Black Artistry

 

Writer: Rithuli Orleyn

Photograph: Musa N. Nxumalo

 

It’s a known fact that Blacks don’t have land and are therefore without the primary source of wealth. But Blacks are talented as fuck. There is no reason why so many of us, 13 million we are told, must live under the so-called breadline. Blacks are so driven they come to Jo’burg, live on a couch (at a friend’s place who is long gatvol with their black-ass), subsist on insults, survive backstabbing, undiagnosed depression, and miraculously end up producing your favorite TV show or starring on your controversial TV series – all because they were asked to write a few songs and voila a Viola Davis intense-brilliant Vathiswa Ndara actress is born/discovered/recognized ( add ‘self-taught’ when you recognize how amazing Black people are, even against odds…. perhaps because of how odds are stacked against us).

A Viola, in her mid-to-late 40s emerges underneath the contracted musical score. A Dr Malinga from no-where mesmerizes the nation as his years trot to the grave. We, the nation, the audience if you like, are the Jonny-come-late to these amazing godly creatures. Take a black person, anywhere on God’s blue(s) earth, a Black who went as far as standard two -grade 4…. for my born-frees and former Model Cs- (don’t scratch your head, you do know of an exceptionally talented person who hardly completed primary school – the president of the republic, is actually not the exception, but rather the rule when it comes to Blacks who defy the odds of falling through the cracks. And ghetto/blackness cracks are no ordinary cracks, they are great canyons with insatiable appetites for us all).

So you get Blacks, talented as fuck, better than Vusi Nova, much better than Ifani, rotting away. Blacks who sing far much better than Lira and J Lo, packing 2kg frozen chicken at Farmer-White Chicken. Filmmakers holding a stint at a local Internet Cafe (owned by someone other than an entrepreneur from the community). You find novelists and essayists at a debt-collection call-centre. Your children’s nanny from Slovo squatter-camp with a bachelor’s matric certificate not studying but cleaning after so-called middleclass spoilt brats, all because no one went before them to inspire and open doors for them, no-one went ahead to make restless their imagination. Because Msobomvu (then), NYDP/DA (now) only sponsors projects that lack imagination. They will give you money if you want to set up a butchery or want branding for a cleaning tender company. And they will send the guy who wants to start a real competitive ghetto-bred relevant-content broadcasting station (with innovative infrastructure to cut costs) from IDC (I don’t care) proverbial pillar to MDDA dumb doff pillar.

Now I speak here of land in terms of wealth or property. Mostly I try to avoid those terms. But let’s indulge this land-property dimension a little. Land is property we don’t have, that’s a given. But our talents, in the arts, at least, produce copious property-equivalents. Take for instance copyright royalties, publishing rights, and registered trademarks (we all know about please-call me intellectual labour invention that’s worth billions, and we also all know about The Apartheid Museum trademark that’s worth billions). Those two billion rand worth Black inventions aren’t the only ones. I know of young people who invented battery devices from studying YouTube videos, others invented television infrastructure that confounded Prime Media bosses. All that imagination by restless young Black goes to waste because people who are supposed to take these young people by the hand look forward to state tenders and political connections for get-rich-quick schemes.

Let’s go back to the easy music examples. If artists owned their publishing rights, by the time the artist’s song features in an advertisement for 15 seconds it collects between R50 000 to R 100 000 depending on whether you are Jonas Ngwangwa (with Grammies and Samas) or Mgarimbe (with dololo nominations). Same with your song featuring in Tsotsi. My point: with little horizontal imagination from our already hard working people and vertical support of that imagination we can get our people above breadline and off the grant-grid into proud thinking innovative successes in their varied pursuits kind of grid. This ability to know that radio and tv are playing your intellectual-labour property and the content you are watching on tv and are reading at school comes from your neighbourhood, Papa Ramps, Mgqolozana, Phakama, Jackie the poet, Mpho, Sbu, Zongi, and Thando, will cultivate not only belief and trust in one another’s ideas, but will concretely sustain our projects, lives, and give birth to more rewarded and rewarding innovations. Land? We will have to kill a fathafuka for land, but we must run to our people for harbour, people who are not so weakened by hunger that they can be bought to derail our historic mission.

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Tjovitjo – For Us By Us

 Tjovitjo Warren Masemola

Text: Kulani Nkuna

Photography: Simphiwe Mhlambi

 

For Azanians, our lives, our experiences and existence is the copyrighted sole property of a settler minority who have appointed themselves narrators of black life. In the arts and academia, this proprietorship is the normalised reality that artists of the land have to contend with in order to collect the crumbs meted out by the free market system.

Vincent Moloi’s pantsula chronicle, Tjovitjo, is a vital response to the times – similar to a period when amapantsula of the 70s “emerged not only as opposition to the apartheid system, but also to the social structures and their home culture. The youth of the 1970s were faced with similar socio-economic to those faced today. Becoming amapantsula became one way of challenging authority and oppression…” Idah Makukule, Amapantsula Identities in Duduza from the 1970s to Present Day.

Moloi and executive producer Lodi Matsetela’s response to the contemporary meant that they sought creative autonomy and ownership of their material, something that is a rarity in the nether world of South African television.

Although Tjovitjo is a Puo Pha force, it is a cinematic imposition of the director’s will. An imprint of his soul, an ode to Azania. So when the show’s lead perpetrator, Warren Masemola, hollers “Black Power” at the conclusion of our interview, it becomes kliye what the project on location out at the Crown Mines is all about.

Episode 1 Opening Scene

EXT. MAFRED’S BASE CAMP. DAY

Quick steps and slick foot movement to the beat of diegetic sounds floors to the screen, where a flurry of pantsulas are warming up. An aerial shot of the dancers, then corrugated rooftop and finally a low angle shot of smoke bellowing from underneath a washing line reveals the world of the story.

Perched upon a throne, we meet our troubled hero, Mafred (Masemola), who dons a black waist coast that reveals his bare chest. He wears an immense expression while attending to the contents that ignite his smoking pipe. Gentle musical notes ascend steadily with every considered movement until he gets up as the melody heightens to a dramatic crescendo that culminates in a kung-fu GONG!

Song follows Mafred’s movement switching to traditional musical scoring interspersed with suspense modes typically heard in Westerns as he limbers up to Jairus from Trompies. Before Mafred, is an assembly of finely tuned pantsulas in finely pressed threads awaiting instruction from their finely menacing general.

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Vincent Moloi

What follows next is Mafred, courtesy of Masemola, delivering an ancestral wrenching monologue wrought from the depths. On the screen his address is aimed at his troops, but beyond the screen, it is a cultural lament of the appropriators, the wolves in sheep’s clothing – 1652s who call South Africa’s soul their own.

Mafred cries:

“We, stay together! We fight for what’s ours. They can copy us, and sell the fake to us. But they’ll never get to the depth of our souls. No matter how much they try to make us irrelevant, they can never be us! To be us is hard, you have to lose the privilege the world has allowed you.

Even those who are supposed to be our protectors, our guardian angels against our enemies, we know they too fight us. They know, we know, we are gifted. We know they fear us. We fear them too, but we never gonna give in the fight for our existence. We have our stories to tell, and a history to write!

 TJOVITJO!!! TJOVITJO!!! TJOVITJO!!!”

Sheeed, it is no longer business as usual on the small screen.

Vincent Moloi (Director) on Tjovito

This story matters to me because I can see myself in it. We have experienced hardship in the cruelest way you can imagine. So I wanted to tell a story that black people are familiar with and I wanted to make it a Kung-Fu and Western style story because I remember mapantsula as being extremely organised when they battle with their nice shirts, nice ironed Dickies trousers, and All Stars – but at the same time they were going to war. 

Sometimes on television we don’t get to the depth of our stories because we put gloss over it and end up with unrealistic fantasies. So in this instance we chose to confront and face the truth to better prepare for the future. Tjovitjo is an attempt to bring reality to your face in a way that you can’t avoid it. We are swimming against the tide and trends of South African television. We wanted to represent a part of life that doesn’t exist currently on television. It might work against us but it is part of our responsibility as artists to tell it as it is, although it is highly stylised and dramatized.

I don’t think there is a show on TV that will give is’pantsula the platform to sell itself than Tjovitjo will. We didn’t turn actors into dancers, but we spent over a year turning pantsula dancers into actors. And it’s no coincidence that every member of this production is black. The cast and crew were in tune with the project from the beginning and were often singing the songs and replicating the dance moves in between takes which made for a very jovial set. A black and proud set.

On Representing Pantsula Culture

Black culture is not as recognisable or as acknowledged as other cultures. It has always been seen as inferior and unfortunately due to our history and the elite – the people who control culture in terms of what’s good and what’s not, don’t understand what we are about.  Outsiders often lack the emotional appreciation because they don’t have the lived experiences and no comprehension of its roots.

I hope that our efforts and energy will be reflected on screen. I think Tjovitjo is one of the realest township stories that has ever been told. It’s not based in Soweto, it’s not based in Alex, and it’s not based in any specific township. It’s based in a world where there is hardship, hopes, dreams and problems. It is about us and our lives.

tjovitjo Cuilture review 2017 Tjovitjo Vincemt Moloi

The Location – Nongoloza and the Crown Mines

While the setting of Tjovitjo is not recognised as the Crown Mines where it is shot, it is ironic that the world of the story is located at an area where one notorious Nongoloza Mathebula, (he was born Mzuzephi Mathebula) once reigned supreme.

Nongoloza, like amapantsula, organised his crew to fend off an unjust system. Indeed there was a criminal element to his organisation which was called the Ninevites (way before the 26, 27 & 28 prison gangs) in the late 19th century and early 20th century.

The mastery involved in putting out inumber inumber today, is akin to the strict adherence to the agreed upon choreography in pantsula dance. Nongoloza’s band of thugs planned their attacks meticulously and initially had a noble cause, but eventually they didn’t discern between the colonialist and the black labourer.

“I reorganised my gang of robbers,” he (Nongoloza) reported to his white captors in 1912. “I laid them under what has since become known as Nineveh law. I read in the Bible about the great state Nineveh which rebelled against the Lord and I selected that name for my gang as rebels against the Government’s laws.” – Johnny Steinberg; Nongoloza’s Children: Western Cape prison gangs during and after apartheid.

It is no exaggeration to suggest that Nongoloza’s ghost still lurks in these parts. Perhaps it is the migrants and immigrants who tread these paths at dusk after a day of dusty labour at the surrounding warrens that hide precious metals. Walking from the set to base camp requires caution, but after a few trips, one acquires a pantsula motion in his step that may confuse even the most ruthless of Nongoloza’s lieutenants.

And as Idah Makukula in Amapantsula Identities in Duduza From the 1970s to Present Day portends, the pantsula’s errant life outside of dance is often in response to the violence of poverty unleashed upon them by the system.

Crown Mines today is still a scene of poverty and squalor. And so an element of criminality informs a significant layer of Tjovitjo’s storyline that encompasses the narrative of amapantsula over the decades – a compound of charisma, artistry, brotherhood, violence and survival.

*Watch Tjovitjo every Sunday at 8pm on SABC 1.

 

Crispy Chilli Chicken Sandwich

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The Food Artist  – Tshepo Phologane

Crispy Chilli Chicken

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The Story

I love how versatile chicken can be, so today I decided to create an artistic chicken sandwich. To add a stroke of crunch I decided to do something different with the chicken skin. I remembered my uncle’s braaid tender chicken which he marinated overnight. He always paid extra attention to the chicken skin getting it super crispy and packed with flavour. In today’s column I’m going to take sandwich art to the next level.

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METHOD

Remove chicken skin from chicken thigh. Debone chicken thigh and marinate with salt, black pepper, paprika, garlic powder & lemon juice. Season chicken skin with salt, black pepper, paprika and olive oil. Place chicken skin on baking tray with parchment paper. Place another piece of parchment paper on top of the skin then flatten with another baking tray. Place the chicken skin in the oven and cook for 15mins at 180 till crispy. Place deboned chicken thigh in a hot pan with olive oil and cook for 10mins. 5mins each side. Toast 2 slices of brown bread & start building your sandwich. Start with 1 slice of bread at the bottom then place a hand full of rocket. Next comes a slice of tomato, season it with salt & black pepper. Then place the chicken thigh onto the tomato slice and follow with pickled onion. Finally garnish with crispy chicken skin.

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INGREDIENTS

Bread

Rocket

Ingredients (Continued).

Tomato

Pickled Onions

Chicken Thighs

Chicken Skin

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Ankobia – Essential Theatre

Introduction
Blacks should flock en masse to see Ankobia, a labour of black love written by Monageng “Vice” Motshabi and Omphile Molusi. Motshabi also donned the directorial hat on this production that wrestles violently with the psyche of an assimilated, indoctrinated and ultimately, a dominated people. This is honest theatre that conceals nothing, forcing the audience to deal with their continued complicity in their dispossession. The production equally forces the oppressor to see their sustained privilege play out on stage as they continue to hold onto the levers of power through a puppet government. Tis dem forces of evil (“white-supremacist-capitalist-patriarchy”) that attempts to suppress what seems to be a perpetual state of rebellion for black folks in this play set in 2041. The play will leave you shook, discombobulated and feeling some typa way. – Kulani Nkuna.

             Ankobia: A Leap Into The Future, A Step Into The Past – Makgotso Nkosi

Time can be a misleading thing it seems. Although Ankobia is set in the futuristic land of Pelodikgadile in the year 2041, the relevancy of this story is immense. The dually written production has intense underlying realities of what South Africa and perhaps other post-colonised countries are currently experiencing.

The creators point out the violence, crime and brutality by the colonial system in a surreal manner, but it is in these unreal realities that the present is explained. The play looks at the combination of Christianity and alcohol as a tool that keeps the dominated of our kind distracted from claiming the land of our ancestors. Although the play subtly dabbles in Dadaism, the idea of brainwash explored as sanctioned amnesia, it none the less has a way of challenging constructed ideas on the role of religion in post colonised spaces.

The story narrates the life of Xhoi, who finds himself serving under a hired religious figure read Jesus. He amongst many others of Pelodikgadile fall victim to the erasure of memory by the government.

The politics in the story are very evident, one song keeps returning to accentuate the center theme of the play, “Land” and this is done beautifully by a multi-talented percussionist whose instruments sound like a yearn, as they hum Sikhalela Izwelethu very soflty.

Ankobia is testimony to the existence of artistic anarchy in the South African art landscape.

                                                        Pelokgadile – Xolani Tembu
The year is 2041; the state of Pelokgadile is in tumultuous turmoil, a result of the events that began in 2039. Missionaries with purported powers of Jesus Christ’s proportions have taken over the land of Pelokgadile and its people. Having erased the Pelokgadilans’ natal identities consequently renaming them Christian style, they proceeded to pump in them religious fear, a true mirror of 18th century Southern Africa. Pelokgadilans are under constant monitoring and guard, particularly the all-important rebel leader Xhoi (Alfred Mothlapi), perceived to be the snake’s head by the missionary crusaders. Led by a questionable Ray-Ban shades donning character in papal regalia, the missionary crusaders hunt down all Pelokgadilans with the sole purpose of converting them. A successful conversion of a Pelokgadilan in this regard spells their displacement and land dispossession while enticed by the promise of material and bodily pleasures. Xhoi is captured and equally brainwashed; then immersed in the material pleasures experienced in a state of illusion. Consequently, Xhoi finds himself having forgotten his greatness. He finds himself having forgotten his calling and mission to liberate his people from missionary shackles. Spending his days in a daze of blissful coition, he is suddenly troubled by echoes of his former self as they begin to haunt him, thanks to two uncaptured Pelokgadilans in Kamma (Momo Matsunyane) and Ditukile (Billy Langa), and a battle ensues.


A cross between events of the 10th century crusaders’ holy wars and the 18th century cerebral violation of Africans by missionaries, Ankobia explores the effects of colonialism on Africans through the lens of missionary indoctrination. It explores socio-cultural and economic sacrifices and blunders made by African forefathers and by extension, the African National Congress, to the detriment of their descendants through the use of present day political metaphors. Kamma can be heard calling Dominic (Katlego Letsholonyana) a ‘House Nigger’ as she and Ditukile journey towards unshackling their captured brothers. With ‘the return of land to its rightful owners’ at the centre of this showcase, it is undebatable that Motshabi and Molusi feel black South Africans have woken up. They confirm that in fact, black South Africans, the very descendants of their unfortunate forefathers, have pieced together historical accounts of what happened to their forefathers, their wealth and the land of their birth.

With a definite potential to ruffle feathers in all corners of this country, particularly the highest echelons of our pillaging government, it is left to imagination what the look and feel of boardroom conversations are like in sponsorville. The show’s costume selection ranges from a mimic of collections out of the Star Wars Franchise to those from the acclaimed television serial, Game of Thrones. The vigour with which the show is delivered has left black reviewers salivating with plenty to barf.

*Running until the 13th August 2017 at The Market Theatre at a special ticket price of R90.00 between Tuesday and Thursday, R150.00 between Friday and Sunday; and an added student discount of R70.00, Ankobia is worthy of your diary, though do leave close-mindedness at home.

An Open Letter to Prof Ngidi: The Decolonisation Rhetoric at CUT

 

Dear Prof Ngidi

“The unpreparedness of the educated classes, the lack of practical links between them and the mass of the people, their laziness, and, let it be said, their cowardice at the decisive moment of the struggle will give rise to tragic mishaps.”

Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth

Just as when I was about to congratulate you on being nominated for the NSTF awards, I realised, when I read further, that you were not the one nominated. Seeing you in the picture, however, brought to mind an unpleasant memory of last year; during the Fees protests. It is unpleasant because of the amount of disrespect you demonstrated, especially as Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Teaching and Learning.

I am writing this in between classes; so be assured it’s going to be a short one. Nevertheless, I here wish to state my position on decolonisation and my disappointment in you.

On October 17th, 2016 at the student parliament, when asked to comment on and give possible directives insofar as decolonisation and the decolonial curriculum are concerned, you ascended to the podium and gave a very obscure and irrelevant history to what was going to become an inevitably fruitless lecture on the subject. This was an insult, especially as you stood there, with expensive phone in your hand and googling on what next to say. Hence what was to follow was unavoidably going to be fruitless. As DVC for Teaching and Learning, with a strong academic record on understanding the pedagogical aspects of Psychology, having been Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and, not to mention, taught History and IsiZulu; it would have been appreciated if you took the onus and displayed a more abreast understanding of the subject of decolonisation. We were, of course, not anticipating a Paulo Freire; but you could have put more effort and provided leadership.

Furthermore, I do not think there is going to be enough time for me for me to expand on my position apropos to decolonisation and colonisation. As I explained, I am writing this in between classes. As a twenty-year-old, months before the events of Fees Must Fall of the previous year, I wrote extensively on colonisation and decolonisation, and a few of my articles are available on my blog: https://mbiratafari.wordpress.com. In these articles, I do not provide an Alpha and Omega understanding of the subject, but dwell more on the fundamental tenants of colonisation. These include the fact that colonisation, as a process, is first and foremost destructive in and of itself; and therefore harbours no positive aspects. For instance, one can put it out and point at these buildings we call universities and suggest them as amongst the said ‘positive aspects’, but it will be them being ahistorical. I plan to summarise my argument in two points: 1) there already were academic institutions in Africa before the coloniser set foot here, and 2) the coloniser’s institutions, founded on a Eurocentric understanding of being and being-in-the-world, do more to erase indigenous epistemic understanding of such. As Aime Cesaire also understands: “…between colonisation and civilisation there is an infinite distance; that out of all colonial expeditions that have been undertaken, out of all colonial statutes that have been drawn up, out of all memoranda that have been dispatched by all the ministries; there could come no single human value.”

How then does a decolonised curriculum look like? I am tempted to briefly answer, thus: Giving education human values, the same Cesaire laments about colonialism to have none of. The world, the modernised world, which is deeply rooted in Eurocentric understanding of being, as earlier stated, has redefined humanity and what it means to be human, for the African. The latter therefore threads on, emptied of knowledge of self and baffled by new connotations found in the modern world – the world as we know it.

Bab’ uPhathabantu, to further add to my disappointment, the Vice-Chancellor went and gloated in The Weekly newspaper about how CUT is leading the discourse on decolonisation, even when it is known that this is false. The past two workshops I have seen advertised on campus were invitations to ivory tower, mouth-to-mouth resuscitations of a few academics. This exposes the refusal of the institution to keep doors open for engagement. As Black Space, we will be having a series of public lectures on Black Consciousness, putting into context Vladimir Lenin’s question of “What is to be done?” When there is such an event organised, if not the first, you will be one of the few academics to know about it.

Regards,

Ndumiso

Member of the Black Space, a Black Consciousness formation of students on campuses across occupied Azania (SA).