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Nikhil Singh PDF Print E-mail

Nikhil Singh is a self-taught artist, writer, musician and film-maker. As an artist, he has illustrated the graphic novels: The Ziggurat (Bell-Roberts 2003) by The Constructus Corporation (now Die Antwoord) and Salem Brownstone with writer John Harris Dunning (Walker Books 2009). His work has also been featured in Dazed, I-D online, Creative Review, The Times (UK), Mail&Guardian (UK), The Independent (UK), Rolling Stone (SA), GQ (SA) and featured as part of the COMICA festival exhibition at the ICA.

As a musician he has fronted the critically acclaimed South African art-rock bands The Wild Eyes and Hi Spider, as well as releasing a plethora of solo albums under the moniker 'Witchboy' (released on Aural Sects). He has also recently written and directed a feature length film Trillzone (2014), which was commissioned by and screened at the South African National Arts festival as part of a JG Ballard symposium. Taty Went West is his debut novel.

(Profile from

Selected Work:

from Taty Went West

There had always been wrestlers in jungle country. Some came from disenfranchised tribes and settled along the filthy river settlements, others drifted in from the big cities in the Lowlands. It was difficult to get good gigs and earn decent money in the more developed areas; everyone knew that the real money was to be found in the Outzone. Wrestling in particular had a perverse attraction for the suffering and alcohol-wracked. Even the scattered jungle folk seemed to like it better than all the other forlorn forms of travelling entertainment gestating within the Zone. Perhaps the bizarre outfits and fetishistic masks reminded them of their long-departed customs and strange gods, many of whom were apocalyptic and bloodthirsty, speaking of the end of days and of fire from the sky. At any rate, it was comforting for villagers to witness the spectacle of a large ring of banana leaves, illuminated by candy-coloured light-bulbs and traversed by gladiatorial men in tights. These rings would be erected with great pomp despite their shabbiness, patrolled at all times by security guards in sunglasses and handlebar moustaches. More often than not, this ‘security force’ was nothing more than waterfront knife trash, picked up in bars and made suddenly civil by the addition of uniform facial hair, green fatigues and matching eyewear. They did their jobs, playing soldier. The wrestling events were accorded more importance than they deserved but the people enjoyed the heady cocktail of circus extravagance and freshly spilled blood. In those early days the wrestlers were little more than a raggle-taggle caravan, carnival strongmen drifting from village to village, staging fights for whoever came. This sideshow existence of theirs went on for some time, until an historic event forever altered the role they had played as simple performers.

A particularly vicious robber baron had begun killing old people in an attempt to extort more goods from a longsuffering tribe. The elders were taken in night raids and then held to ransom for goods and valuables. Often the hostages were killed anyway, even after the hefty tariffs had been settled. The wrestlers, who were in the area at the time, took umbrage at the treatment of this particular tribe, who had always been faithful followers. They decided to arm their waterfront trash guards with sub-machine guns, explosives and machetes, pooling their resources in an attempt at a counterstrike. Their tactical strength and capacity for actual violence were more formidable than even they could have anticipated. Within a day they had taken the robber baron’s compound and mounted his and many of his closest cohorts’ heads on stakes. Drunk on victory, they began to stage a number of successful assaults upon various despotic chieftains and feudal lords along their riverside circuit. The wrestlers fought barehanded, as they did in the ring, sweeping down in a multi-coloured blaze, once the moustachioed guards had laid waste to the majority of the opposition with mortar fire and machine guns. They began to gain a tremendous amount of praise and respect from the people along the river. Scattered military emplacements started to defect to the wrestlers, who were far more effective and less corrupt than the official forces left behind in the Outzone. The wrestlers swelled in power. They were opposed on several occasions but within time became the recognised authority in the lawless Zone. The wrestlers themselves had by now become a sort of elite group, surrounded at all times by legions of uniformed


2015. Taty Went West. Nairobi: Kwani Trust.