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with dub-poet and writer Albert Nyathi
February 04, 2011
Full interview with Albert Nyathi - Read
yourself in five words?
Humble, simple, tolerant, unassuming (I suppose), always joyous,
I don't see the reason why I shouldn't be happy.
the best piece of advice you've ever received?
That you should always remain close to the earth - that means down
to earth. I got that from my father, and I think I have tried to
maintain it throughout my journey.
the most ridiculous thing you've ever done?
Plenty. I used to drink before my shows; I was having a show in
Mutare with Yondo sister and others. I was drunk. It was at Sakubva
stadium, it was packed. The crowd was singing the song, and then
when I was reciting the poem, I forgot it. I knew the beginning
of the poem but each time I went for a new stanza I would forget.
The lady next to me would give me the line. I would recite that
line and forget the next . . . and I just couldn't hold it
together. People were saying ‘he's not the one, he's
an impostor!' From that day I stopped drinking before shows.
Now I consider the stage to be my office. My advice to any youngster
is that if you want to be serious, leave beer alone before and during
your work, because the stage is your office. I've never seen
anyone who is serious and who is a success getting drunk going to
is your most treasured possession?
My children, and of course my wife!
do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
I do not like people killing each other. When I hear that people
have killed each other on political grounds it depresses me, particularly
in Africa. I'm very sad about the developments taking place
on our continent. I don't see why we would just decide to
end someone else's life. I really get sad.
have any strange hobbies?
Not quite. I used to play rugby and do karate.
do you dislike most about your appearance?
I used to be handsome.
is your greatest extravagance?
When I saw my wife for the first time, I told her that I would marry
her and I did. I'm the kind of person who loves happiness.
Marriage is my greatest extravagance because I was afraid of it.
I had two incidents that scared me. I remember one where a relative
of mine was always fighting with his wife. That made me think ‘is
marriage like this?' My friend Dumi also scared me. He'd
say ‘Umfazi, a wife, a woman is a problem.' So I had
mixed feelings about marriage. But eventually I thought let me give
it a try, and it was fun.
have you got in your fridge?
There is Pilsner and food for the family to eat.
is your greatest fear?
My greatest wish is to see a united country. My greatest fear is
that if we are not genuinely uniting people, it may be a recipe
for disaster for the future of our country. I'm talking about
40, 50 or 200 years to come. When we are all gone. I'd like
politicians to build a nation that is united.
have you got in your pockets right now?
Money, my driver's license and my bankcard and a few business
is your favourite journey?
When I went to Hawaii in 1999. I was travelling with Imbongi, and
it took three days to get there. It was fun, tiresome though it
was. Meeting Miss Hawaii on the beach, and the guy who performed
as the younger Kunta Kinte. If I had been alone it would have been
boring, but because I was travelling with Imbongi, twelve people,
it was fun.
are your heroes in real life?
Joshua Nkomo. He told me to go to school. He changed my life.
and where were you happiest?
When I performed for Mandela when he officially opened Nelson Mandela
your biggest vice?
were you like at school?
I was naughty. I never liked school at all. I had no reason to like
school. When I grew up there was no role model for me. No inspiration
for me to go to school, school meant nothing. My brothers went to
South Africa to work in gold mines, and brought back something concrete.
They brought money; they'd buy tables, chairs, goats, and
donkeys for ploughing. They'd buy one or two cows and those
cows would give birth and the kraal would grow. So for me it was
practical. Going to school doing all that reading and you don't
see anything coming out. It doesn't work.
are you doing next?
There is a book based on my poem called My Daughter. It's
coming out this year. This book is specifically for children. It's
illustrated for children between the ages of 6 and 15. There are
many rape cases now involving children. That's not right.
You can't talk of consent with kids below the age of sixteen.
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