15 questions for Andries Bezuidenhout


15 questions for Andries Bezuidenhout

The academic, musician, painter and poet lives in Alice in the Eastern Cape and works at the University of Fort Hare. He is a member of the Brixton Moord en Roof Orkes rock band and his latest solo album, Trooskantates, is due out in June. LAUREEN ROSSOUW asks the questions,


1. Describe yourself in a hashtag?


2. How do you spend the best part of your day?

Mostly on campus, busy teaching, attending committee meetings or working on a book. At night I record music, mix it, or work on paintings. Two shifts, every day. I don't have a TV.

3. What is best about living in Alice?

Too much, too much! The pair of rock kestrels (rooivalk) that regularly come to sit on the telephone pole nearby, the silence, the bright stars, the view of the Amathole mountains and Hogsback from the living room of the university's rented house.

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4. What type of music do you listen to in your car or when you are alone?

The other day I asked an Uber driver in East London a similar question. He said he listens to all the genres. Then he named them one by one: deep house, electro house, ghetto house — I'm making it up now, but he mentioned quite a few other types of house (among which amapiano and gqom should probably also be counted). We had a good laugh about this together. I like dance music, but to dance to, not in the car or at home. I listen to music on Tidal, partly because it is very good at indicating who contributed to the production of the tracks — who wrote them, but also the musicians and sound engineers. Sometimes I will listen to music depending on who mixed it and discover something new like that. However, my own playlists are a mix of rock/folk/Americana (The National is my favourite band), South African jazz (from Abdullah Ibrahim to Mandisi Dyantyis), I love Bach (especially when Tim Mead sings), Philip Glass (especially his piano works), klezmer crossover (don't even get me started!). A total mish-mash — it completely messes up Tidal's algorithms.

5. Which international publications do you read regularly?

On my mobile The Guardian (my main news source), Der Spiegel's English edition (I wish Le Monde had one too). I scan the New York Times, Washington Post, Financial Times and Wall Street Journal, but it's too expensive to subscribe to everything, which means it's only superficial. On my Kindle I get Mix magazine — for sound producers.

6. Who are your favourite writers? 

I'll try to keep it short. The very, very, very favourites. Locally Karel Schoeman and JM Coetzee (but not the Jesus trilogy). Internationally, I don't miss anything from Kazuo Ishiguro and Julian Barnes. Those are also people I like to reread. From Schoeman especially Hierdie lewe (This Life) and Afskeid en vertrek (Farewell and Departure). From Barnes The Sense of an Ending. When it comes to poetry, the big two — Krog and Breytenbach, partly because they are so different. Internationally, I love Margaret Atwood's poems — a poem like The Loneliness of the Military Historian is that perfect combination of humour and razor-sharp criticism.

7. What do you wish you had more time for? 


8. What do you find sexy?

People who feel strongly about original ideas but retain a sense of irony.

9. If you could choose someone to paint your portrait, who would it be?

David Hockney. If I may be excused my impertinence. I really like his portraits when he only uses a pencil.

Photo of Alice from our back porch, the telephone pole is where the red hawks often sit.
Photo of Alice from our back porch, the telephone pole is where the red hawks often sit.

10. If you could design your own house and build it, what would it look like and where would it be?

The Karoo or Walvis Bay. I probably would like to convert an old barn into a modern house, but still with shutters and other practical features of typical Karoo architecture. I like the combination of modernism and local traditions. I grew up in a house designed by Norman Eaton (so very, very Pretoria). I've always liked that interplay between cosmopolitan and local — Eaton pursued a type of indigenous modernism. As a child I would sit and look at his plans for our house for hours.

11. And how would you furnish it?

Bookshelves are the most important. Books are also excellent for acoustics — I dream of combining a sound studio with a library one day. In other rooms enough space for paintings. I like Le Corbusier LC2 chairs (our ripoffs are rather weathered) but in combination with something less stark and more organic. Oh, if I could only find an original Poul Henningsen lampshade and pay for it without going broke. But I'm dreaming right now, so why not just some PH lamps?

12. Your favourite designer/s or age?

Laureen, now I hope my answers don't get even more pretentious than they already are. Pre-war Denmark. It's not about the “mid-century modern" trend but because Copenhagen is one of my favourite cities. Thanks to my work, I go there often, because I am working on a book with a Danish colleague/friend. He also comes to South Africa regularly. I have spent hours in the Kunstindustrimuseet (a museum of Danish design). There are drawers of textiles that are centuries old, as well as fantastic displays of how design has changed with society. Before World War 2, the progressive design traditions were more spontaneous, I think. For example, Poul Henningsen's lampshades were intended for working-class homes and he had to flee from the Nazis because he was a socialist. Finn Juhl's house at Ordrupgaard is one of the most beautiful places to visit — it's livable modernism on a small scale, clean lines, but without the totalitarian ideology that usually goes with modernist design. Juhl is probably my favourite designer.

13. The biggest gift you have received? 

Irma du Plessis, my wife, once gave me a set of oil paints. It sent me in a new direction.

"Early birds", oil on canvas, 59 X 42cm.
"Early birds", oil on canvas, 59 X 42cm.

14. Who and what inspires you?

Art? Definitely. I think maybe historical places too. Alice is such an interesting place because the likes of ZK Matthews, Phyllis Ntantala, Nelson Mandela, Robert Sobukwe, Steve Biko and Chris Hani were all here — at Lovedale, Healdtown or Fort Hare, where I work. Despite this, the town is so worn-out and dilapidated. The work our vice-chancellor is doing to restore it I find a hell of an inspiration. He is risking his life for it. So I think Sakhela Buhlungu is the person who inspires me the most at the moment.

15. What do you regret and what are you looking forward to?

That I don't have more lives. There's too much to fit into one. Actually, I wanted to be an architect. I look forward to the next road trip! Dirt road, music, no cellphone reception. Probably from here to Stellenbosch — for a show and discussion about Koos du Plessis.

♦ VWB ♦

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