Interview with Sashquita Northey of Emalyth

Emalyth Arts Expo VI
All of the things this Capetonian was expecting, the Emalyth Art Fest delivered. What a weekend! It’s Monday; my neck is still sore, my voice is hoarse and barely recognizable as feminine, but we’ll get into that on in the next article!
Held at the Wolmer Bush Lounge just outside of Pretoria, you would not for a moment think you were a few roads away from a shopping centre and busy main street. The camping site is surrounded by bluegums and the festival area itself is gated with a large stretched tent and grass areas. In the center, a stage facing a paved floor opposite the bar. Which was exactly what was required for the downpour of summer rain. Not that this stopped the crowd of 400+ having the time of their lives!

I had the opportunity to sit down with Sashquita Northey, boss lady and celebrity of Emalyth, to chat about the festival, her reasons for starting it and what makes her keep doing it year after year. Not only does she run Emalyth in her spare time, but she’s also a qualified teacher – a combination most would find a little strange – but she says that she finds doing both offers her a great sense of balance and release. The arts and music side and the professional, intellectual side of her life live in perfect harmony. This lady has a vision for art and music, and she’s working hard to make it happen.

M4A: Hi Sash, thank you so much for arranging everything and giving us access. It’s great to be chatting to you. So… Tell me about Emalyth! Where did it start and how did you get the idea?

Sashquita: I know so many incredible, great artists; People who don’t really get the opportunities to display their works. These are the people who find beauty in the macabre and the weird. So I thought, why not show their work at a few gigs? People who enjoy metal enjoy the strange imagery. We held the first event at the Black Dahlia, which is a tiny venue and we ran out of space that day, so we needed a bigger one. Two events later we moved to Wolmer and decided to make it a camping event. We’ve had a few success stories, people are getting commissions and getting pieces sold. One of our exhibitors got a Victoria Francis commission through the event, artists are getting their work out there and getting recognized.

M4A: This is the sixth Festival, what was your reason for starting and why make it a mixture of alternative art and metal?

Sash: We started pulling bands in to get a larger crowd. The bands are a huge pull point. Unfortunately, sometimes the artists do feel that they’re not getting enough attention, but it certainly helps when people are staying for the bands, most people will only look at art for so long, so the bonus is artists get exposure.

emalyth-vi-sketchesM4A: Why do you feel it’s important to give the alternative a platform, like this festival?

Sash: It’s metal!!! And Art. Two things that I absolutely love! I find that when it comes to things you like, other people will like it too. While it’s a bit selfish, it’s generally true. It’s a niche market. But looking around, there are a lot of new faces so that shows that it works!

M4A: I have to say that I’m blown away by how well you’ve organized this event, how clean the area is this morning; the fact that the bathrooms have been kept clean; despite rain and mud; the quality of food on sale; the amazing sound that you have going…

Sash: Oh yes, that’s absolutely down to the Wolmer Bush Lounge and the staff here. The van der Walts are amazing. Heinie and I work so well together, and the events go so smoothly because of him and the staff!

M4A: Arranging an event to this size and spanning this many days, is an enormous task. What do you feel are some of the biggest challenges you’ve had to face over the years?

Sash: The guest list! Every year… Its incredibly stressful. Last minute submissions, guests, the artists and their guests… Three to four weeks just working on guest lists! It becomes incredibly time consuming. We got the showers and bathrooms in this year for the first time, because we felt it was big enough this year to warrant it.

emalyth-vi-birdM4A: And highlights?

Sash: I get to see the most amazing bands! I get to hang out with my friends and see art… The people! Jo’burg supports metal, maybe not on the scale of London or Texas, but we support. The atmosphere is just the best!

M4A: I have to say that that’s something that struck me too. Looking around the diversity of people here, ages, race, everyone is so incredibly chilled out and just enjoying themselves. There’s no animosity or fighting or people getting drunk for the sake of it.

Sash: We’ve never had a fight. At any of the festivals or gigs… Look we’ve never had people deliberately break things but if it happens, it’s all smiles and apologies and just being here for the music and the art.

M4A: Do you think there’s a bit of a resurgence in metal at the moment?

Sash: Oh yes! I mean there were some amazing bands coming out in the last two years, like Boargazm and The Drift. They are shaking the scene a bit and there’s definitely a lot more activity. There’s always an up and a dip. I’ve been lucky that these gigs are going well, it always depends. Weather, timing, other gigs or events… But yeah. Absolutely things are happening.

M4A: What do you hope people will take home with them after these events?

Sash: If people are talking about the art, and they had a good time and that people spread the word… That’s amazing. I want people to close the divides and get people united. Build a community of metal. I’d love to get people to just come together and enjoy the music.

emalyth-vi-haggis-and-bongM4A: With all the international acts coming to South Africa these days, who would you love to work with and why?

Sash: Theater Runs Red… Yes, I love them (laughs). Sakramentum, this Serbian band: I would love to bring them here … Oh and even some of the South American bands. There’s one called Descomunal, and they are fantastic, from Ecuador. I’d love to see them here. I’d love to see more underground bands.

M4A: Moving forward, how do you see the festival growing? Do you have plans to branch out?

Sash: Well last year, we had about 300 people in attendance, 150 artists and bands, and 150 guests, and last night was a lot busier than the opening night of last year! I hope to see the event growing and keep bringing great artists around, if I don’t lose my mind! We are bringing in more performance art, dancers, fashion shows, there’s going to be a sword fighting tournament a bit later, we really do want to make this an event for the arts and music. This is our biggest event of the year, the rest of them are usually shorter, a day or two. One day I want to see the tents stretched as far as the eye can see, I want people to enjoy the scene, have fun with the music and the art.

I have little doubt that this vision will someday be fulfilled. Check out Emalyth and get yourself over to some of their events.