JOHANNESBURG: Andy Mkosi’s story is that of hard work, perseverance and determination. The multi-disciplinary artist and photographer has through commitment transformed her passion into a way of life. For her, destiny knows no colour, gender or ethnicity.
Having grown up in the townships of Cape Town, South Africa, the 29-year-old Mkosi’s story is true testament that it is not where you come from, but it’s where you are going that counts. In this profile, Republic Mail‘s Thando Nondywana features a soaring talent who was not raised with a silver spoon but is living her dream.
Where it all started
Growing up in the Xhosa communities in Cape Town, Mkosi, the eldest of two children moved between Gugulethu where she was born, and Langa Township where she spent much of her teenage years in high school.
Mkosi describes her years in Kwa Langa as the place that immensely cultivated her mind and contributed to her character- allowing her to formulate her views and opinions about life. It was the moments at her grandmother’s house that seemingly stuck with her and eventually led her to pursue the creative industry. She recalls the yearning desire and intrigue every time she and her cousins camped in front of the grey and white television set watching movies.
“When the movie credits would roll up on the screen, I would go crazy. I would imagine my name being part of it. I didn’t know what that looked like; I didn’t know if that was cinematography. I knew nothing but I knew that I wanted to be part of whatever that was,” she explains.
Today, Mkosi has built a reputable brand as an audiovisual artist that doubles as a lyricist, music producer, rapper, and photographer who is consciously on a quest to use her storytelling to evoke and change perceptions through imagery, multimedia, or her mellow sounds.
Her works have been featured and showcased in several art galleries in Cape Town and Johannesburg (JHB), her passion in documenting the housing system in South Africa, black queer communities as well as Gender-Based Violence (GBV) are some of the common threads in her work.
She describes her photographic style as “fly on the wall”. She says her work is formed by the many layers she got introduced to during her days working at the Bush Radio community station, where she dealt with social justice issues that conscienced her and sharpened her voice –something which she credits for the way her career turned out.
“Radio formed that voice and it has become second nature in everything I do,” Mkosi says as she peeps through the window.
“Whether I am documenting opulence or groove, I love observing people and making images of people without them having posed or noticing me making those images.”
The bubbly photographer’s work is inspired by her life and the interactions she has made all the while trying to find her balance.
“I try as much as possible not to be influenced by people’s perceptions, about topics specifically. More especially now in my life. I am conscious and intentional when choosing things that fit what I think I subscribe to and which I stand for and not what the crowd is prone to,” she said.
Merging Photography with Music
In 2017, Mkosi released her sophomore extended play album titled This Audio Is Visual that featured a lyric book that had images that translated the message of each song on the E.P. The eight track album influenced with upbeat jazzy and funky melodies saw Mkosi collaborate with several creatives from the Mother City who brought her version to life.
“It was at a time I was tussling with the idea of being a photographer and a musician at the same time,” she explains.
“It felt like it was two worlds that couldn’t live together as one at the time. But I was having a lot of conversations with Mam’ Lindiwe Qampi who made me realize that I could merge the two mediums and that they don’t have to exist as islands,” she said.
Mkosi traces her earlier musical journey back to her family home where she grew up to scenes of family members playing music. But it was T’bo Touch’s Hip hop show on Metro FM she took notice of.
“My mother had a Hi-fi (Portable Radio) that had a cassette player and I would record the songs that played. During the week I would practice them over. I even had a lyric book where I wrote the lyrics,” she recalled.
“I started attending cyphers trying to understand the South African hip hop culture and who were the game changers…. and that is how I came across people like Driemaskap, who were the cream of the crop of Hip hop in Cape Town,” she says, adding that it was her transition to high school where she started writing her own lyrical content.
When she started spending a lot of time in the studio and writing more, she formed part of a duo, Mellow Version, with friend Michael where they performed and made boom bap Hip hop in Langa.
“My formative years of making music were always fun because they were based on challenging myself, for self and the skill, and the love of what you are doing,” she says.
“From there I started to form my sound which I am still configuring till this day, I have developed and became my own artist in my own form.”
Mkosi who has released three E.Ps has toured South Africa and shared her music on Bedroom tours in 2017 which started in Cape Town before making rounds in Johannesburg. The tour featured intimate performances of Mkosi and her band live in the home setting of her followers. The tour made prompt performances in Germany and Lesotho.
Talking about some of her passion projects she led in Cape Town. It is evident how her work extends beyond her lens or love for music.
“I felt there were not a lot of platforms that were putting on Hip hop artists of my calibre or age group at the time,” she says about the idea behind Jam-that-session. It involved different themes and music that accommodated various crafts like Jazz, painters, poetry,” she said.
The organisation had a three-year successful tenure, bagging massive sponsors like Red Bull and landed artists like Nakane Toure, Zoe Modiga, and Youngsta CPT who were in their early career stages at the time.
“What stood out about the platform was its ability to get kids from cross-culture, race, and class together in a space of art. I intended to get kids from different parts of Cape Town to express art that they have never before seen, regardless of where they were from,” she explains.
Mkosi has also been at the forefront of Vocal Revolutionaries, since its inception in 2012, which seeks to help young people to discover themselves in various ways in literary and performance arts.
“The idea was to help young kids, especially, those who were transitioning from high school to university to get into the programmes and courses they wanted with portfolios they would have built with us through the organisation,” she added.
More recently, since her move to Jozi, Mkosi has tapped back into her love for radio format adding podcaster to her resume with her ‘This Audio Is Visual’ podcast, which engages African photographers on their work as image-makers.
The podcast in its second season features some of the finest creatives like self-portrait Puleng Mongale, writer-photographer Tshepiso Mabule, Photographer and Filmmaker Tseliso Monaheng among the list of seasoned guests who readily share about their journey and the business side of photography.
“We are not just making a photography podcast, we are covering visual arts in every and any way we can,” she said.
She added that the business model is to provide podcast services to other artists and companies – a move that has seen the podcast partner with Market Photo Workshop and African Women in Media.