Story by Gazelle.
Have you ever returned from a trip and felt that it has somehow forever changed you?
Whether it might have been for better or worse, I believe you might have found an important key to the mystery of life.
It is the people and places along the way that unlocks parts of ourselves that we do not yet know. It might be the troubled person in us that wants to destroy or the shining being that everyone loves and wants to be around. But somehow, we can’t escape all these layers life takes us through. One thing is certain from the little I have learned, that in all these moments lie the greatest of gifts if we are willing to receive them.
Experiences can be the richest of schools and the people that surround us, an extraordinary library of books to learn from. Each with their own unique story that might inspire us in a life direction to fulfil these quests we set for ourselves.
My life’s path bounced between so many chapters of good and bad extremities that at some point, it felt like a rainstorm pouring down and chaotically flowing towards too many directions to follow. This left me confused and disconnected in search of something that I did not know how to fully express or acquire. It felt like the harder I searched, the further I would stumble from the clues. A spiritual quest of getting lost in all that have become mainstream burning man-esque take away culture of transcendental fast food. Blindly stumbling forward, I finally met the most guru shaman of guru’s, only to find the deepest hidden hypocrisies around lust for power. This made my pendulum quickly swing to quite a cynical place for quite some time into the opposite of what I set out to search for. But I guess I had to reach the extremities to come back to earth.
Only in recent years have I slowly been learning to let go of this search and let the discoveries appear by themselves, to let these many streams just take their course. I realized in the end, all rivers flow to the same ocean.
Having to sit down and write this is a gift of reflection, seeing how everything in my life is interconnected. Billions of drops on their own individual journeys finding their way home to the ocean of me. That is without sounding too pseudo-guru, of course. A wild journey it has been, but it feels like I can finally see the glare of an ocean on the horizon.
It all started by the Blyde River Canyon, a place of great natural beauty nestled in the North-East corner of South Africa. A place where the savannas meet ancient mountains covered in rain forests. The simplest way to imagine it is by picturing scenes from The Jungle Book and The Lion King in an orchestra of natural splendor with many animals that can eat you for lunch. The thought that I would move beyond the small community of this place seemed unsurmountable. Even if I did have dreams of seeing distant lands and experiencing foreign cultures while paging through my father’s collection of National Geographic magazines.
At a young age, my dream was to run as far away as I could from this place to experience all these exotic things that tantalized my thoughts and tempted a hunger inside of me, and so I did. Or rather, a chance art competition entry I found in a magazine became the first springboard for my adventure.
Photo: Xander by Travys Owen
After finishing my studies, I went to the furthest opposing corner in South Africa to the city of Cape Town, where I pursued photography and film in the hopes of acquiring my golden ticket to see the rest of the world. My endless drive and lust for this adventure kicked these doors wide open the day that I met a great mentor in photography who helped me to achieve my goals. This set off a series of events where I received the opportunities to travel the world and capture stories visually, and reap the material benefits of working in the world of advertising.
Soon enough, the challenges arrived of creative freedom. A realization that in order to work in this industry, I had to be an engineer and not an artist. Using a craft to sell the vision and agenda of others was what I had to sign up for. Turning this frustration into fascination was like turning poison into medicine. It made me leave the industry and explore the thought of why do we as people believe so blindly in brands or icons, whether they were commercial, political, or religious. My obsession became to analyze the psychology behind the process and strategy of how figures of power persuade the masses to believe in something. A satirical unveiling of The Emperors Clothes, if you will. The only way for me to explore this was through the act of visual and performance art since I had no link to the academic world to formulate my study. So the art world it was after yet another mentor opened my eyes to the possibility of a new chapter.
After spending a year meticulously studying the lives of Mobutu Sese Seko, Idi Amin Dada, and Muammar Gadaffi, I published a work titled ‘The Status of Greatness’ which unpacked my findings in a strategy of how to become a dictator, synthesized from coinciding points that I found between their journeys to power. I fused this with an existing hobby musical project called Gazelle since I needed a vehicle to create a conversation with the media and public as part of the process. This would become an imagined character with which I would prove my theory through performance art.
After sharing this work in exhibitions and playfully manipulating media with a pseudo pop act, my life was soon taken over by the music industry, where I ended up living out a chapter of touring around the world and living a dream. It was one hell of a wild ride, and if anyone reads this that met me during that chapter, here is a disclaimer for you... I might have been fun to some and a bit of an egotistic asshole at times to others. So my apologies if you met the latter. ;)
Photo: Cape Town Jazz Festival
In between the exploration of fun, I had a realization that I had somehow fulfilled the theory of power I studied before through this complex performance I nearly forgot about. This made me wake up to take on some kind of responsibility for the position I manifested myself into. So my focus shifted from pleasure-seeking to something more purposeful. The aim was to build bridges with fusing culture by creating songs and art that people from very different backgrounds within South Africa could relate to as something of their own. This would hopefully start conversations and spark positive future causes. But as one learns when dancing in the spotlight, for every accolade, there would be criticism.
In 2010 I won the green card lottery, and this changed my life drastically after moving to New York to pursue a new chapter there. In the first years, the music was what wrote the pages to my story, but soon enough, a feeling came to shift me again into another stream beyond the studio and stage.
Once again, I had to let go and just let it take me. For years trying to figure out what it was that I had to do next. Wanting to drive my purpose further, I found a project in the social impact world to work as storytelling lead, which was a fancy title for putting together the strategy for a movement around ‘Inner Wellbeing’. It was a great chapter of exploring a whole new industry, but also with harsh awakenings that within any of the worlds how ‘good’ they might seem, there is darkness with people lusting after power.
This past year I have been entering a new chapter realizing that all these disparate streams are all connected, and I can live out my purpose through music, art, film, strategy, and impact, all in one existence in a more fluid way of letting go. Using the tools that I have acquired through hard work in whichever way is needed, depending on the obstacle that I have to overcome with any project that is in front of me. So with newfound faith, I have dived into creating stories through film, re-invigorating my musical act Gazelle with songs and experiences, and building businesses with impactful ideas that I believe in.
I cannot help to wonder what is this feeling of interconnectedness that we all carry hidden behind a veil of reason in the so-called real world. Mysterious coincidences shake and wake us from ignorant slumber, all too often to not admit that this energy of coincidence is there. That chance moment you meet someone that changes your life forever or the thought of someone that has the power to make the phone ring as they call you out of the blue. Does out of the blue actually mean from the sky? or does it mean from the great body of water that symbolizes our collective experience. Maybe we all flow as streams, becoming rivers, into the same ocean. Only to evaporate into clouds and start the cycle again with rain. Again and again.... without sounding too pseudo guru, that is.
I always felt that in nature lies my greatest friend and teacher, only to realize that nature is not apart from me but a part of me. The ‘I’, or ‘me’ just another plant, or bird or stone, set on a stage in this grand orchestra of existence. Since you are just like me, a singular instrument in a philharmonic orchestra, how about we play a symphony together.