The dreamers and weavers of Luju festival

Interviews at Luju Festival, Eswatini

Interview with Mrs. M

The last day of Luju festival was very special. What made it so special were the conversations with the many women that I had the honor to meet. Knowledgeable and passionate women. Women that are inspired and unafraid. Women that are afraid and do it anyways. Women who pave the way for others. The interviews of today are precious. They are vulnerable conversations about dreams, the process of creating and the relationship to self. Neliswa, most popularly known as Mrs. M, is the creator of Decadent Pleasures. She calls herself an aspiring pastry chef but in fact creates the most beautiful cakes and baked goods that I have ever seen. This is not her first time participating at Luju festival, however, in the past solely in the role as a vendor. Her stall Decadent Pleasures is overflowing with delicious baked goods this year too but today, she has just done her very own master class on the Mastercard stage. When we sit down together she is absolutely beaming.

 

How did it go today? How are you feeling?

“First I was really nervous. I think because low-key I am a perfectionist. I wanted everything to be done to a T and I’ve been dreaming about this day for the past three-four weeks! The fact that it has happened is quite a relief but I really did enjoy myself. I got to express myself and engage with people.” I laugh as she says that she is a low-key perfectionist. The beautifully designed cupcakes in perfect alignment at her stall tells another story. She laughs as I tell her this and confesses  “Yeah, I am all about esthetic, detail and finesse. All needs to come together and make sense.”

 

Mrs. M is a self-taught chef with her own, popular brand Decadent Pleasures. Despite this, she often refers to herself as an aspiring pastry chef even though she has just taught a master class for a live audience at Luju festival. What is one of the biggest obstacles that you’ve had to overcome to get where you are?

“I struggle a lot with imposter syndrome. This week for example, I had a breakdown. I was just not okay. I remember texting a friend of mine at like 2 am and not being able to sleep. I am nervous, I have this overwhelming feeling of imposter syndrome. I don’t know where it comes from but from time to time I start not believing in myself. It does affect me but I think that the people that surround me are always encouraging me. They keep me going. I do think I am going to get over this feeling of not believing in myself, the feeling of not being good enough. For me, I think that has been my biggest hurdle. Sometimes I tuck myself in a corner where I tell myself I’m not gonna do that, I’m not going to put myself out there. There is always that overwhelming feeling that I struggle a lot with.”

 

Interview with Mrs. M Eswatini
Theglobalentity interviews Mrs. M

What would you say to somebody who also wants to follow their heart but are yet to take that step?

“You have to jump! You won’t know whether you are going to fall, stumble, or whether you are going to fly but you just have to take that jump. I think that for me… I had to quit my daytime job and start pursuing the business on a full time basis. In that space I felt that this is my time to really look deep within my heart to what is in my heart. I don’t need to limit myself to just one thing. Explore, spread my wings, put myself out there. There are benefits, I can see the multiplying effect that it has, the opportunities that it is opening for me. I feel like things are starting to make sense now. Sometimes you are doing all of these things, you are making that content, you are just putting your heart out there. I had no idea that there is so much impact, that there are so many people that are actually watching what I am doing. So I end up inspiring myself! I think also that new business doesn’t necessarily bring in the coins immediately, you have to do it because you love it. You are funding your own dream and praying that it is going to take off. For me, this took me by surprise.” She gestures with her hand to indicate the festival. “I feel like I am being given my flowers. When I heard from the Luju curators I was like ‘Huh, are you sure? But I am not a pastry chef’ but they told me I was exactly the person that we are looking for.”

 

What is next for you?

“You know, I do think that at some point in my life I would like to go to culinary school or become a professional pastry chef. That is where I feel my niche is, at the sweet spot! But I am happy with what I’ve done so far. Being self-taught is all about exploring in the kitchen and trying to make sense of everything that surrounds it. I am looking forward to getting into the space of curating culinary experiences. I am also a recipe developer, so I want to translate that into a cookbook. I think there is that fear of being forgotten, fear of oblivion. I feel like in each and every space I am in I like to leave my mark and I like to give it my all. So I think I just keep pushing myself because I want to be remembered for having done something, for having an impact. I feel like I am looking forward to what the future holds and collaborations with brands that have contacted me. The future is looking bright! I’m just not sure I am ready for it hahaha.”

Well, I know for sure that I am definitely ready to see more women, more humans stepping into their lights! It is both inspiring and encouraging to me, doing what I do, having started this crazy journey of following my heart. The rest of the afternoon I spent amongst the beautiful fashion statements that everyone had turned themselves into. I do some more interviews during the day and I feel I am in flow. Sometimes, the world happens to you and you find yourself in the privileged position of being mirrored in every encounter you have. The words of others telling you the dwellings of your inner monologue. Today was such a day and I just want to share how grateful I am to have been able to mirror my existence in yours. It becomes evident that we are one. That we are different expressions of the same drive to realize ourselves. A person who has this effect is the body percussionist, singer and artist Lenna Bahule. I have had the great pleasure of seeing her perform live on several occasions in Mozambique and every time she stands on that stage everything feels possible. What will happen on stage, what will we hear, nobody knows, the opportunities are endless. But also within myself everything suddenly feels possible.

Interview with Lenna Bahule

The last of the daylight provides a colorful backdrop as Lenna makes her way onto the Mastercard stage. The instruments on stage I don’t recognize, their origin and names far beyond my knowledge. It is my first time that I see Lenna perform on her own. When she gets onto the stage, she takes a moment to just look at us in the audience, I can just see how she is taking this moment in. With a smile, holding the secrets of the music she is about to bless us with, she starts. When we later on in the evening get to sit down on the orange couch together, the heat from the sun is altogether gone.

 

How are you feeling?

“Right now, a bit overwhelmed. I mean, Luju is a very big festival. I feel there is a lot of expectations I had for my performance here so at this moment right now I am bursting in emotions and energy.  But very grateful to be here and experience something so different. I’ve been around in the world but this is the most different experience I’ve had performing and also interacting. So I am very happy, and grateful.”

 

It is a composed and focused Lenna that greets me. Her energy is warm but her presence a bit distant. There had been issues with the sound not working during her performance, forcing her to improvise and adapt. For us in the audience it was still an out-of-the-world performance. I had people throughout the entire performance talking in my ear, wanting to praise her saying that they had never heard anyone like her. But right now, ten minutes after her performance, I can see how she is still on stage in her mind, running through it all. Since I don’t have a lot of experience doing this, I feel unsure of what the correct etiquette is here but I decide to ask her about it. Maybe we can connect.

 

Lenna Bahule interviewed

You have such a stage presence when you are on stage and today you had some issues with the sound. Despite this, you are able to deliver a heartfelt performance and I must ask how? How are you able to continue performing, with your heart on your sleeve too, when everything changes?

“Well, that question is even going to help me heal the frustration. Because I was really frustrated now when we left. The thing is, I always get anxious when I have to perform alone, on an open stage. It is always a challenge. My solo performance is an experience, or generally, through all of my performances i try to bring this idea of an experience, a human experience. So I craft it up as much as I can in order to ensure that specific experience gets to the people. But also I’ve learnt to include the humanity of life, of things going up and down, into the performance. I think that one of my premises is that art is a human expression. So it’s about the art. Music can never stop, the experience can never stop, because it is about the art. It is frustrating. Like up there today I was really angry but I thought, the music is with you. It is not in the machine, it is not in the sound system, it is with you.”

 

How did you learn that?

I’ve kind of studied that in a way. Through improvisation, through body music and body percussion, all of these practices have really helped me gain confidence to allow vulnerability and unpredictability to join me on stage. From my experience, it is how people connect more. I think that the odds of a performance, make people feel connected to the performer. Answering you this, is a way of pacing me down because I forget that. Especially when I have an attachment to an idea and have prepared.”

 

You said it on stage and you’ve repeated it again now, that music is with you and music never stops. As you are a body percussionist this is something I have witnessed myself when seeing you perform. Has rhythm always been within you?

“I think there is a before and after situation. A before I met body percussion and all of these body music crafts, and an after. Before I used to be more melodic and romantic kind of stuff. When I went to Brazil and started doing all of these rhythmic exercises, I really found a lot of love for the tiny bits, the little parts that go together, that go back and forth, that jump from one place to another, all of these beautiful cells. That became my pattern of composing, very rhythmically with small little pieces. Like telling a story and then having smaller pieces complimenting. So it is something that has popped up. When I was living in Brazil, I feel like I was just a small seed in a fertile ground of infinite possibilities. So, for me it was just blooming out. I didn’t even know it was here (points to body). But I think going to the body music thing opened up something that for me is so natural and intimate.”

 

Lenna’s music is something best described as transcendental. It goes from the earth into your soul, up into the ether only to come back and ground you again. It goes both in and and out. What is it that inspires and drives you to create the way you do?

“What inspires me is life, because I’m always inspired but what drives me… I think that is the key, especially with ADHD hahaha. The thing for me is that it is always there, sounds, ideas – it is always there. But for me to decide that this is the song, this is the format… that is why I actually don’t write so many songs… for me, making songs is easy but making songs that are meaningful to me…

 

I found that funny, what drives me… it is the feeling of small bits of freedom, when I find it. Because most of these songs, they came out in random situations like cooking, sweeping the floor, going to the bathroom. Like going to the bathroom to wash your hands and bam! there is a song. Completely out of the blue. If I sit down and say okay now I am going to make a song, it doesn’t come out. So I think what drives me is really that moment of self care, that moment of pleasure, that moment of aha-feeling, that moment of freedom, that moment of connection. I think that’s what drives me. The connection. That thing the makes the thing come out.”

 

How is it being a woman in a very male dominated industry? 

“Yeah hey it is not easy. It is not easy, especially for me now. I am a mother and a single mother at that. I feel that becoming a single mother increased that feeling because I am the provider, I’m the planner, I’m the carer, I am everything. And I feel that has sort of suppressed my feminine because I’m always in charge. It has brought up a lot of strength, like I can still manage in a situation like what happened today because that is what I live of in my life, having to find solutions. It’s a familiar place for me, of always having to find a way to deal with stuff. Specifically because the whole stage is being managed by men, you know? And then you have the same system happening again so it’s tough. But it is everywhere so either deal with it or…”

Interviews at Luju Festival, Eswatini
Theglobalentity interviews Lenna Bahule

What do you feel the music and culture industry needs to open up so that more women can take the space that you seem to do so effortlessly? 

More space for women to dive into their own crafts. Truly speaking, in the past three days “I’ve had a total of five hours to rehearse which for me is not ideal. And then with the few minutes I had, every time I was in the flow of a song I was like ‘You see?!’ This is what I need. I need the space and time to craft it up, to make it better and fluid and more spontaneous and more creative. Then I thought but why don’t I have that? Because I have too much to manage. I feel that society needs to understand that women need time to create. To have time to just put ideas out there, let it craft, let it build, let it deepen. Because we are too busy managing the demands of being a woman in a male dominated society. And the people with the resources to make that happen are mostly men… so it’s a tough math. But for me, that is the solution. Have more spaces where women can take some time off. Funding basically. Funding into women doing arts.”

 

Seeing how Luju’s artist manager is gesticulating that I am out of time, I hurry to ask Lenna one last question: What is next for you now?

“I want to sing for Africa! I really want to connect with more African people. I don’t think I have ever seen so many different African people together as here at Luju festival. I really want to go around Africa. My biggest dream is to have my songs be listened to in Africa and for my music to make sense to African people. And my album, I have finally found the creative energy for it. So if everything goes well, next year I am going to have my album.”

 

Lenna Bahule was my last interview and I am grateful for it! Honestly, I can’t see anybody topping the conversations I’ve had today. I feel inspired and warm. Inspired of the very spirit that these women have, the path they fearlessly are creating by walking it. Warm from the connection their genuine sharing of their story has created. I feel I have to pinch myself a little bit. To imagine, this is my life right now! Although I still feel the stress of having my travel plan completely crumble right before the festival started, meaning I don’t know what country I am going to be typing these blog posts from after Monday. The conversations with these amazing creators, these generous, inspiring, strong, vulnerable women, they have grounded me. I feel less alone in my lostness now. As I am learning, I can create value from almost anything. The value that this festival, that these women have shared with me during this weekend is going to keep me warm for the longest of times. Thank you Luju!

2 thoughts on “The dreamers and weavers of Luju festival”

  1. Monica Andersson

    Beautiful and inspiering 💗 So many perspectives!

    “How grateful I am to have been able to mirror my existence in yours. It becomes evident that we are one. That we are different expressions of the same drive to realize ourselves.”
    What a beautiful expresion from the text 🙏

  2. Monica Andersson

    Beautiful and inspiering 💗 So many perspectives!

    “How grateful I am to have been able to mirror my existence in yours. It becomes evident that we are one. That we are different expressions of the same drive to realize ourselves.”
    What a beautiful expresion from the text 🙏

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