Bio: Nusaybah aka Nina Alexia Brazzo
Brazzo is originally from East London, Essex in England from Sicilian and English parents. Brazzo has a BA Hons in Photography from Southampton Solent University and has worked as a freelance photographer and exhibiting her work ever since. In 2007 Brazzo travelled around the world for two and a half years on her own exploring cultures, religions, lifestyles and philosophies. Tasting traditional arts and culture in Indonesia, finding her true sense of home in South Africa and piecing the jigsaw of spiritually together leading her to embracing Islam were major consequences of these travels. Since completing her travels in 2009, Brazzo felt this great duty to give back and share what she had learnt about the world through the arts. Forming the exact goals, objectives and how this was going to take shape took some years of investigating.
Brazzo emigrated to Cape Town, South Africa in 2011 after an arts and culture scholarship in Indonesia. From 2014 Brazzo starting sharing her poem “Broken” which was about the domestic abuse she experienced in her marriage. At first it was just a way to share with close friends, but then being invited to activities which eventually lead to performing, made her realise that it was a responsibility to share because it helped so many people who related to her story. She found the tools to move forward out of that dark space. Through the courage of her sharing her poetry about the frank depths of domestic abuse in Cape
Town, it spiralled into publications, invitations to workshops, seminars and events. Not only was writing her story cathartic but also healing came through sharing the experience and gradually transformative as shared narratives came to surface; thus gaining extra strength through not feeling alone in struggle. Her firm, unwavering belief in The Almighty gave her many spiritual unveilings, the courage to face each obstacle and brave to make the necessary choices. In light there is an element of darkness and in the darkness there will always be light, no matter how dim it seems. Therefore, with this being a catalyst to her healing, the knowledge and skills she has learnt through this experience are used to benefit others through her NPO Rahasia Mafiusa. It inspires others through shared experiences and give rise to hope, motivation and belief in The Creator. The workshops and events are delivered in an interactive, open discussion format allowing for a safe space of engagement.
In 2016 Rahasia Mafiusa NPO was launched at the District Six Museum to bridge the gap between segregated communities as a result of Apartheid. This event was called “Rahasia” meaning secret in Indonesian. This was a huge success in bringing people from various backgrounds together under one roof. To achieve the diverse audience, the performance line-up naturally was. The result was people that previously had never heard the creative expression of the other faith or culture now held a new found appreciation and similarities in the other, that previously were unrecognised. The mission is in raising consciousness of the ramifications and repercussions of racial and cultural prejudice using Indonesian creative arts, photography, poetry and music.
A weekly open mic night was initiated and further built on bringing diverging communities together. This is called “Lyrical Pilgrimage” with the basis that those of spiritual and traditional values could find a safe space to share their creative expression outside of the norm of clubs and bars. Every session there was a guest act which highlighted different talents from historical storytelling to reggae, spoken word, nasheeds, singing, poetry and rap. From these regular sessions, artists were selected for staged shows including “Sacred Cove” at Erin Hall (Rondebosch) and “Molto Mafia!” at Guga Sthebe (Langa) and Novalis Ubuntu (Wynberg).
Brazzo has since gained 2 further scholarships (August 2016- December 2018) learning Indonesian traditional cultural dances, music, singing, batik and shadow puppet making. The first university was ISI Surakarta in central Java. ISI stands for Institute Seni Indonesia which specialises in the arts. Her dance styles studied include Jatim, Bali, Surakarta Alus, Sunda, Sriwijaya, Minangkabau and Melayu. The karawitan orchestra traditional music from the Surakarta region was studied in practical lessons. Drawing and stamp technique of batik (wax on textile) was studied including home-made stamps from recycled found objects, traditional making of stamps and natural dyes. The basic techniques for making shadow puppets and working with the animal skin were learnt. The second university of study which commenced in the academic year of 2017 was at ISI Padangpanjang in West Sumatra. Here, the dance specialised in Melayu cultures including Minangkabau, Zapin, South Sumatra, North Sumatra, traditional Melayu rantau and Darek. Randai was also practiced which is a unique form of storytelling combining silek (martial arts) movements, dance, singing, acting, sounds created from body and musical instruments. The music component included learning Gandang Sarunai (pair of traditional drums), Telempong (metal pot-shaped instruments), singing of spiritual barzanji and traditional Minangkabau Dendang singing. One of the signature styles of dances from West Sumatra is tari piring which is with plates and can also include candles.
In October 2016 Rahasia Mafiusa NPO sponsored six Photographers from South Africa and one from Holland in Solo Photography Festival. Photography workshops and discussion sessions were organised with great intrigue into what South Africa is really like. It was effective to demystify the myths of South Africa and educate Indonesians about the historical connection in which a majority did not know. The students and teachers expressed wanting to carry on and build with interactives talks with South Africans to know more about life, photography work and the local history. We welcome generous interested parties to sponsor our inclusion again.
After two and a half years of living in Indonesia, Brazzo collaborated with artists from cultures across the Nusantara to create a rainbow coloured musical journey with a splashing of dance through her poetry, spoken word, rap and song. Inspired greatly by the depth and richness of the varied Indonesian cultures she created a truly inter-cultural project that blossomed from her poetry with musicians from various backgrounds including Sunda, Minangkabau, Arab Indonesian, Melayu, Riau, Lampung, Bali, Java, East Nusa Tengara, North and South Sumatra represented across Indonesia as well as England, Czech Republic, East Timor, Bangladesh and South Africa. The show “Pelangi Indonesia” (Indonesian Rainbow) manifested from these collaborations touring across nine cities and more than 11 shows in Indonesia. This acts as an example for one of the primary objectives of Rahasia Mafiusa to raise awareness about Indonesian Arts and Culture to establish a new link to ancestral and historical past for all South Africans, ascertaining bonds between Indonesia and South Africa. The concept behind the performance is a musical and lyrical journey through self-discovery and world truths. We are spiritual beings so this is naturally an inward as well as an outward journey, asking those fundamental questions to the Universe. So, it is quite fantastical and adventurous! It promotes inclusiveness and multicultural projects through being an example with this work, thus inspiring this philosophy to others through the work of the NPO Rahasia Mafiusa.
Around 20 poems from the book Learning To Read The Universe: Peeling The Onion have soundscapes performed and recorded. The performance work uses art to express these experiences of travel, spirituality, life and what she has learnt through her journey with poetry, spoken word, singing, world music and a little dance which will prelude the launch of her book. This tour was the result of two years collaborating with musicians in Indonesia which produced this extraordinary passionate and powerful collection which can be described as a lyrical pilgrimage. Fusing cultures and genres within the sound it is magical, unique, captivating and moving.
In October 2018 Brazzo toured with the well-known band “Debu” (meaning dust) around the island of Lombok that had recently been effected by earthquakes. This was amongst the people by their tents as they re-develop their lives again. What was phenomenal was their genuine smiles and positivity. They accepted the situation and their message was that they would build it up again so that it was even better than before! To see the joy from children to old is simply a priceless memory and touching to see what people go through the world with such resilience and goodness in their hearts.
Brazzo believes traditional arts are an integral part to social change. Formulating an example of what it means to collaborate across cultural boundaries and thus finding new talents in music composition and dance choreography which speak much more powerfully than the singular voice; her work is a catalyst to change. The arts offer tools for healing, calm and understanding the complexities of life. Brazzo believes ultimately her work is a form of worship celebrating love for The Divine, Prophets, the sacred journey and beauty on this path as the collaborations and feedback from audiences’ reactions confirm. Therefore, the search is on for artists who work with traditional South African cultures and those that are interested to learn about traditional arts of Indonesia. Collaborations are in process and in the pipe line to fuse these cultures which will be ground-breaking for both nations.
The arts in Indonesia are seen to have a spirit and soul entwined within each one. Therefore, it is a means to understanding their philosophies and ways of thinking. The arts that were learnt and available for performance and teaching include dance, randai storytelling, Senaman Tua (Ancient Malay Exercise) music, batik and shadow puppets.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5ugPdhThXA&t=282s (from 03:40)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X2h1fXEXc5o&t=1716s (from 22:00)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mMw5iCgmEtM (from 1:06:00)
Radio Show in Surakarta: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B3_Jnm31oJlZU0FGZVVRQ1dsVkE/view
Video interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JXJJPvhV_zM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WP8UepeN0NU (from 11:25)
Work in fitness, health and well-being:
Senaman Tua (Yoga Melayu/ Ancient Malay Exercise)
Nina Alexia Brazzo is an internationally qualified personal trainer and group fitness instructor. As fitness is an essential part of Brazzo’s lifestyle, she has always done various forms over the years including horse-riding, judo, karate, kung-Fu, kickboxing, rugby, netball, athletics, cross-country, scuba-diving and hiking to name a few. In her daily routine she relishes free weights as her special interest is strength and toning. In her early 30s, Brazzo realised that a lot of people lack the knowledge and experience to enjoy keeping fit in their life. Through reaping the benefits emotionally, psychologically, strategic planning and other aspects of life as well as health and fitness; Brazzo felt the call to share this knowledge as a career. She found a natural flare for instructing group fitness with her energetic, bubbly personality, voice projection, dance background, creative ideas and athletic body that inspired others. Brazzo is still proud to rock her head covering and more modest clothing in the fitness industry in a fashionable way; making her a natural role model. After two and a half years of working in fitness whilst joking to her Shayk that people think she is a yoga teacher, the instruction came to learn a new methodology that was in line with Islam and would appeal to Capetonians. Shayk Aleey Abdul Qadr advised Brazzo to learn Senaman Tua as this would benefit her own practice as well as people in South Africa which would be familiar and easy to learn with her experience in traditional Melayu dance, silat, meditation, fitness, yoga and the language.
Senaman Tua is Ancient Malay Exercise and the yoga alternative. Senaman Tua originates from the royal households of Malaysia. It uses a combination of Malay breathing techniques, stretching, movements from silat martial arts and Malay traditional dance which increase blood circulation, strengthen joints, create a sense of calm, detox and stimulate healing. In this form of ancient wisdom one is linked to a spiritual tradition and philosophy that can be akin to the modern globalised Yoga or body conditioning exercise depending on demands of the practitioner. Participants become more in tune with their body, movement in relation to space, understanding themselves, how to heal pain, sickness and create a sense of well-being.
Salaat as Meditation: Nurturing conscious and awareness.
Using the tool of meditation, we start to go inward to become more fully cognoscente of this magnificent functioning of our human body. Not only do we become astutely aware of the physical sensations, but also with breath, the monkey mind, the environment around us and the fluidity of emotions. We know through our holy books and stories that all Prophets practiced meditation as a part of their worship. In the purity of this exercise one can strengthen their spiritual practice, focus, concentration, clarity of mind, problem solving, relieve physical and emotional pain and an avenue for profound God-consciousness. The more a person knows oneself, they know The Creator and the whole of the Universe cannot contain The Almighty but the believers heart can. What if your walking, work and prayer could all be truly mindful steps free from time and profoundly present?