Political activist Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh penned a book and created an album that creatively unpacks the current state of affairs in our troubled democracy.
The 28-year-old chose a dual release of the Democracy and Delusion project in order to reach the youth through a balance of intellect and entertainment, because doing so creates an opportunity to ‘change minds.’
We had a talk with the rapper forward slash author to get an insight into this controversial yet pertinent project.
GQ: How has politics shaped who you are today?
Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh: I grew up in a political time with very political parents. They never sat me down and told me I should get into politics. From a very young age I always respected how they were involved in movements. My mom was leading anti-Apartheid meetings at Wits and my dad was involved in protests and was a very active student leader. I really admired how they spoke up despite the constraints.
GQ: Why are you releasing a book and an album?
SMW: Democracy and Delusion is the culmination of who I am and how I found myself. I was in this rap group called Entity and at the end of high school I went to live in the rural Eastern Cape where I went through rites of passage, and then moved to UCT. It dawned on me that I am a lot of things. I am this mixed race kid and my life is in different compartments. When I went to Oxford to study my master’s I got a chance to think outside the bubble of what people expect of me. Slowly I got this idea that if you could hit people on an intellectual level and an entertaining level you could change their minds. This is the delusional part of my life and me existing in a democracy.
GQ: Who are you targeting with the book and album?
SMW: I am talking to South Africans who feel disappointed with where the country is right now. It does not matter where you come from, but if you’re young you’re going to understand the message. I also realised that just writing a book is not enough to speak to young South Africans. The book is for an older crowd who are already engaging with writings about our politics. The album is the gateway for young people to engage with the ideas in the book. It also works in another way: an older person who may not listen to rap music can also get the album.
GQ: What is your message?
SMW: The youth are disengaged with politics because the politicians do not understand how to talk in a way that will resonate with the youth. Part of the reason is that politicians are not putting in the work to package a message in a way that is cool enough for young people to care.
GQ: Why did you decide to go with 10 myths in the book and how does this come alive in the album?
SMW: I read Science Set Free by Rupert Sheldrake which highlighted the ten dogmas in science. I loved how he dispelled all the notions of what we know science to be. So I took that framework and wanted to show people how bad the situation is in South Africa. There is some hopefulness about it. A lot of solutions have been proposed but it’s up to our generation to do it. In terms of the myths, they are divided into ten chapters in the book and then there are ten songs in the album that go with each myth.
GQ: Which myth do you think is going to hit a nerve?
SMW: The one myth which I’m sure will get people talking is that of the ANC-liberated South Africa. That’s myth seven. Whenever people think things are bad they go, ‘Yes, but we owe everything to the ANC.’ So I investigated this and looked at the early history of the ANC. It shows a lot of conservatism: women were not allowed to be members until 1943; there were petitions to the British government saying that the ANC accepted colonialism and wanted to be like the people who had the vote and fully submitted to their authority. I got all this information via Oxford online resources.
GQ: What point are you making with this myth?
SMW: I’m highlighting that there was a specific time in history during which the ANC became a vehicle for economic liberation, but actually there was also a whole period during which it was a very conservative group. I also look at what leaders are doing now. I show how the ANC is not the only party that uses history to achieve objectives that have nothing to do with the history. Even parties like the DA used this.
GQ: What is your goal with this project?
SMW: My ambition is to change the political conversation among young people. I want people to speak up and step into the political conversation.
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