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.


Ankobia – Essential Theatre

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.

Response to Richard Pithouse

Writer: Athi Mongezeleli Joja

Image: Africa Research Institute

In a recent Mail & Guardian Richard Pithouse published another of his dishonest articles titled, The ANC is Misusing the Land Question. Pithouse prefaces his thesis by way of a sequencing of historical events that trace collective resistances against the commodification and dispossession of land. Perhaps his voyage from antiquity to the present isn’t only to refresh our memory of the historical longue duree of the struggle against privatisation of public and conquered land but also to pepper his annotations with a dash of scholarly vigour it deserves. This kaleidoscopic choice of events typically begins with running commentaries on the histories of the mother countries and towards the end somewhat climaxes, as always is the case, with the classical discourse on how in Africa these dreams explode into nocturnal monstrosities. Suppose Pithouse’s earnest inclination is to compose a trace of shared struggles and that it is inconsequential that his departure point is the colonial centre, the West. In fact, through this universalist reach, a systematic mission of elisions and falsifications is under way – a deadly ideology of conquest hiding behind a semi-conscientious objection. Continue reading “Response to Richard Pithouse”