Opinion

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8min6460

The first thing which comes to mind when I think of South Korean Netflix hit-show Squid Game is “money is the root of all evil”. I have to admit I am a little bit late with my review and my excuse is that I have been writing so I couldn’t find the perfect time to watch stuff. But now that I have finally checked it out, here’s what I have to say.

Before I watched the series I asked a colleague who’s a photographer, for his opinion and he said the language was a turnoff for him. When I heard that, I kinda lost enthusiasm because inasmuch as I’m a bookworm, I don’t like going through subtitles. There I was on a Tuesday evening feeling cozy with a fawn-coloured throw over my lap and a cup of coffee stationed in my chair. The first intriguing thing I picked up was the hook and sound track of the game and also the white and green tracksuits which in my opinion look cool.

In turns out my colleague was wrong after all about the language being a turn off, well at least for me because I thought it brought out a particular mysticism which coincided well with the tension of not knowing what to expect from the games. Honestly I never anticipated the malevolence that followed but in my opinion the writer is a genius because he cleverly used a contradiction of two things far apart. He took an innocent and purity such as a children’s game and linked it to evil desire. In doing so there’s balance and the theme doesn’t seem like a horror.

The Main Man: Seong Gi-hun who is referred to as Player 456 on Squid Game. Photo by Netflix
The Main Man: Seong Gi-hun who is referred to as Player 456 on Squid Game. Photo by Netflix

The core assertion of the series is based on the idea that cash rules the world and this statement is supported by how the characters were willing to risk their lives by playing the game of life and death. In the outside world characters’ predicament is debt and a desire for riches and comfort and that’s what lures them to the dark game.

I also like how the protagonist is not your typical hero who writers generally attribute good qualities. This guy is an idiot and a bum who stays with his old mother and has no job and always gets himself into trouble. His baby mama broke up with him and got married to a successful guy and took their daughter with. But the hero is still appealing because of his funny and goofy personality which makes him relatable and that works well in contradiction with the antagonist who is vile and cruel and would do anything to get his way.

One of the most important characters is the wise old man (in film theory the wise old man is the idea that every hero needs to have some kind of divine guardian and guidance which doesn’t necessarily have to be a human, it could be God, the inner voice or a late parent) who is the adviser to the hero. The old wise man is the voice of reason which makes up for the hero’s shortcomings and channels him to his journey. Perhaps the bravest and most heroic thing the hero did besides playing the game of life and death is fighting for his daughter and risking his life to save his old mother.

Old Man Wisdom: O Yeong-su who plays the character of Player Number 001 on Squid Game. Photo by Netflix
Old Man Wisdom: O Yeong-su who plays the character of Player Number 001 on Squid Game. Photo by Netflix

What kept me captivated to the story is the games; the suspense is nail biting and the tension makes you want to see what’s going to happen next, which is wicked if you ask me because it’s a matter of life and death. And that’s why I say it doesn’t get any eviler than that because the games make you numb to violence and brutality because it’s just a game. The chronological incidents and flow of story is cool; It’s like an arcade-game with stages and as you advance the more difficult and interesting it becomes. One could say each episode is a climax from the previous one. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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8min5730

This Operation Dudula business is to our demise as Africans and if we’re not careful, wars will be created amongst ourselves that’s if we’re not already at war. Africans must unite and stop being cowards, the real enemy is the oppressor.

Nhlanhla Lux ideas and assertions about the deportation of undocumented foreign nationals as some sort of a remedy to combat issues such as crime, high unemployment and other burning matters, is misdirected effort however well-intentioned.

To begin with, when people speak of undocumented foreign nationals, we all know they’re actually referring to other Africans who are living in South Africa. The self-hate amongst Africans is sickening, behind closed doors people still refer to these Africans as “makwerekwere;” which is indicative of how we as Africans we view ourselves. African people dare say the European must go back to his continent, but it’s morally permissible to stone an African to death just because he doesn’t have a piece of paper to validate his existence as a human, forgetting what the European did. The fact is, as people of Ntu (Ntu is the Supreme African God, hence we call ourselves Abantu), we find ourselves at rock bottom because of the oppressor but we keep looking elsewhere.

Operation Dudula’s chief principle is that if we deport all the undocumented foreign nationals, then black South Africans will have jobs and crime rates will drop. This is pure gibberish, the reason black South Africans don’t have jobs is because the oppressor killed our ancestors and stole our land and its resources. Our job as Africans is to work the land and nurture it so that it nurtures us in return. I am not even gonna talk about the corrupt black elite who benefits from greedy corporates and capitalism and is a loyal servant of a monstrous system that keeps raping Africa and its children. These scumbags have given the oppressor amnesty for his sins in return for riches. The European has never paid for his sins and he’s not even apologetic, he walks as a free man because he knows he runs the machine.

Another matter that people like to reference when they’re trying to run away from the fact that they hate other Africans, is the issue of crime. I personally didn’t know that crime has a nationality, it appears that when an African from Zimbabwe or Nigeria or wherever in the vicinity of Africa commits a crime, there’s emphasis and the crime is not treated as other crimes that might have been committed by others despite nationality. All criminals should be treated the same and the law must punish the perpetrators accordingly. And we should never forget that the biggest thieves and criminals are the ones who killed our ancestors and did all the other atrocities one could think of.

Operation Dudula cartoon
A cartoon by Carlos Amato, originally done for New Frame.

Isn’t it ironic that when it comes to issues such as that of the Khoi and San people who are still not acknowledged nor recognised as people of this country there’s no militancy; it seems as if we suffer from selective activism. Even when you fill forms there’s no Khoi and San box to tick, this is a clear indication that the government doesn’t care nor recognise the Khoi and San people, and mind you, we’re talking about the aboriginal people of this land we call Mzansi Afrika. Not even their dialect is recognised in the eleven official languages, but surely, you can’t miss English and Afrikaans, it’s even written in bold.

As people of South Africa we have been fooled numerous times by our leaders. The youth mustn’t be myopic when seeking new candidacy to fill in the position of a black messiah. To me, Operation Dudula is a quasi-colonial psychosis system and mass self-hypnosis. This is reanimation of the Pass Laws, the oppressor has taught us to afflict ourselves on his behalf. It’s like the Isotope phenomenon, you can’t use the same elements and or instruments to remedy a system that benefits from disunity and expect different results. We should always remember that, divide and conquer is ruthless tact but a genius plan.

Another important factor to note is that whenever there’s politically ideological mass movements-vigilantism and mob justice are always accompanied by violence and war. It’s belligerent. So even if the intention is pure or sincere things tend to go astray because you’re dealing with individuals and many personalities. The great Ngugi Wathiong’o said it better: “you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs”.

Tomy brother Nhlanhla Lux, your industrious energy, leadership skills and militant approach is remarkable and much needed to help bring the revolution but I don’t agree with you on this one.

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8min3820

How far are you willing to go to gain followers? There’s a constant inclination on social media engagement and online activity – online digital media has indefinitely replaced traditional media. Brands and corporates are putting in a lot of money in online marketing collaborative brand partnerships and this has people desperate for followers.

Online viral video content creators and social media influencers are the go to for paid partnerships and advertising. Viral content has become a currency to this generation. The number of followers one has and things such as online presence are factors which play a key role in convergence and metrics such as pay per click (PPC), cost per click (CPC) and cost per view (CPV) determine how much money one could make. Social media influencers rely on clout to attract followers and they use these metrics to lure brand partnership deals and monetize.

The stakes are getting higher, social media is a billion dollar industry and its dominance is spreading at a rampant speed “Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the company plans to pay out $1 billion through 2022 to users who create content for its Facebook and Instagram social networks. It’s one way the company hopes to attract influencers to create content for its platforms as it competes with other popular services, such as TikTok” (Salvador Rodriguez, CNBC, July 2021).

influencer. Photo by Pixabay
influencer. Photo by Pixabay

Controversy has become more appealing than telling compelling narratives, and this has got kids messed up. I could equate this to how gangster rap had black youths thinking guns and drugs are cool. It’s one and the same thing, the youth is willing to do anything to trend even if it means negatively exposing themselves to the world. Oh, and don’t get me started with social media self-proclaimed scholars who believe their opinions are set in stone. Everyone likes to believe their ideas to be omniscient and omnipotent – it seems as if everyone has Phd of some sort and they are experts and therefore have better acumen than everyone else. There’s no room for constructive open dialogues, things always get out of hand and messages get lost in translation.

Hyper sexualism, antagonism, controversy, hate speech, mockery and trolling have become a part of our lives via social media. Influencers are willing to break an arm and a leg for the sake of relevancy. Just think about the viral video of the young school pupil from Limpopo, Mbilwi secondary school who committed suicide after she was bullied and violated by another pupil on camera. Not only was she abused and violated, it happened in front of the world to see and her perpetrator was cheered by other pupils. What about the recent passing of South African legendary actor Patrick Shai who committed suicide after a social media escapade. The culture of trolling and the hyper sexualization of women is appealing to the masses.

social Media world. Photo from Pixabay
social Media world. Photo from Pixabay

A few weeks ago, a South African young lady posted a picture of her private parts on Twitter and the picture went viral. Unmistakably, her strategy worked, she gained more followers. OnlyFans has become an online brothel of some sort, with users selling nudes and adult explicit content. “OnlyFans is a social media content sharing platform with statistics showing that there are more than 170 million registered subscribers and over 1.5 million content creators around the world. Let’s take a look at some OnlyFans statistics that might surprise you” (Jason Wise, EarthWeb, February 15, 2022).

Often too many times what trends is vile content and sad enough it has become a normality.

I have a love and hate relationship with social media, I acknowledge how it has created a platform for content creators, businesses, marketers and people to connect with the world. Take for example how it has accelerated the growth of Amapiano as a new genre and thus setting it to the world in a short space. Or how entrepreneurs market their businesses and people get jobs via social media. A couple of celebrities also do buy school uniforms and groceries for the needy and giveaway bursaries and or education aid via social media. I love the positive and empowering aspect of social media, what I have a qualm with its negativity.

mobile-phone. Photo from Pixabay
mobile-phone. Photo from Pixabay
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12min21120

This is the first of a two-part book review of The Lives Of Black Folk, a collections of essays by a variety of Bantu writers. It is the brainchild of online magazine, Culture Review. I was fortunate enough to have first dibs on which two chapters I would review and I instinctively wanted to talk to and about Abantu and Azania-which are the second and fourth chapters respectively. Khulisile Nkushubana will share his two cents on the first and third chapters, A Disturbance and Culture in part 2.

In that disappointing final episode of Game of Thrones, a shrewd Tyrion Lannister said something poignant as he was pleading the case for Bran Stark’s kingship. “What unites people? Armies? Gold? Flags? Stories. There’s nothing in the world more powerful than a good story. Nothing can stop it. No enemy can defeat it.”

I was enthralled by the 181 pages of The Lives of Black Folk, but the Abantu chapter was particularly special to me as a storyteller and an avid consumer of chronicles. But these aren’t the fictional tales of George R.R. Martin. The stuff on Abantu are real accounts from real people, abodarkie abanjengami nawe. In his intro to the book, editor and founder of Culture Review magazine Kulani Nkuna describes the hardcover as “A disavowal of the black condition as it currently exists, and the seeming disruption brought about contemporary challenges. It is simultaneously a mourning and a celebration-of blackness in all its attendant vicissitudes.”

A Letter To All The White Women Whose Panties & Bras I have Worn by Palesa Nqambaza is one of the stories on Abantu. Nqambaza details how she was a lifetime recipient of hand-me-downs of underwear from white women, who employed some of the women in her family as domestic workers. Nqambaza, who is a ph.D candidate at Wits, Politics Department and is a sessional lecture in the same department, addresses this demeaning part of her life with a sense of humour. “They raised you until they were ultimately employed by you. You in turn, have raised my bum. Yes, white women, you are my bum’s keeper,” she writes. Yet she calls-out this false-sense of goodwill white women possess. “…you just came from a world where someone else could be a site of your garbage disposal; a world of excess. And (thank God for philanthropy) a landfill opened up to you in the figure of my aunty. She represented lack, an abyss waiting to be filled by that which you needed to dispose of.”

It’s cute how Nqambaza’s criticism ends with her aunt’s employers, not her aunt who has been handed these personal and used items for years and yet hands them over to relatives. The letter also highlights the generational disparity between Nqambaza and her aunt’s feelings towards white women’s behaviour in this regard. That her aunt still hands her the black garbage bag with clothes, despite the fact that Nqambaza is now a middle-class educated woman who can afford, is telling.

Under the title Working Women, the real life accounts of black women toiling for their children, interviewed in the 1980s shows just how much things remain the same as they change. The story of Dolly, whose husband was jailed in the 1960s and was forced to do extra work to support her two children, could very well be a story of a women living in South Africa today.  “I became a prostitute because of circumstances. I was struggling. Most of the time I to borrow money,” says Dolly.

She was a sex worker from 1964 to 1984. “I used to operate in Hillbrow a lot. But nowadays I haven’t got a place to go during the day, You’ve got to go maybe in a passage. It’s risky. It’s very risky. Prostitution is not nice at all. It pays…it does not pay. No.”

Perfect Hlongwane’s Dignity Isn’t Always Pretty (for Fikile ‘Bra Fikz’ Magadlela) talks to the struggle black creatives wrestle with, when it comes to the balancing act of making a living through your art without devaluing the artwork or yourself. Yet writer Hlongwane addresses this animal through his friendship with artist Bra Fikz. You can listen to the audio version of Hlongwane’s letter here.

The Abantu chapter has 13 colourful, unique, educational and real-life anecdotes that display the intricate beauty of our humanness as black folk.

Makhafula Vilakazi’s Ulele is a timely opening piece to the Azania chapter. He poignantly titled his poem Ulele, which talks directly to black folk’s lack of urgency pertaining to issues of land. An extract from the poem:

Udakwe kamnandi um’Afrika omuhle,

Udakwe yivangeli;

Udakwe yindlala;

Udakwe yis’thembiso sika Nelson nabashana bakhe base

Luthuli abarhudulwa amaKula nama Juda ngesende;

Udakwe yisikoloto saseNedbank;

Udakwe yinhlamba zononkroyi we’shwaphha om’biza

ngemfene ezweni lakhe

On Whose God Is It Anyway? Pastor Xola Skosana, a former pastor of 30 years talks about unshackling from the chains of slavery, religious slavery that is. “May I add and say that the church captures the heart and imagination. The gun, the school and the church do a complete work, in the process of making a slave,” writes Skosana who now runs Kilombo Village, a home for Run-Away-Slaves.

“So, when a slave burns down a building in a system that maintains his/her slavery, and stands by to watch the flames engulf the building, it is a beautiful moment. It is the closest thing to the possibility of undoing what was done to make him/her a slave. When the slave finally wakes up, not even Jesus will stay inside the church; for the furry will be too much to bear.”

Romantic as this sounds, I was left with more questions than answers after reading the former pastor’s thoughts and ideas. Since religion and spirituality are different things, I got a sense ambiguity about what a run-away-slave is in this sense. I was expecting him to introduce perhaps into the conversation, ideas about black spirituality or a more nuanced conversation about religion. Be in ancestral worship/belief or the discussion about real Jews being black.

Overall I enjoyed reading The Lives of Black Folk. It felt like being in a room with Bantu people, listening to each other’s stories and finding ways to attaining true freedom.

I believe black South African from different walks of life need an opportunity to read this book, as a reminder of one’s blackness. In the book are artworks from black superstars such as Thabo Lehobye, Sive Mqikela, Thonton Kabeya and Ayanda Mabulu- the artworks were a cooling interlude between the hard-hitting black experiences on paper.

The book is available at Book Circle Capital (27 Boxes), 75 4th Avenue, Melville, Johannesburg.

Then via email at
sales@culture-review.co.za

Whatsapp at 076 616 2845

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11min22840

Songwriters are a special bunch, they have this divine skill of finding inspiration in some of life’s most complex moments. Their ingenuity would have them take on an odd topic like an oedipal relationship and turn that into a beautiful top-charting ditty that throngs connect with. But is there a direct link between the songwriter’s personality and the songs they write?

Artists with a narcissistic character are closed lyric writers. Meaning that they’re more introspective in their music, focusing on self rather than talking to the greater public. While the opposite of that could be writers who are genuine empathetic human beings, who view themselves as conduits relaying a message which most of the time has little to do with them, but a lot with the people who hear the music and their plights.

On one of his sit-downs with Zane Lowe, Kanye West once said “…go listen to all my music, it’s the codes of self-esteem, it’s the codes of who you are. If you’re a Kanye West fan, you’re not a fan of me you’re a fan of yourself. You will believe in yourself. I’m just the expresso, I’m just a shot in the morning to get you going, to make you believe you can overcome that situation that you’re dealing with all the time.” There probably isn’t a more self-absorbed artist of our generation as Mr. West, yet his discography evinces that narcissists have a role to play.

“I believe personality is a lot of what informs the kind of songs you write,” says singer songwriter Zoë Modiga.  “Your personality encompasses the qualities that make you the unique person you are. What you are is what holds value to you, what you think, how you see yourself and the world around you.” Modiga comes-off as a compassionate individual which is further emphasized by her music. Inganekwane, her 2020 critically acclaimed sophomore album remains etched on the souls of her fans and those who knew her not, prior to Inganekwane. In the same way James Brown’s message on Say It Loud, I’m Black & I’m Proud cannot not be misunderstood, so is Modiga’s message on Abantu which is on the album.

ROCK'N IT: Zoe Modiga. Photo by John Baloy
ROCK’N IT: Zoe Modiga. Photo by John Baloy

The track is a candid conversation she has with Bantu people- touching on black on black violence, self-image and poverty but yet leaves one encouraged. “I subscribe more to the idea that I am a vessel for messages to pass through and impact people first. With this being said, being a vessel doesn’t remove you from making music that moves you, it is just an acknowledgment that as much as you have the genius of creating, you know that the creation in and of itself comes from a force bigger than yourself. My music isn’t for me first but the messaging is something that speaks to me on a personal level and something I am proud to stand behind,” Modiga says.

“Yes there is a link between songwriter’s personality and the songs they write, but only to an extent because things like creativity come into play,” singer songwriter Sibusile Xaba says. Xaba who is a folk music singer, began his career as part of a Hip Hop group with childhood friends says song writing can be complex in itself.  “When I started, I use to write rhymes with the gents and [in our music] we spoke about things we hoped would happen. We even wrote for other people. You do this by observing the person you’re writing for, their tone and their personality.”

For his 2017 debut album, Open Letters to Adoniah, Xaba famously said the music came to him through dreams. “But why is it a thing, because we dream always. I think for creatives that happens a lot, even for you as a writer I’m sure things happen subliminally or things might feel like déjà vu or a vision. For me it was quite normal, the only thing I didn’t understand was that it happened in consecutive days.”

HEALING THE PEOPLE: Artist Sibusile Xaba on stage with Neftali on the right. Photo by Sip The Snapper
HEALING THE PEOPLE: Artist Sibusile Xaba on stage with Neftali on the right. Photo by Sip The Snapper

“What I’m thinking I put down. The way I see those thoughts, it’s voices. Like other beings conveying codes or messages that need to be translated or shared with our people.”

“My role is to just pass the code man. How I feel or how a person reacts, I’m beyond that. It’s not about me, it’s about these codes that need come out at this time and now and I believe in the frequency. You’ll hear by how people react whether it’s positive or negative,” says Xaba.

Of her writing process Modiga says “I usually do not remember my creative process because it feels like a trance most times however, the times I do remember involves me writing down words and then music to it or composing a musical sequence that I then write words to,” she says. “In a communal writing session it works a little different. We decide what we wish to write up and take it from there however it flows out of us. There aren’t any rules and there are many ways to build on a song. As long as we are open to that, anything is possible.”

Xaba touches on Modiga’s last point on the music being communal, speaking about how generations before us approached music writing, particularly amahubo (hymns).

“Hymns were communal, there was never one composer because everybody joined in on the hymn. In the fields where our grandparents worked, they sang together. As much as we’re talking about this [songwriters and their personalities] in today’s context, we need to inform our people of its origin. When you belt out a hymn, energy automatically vibrates and taps into other frequencies in the body by singing or humming”

The era where teens would jot the lyrics of some of their favourite songs in scrapbooks seems to have gone by, but being one of those girl who grew up scribbling artists’ lines Modiga gave a nod to that by releasing Inganekwane together with a booklet that has credits, lyrics and translations of the songs written. “That was my way of trying to bring back that culture of appreciating lyrics,” she says.


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