Castle Lite celebrates hip hop's multifaceted history by uniting the movement’s foremost female forces on one stage
Words: Jabulile Dlamini-Qwesha | Creative Director: Gabrielle Kannemeyer | Photography: Niquita Bento | Hair: Yonela Makoba | MUA: Zipho Ntloko
Until it is a myriad of perspectives that shape our collective truth, we'll continue to have a flat view of the world's landscapes.
A large part of the outlook we have is shaped by words – which often include us all too much in a sweeping, generalised style, or exclude us completely. In an age in which marginalised voices are able to hold the spotlight in the centre of various stages and representation is in focus, it becomes all the more important to understand how a storyteller's identity informs their narrative. Since its birth in the 70s, hip hop has been a way in which identities have been conveyed in sound, words, movement, style and art.
Crossing over the seas from its point of origin, hip hop no longer just captures the zeitgeist of youth in the Bronx, but continues to be reshaped by its evolving custodians across the world. In 2018, this naturally leads us to a point where the celebration of the whole is pivotal to the culture's next stage of evolution. An event like Castle Lite’s #HIPHOPHERSTORY is that much more impactful as a turning point of the narrative as we know it. Shifting our gaze to the forces in South African hip hop that have long flown under the radar, Castle Lite is bringing us our first-ever all-women lineup in Africa. An immersive musical experience, the event has the goal of celebrating and highlighting every aspect of women’s contribution to the movement through their own lens. Taking place at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand on the 8th of September, the lineup includes Young MA, Godessa, Moozlie, Relo, Rouge, Gigi Lamayne, Dope Saint Jude, Nadia Nakai and many other faves. The hosts will be South Africa’s leading lady in hip hop Loot Love, as well as the OG who paved the way for many greats: Lee Kasumba and Angela Yee of The Breakfast Club fame.
And because it’s a moment to explore the full spectrum of women’s impact on the scene, Castle Lite has also partnered up with a number of influencers who have been changing the game from the outset until now. On the set of this editorial, we got a chance to chat to four fire-starters from that list: filmmaker Zandi Tisani, dancer Bontle Modiselle, musician Dope Saint Jude and graphic designer Karabo ‘Poppy’ Moletsane on the importance of owning your journey.
Zandi Tisani is a film director, photographer and stylist... who also let slip that she DJs at times, during our chat. Citing hip hop as her gateway to popular culture, she has created SAFTA-winning content, directed Superbalist’s Show Them TVC and boasts a body of work that challenges our imaginations through an impeccable visual composition. “The more you project your truth, the more you recognise its impact and its value”, Zandi speaks with the affirmation that comes with seeing your vision come to life. “We miss out on the opportunity to understand things from a different perspective when we marginalise voices. The value of owning your perspective and taking up space accordingly is that it helps everyone get a broader understanding of themselves and the world around them. The most rewarding thing about that, for me, is when I look at work that I’ve made and it feels like me. That has been very satisfying – to know that my vision is valid even within collaborative spaces. It’s taught me to be more confident about my point of view, knowing that it’s real and can be manifested and shaped into all kinds of things.”
Illustrator, street artist and graphic designer Karabo ‘Poppy’ Moletsane says that she has learnt to be proud of her narrative through engaging with hip hop. “Finding stories that resonate with me and hit close to home within hip hop has made the movement influence the way I put my work and even personal aesthetics together. I think that it’s important to have people to look up to, and stories that inspire you. I know it would have been easier for me – coming up – if I had seen more (women) with the same narrative as I do, doing what I do. So, it’s that much more essential for me to be that example to other young girls and have them know that this is possible for them. And seeing that young women already relate to what I do, even through my travels, lets me know that our stories don’t just shift the needle where we are, they do so for people in places we don’t even know.”
Getting an introduction to hip hop and street dance during her high school days, dancer, choreographer, actress and TV presenter Bontle Modiselle is a force that moves through the scene with no bounds. Whether she is collaborating with artists to bring their stage or music video performances to life or lighting up our television screens, she brings through an undeniable authenticity through her work. “Self awareness has been an important catalyst to how I’ve activated different facets of my creative expression. It took time to get there; and being patient with that process allows you to give so much more to your craft – you rarely lose the intended meaning of what you put out there. The boundaries of who you are, what you’re able to do, whose life or mind you’re able to impact, influence or change in this culture are limitless. You just need to to take time out to tune your voice to whatever allows your art and truth to speak loudest.”
Defined by her rebellious spirit, musician and creative Dope Saint Jude uses her art to create the spaces in which she can exist without restriction. While it is her rapping and emotive visual offerings that we get to see the most, experiencing her on the decks at the concert will be refreshing. And we hear it from the grapevine that she might join Godessa onstage... In a conversation about what informs her intent to create, Dope Saint Jude stresses that it’s important for her to be in a space where she feels like an equal. “Being able to know that I can exist in this space on my terms has been fulfilling. I know that because I run my own business and am in charge of my own sh*t I can buy property one day and do a lot of things that the women in my family couldn’t do. So, it’s crucial for me to be here as an equal. It takes a lot to get there, but the idea is freeing.”