By Andi Gladwin - Saturday, June 18, 2022
“Umntu ngumntu ngabantu”
The Zulu saying above translates to “I am, because we are.” The philosophy suggests that we are all connected and that each of us can only grow and progress through the growth of others.
I couldn’t think of a more accurate way of describing how I feel about magic. I am the magician that I am today because of the magicians that we all are. My magic has grown because other magicians (both past and present) have laid the foundations to help me grow, and my work exists because of the work that they have already done.
Over many centuries, our predecessors have advanced what it means to be a magician. Without even realising it, our understanding of magic has come from a combination of the magicians that we have seen and studied in the past. Whether that’s from Dedi’s performances of the Cups and Balls in 2700 B.C., or from the card techniques of Edward Marlo from the 1950s, or everything in between and since, magic (and the perception of magic) has evolved thanks to the magicians that came before us. Magicians are the sum of the parts of hundreds of thousands of magicians since the start of time. There is no one magician responsible for its growth; it’s down to us all. As the concept of ubuntu suggests, we have grown and progressed through the growth and progression of others.
It frustrates me when magicians prefer to suggest that magic has evolved into a trivialised or unimportant artform. (While it’s a seemingly trendy opinion to have, it’s certainly not new. Even as far back as 1896 in his book, Isn’t in Wonderful, Charles Bertram wrote, “Conjuring has now drifted down.” Magic is dead all of a sudden? Apparently it always has been.) In my opinion, magic seems better now than it has ever been. Effects are stronger, methods are more sophisticated, presentations feel more topical to our audiences than those used in the past, the pacing of effects is much more palatable, and I’d bet a good few dollars that magicians are technically more proficient than ever before.
Certainly, audiences’ beliefs and worldviews have changed, but in turn, magic has evolved considerably over the last few centuries. Magic exists in its current form because others have planted the seeds and grown it for us.
That’s why I decided to focus my Vanishing Inc. Masterclass this month on a subject that doesn’t seem to be widely addressed in magic: building on the work of other magicians to create a piece unique to you. I hope to see you there!
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