Thursday, May 31, 2018

What makes us African?

What does Africa Day mean to me? It means a lot of things but before I delve into the ‘why’, let me first take you through the importance of this day and why I continue to celebrate it.

Each year, on the 25th of May Africans from all walks of life, celebrate Africa Day. The root of this glorious day dates back to 1963, a year when the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was instituted in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. To many, the creation of OAU characterised a ‘Day of Africa’. Fifty years later, 25 May continues to gain international recognition as Africa Day, a day when, regardless of their geographic location or circumstances, Africans come together to celebrate the idea of African unity.

Africa Day brings to mind the words of Kwame Nkrumah where he says that "I am not an African because I was born in Africa, but because Africa was born in me". These words speak directly to who we are as a continent in that we're so diverse. Our diversity shows in our differing beliefs, races, religions, values, colour etc. However, at the root of the differences, at the root of our identity - is the fact that we're African.

It is rather difficult though to speak of this paramount day without making mention of Ubuntu. Ubuntu is a very complex concept with many definitions to different people. For me personally, Ubuntu is rooted in the African ways of life. It is the respect and appreciation of all living things; humans, animals, and nature. It’s a traditional value system that puts at its core the community and co-existence. This translates to the known concept which says “a person is a person through others’, each of us exists to co-exist. This is practiced through humility, kindness, respect and selfless acts. It’s about extending love and respect not only to your friends and family but even to strangers. Ubuntu demands respect for human dignity regardless of any outward appearances.

Previous scholars have defined Ubuntu as an African embedded philosophical approach to human life. This philosophy is applicable to all people as human beings. It would then be misleading to speak of Ubuntu and then mistreat others based on race, creed, culture, gender or status. Ubuntu means appreciation of all humans, their values, culture and their entire being.

Ubuntu means humanness. Humanness includes values like brotherhood, sharing, treating and respecting other people as human beings. It is a way of life that contributes positively to sustaining the well-being of people, community, and the society.

For me, personally, every day is Africa Day. I strive and am proud of my African-ness, doing and living the African way. Being African is embedded in me, when celebrating Africa Day I revel in our uniqueness as a continent. Like any other home, we will fight, have squabbles but what is important is that we are who we are, we are warriors, and we are Africans. Africa Day is but a reminder of how far we’ve come and where we are headed.

In the words of Thabo Mbeki, I conclude with, “I am an African. I owe my being to the hills and the valleys, the mountains, and the glades, the rivers, the deserts, the trees, the flowers, the seas and the ever-changing seasons that define the face of our native land.” 

Friday, February 17, 2017

My first ART experience at the CTAF17

I have a confession to make, I HAVE JUST FALLEN IN LOVE WITH ART.

These are words I never thought will one day come out of my mouth. In the past, I have received plenty of invitations from people to go see an ‘art exhibition’ or go to the ‘museum’ to check out on the latest exhibitions. I have always declined with the common excuse ‘I can’t make it, something came up’, until this invitation came through last month.

I have recently tapped into lifestyle writing, with a key focus in theatre and arts. The nice thing about being on the database is that you get to receive invites to the ‘not so cool’ events. Tell you what? That was my thinking before I set foot at the CTICC on a Thursday evening to what I anticipated to would-have-been the atrocious experience. The event started at 18:00 and went on until 21:00. In the first two hours, my friend and I_ who I had invited as my plus one_ were viewing, critiquing and laughing trying, by all means, to interpret the art without any success. Our comments included ‘aaah this is too bright’, ‘the colours just do not work well together’, ‘oh this looks like it was done by little-bored kids’ and ‘okay this is just too expensive and it’s no art’. Little did I know, that I would stumble upon a piece so beautiful it almost made me shed a tear.

It was exactly at 20:33 when I laid my eyes on Nicola Roos’s No Man's Land V. I stood there with my mouth open for about 10 minutes admiring this fascinating piece of art. A woman on my left, who witnessed this whole episode approached me and told me to close my mouth. I had no idea it was open, I was simply just taken by the amazing work of Nicola. The artist is a 22-year-old final year student at Michaelis School of Fine Arts, it took her two months to complete this amazing art (see pictures below) and it was done in between her studying and exam preparations.

Just look at that, amazing right? 

The Front: Mind blowing... No Man's Land V 

The Back: Still blown away 

I had to take all angles, I couldn't believe it. 

Just look at that detailing. Proper stuff 

Something about her piece touched my heart, the fact that it’s made out of tyres and rubber, the detailing, the attire hit closer to home. In the art, I saw our African black and strong men. I assumed the piece was done by a man or at least if by a woman, a masculine one. The woman who shared in the admiration tapped me on a shoulder to show me who the artist was_ to my shock it was a beautiful and very humble Nicola. I got a chance to ask her about the reason behind her work. When she explained it all made sense, the love was doubled, I felt tingles and gooses all over my body.

No Man's Land V  as explained by Nicola; “is the migrant rather than the colonist, re-territorialising a vast mental no man’s land that stretches from Africa to the Far East instead of participating in a conquest to reclaim an extraneous (home)land. Laden with the weight of his costume of inner tyre tubes – possibly one of the last tangible vestiges of colonial cruelty as it was exemplified on the rubber plantations of Africa – Yasuke destabilises notions of authentic cultural origin and practice that, in the colonial mind, were fixed in place and time. In this turbulent socio-political climate, Yasuke becomes the border between the colonial past and the de-colonial future. His diasporic indigeneity restores a sense of common cause in a transitional time when the need of this country truly is most dire.” 

Here stands the woman whose work stole my heart, Nicola Roos.

When I accepted the invitation to the ART Fair I was simply going because it was FREE. I was like those who attend weddings and funerals for the food I had no idea that today at this very moment I’d be penning down my experience and the newly found love of ART.

Look out for the full interview with Nicola Roos in the coming weeks. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

“The Land of the haves and the have-nots”

Section 9 of the SA constitution says: “Everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law.” [1]

This is the book that is supposed to guide us, our Bible on democracy and way of life. Drafted in 1996, it was meant to guide our every decision, to maintain equality, our rights and freedom of every human being.  However, in our current state equality and/or freedom is measured in terms of the haves and the have-nots. This was witnessed in 2012 when the police, Lonmin and the government massacred the Marikana miners and managed to get away with it.

In 2012 we witnessed one of our first post-apartheid massacres when 34 miners were killed for asking for a salary increase. For months following that event we were made to believe that the police shot and killed the miners in self-defence. “Police had to employ force to protect themselves from the charging group” [2].

Rehad Desai then exposed the lies to us all when he filmed a documentary titled "Miners Shot Down", which details all the events that took place six days before the massacre. He shows us how the union failed to protect the victims. “Miners Shot Down scratches the surface to reveal there were many more factors that contributed to this deadly encounter.” [3]

In his documentary he used the security tapes, photojournalism, emails that were exchanged during the whole ordeal, photos and interviews with the victims, journalists, politicians, lawyers and also snippets of the court during the Farlam Commission of Inquiry. This documentary portrays how those with no and/ or less voice are victimised by those who hold most power.
 “The film…thoroughly exposes the mishandling of the striking miners by the South African Police Service. [This is done] through the extensive excruciating graphic massacre footage that Desai accessed from the Lonmin security and police archives,” (M&G) [4].  National Mineworkers Union (NUM), a union which exists to serve the grievances of the miners, failed to do their job when miners were brutally murdered in front of them. The South African Police Services claim their reason for opening fire is because the miners were out for blood, yet the movie clearly proves the fallacy of the SAPS statement.

 When the strike commenced on the 10th of August 2012, the security video shows us the miners (without weapons) going to the Lonmin building. Leaders were the ones who went and spoke to the employers but they would not heed their call. Desai’s sequence then moves to the workers, as they decide that they will occupy the mountain because they believe/d that the mountain is nobody’s property. This again is another clear example that indicates that the miners were in no way propagating violence.

 Lonmin decided that they will only listen to the miners if they communicate through NUM. However, one miner explains that: “When they went to the offices of NUM they were shot at, at the time they had not even started explaining the reason why they were there” (sic) [2]. Two people were shot and that’s when they decided that they will rather occupy the mountain while they wait to be attended to.

The company then started deploying security personnel and the police were involved as the matter needed to be dealt with immediately revealed the emails. The emails were between the likes of Cyril Ramaphosa, Nathi Mthetwa and Susan Shabangu - to name just a few.  “I spoke to Susan Shabangu…she agrees. She is going into Cabinet and will brief the President as well and get the minister of police Nathi Mthetwa to act in a more pointed away” (sic) [2]. These emails were followed by a deployment of more police who then murdered 34 mineworkers. This was done in a manner that brought tears to many South Africans.
The police (as the video shows) made sure that they were shooting to kill. One of the leaders “Mambush” was shot 14 times, as if once was not enough?
This event “was the biggest incident of police brutality since the advent of democracy and it revived memories of the brutality suffered under Apartheid security police,” [5]. A phone call changed the negotiations that were going smoothly - suddenly the SAPS were on a killing spree.  This shows me that the whole thing was orchestrated - the police would not listen to the miners, even when AMCU (a union which attempted to represent them) leader Joseph Mathunjwa tried speaking to the miners was told not to go anywhere near them.   Mathunjwa probed this act; “Why should I not go there, they are humans”, he asked, because he saw the ill-treatment they were enduring.

The miners who had pledged their lives into serving the company, at the first chance they tried raising their voices; they were kept quiet by being killed. This is the current society that we live in. Every day we see politicians and the bourgeoisie progressing through the blood and sweat of other people.

All they needed to do was just listen - but because they are above the law, above what the constitution outlines, they got away with murder. Even when the president appointed the Farlam Commission of Inquiry, the miners and their families were not made aware of this. These are the people the Commission was meant to serve but were sidelined.

Police brutality has become a norm. According to the law, a police officer can shoot in self-defence, but the ones in Marikana shot the miners to stop them from striking. The law is so unjust because as it stands now, the people who are facing charges are the same people who lost their colleagues, friends and almost lost their lives. What about the instigators? What happened to the general who was leading the police during the massacre? What about Barnard Mokoena?

The ‘haves’ continue living their lavish lives while the miners, and the victims' widowers are barely surviving.

The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996
Miners Shot Down , 2014, Directed by Rehad Desai, South Africa

Friday, April 8, 2016

Zuma: Villain or Warrior? Part1

The day of deliverance has finally come, much to the anticipation of many ANC members; the constitution has surpassed all powers poised by any of them, i.e. the President and the National Assembly. On Thursday, around 11am, Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng of the Constitutional Court made a ruling which will alter SA politics from this point on.

The Nkandla saga brought this country to a standstill especially during the SONA2015 when the proceedings would not go on because the opposition parties (EFF and DA) wanted to find out if the money would eventually be paid back by the president.

When the National Assembly decided to exonerate the President off all the findings made by the Public Protector, I personally lost hope in our democracy. I started questioning our political stability as a country; whether we matter as citizens, or whether ANC’s idea of democracy is thinly veiled dictatorship?  No one ever thought that this day would finally come, when the ConCourt would clarify this major Nkandla issue. Prior to the ruling, Chief Justice explained the powers and functions of the President, the Public Protector and also specified the role played by the National Assembly during the whole Nkandla debacle.  In conclusion, the ruling went against the President.

The ConCourt’s findings have put things into perspective, made us the South Africans, feel like we are part of the decision –making. Of course the money will not be paid in a matter of seconds or by next week but it soothes one’s soul to know that it will eventually get paid.

The President seem to be under a lot of scrutiny lately, first it was the Gupta saga that had everyone saying how they have been offered posts by the Gupta family and now this ConCourt  has emphasised the fact that ‘he was wrong not to abide by Thuli Madonsela’s findings’ and side with the National Assembly. It is unfortunate that this will not only reflect bad on him as a President but the part will also be affected. Many stood by him when during the two above incidents and now they appear as fools in the eyes of the public. This in a sense shows lack of leadership by our government, how many see the wrong in him but they continuously stand by him.

The President has abused his powers to protect this country. When he took the oath of office  in 2009 he ‘agreed’ that he was going to serve according to what the constitution says which suggests that he must “respect and protect” the South African citizens.

Ever since he took office, it seems he has done more harm than good where the constitution is concerned. He once declared that it is ANC before the people, is it not supposed to be the other way around? The ruling made by the Chief Justice has proved that no one is above the law (constitution). Not even the President could manipulate what the law stipulates. 

It's refreshing to know that even those who hold the highest power can be put down, indeed the democracy does exist. I was starting to doubt its very existence; I thought we are derailing to a dictatorship kind of leadership. What a relief, what a day! SA Politics has been adjusted, there’s hope after all. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

My Father My Monster Book Review by McIntosh Polela

“I thought that writing my story was going to help me put the past behind me. But it made it all very fresh. It’s almost as if it happened just the previous day. But at the same time, I found that writing my story gave me some release. It heals me having to talk about it so often to so many people since the book came out.” McIntosh Polela

My Father, My Monster is a story of survival, growth and education. It tells a tale of McIntosh Polela’s upbringing, what he went through during his childhood, how he acquired his education which further shaped how he got to where he is today.
McIntosh Polela has one hell of a tale to tell. His journey through life begins in what he remembers as a five year-old’s peaceful existence in a township near Durban, until he and his younger sister are unceremoniously uprooted, chipped off to live with their unknown relatives for a more Hobbesian existence way upcountry.
Life as Polela knows it comes to an abrupt end when he and his sister are handed off to their unknown relatives in a place called Pensivia, in KZN. His life goes from being pampered with gifts, love and comfort to being the object of scorn in a rural area. The adults – and, most specifically, his parents, despite his increasingly urgent, ardent prayers - never reappear to set things right again. They can’t, of course, because his father has killed his mother.
Staying in rural areas he is subjected to not only a different environment but different way of living. His relatives were impoverished, to eat breakfast he first had to milk the cows and get milk. No one was there to guide him and his sister, he had to fend for them both. Their clothes were given to charity and they were left with only rags to wear. He got through high school by working as the school’s carpenter to pay for his fees.
But at crucial moments along Polela’s journey, like a real-life Oliver Twist, Polela gets unexpected help from people he meets along the way – black and white - who take Polela under their respective wings at devastating moments in his life. This is presumably because they see the possibilities of the finished sculpture lurking within Polela’s as yet unshaped clay. At one point, a white couple running a trading store in the rural KwaZulu Natal hinterland offers help to Polela and his sister with a form of adoption. In another moment, a nun warms to him (and he to her) when he helps her find her way and she compliments his English. In this she restores his confidence in his ability to become more than just one more aimless township youth.
While he was at Durban University of Technology (DUT), as things looked at their bleakest for him, individuals reached out with financial help. There were also crucial bureaucratic interventions as he found his way through an education at the Durban Technikon and the London School of Economics. Opportunities arose in the world of commercial television news. When he was exposed to the world of news and commerce he changed his name to McIntosh Polela, in fear that his father who he has come to fear might come and look for him.
Learning the things his mother endured and that of the siblings he never knew existed, he finds comfort from his step mother and the truth about his father, his monster. Having gone through life the way he did, it becomes easy for him to get through life challenges along his way. 
Most recently, Polela has moved on to become spokesman for the Hawks special investigative unit of the police in South Africa. Except for the fact that there really is a McIntosh Polela, given the many turns where so much might have gone wrong but didn't, one might even be willing to believe the whole thing was made up for the sake of narrative sizzle.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

"Reality vs Ideal"

We must at all times be able to distinguish between what is real and that which may regard as ideal.

    The Reality: Photo cred, Google Images 

Ideally, all women want their men, who are in their 30s, to be having a house, a nice car and all kinds of things. I don't think there's any woman who doesn't want to be with a financially stable man, and I'm including even those of us who don't aspire to be financed by men. We want our men to be financially stable because we are not ignorant to the fact that financial difficulties have the serious potential to emasculate men. Men who aren't very financially secure tend to have self-esteem issues because they're raised in a heteropatriarchal society that has taught them that it is the duty of a man to be the financial provider in the house.

But realistically speaking, most Black men in their 30s are still starting out, trying to build their lives. It is not because they're lazy, but because of the structural challenges that come with being Black. You'll find that because of the frustrations of entering into institutions of higher learning, many young Blacks start school in their early 20s. So you find that a man completed his degree at 25 and couldn't find a job immediately, largely because as statistics have proven, a Black graduate is less likely to find a job than a White graduate. This explains why we have more than half a million unemployed graduates in our country, an overwhelming majority of them being Black. So this young man stays unemployed and then only a year later, at 27, gets an internship. If he's lucky, he starts working at 28. Immediately, he must start repaying his NSFAS loan. He then has to stretch his meagre salary to ensure that he takes his siblings to school, fixes his parents' home, try to provide for his woman and also do things for himself.

So when we say by 30, a man must be driving a nice car and having a house, what exactly are we saying, in light of the fact that our Black men are drowning in the economic bondage that is suffocating our country?

              Ideal: Photo cred, Google images 

Black men have it hard in this country. We have a racist system that subjects them to the worst forms of exploitation. As if that is not bad enough, we as their women also want to assist that system to kill the little dignity they have left, by making unrealistic demands on them, wanting them to buy houses on top of mountains and so on.

People speak confidently when they say: "He is a man, he must provide. African men are supposed to be providers". We forget that this was easier centuries ago when the Black man had land and resources and could look after his woman while she raises children. But this is colonised, Africa. We must stop pretending that colonialism didn't happen because it did. And more than 350 years later, we are still feeling the effects. In this Africa, the Black man has no land and no economy in his hands. He has been stripped naked by imperial devastation, his manhood trampled on like it is trash. I'm not saying our men must be lazy and do nothing. I'm not saying our men must be complacent. I'm saying we have a duty as Black women to make life more bearable for them because most of them are trying very very hard to retain their dispossessed humanness. It's not easy. They are swimming against the tide, but they are trying so hard. Let's not help this racist system's attempts to reduce the Black man to nothing. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Fanie Fourie’s Lobola

Main Characters: Eduan Van Jaarsveldt, Zethu Dlomo, Jerry Mofokeng, Marga Van Rooy, Chris Chameleon and Lilian Dube

A very well written play by Lance Samuels, Kweku Mandela and Jannie Eser which clearly encapsulates the cultural differences in intercultural marriage. The movie is set in two different places; Pretoria and Brazzaville. Dinky Magubane (Zethu Dlomo) is a university graduate, she stays in Brazzaville with her father and works at a casino. Apart from her daily job, Dinky aspires to be a business woman. Fanie Fourie (Eduan Van Jaarsveldt) is a lonely “panel artist” who stays in his parent's garage. He has no job, all he has are his cars. These two; Fanie and Dinky are two different people yet their personality and the love makes them inseparable. The storyline of “Fanie Fourie’s Lobola” tells a story of their undying love which was built on a dare and ended in marriage.
After having tried to bake a cake for her aunt, Dinky Magubane decides to go and buy one. In the cake shop, she meets Fanie who is also in the store with friends and his brother, they have come to the cake shop to fetch his Brother’s (Sarie Fourie) wedding cake. After being dared by his friends that he wouldn’t find a suitable date for the wedding, Fanie asks Dinky to save him from embarrassment by giving him her phone number. However, Dinky decides they do each other favours “I’ll go as your date to your brother’s wedding if you promise to come and have lunch with me and my dad in Brazzaville”. After having submitted to each other’s dare. The two fall in love.

The love that which developed between Fanie and Dinky is not supported by either of the families and also the community is not to terms with their communion. Both the white and the black community sees their love as a taboo. Dinky’s father is in favour of the prince, who woos his daughter, Dinky by showering her with all sorts of gifts. Mandla and Dinky dated when they were back in high school but because Mandla is a womaniser, Dinky felt she deserved better. Her Aunt, father and the community at large prefer the prince (Mandla) for obvious reasons; one being that he is rich and which means he will be able to pay the desired lobola, Dinky wouldn't have to suffer and the fact that Mandla is aware of the customs and traditions of the Zulu culture.

Dinky being the well-educated and stubborn girl that she is sees nothing wrong in being with Fanie. She makes it known to her father that her choice lies with Fanie, despite all the traditions and the fact that Fanie is poor. Mandla gives a blank cheque to Dinky’s father to write the amount that he would require for lobola, but Dinky rejects him, telling her father she’s not in love with Mandla. After the rejection, Mandla turns bitter, he does everything to try and win Dinky over. However, Dinky is not charmed by any of the gifts Mandla is showering her with. She loves the simple Fanie whose love is plain and simple love with no hindrances.

When Dinky was giving up on love because of the cultural differences and the hatred among the two families, Fanie decides that the only way to save their love is to succumb to the Zulu culture and pay lobola. With the lobola negotiations, there are many problems resulting from both families and the intermediary Mandla who wants to make sure everything goes wrong. The two love birds are then separated by troubles patterning lobola negotiations. But, love is a very strong type of drug, where there is love, there is a way. The two find their way back to each other’s arms through Dinky’s business in which she sells the cars made by Fanie. Their parents finally come to terms with Dinky’s and Fanie’s unconditional love thus allowing them to get married.  Despite their conflict, trials and tribulations Dinky and Fanie underwent, in the end, they managed to bring the two families together and also to gain their acceptance.