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#SpheresOfQueer: Moonga K. talks the importance of knowing where you come from and loving where you’re going

Having just released his second single, “My Mind” off his upcoming EP, and celebrating the news of his first-ever SAMA nomination, the timing for featuring singer, songwriter, creative director, and social activist, MOONGA K. in our #SpheresOfQueer campaign couldn’t be more perfect.

“uhm. ok. wow. never been nominated for anything in my life…”, reads the opening line of a recent Instagram post acknowledging the SAMA nomination for his last record Candid, created alongside producer Greg Abrahams, and mixed & mastered by PHfat’s Mike Zietsman & Vicente Espi.

But this SAMA moment has been 19 years in the making, with Moonga singing since the age of six and performing since the age of nine. He takes me back to Gaborone, Botswana where he grew up, to his early performing years, “I was a really out there kid, and I was obsessed with Destiny’s Child and Janet Jackson. And it was just really nice to have support, literally, all the folks were just like, ‘This kid can sing, and he really loves this shit so let’s give him a platform’.”

Photo cred The 1988 Films

He half-laughs, half-shakes his head when he explains how his mother may have taken her support a little too far, from fan to mom-ager. “That lady worked me to the bone in rehearsals,” he shakes his head, “She would make me sing for hours, and she would be like, ‘You gotta sing like this is the last performance you’re ever gonna do’,” – classic mom-ager moves, we laugh.

And, in retrospect, he considers it the discipline he needed.

MOONGA K. mentions his cosmopolitan private schooling in Botswana, being surrounded by people from all over the world, and how especially important it was for his father to teach him about where he came from. “My dad really just wanted us to know the realities of the world,” he starts, “He just wanted us to know the history of where we come from and the fights that have taken place to give us the independence we have today.”

He confirms the powerful sense of black pride his father instilled in him and his siblings, “I don’t walk into spaces where there are white folks and feel inferior.” MOONGA K. explains that he’s come across many people of colour who are not comfortable being themselves in white spaces. “My dad was like, ‘Fuck that! You’ve gotta be loud and proud about your blackness, about who you are, because that’s your power!’”

Photo cred The 1988 Films

It’s criminal how smoothly we segue from knowing your power to the power of knowledge as we talk about his academic history. “I got two degrees. Don’t play with me,” he laughs and does the coolest shoulder shimmy I’ve ever seen. I’m particularly interested in his Sociology degree specifically because of the lyrical content in songs like “Black, Free & Beautiful” and “Rebel Time” – featuring Sampa the Great, his older cousin and musical mentor in a sense.

“I always saw myself as a social justice warrior, but I never understood how much having the foundation of knowledge is so important before you go out and speak about it,” he comments of his degree before adding thoughtfully, “Intersexual feminism, and black feminism, and all of these theories, and even the queer theories I was learning… I didn’t realise how much human beings in the past fought for us to literally just exist as we are today. And are still fighting, and I wanted to contribute to that.”

We talk about the things you can’t learn from books, like self-acceptance. “I came to a space of completely accepting myself when I came to creating my last record, ‘Candid’ which was a year-and-a-half ago,” he admits, “I wanted to create something that just was me and spoke to all the anxiety that was in me, and all the worries and fears, and as any queer person, and specifically queer people of colour, I think this idea of safety is what terrifies us because we just don’t know [what might happen if you come out and show yourself].”

As is the case with so many queer folks, he needed to move away from home – away from religious expectations – to accept himself. “It took being [in Joburg], away from home, and meeting people that think like me and are attracted to the same things as me or believe in the same things as me to be like, ‘Oh shit, this isn’t really wrong at all’,” he explains.

He drives everything home with a recent epiphany. “I woke up, I was like, ‘Bro, I’m hot as fuck! WHAT!? I can walk into spaces and make people happy, just by being there, [and by making honest music], you know? The fact that it took me 25 years to come to that conclusion is insane, but I’m here, and I’m living in that confidence, and I’m living in that power, for me personally, I think it’s so important for me to be this version of myself, because I want to make it easier for all the boys, girls, non-binary bodies, to just be themselves.”

Check out Part 1 of #SpheresOfQueer featuring Yann Horowitz here.

Photo cred the 1988 Films