Bonginkosi Ntiwane

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7min130

IT was almost habitual for my friends and I to immediately, after watching a movie, meet at one of our backyards to mimic what we saw on film. The countless spinning-kick attempts after a Jean-Claude Van Damme motion picture, would make the actor blush with pride.

A screenshot from the Kickboxer movie.

For us it was not only limited to film, even after watching the biggest reality TV show the WWE, you’d find one of us, depending on whoever has the most charisma on the day, being The Rock.

I was taken back to my childhood by reports that Refiloe Phoolo, better known as Cassper Nyovest, booked out the entire Mega City cinema in Mafikeng, for kids from his neighbourhood to go watch Matetwe. A great gesture by the rapper, to support local creation and also take these kids on an excursion they’ll probably cherish for the rest of their lives. Much like how Kendrick Lamar did for the kids in Compton last year, with Black Panther.

Directed by Kagiso Lediga and produced by Black Coffee, Matetwe is a film about two friends from Atteridgeville who are undecided about their life post high school and their adventures on New Year’s Eve which land them in some trouble. The two main characters Lefa and Papi, played by Sibusiso Khwinana and Tebatso Mashishi respectfully, opt to peddle their special weed called Matwetwe, with hopes of becoming instant millionaires. Nyovest poignantly had a moment of silence for Khwinana before the start of the film. The young actor was murdered at the height of the movie’s success at the box office.

Matwetwe screenshot: Sibusiso and Tebatso

Matetwe is enjoyable as finely rolled up Sativa, but I can’t help but wonder what the kids from Maftown took from the film. That pushing greens is the best alternative, when you’re out of options for life after school or has Matetwe triggered the curiosity to experiment with marijuana? Of course, there’s also the possibility that the bulk of kids who filled those auditoriums are well acquainted with Maryjane.
But when you look at how film has deliberately, placed it in our subconscious, that it’s a cultural necessity for one to consume alcohol for example, you tend to appreciate the nexus between motion picture and how we live. Countless scenes of people at a bar, a dinner table or even at a tavern jump at me, when I think of the consumption of booze on camera.

People’s passiveness while glued to a screen, is one of the main reasons why the film industry is so influential in the lives of many. Added to the fact that the average person isn’t conscious of their mental or even emotional intake.

Wars across Africa were commonplace 60 to 70 years ago, which have trickled to modern times in some states on the Motherland. But one can’t deny the influence Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo series of movies had, on young Africans’ appetite to carry Kalashnikovs in the 80s. Whether you were going over the borders of apartheid Suid-Afrika to join Umkhonto We Sizwe, or wanted to be part of Thomas Sankara’s Revolutionary Defence Committee in Burkina Faso…this selfless act was also fuelled by the desire to be a Rambo, the skilled killer draped in uniform, who could rid us of the bad guys.

Film can also be a great vehicle to inspire good in society; it depends on the underlining message. That films are portraying the impact in which patriarchy, racism, body shamming or any other form of discrimination has on people is a step in the right direction which helps to mitigate hate that some people are at the receiving end of, daily.

A movie can only do so much though. The same way a three minute ditty that lashes at government corruption can also stir you up as a citizen, it ultimately cannot stop the actual rot in public office. After all, not one of us in my group of childhood friends went on to become black belt karate students after watching Kickboxer.


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4min550

“WHAT I fear is that the liberators emerge as elitists, who drive around in Mercedes Benzes and use resources of this country to live in palaces and to gather riches,” said the late Chris Hani.

That quote rushed at me, as I read through the Woza Albert! press release, about the classic play by Mbongeni Ngema and Percy Mtwa showing at the State Theatre.

THE CREATORS: Mbongeni Ngema (L) and Percy Mtwa (R)

Woza Albert! explores how the second coming of Christ (Morena) would affect the lives of poor black people, and how white apartheid authorities would react. Although the play was created over 40 years ago, it still reverberates hard-hitting truth as it did during apartheid.

The play presents a compelling view of a multitude of black and white characters as they explore themes of race and class and expose the power structures of white supremacy. It concludes with a call for Christ (Morena) to raise the dead heroes and leaders who fought against apartheid.

Percy Mtwa. Photo by Sanmari Marais

The likes of Hani, Bantu Biko and Mangaliso Sobukwe would be perplexed by the fact that black people remain impoverished, still grapple with white supremacy and the rise of black elitists.  “Even in the current democratic climate, the question that was asked by Ngema and Mtwa during the days of apartheid is still relevant. There is a lot going on in our maturing democracy which arguably makes those who died with a revolutionary sword to turn in their rested graves,” said State Theatre CEO, Dr Sibongiseni Mkhize in the press release.

“Constant contestation over the meaning and direction of the new South Africa’s socio-economic and political dispensation, the debilitating effects of corruption and relentless economic inequalities, are some of the things that perhaps await the second coming of Morena!”

Mbongeni Ngema.Photo by Sanmari Marais

Woza Albert! made its return to South African theatres late last year, commencing at Durban’s Playhouse Company then headed to the Baxter Theatre in Cape Town. With its original cast and crew- Director John Christopher, lighting Designer Mannie Manim and stage manager Dickson Malele- Woza Albert! has and will be at the State Theatre throughout the month of March.


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5min2970

“Yes a lot! It has also encouraged other females to go and have themselves checked as endometriosis is often misdiagnosed,” says Merushka Aroonslam.

The 17 year-old was talking about how her fundraising for an operation she has to do this Thursday, has opened the eyes of other women who might be living with the condition.

Merushka Aroonslam. Photo supplied

Endometriosis results from the appearance of endometrial tissue outside the uterus, which causes pelvic pain. Although the Lawson Brown High School pupil was diagnosed last October, she has been lived with the disease for three years now. She has been fundraising for her surgery since January, managing to draw a small crowd of people who are actively helping her raise the funds, under the hashtag #EndoTreatment4Merushka. Her supporters sell food, stickers, t-shirts and wash cars.

Endometriosis. Mayo-clinic

The hashtag has built much steam thanks to her fame as a car spinner. Aroonslam was on the verge of selling her pink and black new era Nissan Skyline with a 2.8 (L28) motor, to raise funds for her operation but fortunately she didn’t.

“Spinning, motorsports and cars has been part of my life since a young age and I’ve always had a passion for it as my dad use to do it back in his days when it was still illegal.  Spinning is a sport that once the bug bites, there’s no turning back.”

The girl from Port Elizabeth wants the operation done so that she can go back to her life of spinning, which has become a catharsis for her.  “A rush of emotions and adrenaline, you feel completely free and it’s a way for me to de-stress and just leave all my problems on the pitch,” she says describing the feeling she gets from spinning.

She regularly does her thing at Wheelz n Smoke events, under the SPINderella female banner. She began spinning in 2017.

Merushka in motion. Photo supplied

The surgery is set to take place at St. George’s Hospital, at the cost of R55 000 for a 2-hour treatment. But could cost more if the procedure takes longer. “We close to our target but we haven’t quite reached it yet.”

Aroonslam is currently in matric and she sometimes misses school due to the severity of the pain. “It’s my second operation but I’m still very scared and nervous. I don’t think you can ever get used to it.”


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5min390

YOU remember how impeccable J.Cole’s 2014 Forest Hill’s Drive was. I think he was also shocked with how good that album came out. I think Solange Knowles felt the same way after making A Seat At The Table.

But the difference between the two artists, is that Cole tried by all means to steer away from anything remotely similar to like F.H.D when he made 4 Your Eyez Only. Beyoncé’s younger sister on the other hand, attempted to make another Seat At The Table-or at least a more esoteric version, with When I Get Home-but failed.

The album lands on the ear as an incomplete project because of the annoying number of interludes. As soon as I tried to engage with a track, it abruptly ended. It’s like she made the album based on research by scientists, about the short attention span of today’s youth. Over 10 tracks are less than three minutes, not to suggest a great song is defined by its duration, but one gets a sense that Solange didn’t have an idea of what to do. Instead, she horrendously used Seat At The Table as a template.

This album lacks direction and makes me wonder how much of a contribution she had in her previous album. The legendary Raphael Saadiq was the executive producer of the project, along other producers and musicians who’ve been in the game for decades.
When I Get Home seems like Solange’s way of being young and hip, to be more appealing to the youth. Some of this album’s producers include Metro Boomin, Dev Hynes and has contributions from Tyler the Creator and Earl Sweatshirt.

Sonically this album isn’t far off Seat At The Table, but it’s short of a solid theme and cohesiveness. It’s the kinda project that makes the producer look bad. But having shat on the album, I admit there are some enjoyable ditties on the project like Way to The Show and Down with the Clique. True to its name, Dreamy was quite dreamy and airy, I didn’t mind repeating the song. These are tracks that didn’t hit me at first go, but with time, I got into their vibe-if the album was a stand-up comedy special, I’d have to watch it again for those few jokes I had to nit-pick for laughs.

Time (Is) is the only track that hit, from the word go. I enjoyed it, especially the switch of the beat later in the song, where Sampha’s backing vocals give it so much body.
Most artists have a bad album in their career, but I didn’t expect Solange to deliver it right after A Seat At The Table. That I’ve mentioned her previous album countless times on this review tells you that When I Get Home ain’t that ayoba.


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18min270

THE history of how Bantu South Africans came to be, from pre-colonial history to where we find ourselves in modern Mzansi, is fragmented to say the least. Thanks to European colonisers that came and settled on African land, the history of the South African Bantu got lost in the wars, migration and segregations which took place for so many years. With the rise of Pan-Africanist ideals among black youth and the talks about land, there simply is no better time for Bantu to know who they are and where they come from.

Using a synonym, author Galachani Gulantino has taken up the mammoth task of detailing the history of the South African Bantu from pre-history to 2014, in one book. Aptly titled The Tail-End Of The Tale the book begins in ancient times, taking you through Bantu’s settlement in the South, the arrival of colonisers on the continent, apartheid and the current cultural and social outlook. Tha Bravado had a chat with the author about the book.

Q: Would you say the discrepancy in our narratives as Southern African Bantu is due to the fact that our people down South opted to write their history, than orally sharing stories of how we came to be-like you’d find in West African countries, who seem to have a more consistent and coherent narration of who they are?

A: I think the discrepancy in our history narrative as Southern African Bantu is primarily due the nature of European colonialism that we were subjected to, namely settler-colonialism. The Dutch and the British colonialists also became settlers, thus necessitating a tighter control of both the narrative and our access to alternative narratives.

Their version of the narrative created an impression that before Mfecane (the rise of Shaka and the creation of the Zulu kingdom in the early1800s), Bantu lived in a timeless and aimless era unworthy of study.

This history was constructed mainly by colonial scholars who had a specific brief to demean and deny Bantu the truth about their past. To my knowledge, except Tiyo Soga in the second half of the 1800s, there is virtually no historical narrative written by Bantu during the same period.

In other parts of Africa such as West Africa where the colonialists found the climate too hash for them to settle, what were already loose colonial shackles unshackled much earlier than ours us in the South. This allowed them time to curate and teach their own history as they understand it.

Q: I was particularly interested in the Mfecane section in the book. You suggest that the Zulu Kingdom was merely a proponent in the Mfecane wars. Do you think there’s a connection between that and how Shaka never directly took war to the British nor the Boers/Dutch?

A: I have learned from some of feedback that this is a sensitive issue. With the available information though – which places on record the hereto unrevealed cooperation between Shaka and the British settlers – I’m inclined to believe that there are aspects of Shaka’s political life that have been deliberately left out of history books to suit a particular narrative. Remember that the official (read colonial) line about Mfecane is that the arrival of White settlers in the Natal and the northern regions saved populations of Bantu from the cruelty of Shaka and his war-mongering lieutenants. So, to openly admit their dealings with Shaka would have contradicted this narrative meant to paint white colonial settlers as messiahs rather than the bloodthirsty war-mongers they were.

Q: In modern South Africa, the story of how the Tsonga and Shangaan tribes came to be, is so fragmented that those tribes have been on the receiving end of some harsh discrimination from other Bantu tribes for many years. Where would you say that stems from, this discrimination?

A: Well, this is one of those questions that need more than just a historian to answer. I guess from a historical point of view, much of the discrimination stems from Bantu having been taught, and believed, that they are inferior beings. That their place under the sun is no more than that of foraging nomads who owe their ‘civilisation’ to the arrival of white colonialists in Africa. This false narrative bred so much self-hatred among Bantu that to deal with the condition, they needed someone to project their perceived inferiority upon.

And, by accident of history, in which Mfecane and the Berlin Conference of 1888 played a role, Tsongas found themselves at the receiving end of this coping mechanism. Now fragmented between Mozambique, Zimbabwe and different parts of what became South Africa, they, together with the Venda people, became easy pickings to the pride-thirsty and numerically dominant Sotho and Nguni groups in South Africa.

You will also observe however that it is not only the Tsongas and the Vendas who fell prey of this practice, nor were they themselves innocent victims. Even Zulus had their own misgivings about the Xhosa and vice versa. Even within a group, this projection was and still largely remains a feature. The major perpetrators of hatred of Bantu is Bantu themselves. That’s the cold reality of our existence, hence the need for the deconstruction of the false narratives behind this self-hatred.

Q: Looking at South Africa today and how so many tribes’ rich stories were lost during and after the Mfecane period…would you say the other tribes, besides the Zulus, are the real casualties of the wars?

A: I think everyone, including the Zulu, are a causality; not quite of the wars themselves, but the outcome, which has seen a total cultural and linguistic assimilation of Bantu. This is especially so post-1994. As it stands, there is no single (South) African Bantu language or culture that can guarantee its immortality outside that of the other groups. The restoration and development of cultural and linguistic heritage can only succeed if it is a collective Bantu project rather than survival of the fittest. As it stands, when a Bantu language dies, the speakers will not switch to a dominant Bantu language, but English, and that will perpetuate and accelerate the demise up of whatever language(s) remain. A conscious initiative to deal with this looming challenge is the only way out and time is not on our side.

Q: Your book comes at a time when we’re noticing a sharp rise in Pan Africanism and a sense of black pride. This of course, in tandem with the conversation around land in South Africa. What do you hope people take away from this book?

A: The biggest dispossession that Bantu suffered from colonialism was not the land and cattle, but our sense of self. Some of the richest nations in the new world such as Malaysia and Singapore have very limited amount of land. Without a sense of self there is no amount of land that can free us from our shackles. Once we remove the shackles – which have moved from our hands and legs to our minds – there is nothing under the sun that we cannot achieve. The colonialists know this, and they have not stopped tightening their grip on our mental selves. This book hopes to deconstruct the narratives that separate us from self, with the hope that we find ourselves and consequently our land and heritage.

Q: The book is the history of Bantu South Africans from pre-history to 2014. It is 2019 now, have you came across information that contradicts or supports the 2017 edition of The Tail-End of The Tale?

A: History is by design a contested subject and there is no one single universally accepted narrative or interpretation thereof. Yes, I have seen newer accounts that claim for example that humanity originated in East Africa, as opposed to South Africa as the book suggests. I have come across another title (The Golden Rhinocerosn – 2018) on the Middle Ages Africa by an American professor which corroborates much of the reconstruction of the same period that I have done in the book. I have had fierce pushback on my take on the Mfecane era from some scholarly fronts. I have not found any factual contradiction of any part of the narrative. That is not to say there is none. Finally, I have noted one or two conspicuous omissions on my account of football and musical heritage, and I hope to include these details in future editions.

Q: Personally, the book was a much needed eye-opener as a young Bantu man living in modern day South Africa. How has it been received by the public?

The book is only now being made available to the public but the few people that have read it have provided very positive feedback. One person is already using the book as basis of their PHD thesis with a top university and that’s the kind of feedback that gives one a sense of reward for the sweat and blood that went into putting it together. It is my wish that every Bantu parent keeps a copy of this book for their children.

Q: I understand you’re planning on having forums and reading events of the book. When are you likely to do that?

A: The marketing team is working on a programme which will in due course be made public in our website, www.gulatino.com. The short answer is: much sooner, subject to the completion of the preparatory work.

Q: I think it’s very imperative for our stories to be told by us. What truly inspired you to write this book?

When a friend introduced me to a Pan African magazine (New African) during the late 1990s, I never looked back reading it. Having already had an active interest in history and politics, despite having read Computer Science and Applied Mathematics, the magazine exposed me to a collection of works on Africa’s great past. I was so fascinated by these works that for next eight years I found myself reading extensively on the subject.  Even then I had no intension of curating the knowledge into a book, until one day when a like-minded friend paid me a visit. We had what tuned out to be quite a deep and fascinating discussion about Diop’s work. After lamenting how beneficial it would have been had we recorded the conversation, I offered to produce a 20-page summary of it, which I indeed attempted. As the saying goes, the rest is history.

Q: How long did it take to put it together?

A: It took me eight years from typing the first word to having the final product out. I started writing the book in 2009.

 



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