The Never Ending Walk…To The Box Office

‘Heard another Madiba film is in the pipeline; it is reported that Long Walk To Freedom, based on Nelson Mandela’s autobiography is set to go under production, “ahead of several other Mandela projects expected in the next few years.” (Blignaut, C. “Long walk to the Box Office”, 18 March 2012) Sigh, I wish I knew how I felt about that-perhaps I do but maybe for fear of being labelled a ‘hater’ might just consider sitting on the fence. I mean Madiba has got to be the only man who has more lives than a cat itself. One just wonders how long filmmakers will keep rehashing the story of the man.

I would imagine that every angle imaginable has been exploited and the film Invictus summed it all up. Of course there was one released in 2010, with Sophie Okineyo portraying Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in a depiction of the dame’s years during her ex-husband’s years in prison and shortly after his release. An unlikely character played the role of Mandela and it is no wonder I don’t have a recollection of who the man was or the name of the movie for that matter.

Don’t get me wrong I have great admiration for Tata, as do many South Africans but one can get a dizzy spell merely thinking about all the material being sold of the man. From t-shirts to various souvenirs, not to mention the many streets; avenues and roads named after him. Please don’t forget informal settlements-the list is endless, and frankly it’s all starting to give me a migraine. Then there goes the woman who cooked for the Mandela family publishing a cookbook of Mandela’s favourite dishes. It’s just…I’m so conflicted!

To those who might accuse me of being ignorant about the history of our country I would boldly answer that, unfortunately for those with romanticized views former president Mandela is a part of our history-but not the only part. So many individuals were instrumental in negotiating a peaceful political transition that began in 1990 and culminated in the elections of ’94.

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However, it’s a no brainer that our history has been reduced to being about Mandela and (insignificant) others, whose lives must have been lacking in spunk to feature on global cinemas. Quite a slap in the face, wouldn’t you say?  Of course one can’t blame Tata for this. If I continue the Mandela versus others debate I run the risk of betraying the whole intent of this post…moving right along.

The production of Mandela films has not been without controversy. At the very top is the casting of international stars instead of local ones and to say this has disgruntled the latter would be an understatement. I simply couldn’t be bothered because as it would occur I’m not an actor, and I reckon it makes perfect financial sense to cast people who are well-known.

Nelson Mandela is a global icon and someone we are most proud to show off. My qualm though is how he seems to have transcended this iconic status to become a brand; a commodity. I have to admit to feeling particularly offended that at some point the old man became a stop that every Tom, Dick and Harriet from the West just had to make before jetting off from the “motherland”. Suffice to say, this trend has declined and I couldn’t be happier.

I happened to watch a film about Dictator Idi Amin once-okay, maybe twice. With the incomparable Forest Whitaker in the lead, “The Last King of Scotland” proved to be a brilliant film which to this day has left a lasting impression on me about the kind of man Amin was. Because of that I would happily watch the same film over and over instead of fifty more films of the same man; I reckon this would reduce me to comparing who better played the man and so forth.

Therefore, seeing my former president in one or two films would have done it for me hence it is all becoming too exploitative for my liking. Money aside, our national treasures need to be preserved and respected, if not they will continue to fall prey to being caricatures of Western greed. Thankfully, local filmmakers have moved beyond the political and AIDS rhetoric because our country is not one dimensional in the least. There are more stories to tell about love, life, mystery, passion and thrill in our context.

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(Wo)man In The Making…

To start off, let’s give a round of applause to all good dads out there. Your children are most fortunate to have you as doting-and firm- fathers. In 2011, The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) released a report on the impact of absent fathers and the rise of the single-parent headed household. It is reported that the dynamics of the South African family are changing as we witness increasing numbers of child headed households due to the scourge of the HI virus.

For similar reasons, more and more households are headed by grandparents. The report revealed that there is a correlation between acts of crime and absent fathers; In fact a significant number of young men attributed their deviant behaviour which includes the abuse of alcohol and drugs to the absence of fathers in their upbringing. The lack of meaningful father figures like step-fathers, uncles, etc. was also cited.

Though I did not grow up with a romanticized view of marriage, I did not envision single-parenthood either. I knew I wanted children- that much I knew, with a vague picture of my co-parent. I did not envision a vat-en-sit either. Perhaps then it is clear that my view on relationships was skewed somewhat. Then again, how could one think about such at a young age?

During this period one can barely think past the new guy you just met at the club. I do reckon that at some point I wanted to get married (this keep changing, depending on the time of day), if only for a sense of belonging and to get validation. Isn’t marriage a sign that somebody thinks you are worthy after all? Seeking validation is the biggest quest for children with either absent fathers or those whose fathers are present but grossly neglect to have a positive impact on their children’s lives. When confronted with reality, affected individuals often lack the emotional intelligence to sift through people who can easily give validation for various reasons.

Women and/or girls with so-called daddy issues have a low sense of worth and will quickly accept any form of validation. Older men are often than not more than willing to provide such and there is no question how equally damaging these kinds of relationships are- how they perpetuate the cycle. The KwaZulu- Natal department of Health recently began a campaign against generational and transactional sex which is believed to be the root of increasing HIV infections among girls in the 11-19 year old range.

The phenomenon of absent fathers is not necessarily new: Men went to work in the mines or other while women singlehandedly tended to the household and raised children. As much as the role of a mother is important so is the active role of a father in the upbringing of children which is grossly under-estimated (so-called no-good fathers are almost the norm) especially as their influence shapes children’s inter-personal relationships. However there is a growing trend of men who are absconding from fatherhood, whether this is for the perceived good of the child or for their detriment, I call these faceless fathers.

This does not serve to vindicate women who take part in extra-marital affairs, in casual sexual relationships and so forth. It simply means that it takes two to tango. It appears far easier for men to neglect their responsibility towards their off-spring than it is for women. It is nevertheless a frightening trend that is rooted in instant gratification and lack of foresight. It is dangerously creating a generation of misplaced and emotionally needy individuals.

 I did not plan to be a single parent. I could say it ‘just’ happened, but it did not. It took a lot of years of misguided relationships to get to this point. The first of which was my folks’ marriage and the dynamics of my own relationship with my father-which is nonexistent. We can debate on the nature-nurture aspect, I think neither is separate from the other- but it will take us the entire day. For a long time I made decisions that did not make much sense and was sadly in the guise that I actually knew what I was doing, which couldn’t have been farther from the truth. With hindsight, I was volatile.

Yet it was extremely sobering to be facing the mammoth task of raising a child by myself. I reckon I have done the whole motherhood thing justice so far, but if I said I have filled the father aspect of parenting I would be delusional. However, as the HSRC report stated- where the biological father is absent, father figures can also play a significant role in a child’s upbringing.

In an equally volatile society, it is important to continually support and groom children so they can realize their full potential. This is not the responsibility of the nuclear family alone but of society in general. Though I support the Take A Girl Child To Work initiative, I’m also delighted that the Man In The Making concept is in full swing, “to correct the distortion that it’s cool to do crime and be defiant…”-Koos Radebe, Director: CSI & Communications: Tracker Network. It is my wish that in future  the initiative will spread into the NGO sector via organizations that can teach young boys how liberating it is to take responsibility for one’s actio

Not An Activist, Just A Part of The Movement: Reflecting on Human Rights Day

 

Not an Activist, Just a Part of the Movement:  Reflecting on Human Rights Day

South Africa observed Human Rights Day on Wednesday the 21st of March amid protests in Sharpeville where 69 people were massacred on the day in 1960. It is clear that our people have not moved beyond “owning the pain” as shown by disgruntled residents of the township. It is disheartening that the spirit of entitlement persists even where the marking of national milestones is concerned; when it should be of importance to celebrate the strides made thus far.

Today, fifty-two years on we continue to observe and commemorate human rights and dignity for all which are the core and basis of our constitution as we know it. Equality remains at the helm of the South African agenda eighteen years after democracy, though it has not been without challenges. During a round of questions from opposition parties in parliament last week, President Jacob Zuma made assurances that the proposed review of the powers and rulings of the Constitutional Court was “routine”. Like any other state organ, Zuma argued, “the Concourt needs a service…and there is nothing unusual about that.” To date the constitution has been amended sixteen times. The proposed amendment to the Access to State Information Bill (Secrecy Bill) remains a controversial matter. Though government has stated otherwise, the perceived threat to limit the media reporting extensively on the state is real. Furthermore, despite inviting public and civil society participation on different issues the ANC-led government’s disregard for public opinion and the abuse of its majority vote in government is worrying.

Human Rights Day is not about the ANC nor is it about going out of my way to criticize the ruling party, it is about the scores of people who died at the hands of the brutal apartheid regime so they could be recognized for the human beings they were. Most of all it is about every one of the inhabitants of this country. It is because of those very people that you and I enjoy the rights as drafted in the Bill of Rights adopted in 1996. Those rights made it possible for a black family to live side-by-side with their white neighbours; homosexuals to enjoy married life and for women to have control of their reproduction. Whatever one’s prejudices are as far as these are concerned, it is nevertheless important for every individual to experience freedom in its entirety to ensure quality of life and for meaningful contribution to society. Hence as a collective we have a moral responsibility to handle our rights responsibly and to respect one another for our diversity. This is not exclusive of the state, which needs to honour its citizens by upholding these rights because democracy is a two-way street after all.

In The Name of Culture: The Reluctant Disciple

In The Name of Culture: The Reluctant Disciple

It is a Sunday afternoon and I have to admit to feeling like the biggest hypocrite on this side of the equator, finding it difficult to reconcile my thoughts and the gospel music blazing in the background. The culprit playing the CD is none other than yours truly. If you ask, it’s been many moons since I set foot in a church…since my daughter’s christening actually. Mmmhm, I can imagine them rolling their eyes and spitting, “typical”. So not only am I a hypocrite but an opportunist of sorts as well, right? This would be funny if it weren’t so darn pathetic, or is it? Okay, I will go ahead and cry. Laughs. Having met many a condescending Christian folk admitting such is fairly brave.

 

One man put it bluntly by stating, “Among the large majority of the local black population, it is a grievous insult to declare that you are not a Christian, and you think the entire religion thing is a fiction that human being invented to oppress each other , or comfort themselves…” [Hlongwane, S. “Township life sucks and that’s the truth”, 18 March 2012. iMag, vol. 2, issue. 9] According to the Collins English Dictionary, the term Irreligious refers to a lack, indifference to, or opposition to religious faith. In no uncertain terms does it refer to the subscription of religious faith other than Christianity. Unfortunately, the bulk of black Christians are quick to pin this label on anyone who does not subscribe to their faith and anyone who does not religiously attend church. I have confessed to the latter, but ‘irreligious’ is not the term I would associate with myself because of the deep and personal relationship I continue to have with my Creator which does not require validation from another. If I lacked religion that much I would sure not be entertaining gospel music. Doesn’t it always feel like one is on the defensive when it comes to issues of faith? As it would occur many of those who call themselves gospel musicians have a bad habit of recycling hymn book material. The genuine presence of a relationship with God should make it easier for one to write music that comes from the heart, shouldn’t it?

While the biggest irony is that I find myself praying to Christ every night, I do not consider myself a Christian…see what I mean? It is rather a ritual I learnt in childhood and one that stuck with me throughout-a habit-. While Christianity is meant to be a lifestyle and the Bible a guide, there are many inconsistencies and contradictions that make it personally impossible to follow blindly. Often, people outside the church become scapegoats for moral degeneration and disorder yet it is common place for preachers to take on mistresses; preachers sexually assaulting church members and power dynamics undermining the institution. This is not to suggest that Christianity is to blame, perhaps the fact that we are human is what makes us fallible.

While faith is essential for a healthy outlook on life and religion a comforting cushion to fall back onto, it is intriguing how we still cling on to a tool that was used to oppress Africans for centuries. The very same tool was used by some to advance their state sanctioned bigotry. It is disappointing how we frown at those who don’t share similar religious views and those who are critical of the religion; how we have become the oppressors instead. While some have shunned traditional practices, others continue to live in a parallel universe. How is that possible when Christianity denounces the worship and acknowledgement of so-called Pagan gods? Aren’t we all hypocrites somehow then? The survival of human beings is dependent on the presence of groups with which they identify hence we have families, colleagues, organizations, etc. This instinct is also present in animals. The common misnomer about people who don’t step inside the church all too often is that they are ungodly anarchists. However, there is something essentially wrong about trying to fit in for the sake of acceptance, and because others expect this. Isn’t that what peer pressure is about? Doing such only robs an individual of a genuine sense of belonging which comes naturally from within. Nobody can force anything that does not come naturally, they can only FAKE it. That is the common thread that runs through every rogue Christian who is quick to brush the Rastafarian off because he is nothing but a glorified dagga addict. No authenticity, just habit.

The funeral service of the late Dr. Molefi Sefularo is a case in point where the deceased is reported to have requested that his memorial be free of religious rhetoric. It served as a profound reminder that the rejection of conformity does not equate to a lack of values, principles and norms.

 

 

 

The Dummy’s Guide to Travel…

Recently, yours truly received an invite to go sashay my bootilicious self at Mozambique’s Kosi Bay. Kosi Bay is, according to Wikipedia (and what a lazy source of information), a series of lakes less than 2km from the Mozambique border. By the sound of it and the imagery of white beaches and bottle-green oceans one ought to jump at the chance to visit the bay, if not for the rare chance to get out of the house, then to take advantage of the generosity of some of my friends. Who gets to go on all-expenses paid trips these days if not people who win travel competitions and government officials obsessed with overspending taxpayers’ money?

With Mozambique being one of South Africa’s closest neighbours, it is embarrassing to admit that other than TV and the world map I have never been there. Exploring the country should therefore have been a welcome experience but instead, the invite me unusually confused and wondering what to do next. Two reasons: I have never set foot outside the borders of my country, never, which then explains the second reason, my lack of a passport. As unnerving as it was not having thought of applying for one, it was the very thought of getting out of my comfort zone that was frightening.

Though I may profess my love for travel I am guilty of being a notorious non-traveller. As a matter of fact with such a limited scope of travel, yours truly is nothing but a dummy at this sort of thing. I’m probably a victim of circumstance and I can cite lack of funds -because an unemployed pocket can only carry one so far- but those are just lame excuses. And no, those countless adolescent varsity trips to the clubs, all-res picnics and beer festivals don’t qualify. Open minded individuals worth their weight in gold will attest that after education, travel is another form of expanding one’s horizons and acquainting oneself with different cultures. Backpackers, for instance, aren’t some of the richest individuals after all, just adventurous.

Two memorable and only “real” road trips sum up my travel experiences. This is exclusive of school trips to the fair, inter-school sporting events as well as visits to relatives. The first one occurred during childhood when this individual was nine years old. Jesus must have made a rare appearance when my old man took us on a drive more than 200kms from home to the Pilanesburg Bushveld where we nestled at the Bakgatla Gate lodge. It was the brunch buffet at Sun City the following day that sealed the deal however. This is where I would discover the goodness of mushrooms, and how can one forget that nauseating full stomach? Laughs. Few people realize the reverse psychology that is so entrenched in buffets until they have a plate stacked to the roof before them.

The second road trip saw a handful of us going halfway across the country destined for the Eastern Cape’s Port Elizabeth. We traveled the Garden Route through the Northern Cape then into the Klein Karoo where the ostriches and caves awaited us at Oudtshoorn. We went further through George (the heart of the Garden Route) with the most breathtaking and scenic views into Knysna with its oyster farming and finally Port Elizabeth. The ocean is enchanting indeed, perhaps because one gets to experience it ever so seldom. More than anything our travel fostered a kind of bond born of shared experience. The only problem facing a non-traveler is the lack of creative shopping. Unfortunately I brought home with me a pair of tennis socks for my father; a book for my mother and a pair of cheeky boxer shorts for my sister. All of which they could have easily bought themselves. My mother’s disappointed sigh at seeing the book proved as much, though she would eventually learn to love the book.

There is a more serious side to not adopting a culture of travel regardless of how little the effort. The xenophobic attacks in 2007 proved just how ignorant South Africans can be; how little we know about the rest of the world including our immediate neighbours. There is a quick dismissal of the intricacies that determine other people’s circumstances, their culture and how they eventually find themselves at our country’s doorstep. Instilling a culture of travel into our young is very important especially when there are initiatives like TourismSA’s Sho’t Left affordable local travel packages. With all precautions observed of course, exploring the world need not be burdensome.

Useful links:

v   www.satourism.co.za/

www.shotleft.co.za/

That Husky Splendour….

 

 

 

That Husky Splendour

So I got to see Adele perform at the Royal Albert Hall…again. Sometimes our Broadcaster’s crappy-excuse my French- programming can be a blessing in disguise. I promise to purchase the DVD once they are tired of flighting the concert for the fiftieth time, and when I’m certain I have learnt to sing the lyrics of all the songs. Then, I will buy it. I will have adopted that annoying habit that men are so notorious for when it comes to their action movies; playing a movie a million times over until they are part of the cast, albeit as couch spectators. Anyway where were we? Adele…phenomenal, isn’t she? For a long time I didn’t have the faintest idea who this girl was, which didn’t matter much because she doesn’t know me, right? She was a secret my coconut buddies comfortably kept to themselves. It’s very annoying when you are always the last person to know things. There I was claiming to be a connoisseur of good music yet finding myself completely clueless about this young, fantastic old soul. Discovering that thunderous voice was more than a pleasant surprise, it was déjà vu. It’s obvious, I’m hooked.

So what do Adele, the late Amy Winehouse, Seal, Lemar, Estelle, Leela James and Sting have in common? Well, apart from the fact that they are all British singers, something more interesting popped up in my mind while I watched the concert. It dawned on me that every one of these singers has a husky, if not hoarse voice. Did that occur to you?  Then again, I could be the last one to find that out yet again. This pattern is just intriguing and I have to wonder if the weather and/ climate in England has anything to do with that. Notwithstanding the fact that the success of each one is entirely dependent on their own efforts and popularity; it is because of the blues, soul and doo-wop roots that the music resonates with me. Paired with those mellow, deep and velvety purring sounds, the music is elevated to another level entirely. Who am I kidding? I’m probably romanticizing everything; love can be so blind sometimes. A husky voice is reminiscent of boozy nights out, no sleep and drugs. It’s awful. It’s wonderful! I don’t care what the British are smoking, whatever it is continues to bring the desired effect. Though some eventually fade into obscurity, some like Ms. Winehouse and Adele have given us timeless music to treasure.

In The Name of Culture: The Politics of Funerals

In The Name of Culture: The Politics of Funerals

You’ve seen them. Those incessant funeral policy infomercials, yes the very ones that forced me to put my foot down and abandon the morning ritual of watching soapie repeats. One can only take so much, you know? What does one see? Stereotypical depictions of black people at a gravesite wondering where the next loaf of bread will come from, followed by the insurance brokers offering an attractive R1 200 pay-out of groceries every month. Yay! You know what they say about stereotypes though…

The short story “Painted Sorrow”, written by a so-called novice writer from a small town made it to seventh place in the South African Writers’ College competition in 2011; an accomplishment considering the two hundred-odd entries. Please note this is not a post about the author or her achievement in this regard, but about the theme of the story: The glorification of funerals, the deceased and the politics of funerals. We are guilty of glorifying even the worst of sadists and criminals in death, not wanting to put a foot wrong when we recite that eulogy- because they have transcended into the world of ancestors. This is not to suggest that black people are the only ones guilty of this but heaven knows we like to hang on to detrimental facades as a society. How else can we explain the “chief mourner” term? Make no mistake; the knives will come out when a dead man’s mistress and estranged wife fight for their “rightful” place on the mattress, not forgetting the legendary wail. The rising cost of commodities, e-tolls and fuel levies lead to a conversation between me and the other ladies in my house. Though a lot of the time Africans are at a financial disadvantage, our reluctance to make things easier for ourselves is apparent. Truth be told, culture is largely to blame for that. Hence the conversation saw us envisioning a time when sandwiches and tea would replace the status-quo of slaughtering a cow. Nobody will have that, not even when funeral food is notorious for messing with one’s digestive system. How many of you are frowning slightly at this suggestion? I’m not. It’s cost effective, think about it. Easier said than done, just the image of gossiping neighbours calling you stingy is enough to send one right to the bank for a personal loan.

Perceptions about what others think continue to cloud our judgement of reality. Funerals have changed appearance, where there was once genuine mourning and empathy now is rampant superficiality and spitefulness.  Isn’t the best place to meet a potential suitor a funeral these days after all? And isn’t the best place to get sloshed the after tears gathering? Just saying folks. Don’t get me started about cremation, which is not much of an option. Not even over-populated cemeteries can convince cash strapped folk otherwise. The local tabloids remain the best option to plead poverty and canvass for a “decent” funeral. The number of people at a funeral is another crucial element for a “memorable” funeral. The more, the better. It has to be so memorable that one remembers that imported mahogany casket with its brass handles. One woman, for example, commented albeit proudly about her child’s coffin not being able to fit through the door because of its size…oh, and what about the scores of people who showed up at the burial, the cars!

A sense of community and socialism have for centuries been etched in African culture. This admirable facet ensured the longevity of people through support structures. Proper support structures and mutual understanding are still as important and can be instrumental in carrying any community forward. Culture, like everything else, need not fade but needs to adapt and evolve. In these tough economic periods, funeral policy insurance brokers and parlours

continue to make a killing. Who pays?

The Curious Case Of Arthur Mafokate

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How coincidental that the morning I was having an internal debate about whether to go with the commemorative Human Rights piece for the 21st or with the Arthur Mafokate one, I heard the devil himself on Metro FM’s First Avenue. Towards the end of the interview he mentioned that weekly newspaper, City Press, would also be printing their interview with him. So great minds think alike, yes? I must admit though that I was in turmoil because finding the perfect angle was rather elusive.

Arthur Mafokate is an uncanny subject, so to speak. Not the conventional sort of man I would be likely to profile. My interests range from politics to business, food to lifestyle, music and almost everything really. It is rather odd that within this wide sphere of interest, his is a name that does not pop up often.

It is disappointing to admit that until now I have had these considerations because Mafokate is, after all, a businessman with strong political values (if his relationship with the ANC is anything to go by).

He remains a firm believer and promoter of his product which continues to be run-by –the-mill music. This is the stuff entrepreneurs are made of, so said a man named Mongezi Makhalima (in no particular reference to Mafokate though). So perhaps I ought to have more respect for the man.

Resilient is the best word to describe Arthur Mafokate. More than eighteen years experience in the music industry without as much as a worthy nod from industry bodies like the SAMAs takes real guts.

Of course as per his radio interview he still maintains that independent record label artists are grossly overlooked in favour of those from major record labels. The saga continues. The one reason I decided to write a piece on the man is that, once again SAMA fever is upon us.

The recent announcement of the nominees in various categories left some artist with a bitter taste, and rightfully so for some. Arthur Mafokate? Well, this is a peculiar one.

If after more than eighteen years in the industry all that an individual fights for is to be nominated in the Best Song category then something is amiss. Never mind Best Male Artist or that Best Female Artist and not even that Best Dance Album, it’s that much coveted Song Of The Year accolade that Arthur wants.

The independent versus major record label debate can continue for as much as is allowed but the crucial thing that Mafokate continues to ignore is quality. When quantity takes centre stage and becomes a priority then quality is often than not compromised.

With Mafokate, this manifested itself in the exodus of artists from his stable who felt that the man has an acute lack of appreciation for quality, for individuals who take their craft seriously.

What he continues to pelt out is music that seems to have been manufactured in a Chinese factory. This is not only an insult to whoever consumes the music but it makes a mockery of the time, effort and dedication that Mafokate has invested in his company over the years.

He continues to make music and is innovative in the dance music scene, that we recognize, but whether his material deserves the kind of recognition he craves is a bit far-fetched. Many artists have come to understand the concept of the customer being king, especially in a period where CD sales have taken a nose dive due to the rising popularity of downloads.

More effort is now pumped into producing quality and paying attention to detail. Arthur Mafokate is possibly one of the most formidable entrepreneurs in the entertainment industry but his attachment to mediocrity is    a stumbling block to him realizing his full potential.