Last week I learnt about The NALA Project.
As I was studying the website and the artwork, I was inspired and came to the realization that it is possible to live out your dreams and fantasies. No matter how far-fetched or ludicrous they may seem, as long as that’s what fuels your soul, then absolutely go for it.
That being said André Pilz (the founder of the NALA Project) is a German artist who was based in Cape Town up until recently when he decided to embark on a bicycle tour across Africa to Europe.
Where he hopes to end up? In London to see his lifelong music idol Nigerian-British singer Helen folasade Adu or SADE as she is most known as.
As a fellow Sade fan, I was intrigued to learn more and find out what Mr Pilz hopes will come out of the project.
Read the interview below:
How did the idea for The NALA Project come about?
While listening to Sade’s song ‘Sally‘ one day, I started doodling on some paper. Before I knew it, I had created a simple little character NALA. At the time during NALA’s creation, I was feeling sad, because SADE was touring Europe and I was in South Africa at the time. With very little finances, I wasn’t able to make it to Europe to see her perform.
I am a German citizen, was living in Cape Town for 8 years but I got sick and tired of my daily life, so felt it was time to leave and explore new things.
I came up with the idea to cycle from Cape Town to London. I wanted to create a SADE Fanbook where all the fans I meet along the way can write a tribute message to her. I have always had the dream to cycling through Africa, so this made sense and NALA’s significance became more apparent.
Who is NALA?
NALA is now a 8 years old Girl. She grew up in Township near Cape Town in South Africa. The Story began when she was 6. In traditional african culture from age 8, little Girls are expected to help with domestic chores, like washing the clothes, cleaning the house, washing dishes, buying some stuff in the shop…… while the boys can enjoy outside with friends ( cycling, soccer, having fun)
NALA was 5 years old, when she started helping out around the house. One day during the domestic work, she noticed some shimmering mountains in the background. She started imagining what was behind the mountains. The more she thought about it, the more her curiosity about the majestic mountains grew.
One day she was sitting outside on the steps and she was very sad. A little bird came and ask NALA, ‘what’s wrong? why you are so sad?’ NALA told him the story and the bird said to her. “ Well NALA if this is your dream, than you must go and find out what’s behind the mountains. Don’t dream your life, live your dreams. These words inspired NALA to escape from home and begin a long journey. NALA felt free. She met so many lovely people, animals and nature, that she decides to continue her journey.
I like that you used a young female to mirror your goal of following your dream. Was there significance as to why you used a young girl?
African Woman’s work a lot harder than men. NALA is an advocate for the empowerment of woman in Africa. The Philosophy is easy, simply listen to your heart and follow your dreams.
How much planning did you do before starting this journey? and how are you funding this project?
I created NALA in 2011. Luckily I was able to travel twice a year to Germany for some casual jobs. From that I was able to save for the journey.
So the next few years were spent between South Africa and Germany, just working to save money. It wasn’t much but I had to budget by eating local food, sleeping in local guesthouses, camping wild for free and using couchsurfing.org (extremely low budget). I have 10 euro per day to spend on food and sleep for the duration of my journey.
In 2012, I had created the Website for the Project to document my travels. Before starting the project, I flew to Switzerland (countryside) to see my friend and get some quiet time to think about everything. Honestly, It’s not really a trip you can plan.
Have there been any challenges so far? Do you any concerns you have i.e. safety, health etc
Challenges are mostly cycling up high mountains. All the border crossing were easy and no problems with the police. I did get a little sickness like, flu, angina, runny tummy…(you know what I mean). Nothing too serious.
There are challenges with regards to organizing transportation for the NALA artwork either to South Africa or to Germany for storage and sometimes the transportation from one country to the next was a big challenge. (getting my 80kg Artbox from Zambia to Malawi and from Malawi to Tanzania posed some issues). Sometimes I hope to have a bit more support to send the artworks.
Traffic can also a problem, In Zimbabwe, they don’t have a shoulder next to the Highway, but a lot of heavy Traffic (Trucks and Buses) and careless drivers.
One day, a big Truck overtook me at approximately 15 cm distance ( I past a parking truck on the road, In the same time another Truck came from the front and a big Bus (Coach) came from the Back. It was very short, I was really lucky not to get caught by the Bus from the back.
What has been the highlight?
Landscapes, (Desert in Namibia ), Silence, amazing Starry skies. The Tour is still a Highlight. Doing what I want to do. To be absolutely free. No restrictions.
Can anyone get involved with the project or is it solely people that you meet on your trip?
Well, normally only people who I met on my Trip ( Artists and Tailors who make the NALA Dresses) but If anyone wants to get involved, he can contact me and we can see how we can work together. They can just send me an email. I also open for other Ideas from everybody. Of course there are some Ideas in my mind. I was thinking about The NALA Painting Day where schools can be involved in the project. But I am open to discussions and collaborations.
Was there a reason you choice cycling as apposed to taking the plane to London? What do you travel with?
So with a plane, its too fast and expensive. A car is also too fast and expensive, and I didn’t feel like sitting in a metal cage. With a bicycle you get to explore the outdoors, enjoy nature, smell the air and also I feel like you pose less threat on a bike. I feel free on the bike. People are more open to speak with you.
On the other hand there is a dangerous aspect because I am more exposed to crime, weather and traffic. But then, this is part of the adventure. I think the highlight at the end will be knowing that I used my own muscle power to reach my target.
I travel with a 28inch Bicycle, Brand: Hercules Jump, Aluminum frame, Schwalbe Tyres, Brooks sattle, V-breaks, simple things but good quality.
My gear includes a tent, air-mattress, pillow, sleeping bag, stove, little Laptop (Notebook) , MP3Player, a few Clothes, 2kg of Paintbrushes, SADE Fanbook, DSLR Camera, and my tripod.
So where are you now and when do you hope to reach London?
Currently I am in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania after cycling 11.915 km ( 7.387 miles ) and 15 month on the road. I started on April 1, 2013.
The rough route will be Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, than I will cross DRC to Congo Brazzaville, then Gabon, Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana, Togo, Benin, then Ivory coast and than I will figure out how to reach Morocco and then Spain…..
I guess I will reach London in approximately 2 Years (It depends on how far I can cross Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). East Africa is easy, but West Africa is another Issue. I don’t pay bribe, so I guess I have to wait sometimes longer than others to get something. We will see..
What happens when you get to London?
When I reach London, I am hoping to find a Gallery or a similar exhibition hall where I can exhibit all the NALA artworks incl. the story of the NALA journey. I will print photos and postcards to sell with proceeds going towards helping the artists and some projects in Africa (haven’t decided yet). I hope to make NALA products, like little NALA dolls, bags, whatever..
At a later stage I will write Illustrated Books from NALA´s Journey. When I am able to exhibit those Artworks, I will design print Catalogs that shows all the Artworks including artists bio’s and Info. I think there is so much more to do and who knows. On this type of journey many Ideas pop up.
Have you contacted Sade yet? Does she know about this project?
I will try to invite her for the opening of the NALA Exhibition in London and I will present the fanbook over to her as a way to thank her for the music.
I haven’t contacted her yet. I don’t have contact details of her or the management. It is really hard to get. My Idea is to contact two of their band members (from the life tour in 2011) via Facebook, only when I cross Nigeria. ( The Sade Fans International (SFI) Facebook page has helped me a lot to generate interest.
As a member, I always get updates. They have shared my story and some of the artwork with fellow members.
Interview by H.Esi