Nazlee Saif Arbee (Pronouns: They/Them) is a 22-year-old multimedia artist born in Durban Central. They have been writing poetry since their developmental years in Victoria Street, often playing with the imaginary binary between ‘rap’ and ‘poetry’. In 2010, they had become an active member of Nowadays Poetry Sessions and performed as a Prelude Poet at Poetry Africa 2013.
Since then, they moved to Cape Town to complete an undergraduate degree in English Literature and Social Anthropology. Many classes were missed. Buildings were occupied. Masses were gathered. Saif had left their Mic for a Loud Hailer during the Rhodes Must Fall and Fees Must Fall protests. Reclaiming the labels ‘disrespectful’ and ‘ungrateful child’, Nazlee Saif comes from the generation of South Africans that question the ‘Born Free’ narrative. Their work is known to ‘throw shade’ at struggle icons including Nelson Mandela and Steve Biko. It invites people to question the dominant narratives we are collectively fed, as well as making reference to the perpetual power play in the construction of ‘icons’.
Since their recent graduation from the University of Cape Town in May 2017, Saif has been working as a photojournalist and tries to use their platforms in the media to give space to LGBTQIA+ people in Southern Africa. Their work on ‘Queering the media’ is a lifelong project on changing representations of Africans.
Influenced by the lives of family members that could be considered ‘gangsters’, Saif is currently working on decolonizing gang culture and creating a hybrid genre of artistic expression, which they refer to as, ‘Afrofuturistic Gangsterism’; This genre is a fusion of multiple art forms such as Rap, poetry, photography, and videography, which centres artistic expression as ‘ammunition’ in a world of constant violence.
Nazlee Saif released their first Audio-visual, The Wake-up Call in January this year and with the will of the most high, they plan on releasing a Visual Album early next year.