Lifestyle

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7min311

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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5min3010

“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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18min280

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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13min760

It is said that it’s not about how thick the book is, but about the knowledge you get in those thick books. With less than 70 pages to it, Surviving Loss is as thin as they come. It is a collection of poems written by Busisiwe Mahlangu about her abuse-ridden childhood.

The physical copy of Surviving Loss is a reflection of Mahlangu. Petite and pretty on the outside, but weighing so much because of the accumulated experiences in the inside. “It was written solely around surviving depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Most of the issues there are around poverty, abuse, rape and violence, and it’s written in a style of searching for healing,” she says.

Chilling on brown leather couches at Black, a restaurant at Pretoria’s State Theatre, I have a two-on-one with Mahlangu and Palesa Olifant. The latter is the director of the play, Surviving Loss-an adaptation of Mahlangu’s book, which opens at the Pretoria theatre today.

The book and the play are more than just close to Mahlangu’s heart, they are her. The abuse she writes about in the book is something she experienced growing up at the hands of her father. When I ask about her dad’s thoughts on the book, with a straight face the poet from Mamelodi says “My father is dead. He passed away end of Grade 10, in 2012. No, it was not good. In all the mental issues, my father always shows up during therapy, during relationships. It was a very violent relationship. Most of the abuse I talk about, is the abuse from my father.”

“I don’t like talking about the specifics of the abuse, but it was physical and emotional,” she tells me. She grew up with both parents, two older siblings and a younger one. “With abuse and violence that happens in the house, everyone gets abused and gets violated in a way. Even my mom went through the abuse, and she was aware that we’re feeling the pain and are being abused. But to an extent, it’s kinda difficult when you’re going through the same thing, it’s not like someone from the outside walking in and saying ‘oh, this is so hard’ and then saves us. It’s different when someone is living in the abuse.”

It was only when she got to Wits that she sought therapy from school, after a friend advised her to seek help from professionals. She only spent years at Wits, then got excluded because of outstanding fees. That’s when her poetry became more of a catharsis, even though she had been writing since high school, the 23-year-old had no inclinations of becoming a poet.

The poems on Surviving Loss date back to 2015. “When I left high school my poetry became more personal, writing more about things that I experience, see and feel. In 2016 is when I started performing, I took poetry more serious.”

“I was studying electrical engineering at Wits. I entered slams because they said you can win R500 and I was a broke student. So I thought, since I do write I might take advantage of the platform”

After her exclusion, she entered the Tshwane Speak Out Loud competition where she made it the finals, and walked away with a big cheque. “R30 000 could’ve paid for my debts at Wits and allowed me to continue with my studying. But poetry was setting my soul on fire, it made me feel lively,” she says without a drop of oomph missing.  She decided to put the money into studying Creative Writing at UNISA.

“Then last year, Vangile Gantsho asked for my manuscript of poetry, and when I sent it to her she said ‘we’re publishing you’ and at the time I didn’t know they were opening a publishing company.” The book is published by Impepho Press.

Reception of the book has been amazing, Mahlangu has done readings across the country. “I didn’t think I’d get to experience so many things. I grew up in Gauteng and whenever I left the province, was whether for a wedding or funeral or some big event in Mpumalanga. But within a year into poetry, I was travelling to Cape Town and other provinces and seeing more of South Africa. I was wowed, and I keep getting surprised with the journey poetry has taken me.”

She had been praying to be part of State Theatre’s Incubator program, and then last year she received a call to come to the theatre’s offices. “When I got there, they told me about the incubator but first, they wanted to have an idea of what I will do. I knew I wanted to adapt the book for stage.”

“I knew I want it to be called after the book because every title I came up with, it didn’t feel like it was strong enough. The title of the book was very strong and every other title that came to us at the time, felt like it was underplaying it.”

The play’s director, Olifant says images shot at her as soon as she began reading Surviving Loss. “Her writing is very raw, and I think that’s the thing I enjoyed most about reading the book, because of how raw and relatable it is, it’s sharp. You can’t ignore it. Those images stick out. Coming into the space, I wasn’t trying to make work that’s polished and pure, I wanted to stay true to her voice. It’s so fragmented and that’s how memories are,” says the director.

Madam Director, Palesa Olifant. Photo Supplied

Olifant continues “She’s talking about so much, that we actually had to make it smaller; we had to find specific points to focus on, so relationships with her father and men, her admiration and the tensions between her, her mother and female members of her family-how all those inform her healing. Then we found music and dance that could speak to what that journey looks like.  Basically, adaptation of the book into a production has been about finding her voice through the music, through the movement and through the poetry as well.”

Mahlangu performs her poetry for the play, with Susan Nkatha doing the choreography and a musician, Darlianoh who wrote original music for the piece.  “I was very direct. I wanted a black woman director. A young black woman director to direct the piece. I didn’t want someone who’s older and established, besides the fact that I couldn’t afford them [bursting into laughter], but I wanted a young black woman director, and on stage I wanted young black women as well.”

FREEING HERSELF: Busisiwe Mahlangu. Photo Supplied

“…the piece is very intimate and I don’t think a man would be able to access some level of intimacy that was needed for the piece because of the different experiences, also some of the poems speak directly to men.”

“I’d be okay with a man coming and giving an opinion, but not the man adapting the whole production. I needed someone who could relate to what I was talking about. As women we share most of our suffering with each other, even if you haven’t experienced it, you kinda understand.”

The play is on for two nights at State Theatre, at 20:00


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5min680

In 44 BC, The Ides Of March became famous as the date of the assassination of Julius Caesar,making it a turning point in Roman history. It’s the theme for this Saturday’s Zulluminati rap battles.

“It’s also the day that when all debts must be settled in the Roman Empire, and we have a couple of grudge matches on the card and we’ll be crowning our first champion on the day. So the name was just perfect,” says Zulluminati organiser Pava Gunz.

A name known very well on the battle scene, Pava has proved his worth as a battle kat. His most popular battle could be when he battled Kriss, with his back turned against the rambunctious emcee from Benoni at Scrmables4Money. But Pava, having already organised five Zulluminati events with his team, has realised that the administration side of things is another beast which demands that he face it straight on, if this league is to make an impact in the battle scene.

“Finding sponsors is definitely the biggest challenge, as putting together these events is a financial strain on its own. And sourcing new talent, I believe there’s a multitude of dope rappers in the country, they just don’t wanna show themselves.”

Introducing new acts to the scene is important to Zulluminati. Earlier this year, they put out a poster for the Shoot Yo Shot event, specifically searching for eight unknown emcees. Shoot Yo Shot is Zulluminati’s undercard event to the main. “We try to unearth new talent and give overlooked emcees an opportunity to get their names out there. As the battle events out now are just recycling the same emcees, and that stunts the growth of the culture,” says eMalahleni’s very own.

Leagues such as this one and the likes of Hip Hop 411 are important for South African battle rap. Especially after Scrambles4Money came to a sudden end. A number of kats were anxious that would be the end of battle rap in the country. “We are in the right direction, but still haven’t reached the level I think it can. Even during Scrambles heyday, the hype and buzz was more than this. But we’re growing and that’s all we need right now,” says Pava, speaking with a tone of an OG.

Some tantalising matches for this weekend’s event will be Don V taking on the Vaal’s Willy Wroth; the title match between Cerebro and Kano as well as Fahrenheit versus Osama Bin Chaplin.

“On the main card I have King Zodiac, a relatively unknown emcee but with loads of talent and potential.  We gave him a chance at the previous event Backlash, and he grabbed it with both hands.”

The Zulluminati battles are put together by a team, which affords Pava time to still put on his cape and get in the ring. “Got one or two battles line up for this year that will rock the culture, so I will get back in the ring soon…but right now I’m focused on elevating the culture.”



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