/ 22 February 2023

Kiernan was here

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Friday  eds’ note

This is not the Editor’s Note I thought I was going to write this week. The plan — planning, the one thing we humans can’t help but do, no matter how futile — was to spend this space writing about Mary Corrigall’s outstanding story celebrating a decade of the Investec Cape Town Art Fair. 

I was going to talk about how I went to my first #ICTAF in 2013, while I was editing True Love magazine. The excitement was palpable but the fair was not nearly as big as it is now, attracting both local and international art investors. 

And as I get ready to head to Cape Town this week, to attend innumerable showcases and talks around the city during the fair, I’m proud to have seen its growth over the years. 

But it wasn’t the Editor’s Note I was meant to write. 

February is my birthday month, so I was hoping for a do-over from last year’s fiasco. The plan — I hear the gods sniggering — was to fly to Cape Town on my birthday, after getting my hair done in Joburg, and end up posting a sundowner beach picture with an Aperol spritz strategically placed in the background. 

But life has no Instagram filters; shit escalates quickly and without warning. Instead, I got delayed at the salon, missed my flight — and while I was sitting morosely having my hair braided, imagining the plane leaving OR Tambo — I got the news that Riky Rick had died. What a birthday this was turning out to be. 

I ended up spending the day alone, eating lunch at Glenda’s like a sad loser, wanting to cry but not sure who to cry to and for what exactly. Riky’s death hurt so deeply I mentally cancelled my birthday last year.

So, there was a lot riding on this birthday but, once again, my birthday month is not quite birthday monthing as it should, I’m afraid. 

The day before we get the news about AKA’s (Kiernan Forbes) death, I’m on the phone with my close friend and designer Hangwani Nengovhela and we’re discussing the upcoming celebration of 25 years of the Style Awards and what Rubicon ensemble I might wear to them. 

It’s going to be a big night — Khuli Chana is nominated and I’m excited for him after last month’s release of the single Prada, his collaboration with Kiernan. All my stories are in, I’m planning on seeing Zoe Modiga and Mandisi Dyantyis at Constitution Hill. It’s going to be a great weekend, I think to myself. 

But after coming back from dinner that Friday night, I head to Twitter as usual and I scroll through retweets about Kiernan and his former manager, Tebello “Tibz” Motsoane, being killed in Durban. My initial thought is that it’s either a joke — Twitter likes killing people while they’re alive — or a prank. Optimistically, I hope people are lying and that it’s another hoax because Supa Mega is scheduled to release Mass Country on 24 February. But, as the night progresses, it becomes clear Kiernan is indeed gone. The plan has to change again and the weekend is spent in tears, disbelief and sadness. 

That Friday night, I leave Shingai Darangwa a voice note just before midnight, asking him to write a tribute. The deadline is tight but he can do this. He replies immediately. It looks like the country can’t sleep. 

My heart is broken for us fans but the news — much like life — doesn’t stop just because you’re grieving. I kick into editor mode, robotically going through the list of things to do: covers, images and layout. But the human being and the hip-hop fan in me are reeling. I spend the weekend dodging the CCTV footage that has leaked. I can’t bear to look at it. 

I go through pictures from a night at PAUL’s a couple of years ago with my friend Palesa Madumo sitting with Tibz and his aunt Lerato and them telling us about their newly established wine brand. My memory pushes me back to last year at the South African Fashion Week launch party watching Kiernan and Nadia Nakia love on each other before walking out of the Sandton venue, hand in hand like hip-hop royalty. They were not avatars, these were real people. 

When I do eventually pluck up the courage to look at the footage on Monday, I’m nauseous, thinking of his daughter Kairo seeing that awful moment. I go from cognitive dissonance to sheer bewilderment. I post that I feel like we’re in a simulation. 

I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time over the last couple of days thinking about what to write to fully express the sickening feeling I’ve had this week. Not because AKA was an angel — as our cover story says, his redemption story was cut short —but because I’m starting to wonder whether vengeance does fill the void left by grief. 

I’m interrogating my own relationship with forgiveness and whether I give people the grace to make mistakes, come back from them, no matter how much I might have been hurt. I don’t know where I stand yet. I move between the present and the past tense because I’m in transition. I’m between states of mind and vacillate between peace and rage.

There’s no doubt that Kiernan was a certified hitmaker, a natural born talent and an incredibly complex individual. (Tibz, too, had his issues). He bridged geographical gaps and painted pictures with his words but he was also human. 

Kiernan, like all of us, deserved grace, forgiveness and kindness. I hope he knows no matter what, he was here, he was loved and he was Mega. His last words were: “Wherever I go, you go.” And he was right, we’ll carry him in our hearts forever. Long live the Megacy!