With a late father like renowned visual artist, poet and playwright Matsemela Manaka, and a mother like Nomsa Kupi, a choreographer, actress and African dance pioneer, their son Maakomele had no choice but to heed the artistic call within him and define himself as a gifted poet and lyrical writer.
Maakomele Manaka will be demonstrating his artistic heritage by exhibiting Children of Asazi at Becomo Art Centre in Soweto at the Walter Sisulu Square, in Kliptown from Friday, 20 June until Thursday, 10 July. With its name borrowed from his father’s play about the forced removals of Alexandra, the hopelessness of landless people and the longstanding effects of apartheid, Children of Asazi is a collection of portraits by Manaka and includes various works by his father.
In addition to not charging an entrance fee as Manaka feels this might limit the message he is attempting to get across, the father and son exhibition aims not only to preserve Matsemela’s immense contribution to the arts world globally but also to showcase the incredible talent that is his son Mak. Children of Asazi sees Mak fusing paint and poetry to remind the world that a nation without history and a memory of self, there can be no sense of direction. The audience can expect to see captivating portraits of people that have shaped him as a person, including one of his father.
Mak will be displaying a number of artistic masterpieces, including ones titled Truth, Sunshine,For Her and Roots, complemented by his father’s Operation Hunger, Sleeping Beauty, Deep Thoughts and Spiritual Song, making up the perfect father-son combination.
With South Africa having commemorated Youth Day on Monday, 16 June and the entire month being dedicated to the youth, Mak is a young person leading the struggle to use the arts as a tool for social reinvention.
Opening on Friday, 20 June, which would have been Matsemela’s 58th birthday, the exhibition is set to bridge the gap between the young – who have easily forgotten the contributions of iconic South African figures – and the old that find themselves misunderstanding a youth that has carved a different identity for themselves.
Mak has not only dug deep into his late father’s archives but also into his own past and experience, going back to when he was five and receiving a Young Artist Award at the famous Funda Centre in Soweto.
He followed this up by putting pen to paper and writing poetry at the age of 14, a mere two years after a near fatal accident which left him in a wheelchair for a year and a half. His stage debut saw him performing on crutches in Lugano, Switzerland as part of a tribute to his late father.
With collaborations including the likes of British poet Benjamin Zephaniah and the respected South African poet Dr Don Mattera, Grammy Award-winning American artists Sarah Jones and Steve Coleman and an audience that stretches from Africa to Europe, Mak’s Children of Asazipromises to prick the conscience and provoke the spirit.
Mattera could only utter words of admiration as he described the talent that is Mak, when he poignantly noted: “If genius can be genetically connected and if it flows from generation to generation, then Mak Manaka is the epitome of it. He comes from a dynasty of talented, creative and gifted people Nomsa and Matsemela.”
This was closely echoed by his mother, who added: “As much as people see Matsemela in Mak, they are from two different times and that is reflected in the artworks that will be displayed asChildren of Asazi. They both have different flares yet the one thing that is constant, is the poetry in the art and just how emotive it is. That is definitely one aspect that will stick with those who witness it way after they leave the Becomo Art Centre.”
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