An American rapper rhymes her way through Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Published On May 15, 2015 | By Greg | News, South Africa, USA

Dessa — a rapper, singer and wordsmith from Minneapolis — touched down in Port Elizabeth, South Africa last week.

She spent the week teaching, rapping, and performing in communities in the Eastern Cape.



Dessa greeted Port Elizabeth at the Voting Line sculpture in the Donkin Reserve, where she stood next to a silhouette of the late President Nelson Mandela. This public art work is part of PE’s “Route 67” initiative.

The Bay’s mild winter weather was the first thing Dessa noticed . It’s a bit warmer than her native Minnesota winters. She posted this on her Instagram.

“Winter” is highly relative.

Dessa is a founding member of the Minneapolis-based indie hip hop collective Doomtree. She has toured internationally both as a solo artist and with the Doomtree crew, frequently performing to sold out shows both at home and away.

Her visit to the Bay is made possible by CREATIVExPE , the Centre for the Advancement of Non-Racialism and Democracy (CANRAD), and funding from the U.S. Consulate General, Cape Town.

1_yV1vI5t_rZ2QqsGZRyl66ADessa treated learners from Patterson High in Port Elizabeth to a hip hop concert during their morning break. Chairs work pretty well as a stage!

CREATIVExPE is a team of creatives based in Port Elizabeth. They aim to facilitate connection and collaboration within the creative industries.

Rushay Booysen, who’s part of @creativexpe, initiated Dessa’s visit after he met her during his International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) visit to the United States.

On Tuesday Dessa visited Patterson High School, where Fulbright English Teaching Assistants Dessane Cassell and Jackie Allegra are based this year.

After her performance, Dessa led a poetry and creative writing workshop with students in the school’s library.


After a day with excited high school students, Dessa spent the evening with emerging artists, discussing issues around Teaching Artists with a group of PE-based creatives, as well as the online twitter community through a #culturefix conversation.

On Wednesday, CANRAD, based at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU), and the Resonance Poetry Movement hosted Dessa for a Critical Theory seminar about the role hip hop and rap play in difficult dialogues and civic activism.

They brought Dessa to NMMU’s Missionvale Campus for an open-mic session. Students performed, took part in the action, and experienced the best of spokenword.

1_x5IyYw7FwkThij_UUPxQgQDessa had a true South African experience — even learning local euphemisms like “Loadshedding”.

Thursday saw Dessa in Grahamstown, where she visited the International Library of African Music (ILAM), currently a recipient of the U.S. Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation to keep their rare collection of instruments safe.


She also workshopped with Zimbabwean mbira musician @HopeMasike at Rhodes University’s music school, and led a discussion about gender issues and being a female artist.

A dialogue about making a living as an independent artist organized by the Mandela Bay Development Agency, and a live interview on BayFM’s “Present Testament” rounded out Friday.

After a visit to the elephants in Addo National Park….

….the grand finale was a free concert at Chapel Street Studios on Saturday night! Dessa jammed with local artists like @Kenichi_Dj @schaiktrilogy and @umlesounds before a packed audience at this rocking gig.