The South African musician on how he finds culture and creative inspiration in the West African country.
Last summer, South African rapper and songwriter Senzo Vilakazi, who was in FORBES AFRICA’s Under 30 list in 2018, and better known by his stage name Kwesta, swapped his microphone for a notebook and pen 10,000 kilometers from his country of birth.
He was in Senegal on business, but recorded his thoughts in prose and memory.
“Then I just ended up staying for a couple of days because of the richness of the place,” says Kwesta.
He was captivated by the history of the West African country, and Gorée, a small island located away from the main harbor of Dakar, where slaves used to pass on their way to America.
Kwesta, who has traveled the world and performed in numerous African countries, was astounded by how much of its culture the island had managed to preserve years after slavery was abolished.
“I was really in love with how they have preserved their past. It is not like any other place that I have been to,” he says.
As soon as he landed, he was struck by the history of the island.
“It has a certain warmth; as soon as you go into it, it is almost certain that you can feel the lives that were lost there. It is a very difficult space to describe, a very inspirational and a very creative space. The people there are [so much into] culture preservation it is crazy,” says Kwesta.
On his short break, he went on a cruise ship, and visited the famous fort known as Slave House, which even former South African president Nelson Mandela once visited. The fort housed African slaves en route to the west.
“Six million slaves died there and over 20 million were shipped through the island,” says Kwesta on the facts gleaned from his trip.
The imagery of slavery has stayed with him.
“They are just so proud [citizens]! They try to teach you about their culture. That is what I found quite interesting compared to South Africans because people here are very much westernised. I wish I could be able to bring back that pride and culture [they have],” observes Kwesta.
“Even as rappers, I always feel like we are trying to imitate the American style of rapping,” he says.
He also noticed the stark contrast of the landscape – the hospitality sector on one side and shanty towns on the other.
“When I was in my hotel, I could basically see the richness of their vegetation and on the other end, I could see their low-cost houses, which was such a weird thing to observe, because you could see the difference in the economies.”
Who would have thought the rapper’s favorite travel destination would be right here in Africa.