A Flamingo Vlei artist, who cycled across Africa collecting messages from fans of the singer Sade, is now promoting the work of fellow artists he met during his odyssey.
Andre Pilz, 47, was featured in Tabletalk six years ago as he prepared for his long journey from Cape Town to London (“Andre is a Sade masochist,” Tabletalk, February 6, 2013).
Born in Leipzig, Germany, Andre came to South Africa in 2004.
He had always dreamed of seeing Sade live in concert and experiencing the beauty of Africa, so he decided to combine his two dreams by cycling through Africa, taking in the sites, meeting artists from different countries while collecting messages of support and adoration for Sade.
“To be honest, there was no real plan here. I was just going to cycle and see where the journey takes me, and eventually, I would land up in London for a chance meeting with Sade.
“So, while I was still in South Africa, I created a character named Nala. Nala is a young girl who wants to get to know the world around her, and I took her with on the journey,” he says.
In 2011, Andre was listening to one of Sade’s albums, when, on an impulse, he started drawing on a piece of paper – that’s how Nala was born.
Later he made a Nala doll, which accompanied him on his journey, which started from Amber Lagoon in the Klein Karoo on April 1 2013.
Andre and Nala cycled for three years, covering 16 000 km.
Their travels took them through 12 African countries, including Namibia, Zambia, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Kenya.
“Every place I would go to, I would tell people about my Sade project and Nala. I would challenge artists I met to try and incorporate Nala into their work. I feel so grateful that I had the opportunity to go on this journey and meet about 115 artists from across the continent.”
During his travels, Andre met villagers in the rural areas and slept outside under the stars – experiences, he says he will always cherish.
In 2015, Andre flew from Kenya to London. He never got to meet Sade, but he left a book with the messages he had collected from fans throughout his travels with the manager of the building where the singer lives.
“I thought I was not going to get a response, but one day, I got a postcard from Sade thanking me for the messages and wishing me good luck on my future travels.”
Andre also found love during his travels in Kigali in Rwanda, and, years later, he eventually married Darlene, whom he met there. The couple now have a one-year-old baby boy, Kian.
Looking at a picture of his son, Andre says the little boy is everything to him and he wants to slow down with work and travelling so that he doesn’t miss important moments in Kian’s life.
“The first time he crawled, I was not there to see it, and I vowed that I would not miss these important milestones anymore.”
“I will continue my African trip end of the year on Congo Brazzaville, Gabon, and Cameroon. But I will do it in short three to four-month trips and not as I did before.”
Andre’s Nala Art Project features artists from around Africa, and he is busy organising exhibitions in Europe to show the Nala artworks from eastern and southern Africa.
“I also want to take Nala to South America and Asia. One day, I hope I am able to open a cafe where art lovers can come for coffee but also have artists exhibiting their work in the same space.”
To see more of Andre’s projects, visit www.the-nala-project.com