Following Variety’s announcement of the ambitious feature film written and directed by Sibs Shongwe-La Mer, Byron Eksteen joined him in his garden to speak about life, cinema and everything in between.

Sibs Shongwe-La Mer

Sibs’s second feature film is a co-production project between his own company LAIKA1991, alongside South African stalwarts Sereti Films, Stage 5, and Storyscope, with international blue chip partners SKGlobal and Ivan Hoe.  What emerged between the two is a surrealist anti-interview that coincides with Sibs’s reality that is often exhilarating and bizarre, an exploration of understanding the multi-disciplinary artist.

Sibs Shongwe-La Mer

In isiXhosa belief the process of twasa is the journey in which one takes in order to become a sangoma.  It is a process that chooses you and you do not choose it; naively put it’s a calling.  With reference and insight provided to me by the poet/prophet by the name of DAT, based in Gugulethu, there are three main elements in which the ancestors speak and exist in: the land, the mountains and most importantly, to this story, the water.  The manner in which twasa, connected to water, would conduct itself would be that the ancestors take the chosen individual into the ocean.  They would forcefully grab and pull the person while blissfully swimming into the ocean showing no consent or remorse.  Done so only to serve out the drive to complete the process in an unforgiving manner.  According to DAT, and the rest that have insight to this process via the water, it is not an easy one:  The process is ruthless, unpredictable, unforeseen, raw and it is beyond one’s wildest expectations.  It is a process that many may not survive.

Sibs Shongwe-La Mer
The person comes out from the water, back onto land, ready to work on the world as a different being. A being with the spirits of the ancestors speaking through them as if they are just a communicator with only a scar in their eye reflecting on the untold, unspoken and unique experience they had. Most importantly, if they survived, they are now back on the land ready to execute what they have been chosen to do.   Awaking, Sibs’s eyes open to a random ceiling that he recognises, as we all do. Leaning over to the end of the messy bed to reach his phone in his jeans, or wherever it was, he looks at the time. Getting up, he considers if he should get a coffee, figuring out if he liked the coffee and if he actually wanted coffee. He then proceeds with his daily morning ritual to get going with the day.  Thinking his mundane thoughts about the script while planning his day “in this small weird French town”, the haunt starts to come back. ‘Ding’ the sight of the metal sheets open allowing him to enter the elevator going down. He is now in this metal box with buttons and mirrors, an awkward space shared with other people all with their heads up looking at the numbers counting the floors. This is all going on while Sibs is still trying to figure out if he likes that coffee, what is to come from the day and how to navigate his way through Toronto.
Sibs Shongwe-La Mer
‘Ding’ the door opens again…It opens to a UFO sighting of flashing lights and energy, his name being called – each tone pronounced with a vulture-like desperation for the money shot: ‘Sibs what do you think?’, ‘Sibs can I have your views on..’, ‘Sibs! Sibs!,Sibs!’… In a split second his whole reality changed. He was in an ocean of cameras all wanting to harvest his creative power so they could get a piece of the pie. All trying to steal his attention and quote him on words that can be used for the story, or even better, to twist up his words to use against him for more hits for the article.
Sibs Shongwe-La Mer

Once the elevator hit the ground floor and opened, it provided an opportunity for them to get their headline.  It started off with one word, then another, then a full stop.  The reality of going through the ocean of success came very suddenly after the last full stop of Necktie Youth.  It became a reality of awakening in an ocean of media frenzy that literally aim to put him on a plinth as a museum piece; as the death of the director will increase sales.  Awakening to a world where they cash in on an artists desperation to be “validated by the system”. “No, no, no;  I write about the shit that’s gonna burn us alive, the shit that if we don’t fix it and if we don’t solve it we will perish, I have no option”. “I do it for the fans and not for no one else” “Fuck the openings, the red carpet and yacht parties and fuck all of that shit and selling out:  While that is going on you can catch me in a downtown tavern in the darkest night of the village and we’ll experience some shit, tell stories, live and go skate after”.

Sibs Shongwe-La Mer
He creates with the tribute to death rushing through his blood as if it came from somewhere only he knows.  The tribute that is on a leash held by the monster of getting it done; best described in the manner of how he tackled being nominated for Le Prix ARTE International for most promising cinematic vision for the screenplay “Color Of The Skull”:  When entering the venue at Cannes after being nominated best cinematic vision for a movie that was not shot yet (it was just a script).  He went back to his apartment and spoke to his beloved support Jenna, who was making lentils at the time, and told her he was there to do whatever he could to share his vision and tragic screenplay that existed solely in his mind.  Having no real clue as to how he was going to achieve that he just did what he had to do.  He put all his effort, energy, mind into the following few days at the festival meetings, giving all he had from the gut, making speeches that were so real it made him break down, giving every inch of his soul to deliver the vision he had for the movie he wrote.
Sibs Shongwe-La Mer
Sibs took home the award. Driven by the magical curse of “if I will die soon, I hope they know I was here” the first words of the piece (Necktie Youth) was a wound he had opened to let it all unfold. A wound he cut open on himself to pay tribute to the death, to life, to the future, to his homies who he used to walk in the maze of boredom with in Egoli’s suburbia, yet most importantly, the wound was cut open paying tribute to the family lineage of great writers in his blood. A wound cut open and now bleeding to the fact that this is all just the beginning and that there are huge projects on the horizon.
Sibs Shongwe-La Mer
Dwelling in a suburb constructed of houses with brown semi-circle stains on the walls from the iron in the irrigation systems (oddly enough the lawns are dead) is Sibs. He is back on the land where his path began. Now locked by the law from crossing the ocean, Sibs just gazes at that line on the horizon, like a voyeur with a scar in his eye from his return while readying himself. Sibs Shongwe-La Mer is no Sangoma, no Hollywood action superstar/ hero or a cultural broker that the South African media wants him to be. In all honesty, after spending a few hours with him talking as creatives I have come to accept, love and understand that ‘it is what it is’ with Sibs Shongwe-La Mer and all he wants to do is write, make some cool shit and celebrate his time to be alive.
Sibs Shongwe-La Mer

PHOTOGRAPHER : SHARDAY SWANEPOEL 
STYLIST & CREATIVE DIRECTION  : CATHARINA VAN WYK
ARTIST/FILM DIRECTOR/MUSICIAN SIBS SHONGWE-LA MER
WRITTEN BYBYRON EKSTEEN  WWW.BYRONEKSTEEN.COM
ORIGINAL CONCEPT : JENNA HISCOCK
COPY EDITOR : JENNA HISCOCK
HEADPEACES CATHARINA VAN WYK
FASHION AFROGRUNGEARMAND DICKER  & HOUSE OF LAIDLAW