Sibs Shongwe-La Mer | Visual artist, musician & independent filmmaker
Sibs Shongwe-La Mer is a young filmmaker, visual artist, writer, musician and TEDtalks alumnus based in Johannesburg. He started directing South African music videos in 2011, and in 2012, his narrative short film “Death of Tropics” won Best International Narrative Short Film at the Mosaic World Film Festival. He has also done photographing for jazz singer Sibongile Khumalo and fashion designer Marianne Fassler. Last year, he founded The Whitman Independent, an online youth art collective, production company and retailer.
The Difference Between good And Great | Discipline, Love, commitment & an awareness of the potential for innovation in any given professional situation. It’s not easy for one to get good at something but for someone to achieve true brilliance I think there is an “all or nothing” mentality that must first formulate. Greatness takes meditation and reflection. It often takes sacrifices and the overcoming of many an adversity. I personally have always viewed true greatness as a sort of marriage between self, craft and eternity. Arriving at the end of a dark spiraling road with the ability to look down on the path clearly, objectively… as if a spectator to a game. Think it is only in a state of pronounced clarity that one is able to see the pieces and rebuild, reinvent, determine what information and what roads are now obsolete and build more cohesive structures. You have to lose yourself entirely to your craft and utilize the creative mind as one would a limb. Commit like a monk to religion…
Work at it, listen to it, give all of self to it, presence yourself to every waking second of you’re experience & look for the insights in your sleeping ones (even the painful ones, there is no invaluable experience, every moment is preparation for communion with forever.)
I think people who never achieve the greatness they might aspire to are not less than or less talented. Every man is an angle. So the case in my opinion is that there are those that give 100% of their efforts and those that give 100% of their beings. Therein lies the difference.
My Key Talent | Awareness of your resources and the limitation/obstacles that you face. Idealism is a beauty beyond measure but in order for new frontiers to be reached the boundlessness of the ideal must wrestle with the pragmatic nature of realities and overcome…defining itself as “ new information”. A good idea is not an achievement… far from it. It is nothing but a good idea until the author of the thought is able to make it practical. What cannot manifest lays with theory and theories are something I find very little solace in. I have always found that the only ways one is able to navigate an unseen course is through a kind of prophecy. Projections of what actions are likely to yield favorable future outcomes. What frontiers or themes that effect you’re experience are not being communicated or challenged. What is not being said or what is being said in manners that it cannot be heard. An awareness of ones environment, society and resources.
I live in Johannesburg City….
I might decide to go for a walk through town and try reflect on something.
On my walk I observe people and their lives.
I have a realization about the world, man or the country I’m in that I feel the desire to articulate somehow.
Now I think “Okay what can I use in this moment to document this experience” and where is the audience I want this message to be received by/ how do I reach them?
On a personal level I am a huge believer in the Internet and social media as a new frontier for enterprise, social engagement & art practice. I am a firm believer that with a relatively good idea, a strategy and an awareness of how to communicate to global populations and convey an idea the world becomes a very small place.
Principles I Live By | I always say live with love as a guide and you’ll be relatively alright. It’s not easy practice (at least not for me). It’s often easier to be hateful. Living in love leaves a lot of vulnerability which hatefulness protects. But I believe all of mans potential for beauty/happiness is derivative of a loving space. You gotta be okay with yourself (That’s a big one). So many people if not 99 percent are somewhat controlled by a fear of outer perceptions. It’s such a limit, such a self-imprisoning. People who are totally okay with who they are might find it a lot easier to communicate without reservation… with total honesty. For me this is the truth of art. Good art is not a painting or a photograph… those come after as merely a consequence of truer discover. Good art is living in pursuit of a profound truth or leaving a clue to what it must mean to exist together in this world, in these fragmented societies. Good art is the untamed inquisitive mind dancing along side the on going now with an open heart, a sincerity, a refreshing naivety and a spirit that welcomes eternity. As such sometimes I think people need to live more like educated children and not educated slaves. There is a large absents of love, truth, morality… these are all things to aspire too.
Critical Skills | Communication is key I find… Maybe the most important skill or asset to our survival. Especially as it relates to the artist as art is most often a message communicated through seemingly abstract means. So a clarity of voice becomes most paramount in my work as in my life. I always find myself in a conflict or a state of frustration with my tongue searching for ways to better communicate in my life as a total experience, in my day-to-day, my relationships and my work. I am horrible at communicating my feelings with people (which is probably my biggest personal error), which has resulted in a lot of loss and disease with life at times. So I’m always trying to improve how I relate with people on a personal leave. This same thing can be said about my sentiments towards my work. I spend most of my life trying to achieve a well-communicated message… I don’t spend time trying to make a good movie. I don’t see the difference between a guy who gets on a knee to try communicate why to one he loves why they should stay forever, An honest Facebook status of 3 lines and a great work of art. It’s all art… its all art all the time. We just trying to say things… in different ways perhaps.
Dealing With Doubt | I deal with moments of extreme fear and self-doubt on a daily basis. I am always risking everything it seems. Since a lot of my work takes months or years to complete and often requires me to self-finance or look for people willing to back a project. I am always at a point of “ Is this any good? “ “Am I wasting my life, people’s time and money?” “Does anything I say have any validity?”
Not to over complicate this one… I simply arrive at a point where I am able to see what there is around me to be grateful for (even if just the support of a friend) and it enables me to see everything retrospectively and I ask myself “at the end of the day, If I have the support of my friends, the love of my family, the rent is paid and I do what I love even if I don’t love doing it right now… Do I care what some 70-year-old critic in a foreign country or a 22-year-old hipster with a Facebook account think??” The answer is always “not at all”. I always remember I do what I do everyday and work around the clock to achieve it for those I love, the memory of those lost & for those that show support and give that love back. Not fazed by anything/anyone else. So I remind myself that I have nothing to fear cause there can only be love in my home if I so choose. “Those who mind don’t matter, those who matter don’t mind”
Resources I Use | There would be far too much to mention and since growth is a constant (one would hope) there are a lot of things that I’m sure will in future impact my reality and transform me into a different creative entity. But cinema, literature, music, nature, societies, oceans, seasons and economy inspire me greatly. I try and watch a film a day or at least learn something new that is applicable to my life. Not always about the world… sometimes about myself. My greatest inspirations have been the literary works of Allen Ginsberg, Albert Camus, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Walt Whitman, William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Carl Jung, Yeats, Wilde that sort thing. The cinematic works of Jean-Luc Godard, Amos Poe, Larry Clark, Harmony Korien, Cassavettes, Truffaut, Renoir, Bergman, Fellini, Man Ray, Kazan, Ki-Duk, Wong Kar Wai, the b’s, Nick Z, Gordan, Tim Sutton, pictures of Astaire & Rogers… that list goes on. And music and everything else would just make this list nonsensical. I listen to The Smiths a lot which definitely has an impact on my sensibility. But most importantly I would say Johannesburg & my family are my greatest influences. Two marks I am always in a state of complete conflict with but also two marks that have their moments and need be credited extensively in all my works and thoughts… if not only for the scares.
My Dreams and Ambitions | Right now my ambitions are starting to alter from professional to more personal which I am very happy about. On the professional side… gosh, I don’t know. I suppose I have my feature film coming out the end of next year/ early 2015 so one hopes that goes well. But my main focus now is living a good life. Which has been something I have sacrificed for success in the last 2 years & something the universe has sacrified on my behalf for much longer. I have always put my health and life second to achieving goals or destinations. Now I hope for good health above all else, creative longevity and dream of a family to love, a kid to guide through being human, a wife to love. Try genuine human connections, true living epiphanies. I feel that there is a lot more to life than work and I pray that one day I experience more wonderment than accolades. I travel a lot globally these days but I’m often not present or in a mindset where I am able to fully receive/appreciate a new experience or culture cause work and other preoccupations stifle me. So I find myself wanting to really grow from the opportunities life presents and not just drift through living with a checklist. So my main aspiration at this point is to contribute to more than my own life. To share life and grow indefinitely… I have no doubt that if I am better equipped to live the art will manifest as consequence without reservation.
The Meaning of life | To rummage through dirt for centuries and still find beauty unbounded…
Getting Rich | Sell cocaine. If what you want is money without an alternative primary motivation push coke, peddle meth, bag heroine, pimp on prostitutes, become a dictator. There are many ways to get rich in this life. But true wealth can never be a pay cheque. Money is very .very important. One cannot buy happiness but one can buy the freedom to pursue it but wealth is being fulfilled, having a full plate. You need to build your perfect love from the ground up, your home, your dream occupation, you have to build that relationship with your kid from the first day of life to be able to sit on a together porch in 30 years with a glass of whiskey and the sound of new life playing in the garden… wealth is a combination that most rich men never ever discover because moneys pursuit is one of mans greatest distractions. Some of my biggest payouts have been the least happy days of my life. That is an important lesson in life. Money is great and everyone should be rich. Money is not a hard thing to make either. It’s a hard thing to make trying to make it… If you’re living a wealthy life well then … (to quote my father)….“ Son… the money will come”I Am Loving At The Moment | Aimee De La Harpe.
The Legacy I Want To Leave | It’s a bit too early into what I got planned for this life to start talking about legacies. I plan to do a lot more and in a lot more fields. I’d like to try and find ways to make progressive creativity beneficial to my immediate society. Use what I have learnt and gained to help others… not in their career but in their lives. I’d like to encourage an ethos of independence, liberal thinking and independent self-bettering. I have always believed that man regiments himself severely though blind adherence to social norms, established industry or popular belief. We are quick to calculate our own faults but are unable to see that the creators and governors of the rules are/were human too. People rely on what has been, on old information instead of speeding towards the future with great excitement. This bothers me and is why I find it impossible to identify with most people. People trap themselves into a life and then complain about that life as the architects of their existence and expect sympathy. I hope more than anything if I get hit by a car tomorrow that my life serves as a challenge to convention and people say “ Maybe there a different ways to obtain a great education in the new world, maybe “the only way” isn’t the “only way”. I hope more people realize “ I can if I want, I can if I am willing to really really go for it… to the last breath of joy” . I don’t need my name in a history book. I just do what I have to do to do what I have to do… And I hope next time a mother or father looks at a kid who’s a bit different or challenged that instead of further drumming into the kid what he/she isn’t or what he will never be a mother is able to say “ well… maybe my kid is just who he is. And that’s amazing.” I have had a life that is harder than a lot… I’ve had to deal with thing no one should… this is life. I just wish the world and the school I went to didn’t make me feel like I needed to die before I would ever be understood. It took me almost dying to unlearn everything my parents and school told taught me I was.