Thabiso Nkoana & Pule Welch | Research TripSwitzerland | Multi-Disciplinary
December 2022 - January 2023 — Multi-Disciplinary
Col.Aboration is an interdisciplinary, multimedia collaboration between South African artists Thabiso Nkoana (poet/musicologist), Pule Welch (linguist/rapper) and Thabiso Phepeng (artist/graphic designer) who is currently based in Zurich. The project, which explores ideas of connectivity, lineage and Afrocentricity through a process-oriented approach, began with a three-piece series titled Black Lines Matter which debuted at Black Art Matters in Zurich.
During their research trip in Zurich from 26 November 2022 to 6 January 2023, the three artists will reconnect to meet with Swiss artists to exchange ideas in order to find ways to expand the project further. The artists explain, “Col.Aboration speaks to society, culture and the positionality of African artists in local and global economies. It questions the often-binary view of heritage, language and culture. The budding movement seeks to explore the connections or connectivity of humans of African descent through international exchange and collaboration in the arts.”
The project experiments with new possibilities and formats for artistic production, exchange, collaboration, presentation and reception. The primary contributors see this as a way to respond to the varied demands of current times, the new normal so to speak.
Thabiso Nkoana is a poet, music producer and musicologist. As a musicologist he focuses on the digital repatriation of African music from archives, for the benefit of communities of origin and African artists in general. The main goal of the current research is to encourage the reimagination of cultural and traditional African music as a form of the propagation and preservation of indigenous knowledge. As a poet, Thabiso juxtaposes poetry, free-verse and rhyme, with prose, to explore subjects such as class, race, gender and politics. His work can be described as postmodernist; often free of form and meant to reflect the process of thought or organic speaking through a stream of consciousness style. Thabiso is the 2013 and 2015 In Zync Poetry Slam Winner. Again in 2013, he was a Lingua Franca Poetry Slam finalist, Zabalaza Festival Best Poetry Performance Winner, Open Book Festival Slam Finalist and a featured poet at the international, spoken word, collaboration festival Tongue Fu. As the poet and rapper of the Addis Ababa Assembly, Thabiso also brings his brand of unapologetic poetry to this Cape Town based ensemble that specialises in the fusion of Pan-African music with urban sounds. Having recited poetry for the past seventeen years, Thabiso’s work deals with all aspects of the human condition, which are multifaceted and at times contradictory; it is often confrontational, humorous and particularly lyrical.
Pule Welch is a researcher in indigenous linguistics, a scholar of cultural history of Southern African speech practice, as well as an advocate of the writing systems of the continent, such as IsiBheqe SoHlamvu. His work is through the verbal arts as a speaker, writer, and an actor in the theatre or television. His MA research encompasses cryptolects or secret forms of speech. His major advocacy work includes linguistic consultancy foregrounding marginal language practice and travelling as a speaker to introduce the subject of technologies of writing of the continent promoting the IsiBheqe SoHlamvu (Ditema tsa Dinoko) featural syllabary as a system of more accurately representing local language forms which is outside the colonial processes. Ditema tsa Dinoko, also known by its IsiZulu name, Isibheqe Sohlamvu, is a constructed decolonial Southern African writing system designed for the siNtu languages (for example, for Sesotho, SeTswana, IsiZulu, IsiXhosa, SiSwati, SiPhuthi, XiTsonga, EMakhuwa, ChiNgoni, SiLozi, or TshiVenḓa). It is developed from antecedent ideographic traditions of the Southern African region. Its visual appearance is inspired by the traditional litema arts style. The Ditema / Isibheqe syllabary has the capacity to represent the full phonological range of the siNtu languages consistently under one orthography. Pule’s views on linguistic typology are meronomic rather that taxonomic, meaning he does not see language as separable into units called “languages” but rather engages the idea of Language as a being part of social studies by saying: the naming of languages is a way of creating hierarchy that is not present in Language itself. Under this view, the writing system is also a political tool for cultural unity across the region through a single shared literacy, and the promotion of nonstandard language practice is a creative methodology.
Thabiso Phepeng is a South African artist who has been based in Zurich, Switzerland since 2014. He uses a combination of postmodern African art, abstract expressionism and graffiti influences. The mix of influences has refined a style reflected in his work through the intense focus on process as opposed to working towards a pre-planned result. Thabiso started making art at the young age of 11 at the Mmabana Arts and Cultural Centre before going on to study fine art (NDip) at the Tshwane University of Technology (Pretoria, South Africa) in 1999. In his ongoing practice he draws inspiration from his experiences, surroundings, living space, relationships and family.