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.
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.
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.
EVER found yourself genuinely delighted that someone is happy, despite your opinion of the reason for their happiness?
Like how an attractive damsel would be overjoyed by shedding some kilos, you’d obviously acknowledge her achievement of reaching a personal goal, but in the back of your head know that she doesn’t need the number on a scale to validate her beauty.
That’s how I felt Monday morning, watching highlights from the 91st Academy Awards. It was when legendary film director, producer and writer Spike Lee went to accept his first ever Oscar award for his recent film, BlacKkKlansman.
One of the best films ever to be made, Do The Right Thing, which Spike wrote, directed and produced in 1989 was snubbed by the Academy awards. Earlier this month, speaking to The Washington Post Spike was quoted saying “This is not in any way disrespectful to the Academy, but after Do The Right Thing, I just said ‘you know, whatever award it is, I’m not going to let myself be in a position where I feel I have to have my work validated.”
That quote alone lets us into the pain Spike felt from the 1990 Oscar Awards. On the other side of coin, his elation on Sunday night’s ceremony demonstrates how much the award means to him. And accepted the award with a moving speech.
I have not watched BlacKkKlansman, so I can’t say if Spike deserved the award for that particular movie. But on Tuesday morning I posted on Facebook that Spike is too great to be excited by an Oscar. Without trying to throw shade at the irrepressible director, the point I was merely trying to convey was that great artists don’t need to be certified by the academy institution to sanction their prominence. Especially black artists.
But what stood out for me, was how most of the young creatives on the social site, liked, agreed, loved and even shared the post.
I get why Spike was hurt by Do The Right Thing‘s loss, and why 30 years later, he jumped on Samuel Jackson’s arms like a lil kid, in accepting his award. Think about it, Spike was 32 years-old when the awards that celebrate cinematic excellence took place in 1990, and they had been taking place for more than 60 years. So you can imagine the clout, prestige and significance of a recognition from the Academy to a filmmaker born in the 1950s.
Not to suggest today’s young creatives don’t appreciate or yearn even, for industry recognition. There’s disinterest and distrust towards “honours” from industry gatekeepers. In music and film.
I was my mother’s one year-old sweetheart when Malcom X (also directed by Spike) was in cinemas. I watched the film years later and was astonished to find out that Denzel Washington, who played the US political activist, didn’t take the Best actor award in the 1993 Oscars. Why would I trust them, if they dismally failed to celebrate Denzel’s finest piece of acting?
Young artists don’t trust these institutions. After winning his Grammy last month, Drake gave an acceptance speech that displayed the power that today’s artists have taken from these ceremonies. “We play in an opinion-based sport, not a factual based sport. It’s not the NBA where at the end of the year you’re holding the trophy, because you made the right decision or won the games. Look, if there’s people who have regular jobs coming out in the rain, in the snow, spending their hard-earned money to buy tickets to come to your shows. You don’t need this right here. I promise you, you already won.”
Poignant words from the Canadian rapper on the Grammy stage, basically giving the prestigious music awards a polite middle-finger. And this by the way, is from an artist who a few years ago gave away his own Grammy awards on Instagram to artists who he thought were snubbed.
Social media has allowed artists direct access to their fans. Artists are continuously on the receiving end of affirmation from their followers, reminding them of the real impact their art has. Do The Right Thing grossed over $30 million in cinemas, with a budget of less than $10 million. I wonder how Spike would look at that snub, had the movie came out during the prevalence of social media. The validation that comes with seeing people from around the world, celebrating your work would have some effect on your view on awards. Black Panther director Ryan Coogler, said he appreciated how 2018’s big movie was appreciated by the audience.
While celebrating the Grammy wins of Cardi B, Jay Rock and Anderson.Paak on Twitter, J.Cole mentioned how this moment for them, is bigger than the awards could say.
Of course there are senior citizens in Hollywood who’ve had this thinking long before, like Woody Allen who has never accepted awards from the Academy. “The whole concept of awards is silly. I cannot abide by the judgement of other people, because if you accept it when they say you deserve an award, then you have to accept it when they say you don’t,” said the dodge old man.
I personally don’t have an issue with awards per se, it’s people running these bodies that I have gripe with. Black creatives are always chasing to be recognised by Caucasian-led institutions.
Someone made a point on my post on Facebook that Spike was also celebrating the milestone because of the tireless work he’s done as an activist for the inclusion of black people in Hollywood. I honestly believe it’s through the work done by people such Spike, that Black Panther and even Jordan Peele’s Get Out won Oscars. It’s through the noise he’s been making.
That’s good and all, but do we still need to be making noise about not being appreciated by white people? why should we fight for inclusion into institutions created by Caucasians ? Our generation doesn’t want to live out its blackness through white norms.
IN honour of Black History Month, people in the US will be able to watch African inspired superhero movie Black Panther in cinemas without buying a ticket this February.
The Marvel billion-dollar blockbuster that had Africans in the diaspora and on the continent in a euphoric state of pride a year ago, will be shown for only one week, at 250 AMC theatres in the US. The Oscar-nominated film walked away with a slew of gongs in hand on Sunday night at the Screen Actors Guild Awards (SAG) which are seen as the curtain-raiser for the more prestigious Oscars.
Also known as African American History month, the observance to celebrate dates back to 1926 in the US when black historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association of Negro Life and History set the second week of February to be Negro History Week. The dates also corresponded with the birthdays of Fredrick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, who are big figures in US black history. But the month-long observations commenced in 1970.
In the following years, other countries that have also joined the US’ 28 day celebration of black history. It was in 1987 when the United Kingdom first commemorated the month as black history, Canada and the Republic of Ireland joined the movement in 1995 and 2014 respectively.
Like anything under the sun, Black History Month has come under criticism from a number of black American who are of the opinion that the month celebrations are defeating the purpose of having a Black History Month. Black people’s history and contribution to the US is still not in the country’s mainstream education-darkies in the US are still limited to narratives of being slaves and colonial subjects. “I don’t want Black History Month. Black history is American history,” Morgan Freeman once said.
It had nearly been a decade since Miriam Makeba released any project, when she gave the world her classic album Sangoma in 1988.
Mama Africa, as she was known throughout the world, was a superstar of note. She is credited, alongside Youssou N’dour, Salif Keita and Hugh Masekela and others, for being the first globally recognized African musicians.
Sangoma was as a follow up to Comme une Symphonie d’amour that came out in 1979. She was the first world superstar to come from Mzansi, who never lost touch with her Africaness, regardless of where in the world she was.
During her time in exile, after being banned by the South African government, a number of countries became an abode for her. She was issued passports by Algeria, Guinea, Belgium and Ghana. She held nine passports and was granted honorary citizenship by at least 10 countries.
True to her moniker Mama Africa, she was the only performer invited by Halie Selassie to perform at the inauguration of the Organisation of African Unity (what it today known as the African Union) in 1963. A book could be written on her life as a political activist, alone. She was married to Stokely Carmichael, who was a prominent member of the Black Panther Party, and was very vocal against the apartheid system in South Africa, from wherever she was in the world.
In her Grammy award winning album with Harry Belafonte in 1966,one of the stand-out songs there was Ndodemnyama Verwoerd! which lambasted one of the architects of the oppressive system.
She had style, poise yet at the same time, abrasive when it came to things she was passionate about. Often misunderstood, much like her friend Nina Simone, she left a legacy that a lot of African artists live off today.
Her influence couldn’t be captured in one article. But as Sangoma celebrates 30 years since its release, here are some of the songs that came with the album.