As the year comes to a close, 10and5 invite three local creatives to discuss and reflect on an intense period that saw the unimaginable come to pass. Musician and fine artist Amy Ayanda, film maker and rapper Kyla Philander and writer and illustrator Nas Hoosen reminisce and reveal slices of their lives since January in an intimate conversation. Read through for a recount of highlights, low-lights and life-lessons learnt in 2016.
What did you do in 2016 that you’d never done before?
Nas – Lord. So much. 2016 has been a year of firsts. Last year I got into the Disney/Triggerfish Animation StoryLab screenwriting programme, so this year I got to visit the Disney and Pixar offices in LA and San Francisco. I road-tripped California with my homies Mike Scott and Marc Dey. I moved into my first solo apartment, which has been incredible. I came out as bi. I proposed to someone (we were engaged for like 8 hours and it was weird). And I started illustrating my own weird comics and things, which has led to me being published as an illustrator by my homie Phumlani Pikoli.
I got my first big ad agency job working as a senior copywriter at Native VML, and that’s been about as healthy and incredible an experience as advertising can be. And as I prepare to wrap up the year, I started working on some TV projects as well. Oh and, just to lend this whole list of great things a dose of perspective, 2016 was also the year I was clinically diagnosed with depression for the first time in my life. Woo?
Amy – I gave birth!
What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
Nas – This year was my 28th turn through the cosmos, so I finally got to bid farewell to the ‘dead artist’ zone that I wasn’t quite sure I’d survive. It was hilarious because at 28, I suddenly realized that I’d pretty much been 23 in my head for ages. For the last half decade I’d been living in relation to that version of myself and those 23-year-old desires for myself, and now suddenly I was “almost 30” and a lot of them were coming to fruition. It felt like time condensed and I’d finally caught up to myself. Like, “okay – this is amazing – now what?”
I was lucky this year in that the night before my birthday is also the birthday of the aforementioned Mr. Pikoli. So I kinda crashed his dinner and spent the evening at Kitcheners, surrounded by the people who would – in one way or another – come to play the biggest parts in my life in 2016. I didn’t know it at the time because I was only just meeting some of them but I basically rang in ’28’ with four of my closest friends.
If all goes to plan, 2017’s birthday is gonna be insane so you’re all fucking invited.
Amy – I bought a plant and sat in the garden with my partner, Dean and my little baby. I also got a tattoo. I am 24 years old.
Kyla – I unpacked all my things, everything I own, out of boxes. I had just moved into my new place. My birthday meal was a quarter chicken value meal (hot) from Senhor Calistos that I ate on my lounge floor because I don’t have much furniture. I turned 26.
What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Nas – Surviving. And I don’t mean that as a joke. Despite that long list of successes up top, I have had a pretty rough year emotionally, psychologically, spiritually. My depression was only just diagnosed two months ago, and it came at a time when I had a lot on my plate. But that diagnosis helped me to accept a lot about my life, my history, my family. It helped show me what matters to me and what I want from life.
Obviously an illness is an incredibly taxing and potentially deadly experience, but it really does feel like life’s way of getting us to really engage with how we’ve been hurting ourselves over and over without acknowledging it. I’ve had to learn that while I have so much of what I want in life, I can’t always have everything that I want quite the way I want it. I am worthy of every gift but only in so much as I can look after the person that receives them.
Amy – My solo show at Ground Art Cafe and being announced for Cape Town Electronic Music Festival 2017.
Kyla – Becoming a barista. It forced me to address my own problematic-ass self. My late uncle Virgil Philander once gave me really good advice, he told me “Beano, you take pride in your work, whatever it is you are doing, do it well and you will go far”.
Who was the best new person you met?
Nas – Yoh. This can get problematic fast but look, it’s such a powerful, youthful thing to be able to choose your ‘best’ of anything. It’s braver and more invigorating than backing out so no, I won’t give the Tony Robbins answer of “myself”.
Sorry in advance to everybody else because if you’ve had a place in my life in 2016, then you’ve had a place in my heart. I’m certain you know that I love you and thank you and I’m sorry and please forgive me and and and…
But this one goes out to Oratile Mashazi. I have a stupid amount of faith in people and it can get me into a lot of shit. Ora’s the person in 2016 who’s made me feel like that faith isn’t misplaced. This is despite the disgusting amount of Drake she has played in my presence this year. My friend, your spirit is rare. Your love is sincere. I can’t wait for your music. (And yes, Ora, I know I’m a fool).
Kyla – Shaheen Jacobs saved my life!
Amy – My daughter (lame, I know).
What kept you sane?
Nas – My friends. My sister. My mother. My therapist. And my coven – my Neighbaes in the Ansteys Building who continuously bring the fucking magic. The last few months hit me hard. I was like Wile E Coyote when he smashes into that tunnel entrance that he painted on the canyon wall (that motherfucking Roadrunner!!).
But my friends saved me from straight-up, no-joke, ‘capital d’ Death. I realize this is heavy but I would have literally killed myself if I didn’t realise that I could reach out to the people around me for support. That shit will save your life so learn to ask for it and accept it sooner rather than later.
And drawing. I haven’t drawn this much since I was in high school and it has kept me flowing.
Kyla – Starting treatment for my mental illness LITERALLY kept me SANE. I think there’s so much stigma around treating mental illness which makes it really difficult to even begin to manage on top of all the symptoms.
Amy – My partner and my studio space.
Where did most of your money go?
Nas – Where it always goes: books and food. I buy comics and they dwarf the expense of any silly “Words Only” book you’ve ever purchased. And food, dude, because I’m an average cook and I eat out way too much. But a lot of good restaurants opened in Jo’burg this year so can you fuckin’ blame me?
Kyla – Paying fucking rent in Woodstock – please can an eccentric billionaire just do it instead (just till the end of my lease) or actually GIVE ME LAND YOUS.
Amy – Rent, petrol, food, Mugg & Bean, Artsource, plants.
What dates from 2016 will remain etched upon your memory and why?
Nas – 29 February. The day I visited the Pixar offices.
3 March. Standing beneath the Golden Gate Bridge, knee-deep in ice cold water, throwing a piece of jewelry that a close friend made for me into the bay as part of a ritual she asked me to perform for myself. It was the first time I was getting to see the bridge in person and the whole thing was shrouded in mist, but the moment that necklace hit the water, the mist cleared and I got a good look at that big red cheese from the intro to Full House. You can’t beat that.
2 April. The day I moved into my apartment at Ansteys.
22 August. A good day. A good night.
If I carry on this could probably get exhaustive so I’ll cap it off there, but this year has been good to me.
Kyla – On 2 July 2016 the greatest love affair of all time began when she ran into Marvel at about 1 AM to get out of the rain. ‘Down in the dms’ is blaring out the speakers as they make eye contact in the floor-to-ceiling mirror – freeze-frame titles appear: A LOVE SANS GENERATIONAL WEALTH.
Amy – 22nd of Jan: the birth of Frank!
18th December: We leave for our Holiday!
Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2016?
Nas – Here’s a bunch that all fit together for me: Around March this year a new friend looked at me in this confused, heightened emotional state I was in and she said to me, “Be gentle with yourself”. That stuck with me.
So be gentle with yourself. Look after yourself. Love yourself. Support yourself. Trust yourself. Surround yourself with people who support you, but who are also comfortable criticizing you. Appreciate but ultimately abandon the sycophants or people who are afraid of being themselves in front of you. Learn to tell the difference between your detractors and your supporters. If you feel yourself being dragged into the depths of despair, learn to let go because you may be responsible for the shape of this world but you’re not guilty of ruining it.
Laugh at yourself.
If you want to do something, do that thing. If it’s something huge, you might not be able to finish it all this year, but take the small steps you need to take to get at your goal.
Figure out what you want, acknowledge that you’re worthy of it, then start working towards it. Every small fucking step matters. Everything that trips you up will eventually come to matter less and less.
You are going to die one day and acknowledging that… accepting that will help you stop stalling on your desires, your dreams and on attempting to get through this entire experience as half a person. If you can deal with this one very real thing, you’ll begin to see why it’s important to deal with everything else – the past, the present. Coming to terms with that shit will make your future.
Ask for help.
And abandon your quest to know everything. Abandon your pursuit of knowing. Accept that you do not know. Accept that instead you feel, and that is true knowledge.
Okay, that’s a few lessons so pick the ones you like best, dear reader.
Kyla – I learned to trust myself. I don’t know how to explain the impact that has had on my life but it means so much to me, you have to take my word for it. But I also promise you it’s so valuable.
Amy – Not everything is about you.
Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
Nas – “Ooh, I’m so sick of it here…” x6 from Death From Above 1979’s now decade-point-five years old ‘My Love Is Shared’. Peace out, 2016. You killed Bowie and Prince and Leonard and you’ve been a fucking ‘mare but I’ve learned to love even you.
Kyla – Acting Up by Jeremih
“Girl when your ’bout it
I know it’s over
People around and
You be like, “So what?”
All the cameras on you ’cause you Acting Up”
Amy – “Don’t let me show cruelty
Though I may make mistakes
Don’t let me show ugliness
Though I know I can hate
And don’t let me show evil
Though it might be all I take
Show me love
Show me love
Show me love
Don’t let me think weakly
Though I know that I can break
Keep me away from apathy
While I am still awake
And don’t let me think too long
Of the one I’m bound to face
Show me love
Show me love
Show me love”.
Illustrations by Jonny Smith.