Lwandile Fikeni’s life is a series of perfect coincidences. He is a 2016 Ruth First fellow, one of the current Mail and Guardian 200 Young South Africans list and the recipient of the 2015 Arts Journalist of the Year. In the midst of all this, he is also a journalism honors student at Wits.
Wits Vuvuzela caught up with the busy man.
Describe your career so far, from where you began to where you are now?
I still wrestling with the word “career”. I’d say I’m writer as a matter of consequence and necessity and as far as the writing goes, it has been received fairly well.
How did you make the decision to leap into art critique?
We all, in our own way, have a relation to art, whether through music, literature, fashion, and so on. In this way, it felt only natural to give it serious consideration and to make effort to try to understand it.
What do you love about your industry?
What are the biggest pain points that you feel the art and media industry need to work on?
There’s a lot written about art and culture, which is cool, I guess. But, often, the writing is so bad it repels you from art instead of making you curious about it.
What role have you chosen to take up in society through the work that you do?
I’m the curious observer.
Where and when do you have your best ideas?
Often, when I’m with my friends, having beers.
Do you think that your industry is where is should be in South Africa? Please describe why?
Not at all. There are hardly any art critics in South Africa. Often, what one finds, are people who do arts journalism as a kind of marketing arm for the art industry. Which is, of course, bullshit.
What tools have you used to help you in your career? Discuss your most beneficial lessons.
Tools? If reading widely can be considered a tool, I’d say that it really helps to not sit in your comfort zone. So, books and the library would be the first. Then comes the beer and the friends who are artists and art critics (in their own right) who only speak art. And, lastly, time. Time is possibly the best tool you need to get any kind of writing down.
What would we find if we opened your bag?
Fanon’s ‘The wretched of the earth’ and Durkheim’s ‘The division of labour’. A laptop (with a charger). A note pad, a pen. A pack of Marlboro Gold and ear phones.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Being named Art Journalist of the Year 2015 and being selected as one of the M&G 200 Young South Africans this year.
What should newbies that are trying to break into your industry be doing to advance themselves?
Finish David Forster Wallace’s ‘Infinite Jest’, first.
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