11/13/14

Somali born author scoops South African Lifetime Achievement Award

Novelist Nuruddin Farah won this year’s South African Literary Award (SALA) for Lifetime Achievement. The award presentation was held at the National Library where seven other winners received their accolades from the Minister of Arts and Culture Nathi Mthetwa.
 Farah is the author of eleven other novels which have been translated into more than twenty languages and have won numerous awards, amongst them Kurt Tucholsky Prize, Neustadt International Prize for Literature and others.
 Other stars that shone on the glittering night were gender activist and poet Makhosazana Xaba who together with Refilwe Malatjie shared the Nadine Gordimer Short Story Award. This award is inspired by the late Nobel Laureate and was granted for their respective short story collections, Love Interrupted and Running & Other Stories. In granting the award the judges felt that “Malatji and Xaba are two authors who seem to have made a deliberate decision to write stories that speak of women struggles in a patriarchal society. Their narratives expose the world of womankind without marginalising society in their endeavours.
Creative Non-Fiction Award went to Sihle Khumalo for his inspirational travelogue across Francophone Africa titled Almost Sleeping My Way to Timbuktu. Its strong point was a feeling by the judges that its treatment of Africa’s governance challenges post’ liberation was a lesson necessary for Africa as it seeks its own renaissance. “Khumalo’s exploration is hits the bull’s eye because his decision to tour West Africa without a crash course in French meant he was above being influenced by the culture of the place. His was a mirror approach; telling it like it is without fear of shaming the native.”
 Claire Robertson won the First Time Published Award for her 278 pages hard cover novel The Spiral House. “As you know, a head is a deal heavier than it looks. That is one reason you do not want to drop it anywhere near your feet”. Any novel with such as blurb is mesmerizing without apologizing.
 Nhlanhla Maake scooped the Literary Translators’ Award, a feat that is becoming a habit for this prolific author and intellectual. Also getting awards were Jamala Safari (The Great Agony and Pure Laughter of the Gods) and Thandi Sliepen (The Turtle Dove Told Me). Both won for K.Sello Duiker Memorial and Poetry Award respectively.
 The big winner on the night was Farah especially given the situation in his country of birth, Somalia which is officially a failed state with African Union troops trying to maintain a semblance of order. While Farah lives in Cape Town and New York, where he is Distinguished Professor of Literature at Bard College, his triumph is not lost in the chaos engulfing Baidoa where he was born 69 years ago.
 Farah’s subjects revolve around colonialism, feminism and nationalism with notable works including From a Crooked Rib, Maps, Gifts, Secrets etc.
 An Amazon review of his novel From a Crooked Rib notes, “Written with complete conviction from a woman’s point of view, Nuruddin Farah’s spare, shocking first novel savagely attacks the traditional values of his people yet is also a haunting celebration of the unbroken human spirit”


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Will the Real Wole Soyinka Please Stand Up?
In a conversation I recently had with an intellectual friend of mine we looked at what education brings into people’s lives; whether it civilizes them or exposes their inherent prejudices. It’s been Africa’s post- colonial realisation that the allure in Western democracy is largely the erosion of traditional leadership and a replacement with elected (often illegitimate) leaders.
During colonial order one of the things the French and English did was to co-opt co-operative traditional leaders and elevate them to community leadership; often over tribes who had their own Kings and Queens. That was a dictatorship unique to Africa. A system that collapsed with the blowing of Harold MacMillan’s ‘winds of change’.
 However the collapse of colonialism was soon replaced with a deep quest for ethnic identity; which went ags Thomas Sankara. The nation was soon replaced with a tribe; and the tribe wanted to concentrate power on itself at the detriment of other’s development.
Some say there’s nowhere where such is more visible than in Nigeria with its hundreds of tribes and no national identity. A Nigerian friend said ‘in the Federal Republic of Nigeria there is nothing called Nigerian’ but an Igbo, Yoruba etc. The Nigerian identity only exists outside of the country that has invested much to bury under rubble the genocide of Biafra. That blockade that resulted in the starvation and death of more than a million Biafrans seems to be the elephant in the room whenever two Nigerians, no matter how educated meet.
It’s like my scholar friend said, ‘the problem with Nigerians’ obsession with tribe before nation is that for some of them the more educated they become, the worst tribalists they make’.
It’s no wonder many people who have studied Nigeria’s struggle with tribalism have attributed Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka’s denial to accord fellow ‘Nigerian’, the late author Chinua Achebe the same ‘nobel’ opportunity, though posthumously to tribalism and professional jealousy. In a story that appeared in The Guardian newspaper on 20 May 2013, Soyinka, a towering figure in African literature when asked about calls to confer a posthumous Nobel Award for Literature on Achebe reportedly said, “It has gone beyond 'sickening'. It is obscene and irreverent”.
 In the same story written by journalist Alison Flood, Soyinka gave reasons why he felt that Achebe was not the revered Father of African contemporary literature as Western opinion makers branded him. “Those who seriously believe or promote this must be asked: have you the sheerest acquaintance with the literatures of other African nations, in both indigenous and adopted colonial languages? What must the francophone, lusophone, Zulu, Xhosa, Ewe etc literary scholars and consumers think of those who persist in such a historic absurdity? It's as ridiculous as calling WS [Wole Soyinka] father of contemporary African drama! Or Mazisi Kunene father of African epic poetry. Or Kofi Awoonor father of African poetry. Education is lacking in most of those who pontificate”.
 However some people close to the issue; who understand that there are at least four Africans who could equally nominate Achebe given the Nobel rules that a Laureate has such a prerogative, have argued that Soyinka was not playing his cards open and that his opposition to Achebe’s nomination is driven by tribalism. They argue that him being of Yoruba descent and Achebe of Igbo meant his denial to endorse a fellow author and Nigerian was a continuation of Nigeria’s obsession with rewriting history for ethnic expediency.
 In an old interview on 28 April 2005 with freelance journalist Simon Stanford for the Swedish Academy Soyinka expressed his satisfaction with the fruits that accrued after he won the Nobel Award for Literature in 1986. He acknowledged that among those was the swelling of his constituency, increased prestige and monetary benefits; which then left many wondering why at some stage on the same interview he would say “you have monsters like Chinua Achebe who come up from time to time and who would have died a happy man if he'd succeeded in hanging a Nobel Laureate for literature.”. Achebe was still alive then.
 Why was, and still is Soyinka so opposed to Achebe enjoying the same fruits which’s sweet taste he knows all too well? "This conduct is gross disservice to Chinua Achebe and disrespectful of the life-engrossing occupation known as literature. How did creative valuation descend to such banality? Do these people know what they're doing – they are inscribing Chinua's epitaph in the negative mode of thwarted expectations. I find that disgusting", he reportedly told Sahara Reporters.
 However differences in intellectuals meritocracy are not new. Sudanese academic, scholar and writer Prof Taban Lo Liyong once took a jibe at his celebrated Kenyan contemporary Ngugi wa Thiong’o, accusing him of seeking glory at the expense of the collective and blocking his professional elevation. “He never thought of lowering the ladder to help me climb up to a senior lectureship. When one day a colleague of ours were discussing this turn of events, and I had said I never thought Ngugi could be that bad, the late philosopher – sage Professor Henry Odera-Oruka cautioned us thus: ‘Don’t call a man bad until he has been tested by opportunities. It’s only after he has responded to temptations and fallen or not fallen that you can now call him good or bad”.
 To finally give capital to those who believe Soyinka is engaged in an exercise of professional jealousy driven by tribal apprehensions, he questioned the merits of famous Things Fall Apart, “Was it the Nobel that spurred a young writer, stung by Eurocentric portrayal of African reality, to put pen to paper and produce Things Fall Apart?"
 With only four Africans having won the Nobel Award for Literature, Egyptian Naguib Mahfouz, South African’s Nadine Gordimer and JM Coetzee being the only ones; save for Gordimer who passed away early this year, being one of the few who can nominate Achebe for the award, all eyes are once again on Soyinka if ever he will retract his stance on the issue or will continue to believe that “He (Achebe) deserves his peace. Me too! And right now, not posthumously”

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6/17/14

A Day Shall Come - That Day is today 


I’ll like to see the world in the next four months; especially if Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) makes good on its ambition to topple Nuri Al Maliki’s regime in Iraq and then make a move for Tehran. Overthrowing the Shia government of Iraq will not be easy but it is achievable given that the United States of America is responding in the only way a person with a BIG hammer does – seeing every problem as a nail.
 The US might feel duty bound to help Iraq since it is the power that dismantled its armed forces and badly trained and armed the current crop. That the Iraqi Army, which was advised and armed by the US is faltering on the march of a bunch of lightly-armed bearded fighters is an indictment on American military doctrine. The US is seizing this opportunity to redeem itself and its faltering empire. However, contrary to what neo-conservatives say when they invade countries that they are bringing democracy, we can all see in Iraq that the only residue of military invasion is ethnic chaos.
 Interesting enough we don’t have to look very far behind where there’s a replication; Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. The US, which does not negotiate with terrorists has traded a ‘St Pauline’ Sergeant who had a Damascus experience on his way to Kabul for five Taliban leaders former US deputy president Dick Cheney and Senator John McCain best described as ‘worst of the worst’. This is part of the US retreat from a country they have invested both blood and money. It’s a dog escaping with a tail between its legs. Then the same government’s proxy in Libya is running amok and creating chaos last seen when the West’s planes bombarded residential areas of Benghazi and Tripoli. That’s the democracy America preaches.
 Then Iraq happens and the same US which said it is building civil society looked the other way as Maliki centred power around himself and closed the door to millions of Sunnis who now sympathise with ISIL. What is happening in Iraq is a failure of US foreign policy; a slump Barack Obama is trying to repair with air strikes and drone attacks. That strategy, like the surge of 2008 is likely to fail and result in the fall of Baghdad after Tikrit and Mosul.
 I started this piece with a teaser on what I shudder to predict the world will be like if Baghdad fell. I don’t want that capital to fall since it will result in loss of hundreds of thousands of lives but part of me wants to know what would happen if ISIL really does gun for Tehran.
 Here’s why I am fascinated by such a development. The US currently pumps millions in trying to stop ISIL from taking Baghdad. So, if that fails and they aim their Toyota Land Cruisers with mounted machine guns towards Tehran, will the US bolster Iran with military power or will it now funnel regime change funds to ISIL? Looking at the US geopolitical posture one will assume the US should automatically fund ISIL since its friend Saudi Arabia is (though not confirmed) probably behind ISIL’s battleground success. And there’s nothing Saudi Arabia will need more than to see the eradication of the greatest Shia regime in the East and the sole custodian of Shia Islam. 
The rattling of the Iranian nest by ISIL attacks will benefit the Saudis, the Bahraini government, Israel and the US. And there’s no telling if these regimes will start funding ISIL to fight their proxy war against the Mullahs of Tehran.
 An engaged Iran will focus less on its nuclear programme and Syria, which will deny oxygen to both Assad and Hezbollah. Suffocating Hezbollah is the one goal Israel daily prays for at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. And having both Assad and Hezbollah out of the picture will be the biggest geopolitical coup of the 21st century for Israel.
 So, I can’t wait to see the next four months unfold since they might provide the best live documentary footage of power recession. ISIL might be in the same league as Boko Haram but the moment they cross the border into Iran their ideology will be in sync with that of the West. No wonder the same powers that were itching to bomb Syria a few months ago are not really at pains to stop ISIL.



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5/31/14




Calling Things by their name: Fascism, anti-Semitism and Murder

Without promoting fascism and impunity one wonders why the ‘lone’ gunman who shot four people at a Jewish Museum in Brussels is labelled an anti-Semite even before his identity and motive are known.

Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu immediately complained that Europeans ‘are quick to condemn a single house built in Jerusalem but do not condemn this anti-Semitic act’. His sentiments were echoed by Dieter Graumann of the Central Council of Jews in Germany who when commenting on the achievements of anti-EU parties in the European Parliament elections touched on the shooting and noted, “the spectre of anti-Semitism has become a real brutality”. What is anti-Semitism; hatred for Semites or shooting at tourists who might happen to be Semites?
 Graumann equated the performance of extremist parties in the European parliament elections to an attack on democracy and a threat to Jewish European existence.
 Before we give each other ugly badges let’s take a few steps back on this matter; the Kalashnikov wielding thug hasn’t yet been arrested. Nobody knows who he is and what his motivations are. On the security camera footage he is seen shooting randomly, unlike the hostage takers who staged the Munich massacre of Israeli athletes, who were a selective bunch of fascists. He is shooting randomly unlike the Israeli soldiers who recently took aim and killed two Palestinian youth in Ramallah.
 The chap we saw on CCTV, who looks more trigger-happy than calculating could easily be someone who was fired from his job at the museum a few weeks, months or years ago. Or his motivation could be the same as that of terrorist Yigal Amir, killing Yitzhak Rabin; a Jew killing a Jew or like that of the Chechen Tsanaev brothers randomly killing athletes in Boston. There could have been a Semite amongst those Boston dead.
Why are Jewish leaders quick to put a hate crime tag on the recent Brussels shooting? I would think it’s because quite recently the European Union voted to ban the import of agricultural produce from settlements in Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. The rhetoric surrounding the Brussels shooting sounds like a counter-narrative. Europe finally develops a human rights spine, Zionists plays the old sulking card: victimhood and invoking European guilt.
 Europe should eternally feel guilty because it babysat a Jewish Holocaust in its doorstep. And let’s be realistic, Europe, not Israel is the reason the holocaust was stopped in its tracks. The holocaust was not a collective European but Nazi German project. According to Zionists today, Europe is forever guilty because it harbours anti-Semites in its body politik. 
 I think Europe is guilty because it’s ignorant to an ongoing Palestinian Holocaust in the same manner it tolerated apartheid in South Africa. With limited sanctions it pretends to be trying to stop a Palestinian Holocaust in its tracks. Let’s be realistic again, this time too it is not a European but Zionist project with the assistance of the United States of America.  Europe is guilty because it calls racists like Mariene Le Pen nationalists. Isn’t Europe a multi-national/cultural continent?

Zionists must stop acting like a wound that refuses to heal. A wound that sends pangs of pain everytime it is touched. In a multipolar world people will be killed by madmen with Kalashnikovs. We can’t afford to check the ID of every victim after a massacre to determinee which one is a homicide and which is anti-Semitic murder.
 Europeans have been protected from the outside world by their imperial forces over many years. The reason we see racist acts in Europe is because Europeans see these new cultures through immigration with strong values from which they have been insulated for a long time and panic. I live in South Africa with Pakistanis, Zimbabweans, Jews (not Israelis), Arabs etc and fail to understand why one should fear cultural invasion when their culture is equally strong and capable of accommodating the good in others. Le Pen’s fear of multi-culturalism deepens her fascism masquerading as advocacy for European traditional values. Her anti-immigration and anti-Semitic rhetoric should remind the world of 1930s Germany.
 Her paranoia is the same as seeking a Jew to save amongst throngs of other victims facing the same danger. The Zionist project is racist to the core. That Israeli Foreign Minister Lieberman is on an African safari, shaking the hands of ignorant leaders while denying African migrants in Israel the basic refugee rights prescribed by the Geneva Convention should be seen through its racist prism. It can’t even be labelled Jewish nationalism to open immigration to one tribe but Jewish fear mongering or Jewish fascism. There’s no nation in the world that has never experienced its own genocide; they just choose a different numberplate because ‘HOLOCAUST’ has already been taken. And if every nation’s response to provocation was informed by its history, we wouldn’t have a world to live on.
 FIFA boss Joseph Blatter’s rant about the Palestinian Football Association’s right to have the same rights as its Israeli counterparts irked a few fascist commentators in Israel. Not because it wasn’t factual but he dared equate Palestinian lives to Israelis, which is anathema in an apartheid hotspot where two youth get slaughtered under the glare of CCTV cameras and nobody gets arrested.
 Netanyahu outdid himself outside the grave of Theor Herzel when he ranted to Pope Francis that the Apartheid Wall has saved thousands of lives in response to the Pope praying there. He said if the wall was built a long time ago thousands of lives could have been saved. He exposed once again what former French president Nicholas Sarkozy and US President Barack Obama discussed in a pants down moment that ‘Netanyahu us such a liar’. Boers, when in the same position did not build walls protecting themselves but created Bantustans and finally confronted reality and surrendered political power to Black people. Few whites have been killed since Bantustans (Apartheid Wall) were dismantled.
 Until the shooter in Brussels is arrested and quizzed, nobody qualifies to attach a tag to his crime. And the elections of extremists in Europe should not be seen different from those that bring to power fascists like Naphtali Bennet in Israel. People get a government they deserve. No nation has the right to dictate candidates for another nation’s electorate.


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4/9/14

Noah Review

The Bible Reloaded - Noah Review



As a Calvinised kid growing up years ago I have always wondered how some of the Bible stories I grew up reading would look like if they were made into films. Having read every Bible story from Genesis to Revelation my curiosity was like a hunger difficult to please. So when I was in primary school they showed us the story of the famous Jewish King David as a boy and how he killed Goliath with a sling. How I loved that story and the symbolism behind it; nothing in me questioned the point behind the cinematographic narrative. I believe nobody is looking at that; especially given that even the symbolism gets lost. Nobody looks at Goliath as a country with a nuclear weapons, a capable airforce and highly trained soldiers that gets beaten by a sling called Boycott, Disinvest and Sanction.

Okay, politics aside; I went to watch Noah a few days after it debuted in South Africa to little fanfare. This could be owing to the secular nature of our society. Noah's story is a Biblical tale which does not carry the same weight within the Hindu, Muslim and other native faiths. So, not enough bums on seats could be expected in a country fractured across many lines. So, when I finally went to the Brooklyn Ster Kinekor theatre in Pretoria there was only a handful of us in a theatre built to accommodate hundreds. I thought most of the people in there were actually researchers and church elders wanting to advise their flock from the comfort of the pulpit whether they should go watch or ignore. I was there to watch after reading an article in TIME magazine about the number of versions that went through the eyes of padres, pastors and evangelists to find the right mix.

My conclusion after sitting through the two hours of the film with nondescript 3D glasses glued to my eyes is that the film is really an interesting attempt at reloading a Bible story. I know the story of Noah intimately and after watching Darrel Aronofsky's interpretation I felt proud of him for having took the mantle of a historian. Few so-called amateur filmmakers have such a spine. Few, like Mel Gibson with his The Passion of the Christ have tried and prevailed. It is a path dangerous to tread as there are many landmines laid there by Christian fundamentalist who have no comprehension of anthropology; but the abridged Bible tale.

So, for Aronofsky to screenwrite and direct is a brave act; kudos. However if his intention was really to bend the tale to suit a consumer audience, that audience is not going to be Christians. Noah - the film drifts so far away from the script that at the end of watching it I concluded that it's just another interesting film pretending to be set sourced from the Bible. It probably was sourced from a history book, maybe the biography of Noah, which I would like to put my hands on. Otherwise it's an interesting thumbsuck from Aronofsky.

Kudos should be given to the acting by the lead actor Russel Crowe who plays Noah. It was also refreshing to see the re-emergence of old Anthony Hopskins (Silence of the Lambs) playing the role of Noha's father. Credit should go to the make-up team for making him look like what God on film would look like and the screenwriter for portraying that character in an innocent-passive yet sage-like incarnation. The rest of the actors are brilliant; from a young to an older Shem and his wife, Ham and Japhet. Their roles were in a way consistent with what the Bible says excerpt that the film tries very hard to demonise Ham even before he saw the nudity of his sloshed dad. The film does not try to moralise about what's the point of Noah deciding to get sloshed when that was a conduct unbecoming in the eyes of God.

And maybe the film is an attempt at that Jewish narrative as to why everybody should accept defeat and forget about heavenly glory since Japhet and Ham's offspring was poisoned. All their loins could litter were wild seeds. However, it's quite interesting that this tale is not evidence of anything that is happening today. History has been so rudely bastardised over the years to the extent that nobody really knows if some truths are served in doses to support ethno-political narratives. Aronofaky'a direction of Noah is very political - especially given the state of negotiations at the Israeli-Palestinian debate. Some call it the Jewish-Arab conflict; if that was the case it would have been solved long time ago since both of them would have pleaded to being the descendants of Shem and being entitled to every blessing he got for concealing the shame of his father - as per Bible and Noah the film.

However the real kudos for the aesthetic of this film goes to the the make-up, special effects, SFX, sound effects and CGI teams. Half the film was computer generated, from the depiction of the creation, the sprouting of trees, the bursting of water, the animals entering the ark and everything that me as a young Calvinite couldn't imagine. I have wondered how the story of Noah was going to be told and when I watched the film I understood why it couldn't be told before computers were advanced enough to tell half of it. So, the CGI team deserve the Best Film award. Next is the sound effects which become  ear busters on a Dolby Digital surround sound theatre. The special effects are just out of this world and they are what makes this film great.

I would think Aronofsky is brave and his storytelling is brilliant. But I refuse to acknowledge him as a genius because this is our story as told by him; he reloads a lot of it to the point that some scenes just became alien to me and believe me I don't consider myself passive. I have my understanding of the story of creation and Eden and how it is told in this film defies the many books I have read on it. It's not as controversial as the Big Bang Theory but it will make people think.

We were  handful in a theatre built for hundreds but I really felt this is one of those stories that grow on you. It's not a blockbuster like Spiderman III but the kind of film which's success depends on what the pastors say in church after watching the film and holding their three day spiritual retreat to seek 'spiritual' direction on what to advice the flock on. This will become the talk of the town in a few weeks or months' time and that's when those Christian bums will fill the seats. One believes it will eventually recoup the millions pumped into it by Paramount.

Truthfully, since with a film like Noah I can only be truthful; I am giving this film a good score, for the artistic approach to the settting, the CGI, the wardrobe (even though I saw what looked like a pair of jeans worn by Shem's wife), SFX and the bravery of telling this story. I don't do fat lips; but if I was to give a statuette; here goes for six out of ten. There's always room for improvement Aronofsky my friend.


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3/29/14

given mukwevho

When the prison gates were opened

Tshifhiwa Given Mukwevho spent eleven of his twenty-nine years jailed at various prisons including privately-owned Kutama Sinthumule Maximum Security Prison in Makhado. He was arrested in 2000 for breaking and stealing from various businesses in Makhado and slapped with a 22-years prison sentence.
Today he is out on parole which is frustrating. “Being a parolee means you cannot go to places of your will without first informing your probation officer. Even when it means going to a tuck shop, you must leave a message in case an officer finds you absent at home”, he says.
Mukwevho was born in Madombidzha village outside Makhado where he stayed with a single mother’ who was always off fending in Johannesburg’. He says while he ‘can’t cite any social conditions as a cause for my crimes’ he yearned for certain things and as nobody could provide for him he stole money from shops to buy clothes for himself.
At Kutama Mukwevho pursued creative writing through UNISA. “When I was released in 2010 the first person I met was a man who was going to become my publisher, Vonani Bila,” he remembers.
Through Timbila, Mukwevho has since published a collection of short stories titled A Traumatic Revenge. He’s happy that readers do not classify it as prison writing. By his own confession ‘the writer's physical being was inside, but the soul hovered somewhere in between with one eye glimpsing the outside life and the other witnessing the inside life.’
He is currently working on a manuscript titled The Violent Gestures of Life which is about life in prison, The boy wanted to sodomise Bheki; that’s his claim anyway. Was there any need for Bheki to take a ghastly decision to stab him with a knife though? Was it the only decision to arrive at? It is likely his intention was to warn the new boy, send him away with the knowledge that if he continued demanding sex from other boys he might die sooner than he had expected”.
Mukwevho has become a sought-after ChiVenda poet. Last year he headlined the Polokwane Literary Festival and relates to temptations incarceration brings. “He (another inmate) gives you books, and even adds at least three new pens he has arranged from his connections. The next thing he sends a piece of note requesting exchange of love favours. Sodomy is not just a word: Sodomy invokes images of a man inserting his penis into your anus”, Mukwevho wrote in an essay.
His sanity was saved by a supply of reading material which chiselled the juvenile into an inmate poet who published eleven poems in Timbila 6. “I managed to write lots of stuff from within the prison walls and I cannot label myself a prison writer.” he adds. Amongst the throngs of people whose material he read was Bessie Head, Njabulo Ndebele, Andre Brink, Lufuno Ndlovu and Can Themba. Newspapers introduced him to Sello Duiker, Phaswane Mpe, Niq Mhlongo, Sandile Memela etc.
“Mac Manaka and David wa Maahlamela are two people whose poetry I encountered when I was in the single cells in Thohoyandou Prison. Wa Mahlamela's poetry was featured in Sowetan Sunday World's poetry page, while Mac's poetry and an interview appeared in S'camtho youth magazine,” he adds.
Elana Bergin, editor at University of Kwazulu-Natal Press who mentored Mukwevho since he was incarcerated testifies that there’s a lot of improvement in him. Bergin says Mukwevho has improved on his understanding of structure and his English. “He’s a brilliant poet. Has worked hard and improved a lot. I can say he is a very promising writer”, she says.
A free Mukwevho is currently negotiating a national publishing deal for his first novel. He lives with his partner and child in Makhado and writes for three local newspapers. 
“I was arrested at a very young age, so the prison experience taught me that I have got to work hard for everything I need in life. That's the reason why I was able to study hard and have a focus on life while I was still in jail”, he says.


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oscar pistorius


Cry Me a Reeva - What did Reeva See in Oscar?

To be quite honest with you I have always wanted to post on Oscar Pistorius but shuddering a lil' bit when I look at the four legal brains procured to get him off the hook. I have been afraid that I might post something wrong and end up having Adv Barry Roux putting it to me while comedians make a joke about me and rappers find inspiration in my bluff. But after Friday's postponement I think I can take a week to speculate.
RED CARPET: Is it all there was to Oscar Pistorius and Reeva Steenkamp?
Truth is, I'm one of those who want justice to prevail against all odds in this trial. I truly have no interest in seeing Oscar going to prison or escaping responsibility; because his shrewd lawyer got him off by a technicality. If he's guilty he must go; if not he must walk, the same way it was the case President Jacob Zuma during his rape trial. So, I look at Roux (including Zuma's Kemp J Kemp) as that lawyer I will hire when I am facing 25 years in jail and I look at Nel as that prosecutor I would look forward to having prosecute a case inwhich I am on the good side.
So, it has been quite a good three weeks of a roller-coaster ride inwhich I, like international television would have lost interest if the State summoned all its 107 witnesses to testify. That the state called a few crucial ones and closed its case has renewed my interest in the debacle. Also, because while providing riveting viewing, the trial is a substitute for the International T20 World Cup taking place right now. Anytime Judge Thoko Masipa decides to shut us out of the gruesome evidence we can tune in to cricket and see another gruesome evidence of failure on the part of the Proteas selectors.
So, I have always wanted to write about paralympian Oscar. I love the chap; regardless of what he's accused of. He epitomises truimph of the human spirit. Everytime I go to shopping complexes in the sleepy towns of this country I am confronted by limbless folks at the entrances of grocery stores asking for pennies. I am confronted by blind folks begging for charity. One of them could have been Oscar; but no, Oscar has an Olympic Gold medal and was rumoured to make R20 million a year before the sponsorship plug was pulled. That's why I love the guy; his fighting spirit, his determination to win, his vigor and his passion for finer things in life.
On the same breath I love the Reeva Steenkamp story. I never had the opportunity to know the sassy model in her living years; only after her tragic death. Reeva is a picture puzzle I only know through pieces assembled by friends and family. Remember that there was a debate about whether the Tropica Island show that featured her should be screened or withdrawn. That decision brought us closer to Reeva; her disarming beauty, smile, her drive and passion. In a way we came close to seeing what is it that Oscar saw in her. She was probably his Gold medal, his 'Baba', something he could have that ordinary folks couldn't. It was twice as sweet for Oscar because here was a chap without feet who could scoop the prettiest wannabe model right at the nose of some of us with our two feet. So, it must have felt good to outrun us again.
Reeva was to Oscar what the Olympic Gold medal was to some of us. A medal we couldn't get because we are not even competing on that track. So, given Oscar's rage at losing a Gold medal in the London Olympic and complaining that the other chap's blades gave him an advantage; the potential for losing Reeva must have felt like that to young, rich and armed Oscar.
The chap might have had a fascination for firearms or might not but it's irrelevant today. His fascination is not his but it's white culture. The only thing real is that Reeva not only complemented but also completed the Oscar specimen.
Then we need to wonder what was in Oscar for Reeva. Money perhaps? For God's sake the chap did not even have feet and has been seen on SABC3' Top Billing canoodling with a sexy lass in Seychelles? There was evidence that the paralympian had a taste for finer things. It's natural, he's an athlete; think about all that adrenalin and wonder which one outlet can accommodate all of it? I tell you every cup would overflow and two to three would be needed.
So, as a layman who loved both Oscar and the character of Reeva I think it's inconceivable that a woman would still be dreaming of cracking it as a model at 29. Don't this girls crack it while still young and tender? 29 for someone trying to be  a model is the equivalent of a 39 years old woman trying to crack a first marriage. What I am actually saying here is that those are desperate times. Those are times that the desperate will do anything to crack it.
 So, here is Reeva noticing that Oscar stands on more red carpets than she does. She notices that half of what Oscar's revenue comes from is endorsements which in a way are as a result of the number of corporate and sporting events that he graces. Reeva notices that the media will always obsess with who Oscar is dating; and if she happens to be a pretty woman wanting to be a model that might open modeling doors for her. She thinks of a David-Victoria Beckham. Reeva notices that being closer to Oscar will get her attention and maybe; even at 29 she can still be a model after all, something she missed being at 21.
 That might explain why she stomached all the abuse which came to light in the state case. 90% passion and 10% abuse is the same as 90% abuse and 10% passion. Half of what Oscar allegedly did to her I doubt she would have stomached coming from me, someone who steps on two red carpets per year if I crack an invitation.
 For me, that was the making of that tragic relationship. There was never really a romantic relationship but a relationship of convenience for both of them. Oscar loved how Reeva made him feel while Reeva loved what Oscar's brand had the potential of doing for her own.

Oops, I finally wrote about Oscar; I still love him and don't understand the ANC Women's League's obsession with him. If only the ANCWL sat with every woman or girl in court over a rape, abuse and murder matter, we would have an improved dispensation of justice. The ANCWL would improve from being a burial society to a real advocacy organistion.


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3/26/14

zimbabwe calling



Zimbabwe Calling: Updating my Activism


Sometimes I get quite disturbed by issues outside of my jurisdiction but which continue to violate my peace of mind. Which reminds me of some time ago when I was still a learner and saw in the staff room a poster which encouraged us to stomach things that we can’t change.
 I know I can’t change the situation in Zimbabwe but I refuse to stomach the status quo. Truth is that Zimbabwe is spoken about in the past tense. People discuss its glory as if it was sixty years ago. Truth be told, it’s not long ago when it was termed ‘the bread basket of Africa’. As a literature fundi I was intrigued by tales of the Harare Book Fair which was said to be the biggest in Africa and attracted luminaries such as Ngugi wa Thiong’o and other respected African thinkers and scholars.
 Zimbabwe was everything we wished post’ apartheid South Africa to be. The colonialists such as Ian Smith continued to live and cause noise in parliament. Thousands of English continued to farm the fertile, which to a certain extent was the reason it was the bread basket.
 But as we all know Zimbabwe did experience an economic slump, half brought about by economic sanctions imposed by the West and half by economic mismanagement by the ruling party. The West’s sanctions worked because Zanu-PF did not device a plan over so many years to run own affairs in the absence of the English.
 What I mean by this is that President Robert Mugabe, in his hundreds of international visits did not tag along enough experienced indigenous entrepreneurs to help in diversifying the economy of his country. The import/export/distribution/retail connections and contracts remained with the same colonists.
 Thus, when Zanu-PF implemented its controversial land redistribution plan it had figured out how to take a farm but not where/how to sell the produce to the international market. As a result fresh produce rot in storage, resulting in low sales and a domino effect of retrenchment which led to unemployment, poverty and the economic meltdown that saw millions cross borders to neighbouring countries.
 It can still be argued that the land redistribution programme was a super nationalist project. I went to Zimbabwe last year and spoke to journalists, NGO people and ordinary people and what I found was that it was good programme mismanaged for party political benefits.
 Sources told me that scores and scores of untrained Zanu-PF senior members were the real beneficiaries of the land process. Some were given farms they didn’t even have an intention of staying in. they continued to live in cities while owning vast tracts of land they didn’t farm; or couldn’t since the overheads were not circumvented by government.

 I was told that when hunger crept in and the public raised their concern they were silenced through secret police and Zanu-PF loyalists scattered in rural areas. That’s when the exodus started; no wonder it coincided with the rise of the Movement for Democratic Change. The more the MDC accelerated the more the iron grip intensified. Zanu-PF could see its sell-by date.
 That’s what I was told last year as I travelled to Mashonaland Central and past vast tracts of farmland some rumoured to be owned by Vice President Joyce Mujuru. I went past a mine, an army school, an intelligence centre, rural communities and fertile land which lay fallow.
 I revisited the Zimbabwe of my dreams again last week through a Skype conversation with progressive Zimbabwean journalist Robert Tapfumaneyi. We discussed how things were, how they are and how they can be.
 He was adamant that the political leadership in Africa has had a tendency to create problems for expediency objectives and then argue that they should be left alone to solve Africa’s problems.

 Responding to my observation that the reason why Zimbabwe’s solution remains elusive is because of the tribal make-up of the country whereby the Shona have been at the top of the feeding order for ages. He explained that when one looks at the MDC as it was when founded and even when it went to the elections last year there were skills from both tribes and such faultlines never showed up during electioneering, even on the MDC-N’s side, the faction led by Ndebele Welsh Ncube.
 My experience of Zimbabwe has been very much like that of Kenya whereby the moment you mention a person’s name; depending on the tribal identity of the person spoken to, they are quick to mention the tribe. It reminded me of the time I was in Kenya and I mentioned someone’s name and someone suddenly said, ‘oh, Kikuyu’. When I enquired after arriving back home I was told it’s because the Kikuyu are accused of being thieves. “They stole the whole Kenya, from Jomo Kenyatta to Uhuru Kenyatta”. Now, that’s not Africa for you, that’s paranoia and relic of colonial thought right there.

 Tapfumaneyi argues that not even assumed pragmatists such as Simba Makoni and Jonathan Moyo are not the solution. Makoni left Zanu-PF but some people believes he remains a party person through and through. His DNA is Zanu-PF. Moyo left and later returned to Uncle Bob’s party. Maybe his was a strategy that worked such as that of the young Zanu-PF motormouth Psychology.
 It seems the solution to Zim’s problem lies in opposition parties uniting to confront Zanu-PF like a scourge. There can’t be talk of business as usual while Zimbabwe does not have its own currency but transacts on USDollars and ZARands. Tapfumaneyi sees the meltdown as having started when NGOs where suddenly closed to centralise civil service responsibilities to government. In that context such services could be used to recruit Zanu-PF members and the much feared Green Bombers.
 Mugabe sent young Zimbabweans into a war for diamonds in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He then allowed the situation to degenerate into a situation whereby the security architecture was made up of the army, police, Green Bombers and the unofficial magumaguma at the border who raped and killed those fleeing.
 In this chaos diamonds around Marange were stolen and lined pockets of party leaders. Finances from the Central Bank were looted to benefit the first family and close officials. These were allegations that the government couldn’t refute with facts. Spokesperson Brian Matongo, good at spinning was failing at spin.
 Tapfumaneyi sees the current debacle inside MDC not as an internal problem capable of disorganising the opposition but as a process that will separate the boys from the men.
 According to my source things have not improved since the elections. We all know the economic sanction are still to be lifted by the West that imposed them. Mugabe is old and tiring fast. Mujuru could contest the presidency but she has to win the party ticket.
 During my last visit to Zimbabwe some activists said Zanu-PF’s trump card of discrediting other political opponents by questioning their struggle credentials is getting tired. Tapfumaneyi also concurs that that chimurenga argument is becoming obsolete. “Chimurenga played its part but now we have people with a political understanding to can take this country forward”, I paraphrase. It’s something said by one 30-years old activist last year; “I’m thirty years old this year, this republic is thirty years old, where does Mugabe expect me to have fought the colonists?”
 I will provide another update someday soon. For now there are millions of Zimbabweans outside its borders who cannot go back because as Tapfumaneyi says, the situation does not inspire confidence 




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3/13/14

erotica vs porn


Art that speaks in languages



Four years ago then Minister of Arts and Culture Lulu Xingwana angered artists when she snubbed an exhibition by renowned activist-photographer Zanele Muholi. 
 Muholi, whose photographs on issues affecting women in society usually stirs emotions told an arts blog, “I cannot say I am living to shock people. I am living to expose and also to educate. Sales, or no sales, it doesn’t matter to me – it has to be done”
 Xingwana interpreted visual depiction of lesbian intimacy ‘pornographic’ and her decision to walk away robbed her of an opportunity to understand the context of such work. What Mpumalanga painter Linda Shongwe calls artistic illiteracy resulted in the vandalism of Brett Murray’s painting of The Spear in 2012. It seems political leadership in South Africa has a problem understanding a language art should use in a post’apartheid society.
 Commenting on The Spear saga, Director of the National Arts Festival Ismail Mahomed said, “It is a sad day for SA particularly when we boast that our democracy was built on the historical legacy that the arts played a significant part in our fight against the past system.”
 31-years old artist Mary Sibande feels that one of the challenges facing artists post’apartheid is to find a visual voice with which they can be able to articulate issues closer to them. She says her consistent theme, which she explores with her alter-ego named Sophie has been to tell stories of her family. 
 “My grandmother had two African names. Since both of them couldn’t be pronounced by her employers when she worked as a domestic worker they called her Elsie. That story made me feel sad. The stripping of people’s identity because of what they did for a living was painful”, Sibande discloses. She adds that her grandmother had lots of dreams and wanted to be a teacher. “She wanted not to be a maid. So since I was born in the ‘80s I felt that through my art I needed to tell my great-grandmother and grandmother’s stories”
 Her stories, of colonialism and stolen identities are in reality relative to almost every Black South African family. Sibande’s alter ego, Sophie is an army of life-size sculpted dolls dressed in blue domestic worker overalls and aprons. Women being stripped of identity is a canvas for her work.
 However the artworks that emerged post’94, unlike traditional pieces about longing and nostalgia such as those of Gerald Sekoto which commemorated a dark era in South Africa, seems to sit uncomfortable with society while trying to advocate for the same wounded society. 
 Johannesburg arts curator Priscilla Jacobs has observed a running theme in most of the work she exhibits. “Contemporary art which is produced locally is reflective of the way life is at the moment. Visual artists are reflecting more the HIV/AIDS reality”, Jacobs says.
 Which is exactly what Muholi told Mahala about the portrait of a naked woman holding inflated condoms which she took on a Durban beach, “I wanted to articulate the lack of safe sex in our relationships. I have friends who are HIV positive or are still coming out and we still don’t have better methods [of contraception].”
 “I think with visual artists issues of women emancipation are being articulated given that it’s more about the subject matter, about what happens around them. Some is even more political” adds arts curator Eunice Rooi.
 The heavily varnished statuettes that zigzag the Newtown landscape narrate the story of contemporary Johannesburg. The miniature busts could easily be paying homage to the bronze statue of Brenda Fassie, which itself represents feminine greatness.
 Art, both visual and craft have for many years been archives of different epochs in the history of South Africa. The Polaroids shot by the late Alf Khumalo managed to communicate a whole history of a country’s people.
 Sophie represents many aspects of identity and society’s perception of beauty. “Beauty depends of what fills you. We must understand how much our identity was compromised. With curly hair you were not beautiful. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a certain look but identity plays a role”, Sibande says.


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