UVA Arts, University of Virginia

Vol 10 Summer 19 Library
X and Travis Thatcher (technical director, composition and computer technology, music department), Wilson Hall. (Credit: Noel Lobley)

Xollie (‘X’) Madinda Residency

X speaking with Photographer Scott F. Smith in his artist studio at the McGuffey Art Center
(Photo: Noel Lobley)

Xollie (‘X’) Madinda, one of South Africa’s most visionary hip-hop artists, social activists, community educators, and entrepreneurs, recently visited Grounds for a week-long residency that included a full week of performances, workshops, and class visits. The residency, organized by sound curator and ethnomusicologist Noel Lobley, and presented in collaboration with and generously sponsored by the African Urbanism Humanities Lab, wrapped up with a performance at The Bridge in Charlottesville, as part of its Telemetry music series. Based in Grahamstown/Makhanda in South Africa’s Eastern Cape, X is a fiercely talented artist, rapper, and Xhosa activist. He is a founding member of the Youth Art group Fingo Revolutionary Movement and the Fingo Festival, now in its ninth year as part of the National Arts Festival. He is also the founder and CEO of Around Hip Hop, which oversees The Black Power Station, a pioneering arts space located in the re-emerging industrial area of Grahamstown/Makhanda. “X is a rap artist, a community activist, a true visionary, and one of the most inspiring artists I have ever had the pleasure of working with,” Lobley said. “He is also an extraordinary mentor who is tireless about paying it forward for the generations following him.” 

X and David Edmunds (Global Development Studies) speaking with a student team in the School of Architecture.
(Photo: Noel Lobley)

The residency, he said, came about as a returned favor for all the time he and his students and colleagues have spent in X’s various creative workspaces in the Eastern Cape, and as a way to build the kind of artist/scholar model that Lobley favors. “I like to build around residencies, and have students come to an understanding with artists through making things together,” he said, “whether it is art forms or research. What we are looking to do is to have people in each of the spaces enable that co-production, and there is no one better than X to help personalize that process.” Lobley and X worked together to build the kinds of relationships that are essential to X’s work and life, and laid the groundwork for distance learning and collaboration opportunities. One of which is with an African electronic music class that will include real-time co-creating with X, Mxolisi ‘Biz’ Bodla (a beatmaker) and Andiswa ‘Bliss’ Rabeshu, an MC and visual artist and other members of his team in South Africa.  

X with Jason Bennett (Learning, Design, Technology) in the Maker Studio, Wilson Hall
(Photo: Noel Lobley)

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“The relationship I have with UVA is very important,” X said, “because it is building a bridge that is very strong, and it is one built not on hate or on any political influence, but from a common understanding. In Makhanda, there is a saying that goes:umntu ngumntu ngabantu‘a person is a person because of other people’, so therefore, we are a nation because we are surrounded by other people who fostered a similar understanding that is built toward change or unity of one shared goal or mission. An experience such as the one I had at UVA tells me that we are that formula that the world has been waiting for on how to build relationships, and how to build human beings who are completely matured in understanding where we are going. It is not only about a higher IQ, or about academic speech, but about humans coming together to solve a problem.” Lobley, who is currently planning a trip to the Eastern Cape for this summer and brainstorming on X’s next visit to Grounds, spoke of a deep sadness that followed his friend’s departure from Charlottesville, adding, “My wife likes to say that he is one of the five most impressive people she has ever met,” he said. “And I might rank him even a little higher.”  

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