Q&A with hip hop artist, poet and storyteller Quintin 'Jitsvinger' Goliath

'Storytelling is the foundation of every civilisation and is still the strongest device used to pass down knowledge from generation to generation' - a conversation between Jitsvinger and Carla Lever

27 May 2019 - 12:17
By Carla Lever, nal'ibali AND Nal'ibali
Hip hop artist, poet and storyteller Jitsvinger doing what he does best. Awê.
Image: Jeffrey Abrahams Hip hop artist, poet and storyteller Jitsvinger doing what he does best. Awê.

Nal’ibali Column: May 27 2019

Your career has always been about defying stereotypes: you're an entertainer who is interested in rapping about history, a musician who isn't afraid to make poetry or theatre. Is there a freedom in holding so many forms of storytelling?

It was important for me to learn as many performance disciplines when I started on this journey, because not every rapper is a great performer. The best part in my career was getting schooled in theatre early, where every aspect was employed in the performance, not just your voice in the case of a rapper.

Unlike many artists, you explicitly frame your work as a cultural and political commentary, particularly on the tradition and power of South Africa's languages. How did this interest come about?

In primary school, a prescribed poem, Ek Is Oek Important by Peter Snyders, sparked my desire for mother-tongue Afrikaans. It made me aware of the little to no exposure so-called black Afrikaans got on national radio and television. Listening to rap groups like Prophets of the City (P.O.C) and Black Noise grounded my awareness, which led to a more locally conscious delivery in my raps and urged me to challenge the norms of my society and spread the message.

What are the main messages you'd like your work to get across, particularly to young people who are discovering their own histories and stories?

The weight of a person is not measured by their age, but by their intelligence, so don’t ever stop seeking knowledge. You learn until you die! Each generation has the responsibility to define itself.

You've carried your passion for heritage studies into several education and outreach programmes. Can you tell us a little about that side of your work?

I get invited to share my knowledge and experience at various universities, schools and non-governmental organisations across the country, utilising my body of work that I’ve accumulated through my career. Through these sessions I’ve created my own methodology that covers the importance of language and identity, unpacking the music industry, as well as creative writing courses focused on aspects of life orientation for youth.

What are some of your favourite interactions over the years with people who've heard, and learned, from your work?

I’m always overwhelmed by the odd nudge from supporters to continue my work, even when I’m standing in the queue to pay for groceries! I find it most encouraging when I’m approached by the older generation voicing their pride. It reassures me that I must be doing something right!

I particularly remember you in the production, Afrikaaps, a few years ago, which was a remarkable way of travelling through the history of Afrikaans in South Africa. In your experience, is storytelling a powerful way of learning for young people? 

Storytelling is the foundation of every civilisation and is still the strongest device used to pass down knowledge from generation to generation. Today’s technology employs storytelling to generate new narratives for the future. A contemporary example is the use of timelines on social media.

You've spoken before about how your music is rooted in the Cape Flats, where you grew up, and you celebrate the Kaaps vernacular in your music. Why is it so important that people celebrate languages and ways of being that are authentically theirs, rather than having to conform to any local or global cultural 'standard'?

Celebrating a language as part of our heritage means liberating those who speak it, which evolves and grows through interactions with other cultures. Standards are important, although that needs to be kept in check if one looks at how Afrikaans, for example, was spoken before it was “stolen” - removed from its slave roots and shackled by Dutch settlers as part of their new identity in the late 1800s.

Who are some of the most exciting up-and-coming artists you're following, locally or internationally?

There are so many talented artists that are embracing their identity and promoting self-realisation through their work. I enjoy listening to  V.I.T.O, G3D8GTE, Khanyi Mavi, Driemanskap, Black Vulcanite, Nefera Von Rio, Ricardo Nūńez, Gery Mendes and MC PYRO.

What does the future hold for you, creatively speaking? Are there any new artistic forms you'd love to try?

Right now I’m exploring new rhythms musically and writing a bundle of poetry that I’m hoping to release soon. I’m also doing some travelling to new countries in order to expose the form of expression I call Afrikaaps.

Nal’ibali is South Africa’s reading-for-enjoyment campaign. Aimed at helping children to fall in love with books and reading, Nal’ibali is supporting adults and caregivers in championing children’s literacy in their communities through its FUNda Leader volunteer network and FUNda Sonke loyalty programme. Find out more at www.nalibali.org or www.nalibali.mobi.