Inspired to tell own stories

2018-10-30 06:00
Emile YX? Jansen.

Emile YX? Jansen.

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Emile YX? Jansen is best known as a founding member of pioneering South Africa hip-hop group Black Noise, the founder of Heal the Hood Project, the winner of LeadSA 2016 and a multiple South African hip-hop award winner. He is also known for his hip-hop activism and community work.

But few people know that he is a qualified school teacher and that much of his recent work in education, through Mixed Mense, Heal the Hood Project’s practical hip-hop school and the 11 schools and four community centres in which Heal the Hood Project currently works, is directly inspired by his own son, Kai-Jeevan and daughter, Meena.

“For me, these spaces also need to have crèches where you teach differently, where you write your own story. When I was holding my son in my arms, my default was to sing ‘rock-a-bye baby’. I was halfway into the thing and I was like ‘why am I singing this?’,” he says.

He adds that many parents don’t always realise the power they have in perpetuating certain ideas to which they themselves cannot

“It starts from birth. I started telling Bushman creation stories, the story of Princess Vlei, the story of fire. My son is amazing – he is three and he will tell you to make up a story, because I have always been telling him stories. We are masters at twisting a story and telling a story with sound effects and everything and it is passionate.

“When I went to the libraries, why don’t we read? Because those stories are boring. There’s no feeling in it. When we tell a story I find that we come from a rich – especially in the Western Cape – heritage of first people of telling story. This is the thing with Eurocentric information – it is very prim and proper; whereas with us, when we tell a story we embody the story,” says Jansen.

Parents are the primary teachers of their children and Jansen says they too have a choice as to what information their children should be fed.

“As primary teachers, we parents have the power to either enslave our African children with European and American stories, or we can find our own heritage and tell these stories to our kids,” he adds.

Jansen has decided to tell these first-nation/Bushman stories to his children and has seen them develop a growing respect for where they are from, especially now that they are living away from home in San Francisco.

Here, they are sharing their stories with other kids and amazing them with Bushman stories and songs that Jansen wrote and told them. As an independent artist Jansen has recorded and released 24 CDs during his career. He has independently written and self-published four books and with these four booklets he wishes to find a publisher to get the stories to as many South Africans as

“When I was there (in San Francisco) recently, I would ask him (Kai-Jeevan) at night what song and he would have a request line.

“Now you have a whole generation with young people thinking differently. Thinking this is our ancestors and this is where we come from.

“Our relationship with the land is not an exploitative one, it is one where we live in harmony. This is necessary at this time with global warming. You can’t have this conversation at university, it has to start from birth,” he adds.

Jansen decided to keep creating new stories and songs for his daughter, who will have her own album as documentation for her to grow up with and also to share with others.

“Cape Town has some of the best storytellers and artists that it is a shame that we do not sing our own lullabies or tell our own stories to our children.

“We are also working on an animation at present and 16 other illustrated songs and stories from the two albums. My next project will be unsung heroes from our communities,” says Jansen. V Jansen is selling each booklet for R50, or a complete package of four booklets and a CD is available from Heal the Hood Project at R250, CD is R100. Heal the Hood Project can be reached on 021 706 0481 or call Tanswell on 082 474 4750. Jansen is available on email at


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