04 Jun Young South Africa: Dope Saint Jude | Remixing Identity
Catherine Saint Jude Pretorius by Adam Munro
Catherine Saint Jude Pretorius grew up believing that everyone is entitled to certain basic human rights and this belief – as well as her admirable determination – continues to drive and inform everything she does. Her keen interest in music was also instilled at an early age; she began rapping as a teenager by writing her own lyrics over other artist’s songs. While studying politics and public policy at UCT Catherine founded Cape Town’s first drag king troupe Bros B4 Ho’s as a way to challenge gender norms through performance. Following this trajectory, she now makes music under the moniker of Dope Saint Jude.
Through this persona Catherine comments boldly on race, gender and class and fosters a much needed dialogue around misogyny in mainstream music. In her debut music video for ‘The Golden Ratio’ she sways from the archetypal narrative of a rap video with two female protagonists and two male back-up dancers. Exploring queer identity, self-love and sartorial pride, the music video for ‘Keep In Touch’ feat. Angel-Ho came soon after and was accompanied by a series of gender-stereotype-bending photographs by Chomma.
For the next instalment of our Young South Africa series we found out more from Catherine about using performance to speak about things that society views as taboo and her innate drive to not only make a change in her personal capacity, but to inspire a future generation of change-makers to do the same.
What sort of environment did you grow up in?
I grew up in a very sheltered environment. Even though the area I grew up in was full of crime, drugs and poverty, my parents made sure that my upbringing was unaffected by these elements. I grew up in a typically “coloured” area, in a mixed race family. We were all staunch Catholics. I spent A LOT of time in church as a kid. I also spent a lot of time working in the community, as both my parents were community workers outside of their 9-5.
When did you begin to identify as a human rights activist?
I have always been involved in community upliftment. My mom ran extra lessons for kids in the neighbourhood, from our home, and my dad was fiercely involved in organisations that fed the poor. My parent’s devotion to uplifting our community informed my interest in activism. I grew up believing that we are all entitled to certain basic human rights, and by virtue of this belief, I became and am a human rights activist.
Towards the end of 2010 you conceptualised the character Saint Dude which marked the start of an ongoing dialogue around misogyny in mainstream music, hip hop in particular. Where do your thoughts on this topic stand, 5 years down the line? Has this dialogue changed in any way?
I believe that misogyny is rife not only in hip hop, but in all forms of mainstream culture. My thoughts on the matter have not changed. My approach to fighting misogyny, however, has changed. I have made it my business to create alternative media that reflects a different type of power dynamic, instead of fixating on the critique of misogyny in hip hop.
Saint Dude led directly to the formation of SA’s first drag king troupe Bros B4 Ho’s in 2012 as a way to use performance to challenge gender norms. What were the results of these efforts?
Starting the drag king troupe created a safe space for women to explore their masculinity and made “drag kings” visible in Cape Town, which has a booming drag queen culture. Beyond its effects on the community, being a drag king allowed me to truly understand and experience gender as performance. Saint Dude changed the way I view gender and experience my own gender identity in everyday life.
And now you’re making music as Dope Saint Jude. How do you think a persona or the act of performance can be a helpful tool when communicating ideas that a large portion of society still view as taboo?
Dope Saint Jude is my attempt at luring an audience in on the pretence that I am “safe”, and then hitting them with ideas and notions that put them outside of their comfort zones. Everything I do as Dope Saint Jude is deliberate. I use this character to make commentary on race, gender and class. I understand that the world is aesthetically driven, so I manipulate this to draw people in, and then say things and behave in a way that strongly opposes what one expects. This clash sometimes makes people happy, some people feel uncomfortable. Either way, it forces the audience to think about perceptions of gender, race and class.
You’ve worked with Stephan Steyn and Chris Kets on videos for your #VRYDAGKRYDAG mixtape. Could you tell us more about this project?
The #VRYDAGKRYDAG mixtape is a project I am working on where I drop a track where I rap over a random beat. This track is sometimes accompanied by a video. This is to consolidate my random bursts of inspiration and creativity! I often just want to drop something and #VRYDAGKRYDAG is the space for me to do so informally. I called it #VRYDAGKRYDAG because it is an anti-bullying mixtape. I got the name from my mom, who was beaten up every Friday, as a kid, for being different. The children would chant “vrydag is krydag”. I wanted to reclaim this and make it a thing of power. I was a victim of bullying as a child, so this is something that is very close to my heart. Stephan Steyn works in the capacity of producer for the tracks, and DOP for the videos. Chris Kets was a guest director of a video. I feel honoured to work with both of them.
What drives you to do what you do?
I am driven by a need to make a change. It upsets me that we live in such an unequal society. Pursuing a dream is a privilege that is afforded to very few. I want to change this.
What inspires, influences or informs you creatively?
It is about making commentary. I draw inspiration from movies, books, music, films, articles, interactions and different environments. I really enjoy flipping things on their heads, so I am constantly on the lookout for new inspiration. Witnessing an interaction in a coffee shop could inspire me to create. It is about making meaningful commentary that will make people change the way they engage.
What comes to mind when you hear the words “Young South Africa”?
The words “Young South Africa” bring up words like “hope”, “pain”, “confusion”, “aspiration”. Young people in SA have some hope, but I believe we are confused by what we need to do. We are still carrying the pain of the legacy of apartheid, but we aspire to being great. We are full of angst, but we are so badly trying to make a better place for us to live in.
Who are the young creatives on your radar at the moment?
I admire many of my peers. All the young creatives I have collaborated with are on my radar. I am very inspired by the work of my peers, I know so many young creatives who are making meaningful art.
If you could pass on a single piece of advice to your generation, what would it be?
I would tell the next generation to do everything with love for humanity, and to realise that the work we do is not for us, or for our own glory. It is for the next generation. Also – STAY IN SCHOOL. Even if it is tough. You can do it.
What are you currently working on or working towards?
I am about to record at an EP at RedBull Studios, I am working on my own EP drop. I am working on a fashion collab with Micah Leigh and I am changing my direction in terms of community work.
In 10 years’ time, what do you hope to have achieved?
In ten years’ time I hope to have educated and inspired a generation of change makers.
Dope Saint Jude by Ricardo Marcus K
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