Our singing
anthropologist

Tribute 'Birdie' Mboweni

Tribute 'Birdie' Mboweni.

Debut album photo shoot with Katlego Mokubyane.

Debut album photo shoot with Katlego Mokubyane.

My life journey has mostly been about me doing my best to find a balance between pursuing my music career and keeping up with my academic and other interests.  

Tribute 'Birdie' Mboweni.

The Bombani Show at The Orbit in Braamfontein, Johannesburg.

The Bombani Show at The Orbit in Braamfontein, Johannesburg.

I am Tribute Jabulile Mboweni, otherwise known Tribute ‘Birdie’ Mboweni. I was born and raised in South Africa, in Bushbuckridge, near the famous Kruger National Park – South Africa’s first and biggest National Park. This is where everything that I have come to love and pursue passionately was cultivated. By everything, I mean my love for the environment, people and music.

I am a Singer/Songwriter (this is where ‘Birdie’, short for Songbird, comes from) and in my last seven years of pursuing music as a solo artist, I have performed on some exciting stages inside and outside of the African continent, including but not limited to the Atlantic Music Expo (Cabo Verde), the Cape Town International Jazz Festival (South Africa), an East African Tour (Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya) and performances in France and Dubai amongst others.

My debut album, titled Birdie, was released in 2015. This was followed up with a deluxe edition of the same album in 2017, which was nominated for a South African Music Award in 2018.

I am also a PhD Candidate in The University of Queensland's School of Social Science, an experience that has been really good.

A performance of Mpfula Ya Na, Live and Unplugged on The World Show with Nicky B.

A performance of Mpfula Ya Na, Live and Unplugged on The World Show with Nicky B.

My research is on the contemporary human-land interactions in the Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape in South Africa. I will be studying and mapping the values that the communities who interact with the landscape attach to it, as well as the political factors that affect not only these interactions, but also access to the landscape in post-apartheid South Africa.

This is against the backdrop of South Africa’s legacy of the forceful removal of Indigenous communities from their land and their exclusion from the conservation enterprise.

Mapungubwe is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a protected area in terms of South Africa’s National Environmental Management: Protected Areas Act.

When I enrolled for my master’s degree some years ago, a family friend in academia said, "prepare yourself for a long and lonely journey".

Long, not particularly in the sense of the number of years it would take to complete (although it did take a bit longer as I took some time off to do a jazz residency gig in the Middle East at some point), but long in the sense of how long it would feel. She was right.

It was long and quite lonely. Naturally, I expected my PhD to be even more so, minus the jazz gigs in between. There are other factors concerning my PhD journey that I felt would make the journey slightly more trying.

Tribute 'Birdie' Mboweni.

The Drawn to Fashion conceptual shoot with Gavin Goodman.

The Drawn to Fashion conceptual shoot with Gavin Goodman.

For one, I decided to do my PhD away from home, in another continent and country; away from everyone and everything I know. Away from the support of family and loved ones. Of course, this would make it harder, I thought.

Four years is a long time, but so far, it has been far from lonely.

From the time that I got in contact with my supervisors to now, 10 months since I arrived in Brisbane, I have felt supported in so many ways.

I have gone to meet other PhD candidates who have turned into great friends and people I learn with and from. People who have made my experience in the School of Social Science a memorable one.

From the shared lunches under a tree next to Michie Building or in the Level 4 kitchen; insightful and engaging conversations; to social gatherings in which conversations touch on anything and everything, including subjects that are necessary but sometimes hard to tackle back home. All these elements combined make this place feel like a home of some sort.

My experience here has been more than about finding ‘comfort’ in familiar things, like the sight of the Jacarandas in bloom when I arrived here.

Jacarandas at the UQ Lakes

Students relax at the UQ Lakes during Jacaranda season.

Students relax at the UQ Lakes during Jacaranda season.

My life journey has mostly been about me doing my best to find a balance between pursuing my music career and keeping up with my academic and other interests. It has involved me trying to find the best way to manage my time as efficiently as possible. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been a continuous learning experience. Luckily, it has been fun too.

A performance of MaGumede live at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival.

A performance of MaGumede live at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival.

South Africa and Australia have a history that is quite similar. That on its own makes a significant difference, especially for my research.

I look forward to the next three years of learning and demonstrating the research skills that I will continue to learn here, and hopefully perform on a few stages before I complete my studies and head back to South Africa.

For more inspirational tales like Tribute's, which highlight Our People, Our Impact and Our World, please visit The HASS Link - a showcase of stories from UQ's Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.
Tribute 'Birdie' Mboweni

The Drawn to Fashion conceptual shoot with Gavin Goodman.

The Drawn to Fashion conceptual shoot with Gavin Goodman.