Festival-goers may recognise Mawonga Gayiya from his one-man illusion show Astonish. He can also be found surprising crowds on the Village Green with quick spots of his magic. He sat down with Cue to make balls magically appear out of ears, discuss the Festival hustle, self-promotion, and the Hare Krishnas.
How was Festival this year?
Mawonga Gayiya performs in Astonish at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, 04 July 2015. Gayiya captured the audience not only with his sleight of hand tricks but with his quirky humour as well. (Photo: CuePix/Tamani Chithambo)
Amazing, I’ve met amazing people. And being able to promote yourself, that’s everything: It’s been the best introduction for me as a solo performer.
How has the hustle been?
I’ve worked hard in promoting Astonish. I’ve been trying hard every day to get out there, get people to shows, and make my numbers. And I’ve been successful in that for every single show, especially for a beginner. I never have below 50 people in the audience. Today I’m relaxing because more people know about me. In the beginning, I was working 9am to 5pm. My voice would go, my body was heavy but I’ve done it well enough that it’s been worth it. I’ve had a lot of people coming in and saying “Hey Mawonga! Can I do your flyers for you?” I’d love them to do the flyers but it wouldn’t have value. When people see me we can have a conversation about the show and they get to meet me and see that I’m a great guy not just in magic, but as a person.
Your posters are really slick. They could even be taken more as you being some cool South African RnB singer as opposed to a magician. Why did you choose this design?
I had to do something that was catchy; something different. When you talk about magic shows people immediately jump to “Oh, kids’ birthday parties, SpongeBob SquarePants, I might just drop my kids off at that show later…” When it’s eye-catching it makes people look closer and starts a conversation.
Have you noticed any other people putting in the extra work?
I haven’t noticed many, maybe The Loners, though. But my hustle differs from everyone else’s. Magicians are lucky; we can give people an experience. It’s not about the most posters or flyers. It’s about the most advertised person.
Have you ever had an advertising or show promotion fail where people have just not been into it?
Yes, I have had that a lot. 30% of the time I don’t perform a trick well but I don’t stress about it; that’s magic. Some people have bad attitudes and don’t want to see cards or a trick, but 90% of the people are lovely and they’re excited and hug you and say they are coming to the show.
Who hustles harder – you or the Hare Krishnas?
I think I do, because I’ve never failed to catch any two people in a row. Time goes so quick here; you don’t have time to have long conversations. You have to make it snappy and quick. It all depends on the person’s response with a quick magic trick. Surprise them, see their reaction then have a conversation or move on. I could break up a large group of people and make them stand still with a magic trick, but a guy with a book could not stop all of them. What I present is different; I’m not dressed in a conspicuous way so I can come up to you without much trouble. If people see a guy dressed in orange they are immediately on their guard because they recognise the religion so it’s hard for them. Those guys have more guts than me.
Cue student reporter
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