WHY THE NAME BLAQPEARL?
Back in the day I was part of a hip hop group called Insidious Inc. The three males in the group, including my late brother, Mr Devious, all had stage names – of course I also wanted one! So being rarely aware of myself from a very young age (12), I one evening sat up very late and brainstormed my stage name. It had to describe me. Beautiful and proud. My worth and uniqueness as a person (a black pearl in nature is very rare to find and valuable). My social political status in SA context (I wasn’t black nor white, so the shade of the black pearl is a combination of those two, being so-called coloured). The Q in the spelling Blaq Pearl symbolizes my growth and a Nama click sound, reflecting my Khoi heritage.
ON THE TRACK ‘WOMAN TO WOMAN’ YOU COLLABORATE WITH EJ VON LYRIK, EX-GODDESSA MEMBER. CAN YOU SAY SOMETHING ABOUT THE COLLABORATION AND WHAT BROUGHT YOU TOGETHER?
It was ideal to feature EJ Von Lyrik on this track off my album ‘Against All Odds’. She is a talented and skilful artist, with great vocals. She is an empowered woman and inspiring regarding the challenges we as women face in the music industry. We have respect, love and understanding for each other. I also know her for a long time as she use to work with my late brother Mr Devious.
YOUR MUSIC CONTAINS STRONG SOCIAL COMMENT, TOUCHING ON A VARIETY OF TABOO ISSUES. CAN YOU BRIEFLY COMMENT ON THIS?
Yes. This reflects my background, growing up in Mitchell’s Plain, with strong values instilled by my parents. Also being surrounded by social politics and social ills in my community, I couldn’t ignore this reality and always wanted to contribute positively to changing the conditions. I discovered that I have a gift to write and sing. So I use these tools to express and bring about awareness regarding various issues, hopefully leading to solutions for us as the people.
YOU ARE ALSO A SOCIAL ACTIVIST WORKING WITH YOUTH. HOW IMPORTANT ARE THESE ROLES FOR YOU AS AN ARTIST?
Yes, I do work with youth in particular. I transfer life skills/training using music and creative writing as the methodology. Directly I’ve worked and still do with various organisations, with the aim to give youth positive alternatives to cope with the challenges they are faced with. As an artist I think it is easy and important to reach the youth and have a positive impact through music. So I choose to use this approach. The response is good and I feel very passionate about youth and community development.
YOUR WORK HAS A STRONG FEMINIST IMPULSE. HOW IMPORTANT IS THIS TO YOU?
Well, as a woman, I experience first hand some of the challenges we face. Also, working with young women in society (and once I worked with young women in prison through a programme), I see and hear what they go through. I found them not always having the resources to express, heal or change their circumstances. So I like to assist where I can and I don’t mind being a voice for women’s issues and empowerment.
THE VIOLENT DEATHS OF WOMEN MADE HEADLINES RECENTLY. IN THIS, WOMEN’S MONTH, DO YOU THINK WE’RE DOING ENOUGH TO STOP ABUSE AGAINST WOMEN?
Not enough is being done to stop abuse against women. I think we can do more as a nation. Organisations are working hard, but need more support from government and businesses. Communities must also learn to stand together and be proactive in changing things like this that negatively affect our society.
YOU DO A POWERFUL RENDITION OF MR DEVIOUS’S SONG ‘IGNORANCE’.HE WAS YOUR BROTHER, WHO DIED TRAGICALLY.CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR DECISION TO COVER THIS SONG?
Thank you. It is actually a poem. I decided to continue performing it after he passed on. It had such a powerful impact whenever he performed it – people would listen, understand and implement – and the issues that he breaks down in that poem are still so prevalent in society today, sadly. This is nine years after his death. When I perform it, sometimes teachers or individuals in the audience ask me to email it to them afterwards, because they want to share it with others. Which is great! Steps towards consciousness.
YOUR INVOLVEMENT IN AFRIKAAPS, BOTH THE PLAY AND THE FILM, SHOWS YOUR INTEREST IN IDEAS OF LANGUAGE AND IDENTITY. CAN YOU SHARE SOME OF YOUR IDEAS ABOUT CAPE COLOURED IDENTITY?
Growing up and with my social and political influence/background, I tend to have a complex and issue with the term ‘coloured’. I was never comfortable with it. I knew there had to be more to it. The marginalisation and discrimination experienced by myself and others I know just had such negative effects and pain, which didn’t make sense. So I was always on a journey of understanding and healing. I ended up studying and graduating with a BA in Psychology and Linguistics from UWC. That was a step in the right direction. Then I formed part of Afrikaaps and the ‘puzzle’ became more complete…We researched, workshopped, discussed and went deep into the history and current affairs of language and identity. I then even more embraced my heritage as being Khoi San. I feel proud and rooted in culture.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT BEING CALLED AN AFROPOP ARTIST?
Who calls me that?! Hehehe! I’m not sure how I feel about that. What I am sure about is that I am an artist and love creating music, poetry and stories.
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
Many plans! I continue making music, having live performances and plan on releasing a collaboration album. A short documentary/film about my life was just released, titled ‘Life is no Metaphor’, done by four women of the Red Cross Film school in Sweden. I will travel more in Africa and the rest of the world. Currently I am project coordinator at The Ubuntu Academy Cape Town and would like to contribute to making that a success. I want to obtain a doctorate. Of course I intend and continue developing more as a person while I am alive.
Healing, Love, Life!