Our friend Xeni Jardin writes on Boing Boing of the passing of Leon Botha, South African artist and DJ best known for being the “hype man” for Die Antwoord. Leon died on Sunday from complications related to progeria. He was 26. As Xeni mentions, he was likely the longest-living person with the condition, but that’s not how he wishes to be remembered:
We ended up becoming internet pen-pals of a sort. Through this, and through some of his friends (who all expressed great affection and protectiveness toward Leon) I learned more about his visual and performance art work. In that work, in his written word, and in some of the incredible monologues you can find from on YouTube, his presence radiates. All who knew him, and all who were touched by his spirit through those videos, will know what I mean when I say that he emanated deep sincerity, gentleness, a serenity and quiet wisdom. Leon was aware of his own mortality in ways most people are not. He transformed that awareness into a sort of mindfulness of how vast and awesome life is.
One day over email, Leon shared with me that the passing mentions of him that existed on Wikipedia were upsetting to him. He was mentioned only on the page for Die Antwoord, and under the page for his disease, progeria.
“I was a bit paranoid that my art wouldn’t be in there, in case something happened to me,” he said.
Leon was very mindful of the value of the internet as a reflection of human life, and an archive of the living after they die. He wanted to be understood as a complex, self-determined, thoughtful creator and connector and thinker. Not as a disease, and not as a footnote in someone else’s better-known story. He wanted to be known for who he really was while he was alive. He wanted us to respect him, and his work, after he was gone.
Recently, our email exchanges seemed to include more and more news of challenging physical hardships from Leon. He never complained, but when I asked after longer silences, he shared. I can’t imagine the physical suffering he endured.
“I always thought when I was little, like, all of this is okay,” he wrote in one email. “Just please don’t let it reach the levels where it is now.”
Read more of In memoriam: Leon Botha, South African artist, DJ, and wonderful human being (Boing Boing)