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Umlilo | Residency

Switzerland | Multi-Disciplinary © SJ Photography

January - April 2022 — Multi-Disciplinary

Residency partner

Villa Sträuli

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South African multidisciplinary artist Siya Ngcobo aka Umlilo will be an artist in residence at Villa Strauli in Winterthur, Switzerland from 15 January to 15 April 2022.

Isambulo (The Revelations) is a multi-dimensional project that deals with grief, the Covid-19 pandemic and healing arts practice. During their residency, Umlilo plans to interview artists living and working in Zurich to explore ideas of artistic vulnerability and identity. The project is framed by two key questions arising from the artist’s experience living and creating in the South African context: “What have you had to sacrifice in order to survive in this pandemic” and “What message of healing would you deliver to your artistic future self in the form of music, art, photography or video?”. Through this inquiry, Umlilo hopes to learn how these questions shape Zurich-based artists’ lived realities. Umlilo explains, “The things we sacrifice in order to stay alive or make art or pursue a dream become huge components in the formation of our identities in art and life. This is so indicative of a specific queer African narrative and would be interesting if projected onto artists on the other side of the world.”

These interviews will be recorded, and provide the source material for a new digital art, music and performance work. Identity will take centre stage in the live performance, where Umlilo looks to present an inclusive and intersectional view of shared artistic experiences between Johannesburg and Zurich. They hope to instigate public dialogue around the work through an accompanying interactive exhibition and digital imprint. “Art is a powerful tool to change people’s perceptions and minds,” Umlilo explains, “With identity being the centre of this project, we hope to be able to present this work in a way that transcends the current cultural experiences of LGBTI South Africans.”


Intergalactic shape-shifting kwaai diva Umlilo is a genre and gender-bending multi-disciplinary artist and regular fixture in the international music community. The queer performer/music producer’s signature sound dubbed ‘future kwaai’ explores and pushes the boundaries of electronic kwaito, gqom, house, hip hop and alt-pop music rooted in contemporary South Africa. Umlilo merges an avant-garde aesthetic with technology, visual art, dance, film and fashion design. They have released two acclaimed visual EP’s that have been playlisted worldwide, received over 100 000 streams online and featured across film, art, literature, fashion and music platforms.

In 2017, Umlilo took their sound international with tours in North and South America and Europe with rap duo Stash Crew. Umlilo has released two EP’s ‘Shades of Kwaai’ and ‘Aluta’ available on Apple Music, Amazon and most online music platforms. The EP was playlisted all over the world in countries such as Australia, Canada, Japan, France and the USA. The debut single Living Dangerously off Umlilo’s first EP ‘Shades of Kwaai’ was named one of Rolling Stone SA Magazine’s hottest singles of the month for May 2013 and featured in the film While You Weren’t Looking. Magic Man, the first single off Aluta with a music video directed by Jasyn Howes debuted as part of Vitra Design Museum’s travelling exhibition titled “Making Africa: A Continent of Contemporary Design”. It travelled all over Europe from Germany, Switzerland to Bilbao, Barcelona. It is also featured in a worldwide film exhibition and coffee table book “Seismographic Sounds: Visions of a New World”. The follow-up single and music video Chain Gang was nominated for 6 Mercedes Benz Bokeh Fashion Film Awards. Umlilo featured as one of the queer artists in I-D documentary Out of This World with Mykki Blanco and has been a 1Beat fellow with the US State Department. Umlilo has also released a single Emoyeni in collaboration with Sean K from Namibia through an ANT Mobility grant.

Upcoming maintenance work

The application portal myprohelvetia will be updated from 1.1.-7.1.2024. Due to these changes, open applications must be finalized and submitted via the current online portal (myprohelvetia.ch) by the latest 23:59 on 31 December 2023. Until this date, the deadlines and criteria outlined in the current guidelines and calls for applications apply. New applications can be created and submitted in the application portal as of 8 January 2024.