/ 24 September 2003

A voice of authority in the arts

Most people would see Bongani Madondo, a journalist of about 10 years, as yet another dreadlocked resident of Yeoville in Johannesburg — but in arts and culture circles, he is a voice to be reckoned with.

Madondo, now with the Sunday Times, has worked for as many publications as he has written about the countless developing and offbeat genres that fall under the of arts and culture umbrella.

‘I think arts and culture journalists are generally lazy, because [they] are not open to genres that are not in the mainstream like hip-hop, craft and township dance,” he says.

‘We are not giving [the arts] the coverage it deserves.” Madondo says the dependence on press releases and public relations companies has had a detrimental effect on the arts. But he is not one of the ‘lazy” ones, having scooped a prestigious Arts & Culture Trust Award for Journalist of the Year.

Since 1993 Madondo has written about South African music, film and literature for City Press, Sunday Life, the Mail & Guardian, and Sowetan Sunday World. He writes with authority about different art forms.

Madondo’s latest preoccupation is with the career of controversial local pop icon Brenda Fassie. ‘I look at arts and culture from a political, spiritual, and entertainment perspective. It represents a troika of life,” he says. ‘I can’t talk about arts and exclude one of these three values.”

He extends his appreciation to those who gave him positive references in his nomination. ‘If you do something and people appreciate it, you should say thank you,” he says. ‘So I thank the people who nominated me, my ancestors, and the Sowetan Sunday World for giving me the space.”

Madondo has received other awards, including the Steve Biko Fellowship for his work in journalism.