Igniting Freedom: In Conversation with Ngqabutho Mpofu

Igniting Freedom: In Conversation with
Ngqabutho Mpofu

The only way that DJ Ngqabutho Mpofu could express his feelings was through music. While stuck in a day job that was making him feel low, a friend took him to GAS (Glasgow Autonomous Space) and the moment he walked into the venue he knew exactly what he wanted to do. 

The idea that was born is now JAIVA; a club night giving away profits to charity organisations that make a difference in the community, while ensuring it’s a night that does not compromise who is allowed in. The ‘freedom to move’ is represented by the dancing legs in their posters. At the moment, JAIVA are working on an event that will address menstrual poverty in Zimbabwe.

Mpofu  soon  gave  up  his  stressful  job and started taking in 

bookings around the country and is now a full time DJ. He is also the Chairperson of Ignite Theatre, and always looking for ways to promote mental health in the community. Mpofu noticed that many teenagers only feel comfortable talking about mental health issues in the club, and has embraced this.

JAIVA, IGNITE and GAS are all inclusive communities. For Mpofu, it’s obvious that it’s more productive to accept someone and include everyone than it is to divide people.

Q. JAIVA Is a concept that represents freedom of movement. What does that mean to you?

A: Well it means a lot to me because society here considers me as a foreigner and so that comes with its limitations! People here in the UK were freaking out about the freedom of movement when Brexit was presented to the public. I found it funny because it’s something that has always affected me.

I still hold a Zimbabwean passport even though I have been a resident for just under 10 years. I found the British panicking about a situation I have been in for half of my life, so let’s just imagine a world with freedom of movement and not based on political views! What if everyone had the same privileges that the red passport holders have? JAIVA flows well with this as we play music from around the world in a venue that mostly helps asylum seekers.

Q. What do you want to see JAIVA do in the future?

A: We are currently sorting out a couple of gigs in London, Manchester, Edinburgh, Bristol and hopefully more regular nights in Glasgow! The goal is to curate our own line up in Festivals because we have a gap in the market right now when it comes to World music and Afro house – alarmingly so in Glasgow. I would be happy when people get exposed to the music that we explore because it’s so different and easy to dance to. I would love for people to be open to the concept and hopefully get some kind of funding and support because this is the future it’s not a passing fashion, Africa has and still continues to influence the world musically and beyond!

Q. Can you tell us a little bit about Ignite Theatre and why you chose to get involved with them?

A: Ignite was founded by a group of teens who were under threat from being deported during the Knightswood, west of the city, dorm raids of 2008. When I came to Glasgow to join my mum in 2010 the atmosphere was really tense in Glasgow in terms of immigrants coming to settle, mainly from war torn countries. A church lady referred me to the group, so I went to see what it was all about. 

At that moment, I had all the time an 18 year old could ask for! I felt welcome and ended up being a regular, although I saw an opportunity that probably no one in the group  could  see.  The  group  was  due  to  do  auditions  for  a  play,  I turned to Aileen

Ritchie as a mother figure and we ended up taking the play on tour with some lovely people. Acting just came so natural to me.

I then got to do another show with The Tron in Glasgow. When I came back to the city after 4 years in England, I went to visit the group to encourage the young people about how far they could go with a charity that gives such opportunities and resources that don’t come about very often when you are an adult!

At the moment I’m the chairperson of the charity and really what we try to do is give young people a creative safe space and to increase their chances of employment in the creative sector. The workshops are completely free and we always aim to make the group as diverse as possible so all are welcome.

Q. How do you take care of yourself when balancing so many projects? Is it something you gain energy from or find draining?

A: Well, it is hard to balance, especially being a conscious individual. Having said that I do have a handful of people that believe in the projects I push forward. I do tend to give off energy so some alone time helps and I spend most of my time alone; it’s so underrated but it works for me! 

I do get energy from playing at regular nights, that’s a given. When I have time I spend time in the countryside collecting natural sound samples. Reading books and a regular visit to the gym helps, but I don’t often fit all that in! The only time I feel drained is when I have to be in a big group of people. I think I just cope well with being on my own or with small groups, maybe three people max. 

For me, keeping going is all about elevating each other and I feel like I have a purpose in life when someone comes to me for help and then seeing that individual succeed, I feed off other people’s progression and my own I suppose.

Q. Why do you think so many teenagers only feel comfortable speaking about their mental health at the club?

A: The government is too busy concentrating on irrelevant issues to the community especially young people, just look at how many community centres have shut down in recent years! If people don’t find alternatives like GAS and IGNITE then we are going to see a downfall in mental health even worse than the current reality. IGNITE does not put pressure on the young people so naturally that makes for a relaxed environment, the director Aileen Ritchie is impactful in how she runs the group I honestly don’t know how she does it, it’s just inspiring.

Q. How can readers support the event you are organising to address menstrual poverty in Zimbabwe?

A: We are looking for donations of sanitary pads that’s the important commodity. I know most people are not open about such issues but it needs to be addressed and solutions need to be discussed.

Anyone can make a difference, we don’t need someone famous to speak up for us to feel like we are having an impact – although, of course, that does help. We sell good quality merchandise at gigs and that helps us as we are competing with major popular clubs in the city. 

Come support the JAIVA events is the best way to help. We will hopefully do a panel talk before the fundraiser gig so we can all educate each other on the topic.

Q. Are there any other ways readers can get involved?

A: We are always looking for people and organisations to collaborate with so if anyone is doing anything creative please get in contact. Stay true to yourself, meditate more, smile more, help more people and come dance with us at our next gig in Glasgow on 18th October 20 19 at The Flying Duck.

Readers can follow the movement online on Facebook and Instagram where we are JAIVA GLASGOW or @Butho_the_warrior; we always keep those up to date we post about our latest events, the future projects, record of the week and Spotify playlists to keep you moving!

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