August

I have been deplorably absent from this webpage in the past few weeks, and that is due to a strange mix of fatigue, apathy, sickness and Writer's Block.

To make up for it, I have a summary of everything I have seen and heard while I was on "hiatus", in order of recency.
On the 23rd of August, I attended the Phenomenal Women's Photography Series presentation, hosted by the Dean of Humanities Tawana Kupe.
It was an extension on the theme of celebrating women all through August, and not just on the 9th, according to the Dean.

Young women from each of the Faculties of Wits University were given cameras and mentorship on their journeys- they explored and captured the movements (and meanings) of women's lives on the various campuses.
These were pictures of students in classes, on the lawns or at the Matrix; and future presentations will show the female staff of the university as they move and work in their unique spaces.

I was particularly moved by Athi Nkopo’s presentation of the experience of being a young black woman in this city- moving through Johannesburg, to school, and back home, and always fearing for your safety. It’s well-known that the City of Gold has an unbelievable crime rate, and also that so many of these crimes claim women as their victims.

As she was speaking about having to clutch her purse to her body, and the fear that seeing a black man walking in the streets- even if he’s over on the other side, ore going in a completely different direction- brings over her, I was thinking ‘I know right?’ because I have the same feeling sometimes.

Later when the discussion was opened to the floor, there was a lady who queried Athi’s opinion of the perpetrator of violence always being “the black man”. Always, the question of race and prejudice, and perpetuating stereotypes comes up in these discussions. Athi defended her presentation, saying that she was sharing her experience- not trying to “teach” anyone anything, as she said (of her fellow amateur photographers, as well) “I’m only in second year…[we] don’t have any, any answers at all”.

It was to be expected, however, that there would be people present who would be quick to judge, and forget that understanding- whether the material at hand is literature, art, or anything else- is a virtue.

Before I came to university, sitting in a room of people, learned to varying degrees, who are all there to share their opinions on burning yet seldom addressed issues, would not have been the first thing I listed under 'Fun Things To Do Tonight'. But that is slowly changing: instead of being content with coming back to res to eat, laze about in friends' rooms, and just generally waste my life, I am starting to take interest in what is happening on my own campus. After all, attending these types of discussions can really only do me more good than harm: I need to live in the world, and not just in my cocoon of comfortable indifference.

Okay, before I start sounding like some of the audience at the presentation- who insisted on veering off the topic, and said some things which were at once inciting and boring- I will leave the review of the Photography Series here. I'm making a mental note to try and get a picture of Athi and her crew in action at the launch of the Wits Feminist Student Society next Monday.

On the 22nd of August, I did something really out of character: I actually listened to the Wits Student radio station- VOW Fm.

No, not because The Fresh Drive wasn’t as much of a jol as usual, (even suggesting that is tantamount to the highest form of sacrilege), but because my friend Pearl was going to be interviewed on the current affairs show, The Edge with Zamantungwa, as part of the station’s women’s month celebrations.

It was a little surreal hearing the host, who was virtually a stranger, talk Pearl up the way she did- I just know her as the girl whose room is HQ of all things hippy vibes and good music, with a smattering of girl talk, scented with some genuine-article Durban agarbathi. Oh, and it’s also where any number of her friends is likely to find that missing fork, or the “stolen” student card, at some point in time.

So it was like seeing that other person that she sometimes is- the community developer, the young leader, the intelligent young woman who’s “going Places”- when I was listening to her and Zama talk about all the things she’s done in her mere 20 years on earth. I say “mere” because, though Pearl might seriously be considering stocking up on Ponds and Elvive or whatever to fight aging, she is really still so young- yet she’s done more than most people will, even when “One Day…” comes.

Basically: I’m so proud of you, Pearl! ;) So now I suppose we’re one step closer to the big “TV” dream, hey…?


Last Thursday, (18 August), I went to the launch of one of my lecturers’ poetry anthology, Cosmic Vibrations.

I was interested to see what Dr Grace Khunou- a sociologist by profession- would bring to an audience in terms of literature, and I was also curious to know what goes on in a lecturer’s mind when she’s not drawing up lesson plans or marking assignments.

The turnout at the Graduate Seminar Room (which is fast becoming my new home) was good, and even members of Dr Khunou’s family were present.
While she read some of her favourite poems, we could use her paintings- which were displayed around the venue- to enhance our experience of the story the words told.

The themes range from womanhood (and, in that, sisterhood and motherhood), to the masculinity vs femininity debate, to birth, and through to death. Most importantly, though, her poems are about how she found herself experiencing her identity in each of these situations in life.
They were well-written poems, which showed that simple, unsophisticated language can still drive a message home to the reader.
As Sne Zungu, another friend of mine, and writer for ExpressImpress, commented: “you know a poem is really great, when you can read it, and feel like you are the author…”*

Poems like “Stranger”, “Limitless” and “Brother” really resonated with something in me, and I cursed my lack of budgeting skills for being the obstacle that prevented me from purchasing a copy of my anthology myself.

Oh well, I guess I could always just write my own poems, because as Dr Sarah Mosoetsa “literature and Sociology cannot be separated”- we write from our sociological lens at all times, whether it be a report, a journal article or an essay.

I’ll think of that next time I’m struggling to wrap my head around an assignment… ;)

On Tuesday the 16th, I went to see Paul Grootboom and Presley Chweneyagae’s Relativity: Township Stories at the Wits Theatre.

The Tsotsi star’s name is initially what drew me to the play, but he wasn’t the star of this particular production: Wits School of Arts/ Dramatic Arts students were the ones who brought this story of lost ambitions, depression, violence, police brutality, the “social ills” of irresponsible sexual behaviour, alcoholism, child abuse, and many other aspects of the complex human relationships of those living in South Africa’s townships to life. Their performances definitely did not lack energy, intensity or sincerity- the 3 hours of drama, humour and suspense were up all too soon.

The plot centres around the investigation into the case of a girl who was found dead in one of the township’s back streets, apparently after having been raped. The story unfolds through the flashbacks of the character of a young girl who leaves home (and school) to be with her (much older) boyfriend, after her tumultuous relationship with her mother comes to a head, as well as the memories of the investigating officer and his son.
All these scenes sketch out the identity of the rapist/killer mentioned in the first scenes of the play.

The story is very cleverly written: the dialogue seems authentic, even to someone like me who has never really lived in a township, and the characters develop well as the story builds up to its climax- the revelation of the identity of the aforementioned perpetrator, which is itself written in such a subtly brilliant way that the realization sort of sneaks up on the viewer, leaving one wondering “why didn’t I see that earlier?”

I left the theatre feeling drained, to say the least. Drained, because the experience had been so engaging, and I was kept mentally alert all the time. Drained, because I had been forced to think about what I would do if I were in the same situation as some of the characters, and questioning how much I really know about the daily struggles of my fellow South Africans. Drained, because I could never imagine myself hustling to survive in a life where being “okay”, relative to the next person, is often the only motivation at a person’s core for living another day.

The play was really intense, and the actors are all incredibly talented- it would’ve been worth paying R40 to see, but luckily for me Wits Tix were at R10 that night ;)
Word has it the production is moving to the Grahamstown National Arts Festival- I absolutely have to be there for that!

The last event in this “reverse update” is Amnesty International Wits’s annual Arts Festival.


For one night only, a wide variety of performers- poets, comedians, singers, dancers, Emcees- all come together to show off their talents while raising awareness around a theme which the student human rights ambassadors of AI Wits have chosen.


I had the best seat in the house :)
 

These 3 guys had the crowd at Dulce in stiches. In tears, even!

MCs Uni and Lungi take a moment to smile for the camera

A "krumper" (??) in the middle of his routine.

Sindi Dladla recites her poem, "Colours Van Mzansi Waka"
The team that worked so hard to make it all happen

This year, the theme was “Africa”. It seems vague, and the performances really did have broad and varying themes themselves, but in the end some important issues which are currently being raised on the continent- corrective rape, prejudice and stereotyping, unsatisfactory political leadership, the Identity of an African- were highlighted by the talented performers and I left feeling like I could also do something in my own capacity as an “ordinary student” to help my little piece of Africa out.

Even that small step requires commitment and passion, however, and I think that’s something I still need to do a little bit of self-reflection about. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, apathy is not a good look at all.

August has been a month full of tacit character building tasks- whether it was tough assignments, rude “word wakker klappe” dealt by taxing field practice hours, bits of advice and wisdom taken from book launches and photo exhibits, or just surviving day-to-day student life. I need a break.

Unfortunately, the 9th of September lies at the end of a succession of “last” assignments, presentations, and tests.

Hold thumbs for me- I’m going in.













































































































































*Sne, you'll forgive me if I've misquoted you...

Comments

  1. It just occurred to me that I should definitely come with you next time to the Grahamstown National Arts Festival. If there will be a next time...I'm excited already. And I totally feel you on the whole listening, learning and growing thing, I also take an interest in talks and launches these days, and plays.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Accepting the love you deserve

[Review] 'Meet Cute' - It really could happen to you

[Review] When Dimple met Rishi