A story and interview from the MusicianCorps Seattle pilot year.
Another Day Five? Studio time with Monishia Schoeman, International Kennedy Center Fellow.
Monishia Schoeman visited Arts Corps for a week during March 2010 to study and model arts education for youth in her native South Africa. Monishia Schoeman is from Cape Town, South Africa, and works as the Indigenous Arts Administrator of Artscape Theatre Center. She had been selected as a International Kennedy Center Fellow, as part of a Cultural Exchange Visitor Program, which brings emerging international artists to the United States and provides them with instructive and informative experiences in their arts discipline.
Monishia’s time with MusicianCorps was magical and powerful. Monishia is graceful, confident, talented, bold, and brilliantly creative. With the MusicianCorps Fellows, she wrote and recorded a new track called “Hold On Tight.” Lyrics from the song include:
Hold On Tight / Don’t Let It Go / Free Flow Your Story / And Let It Be Told.
After Monishia returned to South Africa, I interviewed her about her time with Arts Corps and the MusicianCorps Seattle Fellows. That interview follows.
JASMINE: What did you think of Seattle?
MONISHIA: It was my second visit to Seattle. I had been introduced in 2005 through an international music workshop experience with the Red Bull Music Academy which was stationed in downtown Seattle. I was five years younger at that time and that had been my first introduction to international travel and the United States. It was very different then as all I did revolved around the Red Bull Academy and music. We never made much contact with the locals.
This time around it was very different. I got to learn a little more about the people, the culture, and the history. Seattle, I was told, is one of the younger states yet I felt it had an old soul. It seemed quiet yet revolutionary. It also seemed a lot less “invaded” by human destruction in relation to some of the other parts of America I’d been to. I was also constantly aware of the diversity of people and on the very few occasions that I went out to a club or live music event, I noticed the cross-section of broken barriers. No stereotypes.
JASMINE: What were the highlights?
MONISHIA: Being with the kids at LIHI and spending some time at SYPP! I loved every moment of my time at LIHI with the kids and Carla. When we met each other for the first time they welcomed me so warmly, I couldn’t believe it! I got a glimpse into what it might be like for me to work with children between the ages of ten and 16, which happens to be the ages I’m hoping to do some work with once we set up Women in Hip Hop.
SYPP really inspired me because I got to sit in on a session with the youth when they were talking about gangsterism and how it affects them and their environment. I got to listen to and compare some stories and experiences of what young people go through with regards to the issue of gang violence and I realised that it’s exactly the same in South Africa; although the political, cultural and historical landscape is different, human perception is more often than not universal because we all feel. I was grateful and honoured to be allowed into the lives of these youth for those precious few hours.
JASMINE: What were the challenges?
MONISHIA: Staying cognisant of the fact that everyone has an individual story and life journey with every single meeting required my most alert and sensitive faculties to be constantly grinding, hahaha! Meeting so many people and having to present myself in blank slate form meant that I was constantly loading information and dumping it somewhere in my memory bank, which was filling fast; and then having to answer questions which were points of interest to people who did not have any previous introduction to me, allowed me to express myself in a way that I do not get to do often enough – and this coming from an avid silent, observing writer, rather than a talker, meant that I was pushing new boundaries within.
As diverse as South Africa is – what with eleven official languages and three times as many cultures – there is a lot less acceptance and inclusion and appreciation or willingness to learn more about each other. We are very segregated because Apartheid is not really dead amongst the people, it has died on paper but lives a healthy existence within the minds of those most negatively affected; living so diversely requires working together and as odd a challenge as this might sound, It was difficult to fathom how relatively integrated people are in Seattle. Coming from being in DC prior to my Seattle visit I was surprised at how different the people are from state to state. Perhaps that alludes to the fact that Africa’s “states” are not united but divided into little countries and so it was like travelling to and from various different countries within a continent where the only commonalities were the official language and the president – that’s what it felt like.
JASMINE: What was most memorable?
MONISHIA: Khatsini’s poem/rhyme was very powerful and inspiring! I was blown away by the fact that such a young woman was able to write and think like that. She reminded me of myself when I was a few years older than her…she is advanced beyond her years and so humble about her skill which is the healthiest route to take for any human being who wishes to inspire positive change “and sometimes rhymes can’t express all parts of my mind…” Khatsini the Great!
JASMINE: What will you take away?
MONISHIA: I have identified the confidence to keep my ideals coming forth into this realm of reality; I have the knowledge that an organization such as Arts Corps exists in real life as an imperfect and powerful non-profit arts entity of progressive, creative and inclusive empowerment.
I’m coming to understand that my perseverance has to pay off and that my failure is success by the mere fact that I’ve been brave enough to embark upon the most daunting adventure however big or small. Human beings are more similar in our requirements than we are different and in my mind there is a lot more unity which consoles me in my attempts to tackle whatever I put my dreams to.
JASMINE: How have you been since?
MONISHIA: I’ve been frustrated since coming back home. A lot of it has to do with the fact that there’s so much inside that I need to channel before I implode, and so finding constructive ways to do that has become a mission. I felt like I was catching up on a month’s work here at home wit so many requests coming from all angles and the demands of catching up at work is an adjustment! I feel like I’ve been on a magical fantasy journey that I now need to translate into the reality of this world. South Africa is ablaze with Soccer World Cup fever and political mayhem; construction is happening everywhere: on the roads, the train stations, airports, every public space is being revamped and the people are paying very heavy taxes for this. All the while the average household is suffering because of food inflation and high electricity tariff, the public school system is in dire striates and the Department of Education is not concerned.
So I feel the pressure to become more constructive in whatever way I can. I want to clone myself to do more with my 24 hour day but change is a slow process. I’m also preparing for a trip to Germany which will happen in May for two weeks where I’ll be working with an organization called Each One Teach One where I’ll be performing and doing music workshops alongside some b-boys and b-girls from Cape Town and other Hip Hop practitioners and social activists. We will stay in touch as we grow individually together.
Peace from Cape Town.