Image: Illustration: Simphiwe Mbana

Recently, at the Venice Biennale, I launched my first book, Globalisto: A Philosophy in Flux. Acts of an Imbizo, thanks to the wonderful people at the Musée d’art moderne et contemporain - Saint-Étienne and its director, Aurélie Voltz. The book was a continuation and culmination of a vast project, articulated at an exhibition I had curated, inviting artists such as Sammy Baloji, Raphaël Barontini, Marie Aimée Fattouche, Sam Gilliam, Porky Hefer, Lubaina Himid, Arthur Jafa, Euridice Zaituna Kala, and many others.

At the symposium, I involved philosophers, writers, curators, and activists such as Achille Mbembe, Norman Ajari, Christine Eyene, Elvan Zabunyan, Jamika Ajalon, Amal Alhaag, Elsa M’Bala, Pascale Obolo, N’Goné Fall, and the Piment collective. These amazing artists from around the world, along with a group of researchers, evoked Black aesthetics and proposed an alternative vision of a world without borders.

The Venetian air was thick with the aroma of old stone and fresh aspirations as I breezed into the world’s oldest biennale. With enigmatic photographer Sabelo Mlangeni by my side, I snagged a sneak peek of the Biennale before it opened — a canvas of global narratives that hadn’t yet been revealed to the eager public eye, catching a privileged early glimpse before bumping into Brazilian curator Adriano Pedrosa.

My days spiralled into a cultural whirlwind: DJing at Dread Scott’s conceptual artwork All African People’s Consulate, MCing at the British Pavilion for artist and filmmaker John Akomfrah, and DJing at a Flaunt Magazine party with the Benin Pavilion (thwarted by ministerial disapproval). I capped it off at conceptual artist Julien Creuzet’s opening at the French Pavilion, reconnecting threads of a past collaboration at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris. Amid this frenzy of art and expression, I often paused, marvelling at the surreal journey that had whisked me from Limpopo to the heart of international artistry.

I remember as a child devouring the books of DH Lawrence, his words painting the sophisticated sensitivity a man could embody, transcending the rigid confines of conventional masculinity and cultural identity. Inspired, my style became a nod to this very transcendence, a fluid, dynamic exposé of what it means to break free from the chains of prescribed roles and step into a realm where identity is not just inherited but actively created. Here, in the mingling of textures and eras, I craft my identity — an ever-evolving tale of who I am and who we might all become.

Thrust deep into London’s chaotic punk vortex when post-apartheid transitionalism was in full effect, I found myself on stage in a band called Weapons garbed in skin-tight jeans and smudged eyeliner, a renegade creator amid the cacophony, birthing DIY merchandise stained with the relentless reek of bleach. While I was weaving through this frenzied tableau, my cohort Georgia was hitched to none other than Damian Taylor — the maestro behind the haunting sonic landscapes of Björk, an elusive phantom in my punk-infused reveries. Yet, as the punk echoes waned, my artistic cravings sought new vistas.

Years later in Paris, alongside a designer comrade, we birthed the Globalisto Collection, a sartorial rebellion steeped in Afrofuturism and the epic tale of Yasuke, an African captive reborn as a samurai in the land of the rising sun. This apparel was a clash of cultures, a narrative stitched in delicate threads, echoing the saga of Indonesian prints.

My style became a nod to.... a fluid, dynamic exposé of what it means to break free from the chains of prescribed roles and step into a realm where identity is not just inherited but actively created.

These patterns, once the spoils of African soldiers stationed in Indonesia, became wives’ treasures back home, spun by Dutch weavers into what the world now dubs Dutch prints — or, with a twist of historical irony, African prints. Landing in Paris was like being the Earth smacked by a celestial Parisian asteroid — full-on cosmic chaos. I stormed onto the scene, a comet blazing from South Africa through London, now the pulsating MC of the dynamic DJ-producer duo Radioclit.

My companions? Bacardi house maestro DJ Mujava and the eclectic Diplo, crafting beats that stitched the continents together with a thread of techno. This was long before amapiano was born or even conceived. Paris, with its reputation for frosty welcomes, was warm to my foreign vibrations. The night was my realm, the neon-lit Social Club my throne, my home. Here, the air vibrated with the future sounds of the underground, and I was right at its pulsing, electric heart. DJing alongside the prodigious Brodinski — before he spun gold for Kanye West — I felt the deck’s power surge through me.

Onstage, the mic was my sceptre. I traded lyrical jabs with Joey Starr of NTM, the titan of French rap, our words slicing through the thick air of electro beats. And there, like a conductor of some wild electric orchestra, was Busy P — Pedro Winter himself. This ex-manager of Daft Punk and the founding genius behind Ed Banger Records controlled the decks with a master’s touch, orchestrating a symphony of sounds from Justice to Cassius. In this frenetic nexus of beats and rhymes, I was more than just a participant — I was a creator, a disruptor, a force of nature.

Each night, a new epic. Each beat, a fresh narrative woven into the expansive tapestry of Parisian nightlife. The city, with all its lights and shadows, became a canvas for my sonic exploits, with each stroke of syncopated beats new trends were set to become lifelong memories, the soundtracks of our lives. Here, in the city of light, I wasn’t just living, I was alive, electrifying, exploding. Paris didn’t just welcome me; it embraced me, celebrated me and, in return, I set its nights ablaze.

Mo Laudi is multi-disciplinary artist, curator, writer, Stellenbosch University research fellow, and DJ-composer.

© Wanted 2024 - If you would like to reproduce this article please email us.