Born at the right time: Celebrating Antoinette

08 Aug 2011

What would you pay for an evening in the company of Lebo Mashile and Don Matera – two of our country’s most gifted wordsmiths? I recently had such an evening at the home of Pitika and Antoinette Ntuli on July 30 2011. Pitika is a world renowned South African sculptor, poet and intellectual. Antoinette Ntuli, a brilliant art critic and curator in her own right, (see her chapter in Pitika’s book Scent of Invisible Footprints published by UNISA Press in 2010), is an integral and key part of the Pitika Ntuli story.


When I arrived at the house, I sought Antoinette out first because the occasion was to celebrate her birthday. I had a warm hug and good wishes to deliver to her. She was dressed simply but elegantly — and she looked gorgeous. Her hairdo brought to mind a line from Hugh Masekela’s song titled market place. She had ‘corn-row hair in a million braids’ even as her eyes lit up with joy. She was clearly enjoying every minute and every aspect of her role of being at once host and celebrant. Small groups of guests took turns to swirl around her. She basked in the warmth of the attention she was getting. Throughout the evening, a beautiful and permanent smile sat on Antoinette’s face.

As I walked in I saw some of the country’s best thinkers, visionaries, truth-sayers, truth-doers, former exiles and former ‘inxiles’, exiled ‘inxiles’ and ‘inxiled’ exiles, blacks and whites, top-notch artists across the fields – young and old. Almost immediately, I spotted a small rowdy crowd huddled around the petite and dynamic figure of Paul Simon. Yes that Paul Simon — the Graceland Paul Simon. Paul is a great admirer of the art work of Pitika Ntuli. At the other end I saw Hugh Masekela in conversation with Lebo Mashile and Ngila Mike Muendani. A few steps behind them, stood Phuthuma Nhleko, former MTN Group CEO — speaking to a bunch of friends and acquaintances. At the other extreme corner sat a group of women.

I have been in that house before, but this day the very floors felt sacred and the walls stood in reverent attention. The guest list consisted of beautiful minds, gifted hands, fearless lips and spirit voices — the last two words being the title of one of Paul Simon’s most beautifully written songs from the album Rhythm of the Saints. The themes woven into this song are not altogether irrelevant to how I felt at the Ntulis that Saturday. The song speaks of ‘sweetness in the air combined with the lightness in my head’ – exactly what and how I felt as we went deeper into the evening. The song also recounts an occasion in which the powerful haunting presence of spirit voices could be heard summoning rain water and river water to come and cause some healing...Click to continue reading 

Author Tinyiko Malileke