up, Boskasie's Sundays were filled with the fragrances of home cooked Cape Malay dishes and a soundtrack of George Benson, Hugh Masekela, Abdullah Ibrahim, Gypsy Kings and the carnival sounds of "Ghoema"—sounds and flavours that still influence her music today.

Born Nicole Davy, Boskasie hails from the Cape Flats but grew up partly in the Netherlands and is now based in Johannesburg. She comes from a musical family with a trumpeter mother and a father who is a vocalist and guitarist in the Boys Brigade. While still in high school, Boskasie represented both her state and South Africa nationally in hip-hop dancing.

As a teenager she taught herself to play guitar before she began composing her own songs. Her debut EP Memoirs was released in 2016 shortly followed by her hit single, the hypnotic and silky "Weak in Love," and two other songs, all airing on radio stations across South Africa. Her talent swiftly caught the attention of the Cape Brewing Company who signed her on as an ambassador and invited her to collaborate with internationally recognised artists Spoek Mathambo and Die Heuwels Fantasties on the theme song for the company's 'Be Independent' campaign.

Beyond her artistic pursuits, Boskasie graduated university in 2015 with a degree majoring in Psychology and Anthropology, she is also a trained counselor further drawing on these everyday experiences in her art. Two years since her last single was released, Boskasie has formed her own band with whom she's about to drop her new single. I caught up with Boskasie via phone from Mexico City.


This interview has been edited for length and clarity

What's the significance behind the name Boskasie?

"Boskasie" means bushy hair in Afrikaans. The initial inspiration behind choosing this name, was to be an advocate for natural hair and dismantling the very harmful image that's deeply entrenched in so many minds, the idea that we need to conform to western standards of beauty to become something in this world. On a more personal level, it's also about revealing my truth, being true to my roots and my deep seeded mixed heritage which includes Khoi-san.

When I perform overseas one day, I want people to ask me what my name means or how to pronounce it, so that every person who wants to know, will know my story and my people.


You were born in Cape Town but spent most of your teenage years in The Hague before returning to South Africa to finish your tertiary studies and work. What was your experience like growing up in the Netherlands and returning to South Africa? How did this impact you personally and as an artist?

Growing up in the Netherlands was one of the greatest and most complex experiences in my life—in hindsight it helped challenge my identity. I asked myself what it meant to be African, having spent years growing up in Europe being a proud African, often feeling culturally isolated there and then having to endure the emphasis on interpretation and classification of race when I moved back to South Africa. This really affected my reintegration back home and made me question my identity as a whole.

I'm grateful for these experiences, because at such a young age, it opened my mind and my soul to certain realities. Years later, it gave me the confidence to explore my thoughts and views of the world through my writing and then through my song writing. In a sense, helping me find my place in the world.

Musically speaking—living in the Netherlands and attending an international school there, through sharing music amongst my peers, I was exposed to a range of different sounds including alternative/indie music which I've carried through and has influenced my own style.

I've read a previous article describing your music as eclectic soul. How would you describe your musical style?

My musical sound is eclectic and my lyrics are soulful. Although my style will evolve over time, I'll always maintain a fusion of sounds.

Photo courtesy of Boskasie

You write your own lyrics. Which artists have influenced your sound?

When I was younger, my parents would play a lot of Jazz music in the house. South African artists like Judith Sephuma, Abdullah Ibrahim, Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela were some of my favourites. Their music has had an everlasting effect on me. A combination of these early musical influences and later influences including, Erykah Badu, India Arie, Sade, Norah Jones, Lianne La Havas, Zaki Ibrahim and Solange have shaped me as an artist.

I want to take the listener on a journey, a healing experience - similar to the way my childhood musical giants impacted me. With a combination of genius melodies and precious stories told through their songwriting.

You dropped your debut single "Weak in Love" in 2016 as an independent artist. Fast forward to 2018, you now have a band and you're working on new music. How did this new incarnation evolve?

I spent my first few years of performing at open mic gigs and doing solo shows with my guitar. After a while this became lonely. I always dreamt of having a band on stage with me, sharing in the fun and energy. Eventually, I started experimenting with a DJ playing my tracks while I performed without my guitar. The experience was different from what I was used to, but collaborating with other musicians felt like a natural progression for me, which led to the addition of the band. My band adds a more dynamic element to my sound. It's allowing me to explore different depths within my music, which helps my creativity thrive. I'm excited by this new stage and seeing how it evolves over time.


What's your thoughts on the current music-scape in South Africa? What does Boskasie add to the mix?

I think the music scene in South Africa is expanding which is great to see. However, we still have a long way to go in terms of genre recognition and appreciating more than just the mainstream—all in due time though… Boskasie brings Boskasie.

What's next on the horizon for Boskasie?

My next single is about to drop in late September and it'll be accompanied by a music video. It's been two years since I've released a track, a labour of love well worth the wait. I'm not going to say much about it, it's a surprise! I'm also working with my band on refining a sensational repertoire we'll perform at festivals and shows for the remainder of 2018 and beyond.

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Artwork: Barthélémy Toguo Lockdown Selfportrait 10, 2020. Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co

1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair Goes to Paris in 2021

The longstanding celebration of African art will be hosted by Parisian hot spot Christie's for the first time ever.

In admittedly unideal circumstances, 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair will be touching French soil in 2021. The internationally celebrated art fair devoted to contemporary art from Africa and the African diaspora will be hosted in Paris, France from January 20 - 23. With COVID-19 still having its way around the globe, finding new ways to connect is what it's all about and 1-54 is certainly taking the innovative steps to keep African art alive and well.
In partnership with Christie's, the in-person exhibits will take place at the auction house's city HQ at Avenue Matignon, while 20 international exhibitors will be featured online at Christies.com. And the fun doesn't stop there as the collaboration has brought in new ways to admire the talent from participating galleries from across Africa and Europe. The fair's multi-disciplinary program of talks, screenings, performances, workshops, and readings are set to excite and entice revelers.

Artwork: Delphine Desane Deep Sorrow, 2020. Courtesy Luce Gallery


The tech dependant program, curated by Le 18, a multi-disciplinary art space in Marrakech medina, will see events take place during the Parisian run fair, followed by more throughout February.
This year's 1-54 online will be accessible to global visitors virtually, following the success of the 2019's fair in New York City and London in 2020. In the wake of COVID-19 related regulations and public guidelines, 1-54 in collaboration with Christie's Paris is in compliance with all national regulations, strict sanitary measures, and security.

Artwork: Cristiano Mongovo Murmurantes Acrilico Sobre Tela 190x200cm 2019


1-54 founding director Touria El Glaoui commented, "Whilst we're sad not to be able to go ahead with the fourth edition of 1-54 Marrakech in February as hoped, we are incredibly excited to have the opportunity to be in Paris this January with our first-ever fair on French soil thanks to our dedicated partners Christie's. 1-54's vision has always been to promote vibrant and dynamic contemporary art from a diverse set of African perspectives and bring it to new audiences, and what better way of doing so than to launch an edition somewhere completely new. Thanks to the special Season of African Culture in France, 2021 is already set to be a great year for African art in the country so we are excited to be playing our part and look forward, all being well, to welcoming our French friends to Christie's and many more from around the world to our online fair in January."

Julien Pradels, General Director of Christie's France, said, "Christie's is delighted to announce our second collaboration with 1-54, the Contemporary African Art Fair, following a successful edition in London this October. Paris, with its strong links to the continent, is a perfect place for such a project and the additional context of the delayed Saison Africa 2020 makes this partnership all the more special. We hope this collaboration will prove a meaningful platform for the vibrant African art scene and we are confident that collectors will be as enthusiastic to see the works presented, as we are."


Artwork: Kwesi Botchway Metamorphose in July, 2020. Courtesy of the artist and Gallery 1957


Here's a list of participating galleries to be on the lookout for:

Galleries

31 PROJECT (Paris, France)
50 Golborne (London, United Kingdom)
Dominique Fiat (Paris, France)
Galerie 127 (Marrakech, Morocco)
Galerie Anne de Villepoix (Paris, France)
Galerie Cécile Fakhoury (Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire/ Dakar, Senegal)
Galerie Eric Dupont (Paris, France)
Galerie Lelong & Co. (Paris, France / New York, USA)
Galerie Nathalie Obadia (Paris, France / Brussels, Belgium)
Galleria Continua (Beijing, China / Havana, Cuba / Les Moulins, France / San Gimignano, Italy / Rome, Italy)
Gallery 1957 (Accra, Ghana / London, United Kingdom)
Loft Art Gallery (Casablanca, Morocco)

Luce Gallery (Turin, Italy)
MAGNIN-A (Paris, France)
Nil Gallery (Paris, France)
POLARTICS (Lagos, Nigeria)
SEPTIEME Gallery (Paris, France)
This is Not a White Cube (Luanda, Angola) THK Gallery (Cape Town, South Africa) Wilde (Geneva, Switzerland)

For more info visit 1-54

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