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Culture

Let The Bass Mourn

It is always a joy to hear an old and familiar instrument given new wings. This is how I felt when I first heard Victor Ntoni play the double bass in the mid eighties. The sound was warm, insistent, perhaps even disturbingly elegant. Over the years I’ve listened to Ntoni play in small ensemble as well as big bands. In later years I heard more and more of his beautiful singing. So when news of his death struck with the usual cruelty, I called up a few of the people who I know care deeply for the man and his music. I wanted to hear their sense of his role as an arranger,  teacher, composer and double bass player and singer.

First I spoke to Lex Futshane, the double bass player and teacher and this is what he told me about Ntoni.
” When I was at the University of Natal, Victor used to visit Durban to play in the city. At that time he was playing in the band Afro Cool Concept with Darius Brubeck. During his visits Victor would offer us workshops on harmony and improvisation.”

 

Victor Ntoni, Double Bass player, composer, arranger and teacher

“For me I used to look forward to his visits because I used to get masterclass bass lessons from him” At this point Futshane is caught between his sense of loss and his powerful memories of Ntoni. He continues:

“Sometimes Victor would arrive without his bass, and would use my bass. For  me this was an incredible honor. On top of that I would drive him around and it was wonderful to be chauffeur to such a great musician” Futshane then turns his attention to the music.

“At that time, in the late 80’s and early 90’s there weren’t many double bass players in the country and he was one of those that mastered the balance between jazz and what we call traditional or folk music. He reinforced my belief that jazz is African music” Futshane says with obvious warmth.

“Man,  for me these lessons were an eye opener, he answered a lot of questions I had as far as bass playing is concerned. Some of these include the role of the bass in ensemble playing and his ideas gave me fuller appreciation of my role as a bassist” enthuses Futshane.

“His place in music was unique because I considered him a musician who happened to pay the bass. When he taught music he taught holistically and didn’t just think bass. I think this is exemplified in His album, Heritage. Which crystallized his entire philosophy and practice of music and there is nothing in the album that limits it to the sound of the bass” Futshane continues

Jazz must always swing, we are told, and Futshane reminds us that Ntoni was a master of swing. “One of the most distinctive features of the album is how he swings in his playing. His playing is in line with his peers including Tete Mbambisa, Duke Makasi, Big T and others who all came from the vocal tradition. Before they were instrument players they were vocalists. This explains why Victor could do elaborate and beautiful musical arrangements for musical plays such as Meropa”

 

Bassist Lex Futshane
Double Bass player, Lex Futshane


Next I spoke to the trumpeter and composer Feya Faku who received news of the death of Ntoni on the day he returned from the funeral of the double bass player Big T Ntsele in Port Elizabeth. And so it turns out that we have not one but two gifted double bassists to mourn in the space of one week.  Big T and Ntoni knew each other and had worked together in the Radio Xhosa big band to arrangements by  Ntoni.

It turns out that Faku’s memory of Ntoni is very personal and deeply moving

“For me Victor Ntoni is one of the people who inspired me to study music at university. I was at Dudley’s of the Soul Jazzmen’s place in PE and there was a jam session. Duke Makasi liked my playing and he then introduced me to Ntoni. At that time Ntoni had a big band project with the SABC called Izandi zasekhaya. Through Duke’s recommendation I was invited to join this project and that’s when I decided to further my studies because I was so inspired by Ntoni’s genius”

Faku continues in his quiet, measured way.

“After my encounter with Ntoni, watching him work, improvise, I decided to read as much as possible, take private lessons and I eventually took up studies at the university of Natal. Ntoni’s  understanding of harmony is unparalleled and he could write his arrangements without going to the piano. It was as if he had transcended the instrument and had reached the stage where he could hear all the notes in his head”

Trumpeter Feya Faku
Trumpeter and composer, Feya Faku

 

Faku revels in what he picked up from Ntoni  “It was through Victor Ntoni and Duke Makasi that I discovered the concept of silent practice in which you practice in your head and heart and afterwards go to the instrument to play what you’ve been practicing”

As a musician Faku is known for his warm, deeply lyrical sound and his dedication to the art of composition. His assessment of Ntoni’s sound is not just some glib remark, but something deeply considered.


“His sound was very personal, he sounded like no one else and he had something to play for, as Abdullah Ibrahim always reminds us. You have to play for something. He played with a purpose, the music has a message and meaning and went beyond playing for money”

Having spoken to these two musicians, I picked up the phone and dialed Bongani Madondo, the critic and music aficionado who brings a refreshing candor to his assessment of artists. My first call went unanswered. A few hours later I called again, and this time Madondo sent a text telling me that he couldn’t take calls as he was in a meeting. But I wasn’t going to be deterred soI replied via text that I wanted to hear his reflections on Victor Ntoni the musician and the man. Unsurprisingly for the scribe that he is,  Madondo interrupted his meeting to write something for me . An hour later here is what I received from the author of Hot Type:

“Victor Ntoni’s departure from this world, once again puts microscopic attention on the state of South African music and its cultural capital worth to both country and the universe. You are bound to hear all the correct and even, lyrical, elegiacal platitudes even,
from those claiming to have been touched by the man’s music or his personality, and whatnot, when how.

And that’s all right by me: nobody does mourning and the rituals of public performances of mourning than Africans. It’s in us, in our veins, topography, landscape, joy and pain. We mourn like no other. We are the Blues People. Be it contrite or heartfelt,
we cry rivers of tears and rivers of shame, shame inversely pointed to ourselves for not doing enough when the object recipient of our pain needed us most.

Bra Vic was a talented, visionary and certainly subversive composer, alright. Specific instances are to be located in his work ‘pon his return from the USA, where, after experiencing the deeper depths of his beloved jazz first hand, and music composition overall, he returned a changed and elevated spirit.

His Xhosa roots of choral music, Aftro-Jazz, amahubo secular spirituals and so on were now enjoined by the rigorous of jazz’s classicisms, and the rigorous challenges bass instrument demands of anyone foolish enough to want to own its unbending beauty.

Victor Ntoni created a new music language, as both a teacher (he was one of the greatest music teachers), performer and composer. Unfortunately, like many others Ntoni was a victim of capitalism and greed’s slash-up and slash-down of organic music, and the belittling of  jazz as outmoded museum music.

He was also, at some point, a huge victim of his own attitude: no one will tell you this but Bra Victor was, for long, and understandably so, an ANGRY man. And with anger came  years of non-productivity. Alas, by the time of his departure, his soul and jovial nature had revisited him and as he was getting gigs and getting recognized again, such as the
recognition given to him in Cape Town (Baxter Theatre). The man’s bass started singing and riffing up on its own, virtually conducted, through osmosis–a love between man and his machine, by its master: the conductor.

But he was also a funny man, reserving his best put downs for clowns usually celebrated by the media.

Writer and critic, Bongani Madondo
Portrait of a critic, Bongani Madondo

 

Other than Johny Dyani, I can’t recall any South African bassist with the same wide expanse of texture, colour and groove than Bra Vic’s. May he kick-up a storm in heaven. Of course pass our love to The Underdog…Mingus,  Parker, Dyani and ’em”

I would like to thank Lex Futshane, Feya Faku and Bongani Madondo for their deeply thoughtful reflections on the great Victor Ntoni. I love the intimacy of their memories and the intelligence of their observations.

As we mourn Ntoni, we should be comforted by the knowledge that he lives on through his incredible music, and though his bass may now be silenced forever, his compositions, arrangements will remind us that amongst us once lived a gentle giant of this great art form we love so much. His music has inspired generations of musicians and his recent work with Black Coffee is proof of his wide appeal.

As I ponder the impossibly beautiful sounds that my namesake used to coax out of his double bass, the  words that come to mind are from Breyten Breytenbach’s A Veil Of Footsteps: “This is the part I like best. Traveling alone. Anonymous in a crowd of strangers” for they are a perfect reminder that some journeys we have to take on our own.

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Culture

Jazz Is The Highest Art Form, says Abdullah Ibrahim

“Jazz is the highest art form and the Symphony Orchestra is stuck in the industrial era, with each musician only knowing how to play his part and not the whole piece” Abdullah Ibrahim said at the weekend. He recounted an incident when he gave a score to a conductor for a performance he was to do with an orchestra. “They did not bother to practice, and I knew exactly what was going to go down” Ibrahim said with a smile. Ibrahim says the day before the performance the conductor asked him if he did not have a CD of the music. The hapless conductor was out of luck and Ibrahim says he had to stop the performance and ask the musicians to try again. It was perhaps telling that Ibrahim warned against the dangers of mistaking information for knowledge.

Ibrahim singles out the ability to improvise as what truly sets jazz musicians apart from their counterparts who play classical music. In his gentle but wise voice he wonders why classical musicians are revered so much if they can only play what is written for them and are unable to improvise.  Even as he ponders some of the most enduring contradictions in music, it is clear that Ibrahim remains fascinated by mastery of the simple. Where some musicians bet their careers on virtuosity and playing at impossibly high speeds Ibrahim’s style is often spare. Like Duke Ellington before him, his greatest instrument is the band that he plays with.

His own music is a study in paring down so that each note is heard with a purity that is startling. A key to his practice as a musician, as a composer and a pianist may lie in his life long study of martial arts. Ibrahim reveals that he can spend several years to master one simple movement. Similarly in his playing, he plays the same song over and over again till he discovers to borrow from him, he discovers the 99% that lies hidden beyond the obvious.”

Ibrahim told a story of a young man who found Art Tatum playing and he walked over to him and said he knew all of Tatum’s music and he could play it perfectly. To demonstrate his point, the young man went over to a piano and began playing like the great pianist. But Tatum was oblivious of the young man and he focused on his drink till a friend sitting next to him, said, “Listen, this young man is playing your music”, whereupon Tatum responded, “He knows what I play, not why I play it”.

In his two shows at the Linder Auditorium and at the ZK Matthews Hall in Pretoria, Ibrahim played some of the most wondrous, most irresistibly memorable jazz, and his band Ekaya was able to go to places where only the bravest and most skilled improvisers dare go. On songs like Mindif and Calypso Minor, the band played with a joy that sent palpable electricity across the hallowed halls.  Both the Linder and the ZK Matthews halls have some of the best acoustics in the country and this allowed Ibrahim and the band to play with as little amplification as possible. The sound was rich, pure, and intimate, full of a raw intelligence that comes from hearing men like Ibrahim whisper their secrets through their music.

 

The great composer, pianist and bandleader, Abdullah Ibrahim

Whether he was eliciting the bluest notes from the minor keys of his Steinway, or coaxing the brightest, warmest notes that convey his love for this art form, it is clear that Ibrahim’s music is made from a place that is deep and beautiful and ultimately unknowable. As he came to play for Joburg and Pretoria, we were lucky to hear Ibrahim take an unprecedented number of solos in a performance with a band. Such is his generosity that when he is on stage, Ibrahim prefers to let the spotlight shine on the musicians that accompany him. In his last performance at The Linder, he gave up his seat at the piano to Andile Yenana.

It is worth noting that in both his performances at the Linder and at the ZK Mathews Hall, Abdullah Ibrahim did not once utter a word. Not a single word. He came onto the stage and only spoke through the music. He only gestured acknowledgement of applause and he and his band members were one in speaking to us through the language of their music. His refusal to speak was perhaps a necessary reminder that at its zenith, it is perhaps unnecessary to paraphrase music. If we remain truly curious, and we listen with clarity and sincerity, perhaps we earn the right to hear the notes that would otherwise remain hidden from those that only hear the obvious.

The music that Abdullah Ibrahim has composed in a career that’s well over 60 years is some of the most beautiful, some of the most daring, but also some of the most radically African. Once he gave us Mannenberg, Abdullah Ibrahim reminded us that Africa’s music has a beauty that eclipses much of what we’ve previously elevated to the apex of culture. But it is when he plays an extended set of just under three hours that you begin to grasp the incredible magic of this pianist and composer who has always painted in the most unusual colors with the sound of his piano.

Jazz music is the African diaspora’s greatest gift to the world, and we should listen to it knowing that we are in an encounter with the highest of the art forms. Abdullah Ibrahim belongs in a line of our greatest griots that includes Duke Ellington, Madala Kunene, Kippie Moeketsi, Johnny Dyani, Marks Mankwane, Miriam Makeba, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Princess Magogo, Philip Tabane, Ali Farka Toure and Bheki Mseleku. We should count ourselves lucky that Abdullah Ibrahim is playing for us when his quest for perfection has been realized.

 

A portrait of Abdullah Ibrahim next to his piano
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Culture

Some thoughts on why I started The Victor Dlamini Literary Podcast

By Victor Dlamini

It is the age we live in that gives one that rush of blood to the head – and you suddenly feel as if you were a David of sorts, ready to slay your Goliath. I mean only in this new millennium would one be so foolhardy as to dare to dream of starting a new show on a completely new media platform. But then there is all around us a keenness to try out new ideas, and the young generation, the ‘digital natives’ have shown us just how big the ‘information age’ is destined to become. It is nearly a year now since I left traditional broadcasting and embarked on what may have seemed at first like a perilous plunge into the unknown, and in this piece I would like to share some of my own thoughts that led me, perhaps even compelled me to start the Victor Dlamini Literary Podcast

Much is made of what is called ‘New Media’ but since we all know that nothing stays new forever, and that certainly ‘New Media’ is no longer new, this convenient term seems destined for the dustbin. Whatever the term that will come to define this shift from the ‘traditional’ media such as Radio, Television and Print to a web based digital platform, it seems clear that it presents new and exciting possibilities to democratize mass communication without recourse to expensive financing of ‘broadcasting’ infrastructure.

The rise of ‘citizen journalism’ has been one of the most fascinating effects of new technology on our society, and I believe that in a few years some of the old-school broadcasters will be totally out of touch, chasing a dwindling and ageing audience. Once I’d grasped this idea that one no longer needed to be tethered to the inflexible edifice of the corporate media to reach readers and listeners, I knew that I had to break free, become independent and start the Victor Dlamini Literary Podcast.

Citizen journalism is a symptom: a deeper social reality is reflected by the phenomenal rise of Podcasting and Blogging, probably two of the most important developments in our recent history as social beings. Podcasting and Blogging bring with them a promise of democratizing speech in an age when ‘big media’ wields more power than most countries. All around us we can see that the interests of the powerful, be they vested in big corporations, big countries, big individuals, or big institutions, are stifling the voice of the independently minded.

One of the things that I found quite frustrating about South Africa’s public broadcaster was that there one had to try and deliver a high-quality programme whilst working with so many ill prepared, inexperienced individuals that had been given jobs that are well beyond their means. It is not just a question of training, but also of simple common sense, and if you have members of the team who think it is their birth-right to pitch up at the last minute, without any preparation, then the institution is doomed to deliver content of substandard quality. If there ever was a recipe for failure this is it, and I weep for this potentially World Class institution. It is of course heartening to see that many of the so-called big players have since followed my lead, right down to emulating or copying my technical solution to deliver high-quality Podcasts. That is one of the joys of possessing a pioneering spirit, but the benefit is for the larger community that loves the arts and now has more choice.

The poet, publisher and activist, James Matthews

It is one of the great ironies of our age that at a time when newspapers and magazines are getting bigger by the day there is actually less to read. Radio and television are much the same – with the possible exception of a few hours here and there on talk radio. This is because publishers and media owners, with the tacit agreement of editors, reserve more and more space to satisfy the demands of commerce. Little wonder that in so many parts of South Africa the consumer culture has become the primary impulse of most workers, who spend what little time they ‘have to themselves’ rushing to the nearest shopping mall.

One of the truly outstanding features of Podcasting is that it offers ‘content on demand’. Those who wish to tune in can do so at any time and no longer do they have to sit around waiting for their favourite programme to go on air. After my first ten shows I was struck by how quickly the Podcast had established a truly international audience. Clearly, the availability of the content 24/7 is one of the features that suits such an audience: time differences and geographical or even political barriers that still plague traditional media do not affect it in the same way.

Independence is one of the most cherished words in any language, and there was once a time when freedom and independence were used almost interchangeably. But nowadays the terms seem on the verge of divorce, and there has been a sense of the retreat of the latter – especially when it comes to individual freedom in public spaces. Since it was founded, The Victor Dlamini Literary Podcast has given writers, social critics, cultural activists and other creative voices a unique platform to express their ideas freely on this independent show.

I have always been attracted by the purity of ideas, not their popularity: that is why I love the deep conversations that I have with those who come on to the show. It is a truly great delight to listen to someone who has the gift of language and imagination express his or her ideas without any limitation. So far, since starting the podcast, I’ve had the pleasure of sitting down to have at least two such conversations each week with remarkable individuals.

The writer and language activist Ngugi wa Thiong’o

I suppose, finally, that on a personal level I have also always loved the notion of turning what at first seems like an impossibly small or remote idea into something substantial. I think that Podcasting is still in its infancy today, but the success of the iPod shows that its growth as a legitimate medium is assured. No longer do individuals care to have someone else choose for them the things they listen to and watch. Part of what is truly exciting about working in this field, using these tools is that power and choice are returning to listener. To me Podcasting is a fascinating confluence of content, technology and freedom – the freedom to create choice on an untold scale for audiences across the globe, and the corresponding freedom to decide when you want to tune in.

I have no doubt that through my conversations with so many outstanding writers, thinkers and other creative individuals on The Victor Dlamini Literary Podcast, I have an opportunity to add to our ability to imagine beyond the confines of our circumstances. In these conversations those I speak to have never ceased to surprise me by how much they are prepared to open up to me, and I think that all of us can glean something from their answers. In the final analysis I do believe that the import of all this is that through the Victor Dlamini Literary Podcast we may once again realize that an untethered, unfettered imagination, as found in our various literatures, fictions and other narratives, may provide us the greatest freedom of all.

It has been a pleasure to post my conversations with artists such as Andre Brink, Oswald Mbuyiseni Mtshali, Dennis Brutus, Kgebetli Moele, Emmanuel Dongala, Gabeba Baderoon,Shailja Patel, Maestro, Ben Zander  Breyten Breytenbach, Lewis Nkosi, Vusi Mchunu,Eben Venter, Sandile Ngidi, Mbulelo Mzamane, Nawal El Saadawi, Anne Landsman, Njabulo Ndebele, Gcina Mhlophe, Keorapetse Kgositsile, Napo Masheane, Sello Maake Ka Ncube, Ben Williams, Antjie Krog, Kevin Bloom, Rosamund Zander, Zapiro, Sindiwe Magona, Ravi Naidoo and many others

 

A view of city Johannesburg, one of the world’s greatest cities
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Culture

Authors that you should add to your must read list

 

It used to be that authors only lived through their books & as a reader you could only rely on your imagination to imagine how they actually looked like beyond the grainy photo on the back cover of books. But in recent times there has been a boom in book festivals and some of these festivals are able to secure the presence of top authors: The following is my pick of six authors that you should try and hear in your lifetime.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is easily the most important author to emerge from Africa in the last twenty years. In football they talk of the ‘complete player’ and if Adichie were a footballer, she would fit this bill as she has it all; exquisite prose, remarkable characters & as a speaker she is in total command of her narrative. Her powers as a storyteller were already remarkable in her debut novel Purple Hibiscus, but no one could have predicted the extraordinary achievement of her second novel, Half Of A Yellow Sun. Little wonder she was awarded the ‘genius’ award, the MacArthur Foundation Prize. She may have been born in Nigeria, but Adichie is proudly claimed by the global literary family.

There is something of a phenomenal revival in the genre of Crime Fiction globally, and South Africa’s Deon Meyer belongs in the first rank of these writers. Meyer has what is almost an encyclopaedic knowledge of the world inhabited by the unsavoury characters he writes so compellingly about. Even as he describes a truly sordid member of the murderous underworld,  Meyer retains a twinkle in his eye and is liable to respond with a very warm and generous laugh that booms across a room. He began life as a journalist in the Free State, but his books now rank amongst the most sought after in Crime Fiction. Widely translated, Meyer has sold the film rights to many of his books including Dead Before Dying & Thirteen Hours.

The novelist Deon Meyer

Some authors need to write just one book that captures so richly what’s been missing in a sterile but enduring entire debate. Dambisa Moyo’s great power lies in her courage to go against deeply held beliefs and debunks the cherished myth that aid has benefited Africa.  It is her unshakeable belief in Africa’s ability to grow its economy that has given Moyo almost evangelical zeal as she takes on the charity sector as well as some of Hollywood’s biggest stars and rock stars who champion the aid industry. Zambian born Moyo’s Dead Aid, has dared ask the tough question, Why has so much money not made a dent in the fight against poverty?

In his writing, Kwame Dawes’ simplicity, elegance and meaning stand out as the hallmarks of his style. Deceptively simple, Dawes achieves his power as a writer by paring down his words so that the meaning of what he has to say is startlingly clear.  It is his dedication to his craft that makes him extraordinarily prolific writer, with over 30 titles to his name. A founder of Cave Canem, a kind of boot camp for writers, many of whose alumni have won top literary prizes. Add to that his status as the world’s leading scholar on Bob Marley, then you understand why this son of Ghanaian and Jamaica is a literary treasure.

Nawal El Saadawi is one of the most passionate writers this continent has ever produced. It is her courage to write about those subjects that were considered taboo, dangerous even that make her one of the world’s most significant writers. She speaks with a palpable sense of commitment to the cause of freedom to which her books are so indebted.  El Saadawi has a deeply analytical style of writing that reflects a deep understanding of not just society but also the way individuals negotiate their way past some of the obstacles they find.  It is her training as a physician and her work as a researcher on neurosis that have made her writing unique. She was born in Egypt but her work has made her one of the most authentic voices on women’s issues across the globe.

The fearless writer and activist, Nawal El Saadawi
The powerful gaze of the writer and activist, Nawal El Saadawi

If there is one African writer whose work straddles all known genres, it is Chris Abani who finds the language to capture the most exquisite beauty in even the most desolate situations. He is a big man with an incredible sensitivity that finds nuance where many would not stop long enough to capture the nuanced lives that Abani imagines and portrays in his novels, poems, songs, and screenplays. Where many find history in the political, Abani’s magic is to find it in the family, even in love and he weaves the larger social issues with the tenderness of a lyric poet. Abani’s path took him from Nigeria to Los Angeles via London but he has written his way into the heart of all three societies.

 

Novelist, poet and teacher, Chris Abani

The best book festivals in SA are the The Time Of The Writer which takes place in March in Durban, The Franschhoek Literary Festival takes place in one of the most beautiful villages in SA. The Cape Town Book Fair gives book lovers a chance to walk the historic Cape Town CBD . Poetry Africa has to be the most important poetry event in SA and it attracts major poets from SA & the globe and takes place in Durban.

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Uncategorized

South Africa Finds Its Literary Voice

 

Portrait of a Nobel Laureate

By all accounts South African literature is enjoying its finest hour. Even as the scandal of dumped and undelivered textbooks in Limpopo was raging, the Polokwane Literary Festival was a welcome respite. That writers could descend on a town whose very name now resonates with the politics of succession and connect with readers was an act of faith in the power of literature. The Bloody Book Week was a great success and it brought to SA fiction A-listers Jeffery Deaver,  John Connolly and Mark Giminez. Jefferey Deaver is known for The Bone Collector that was turned into a movie starring Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie. He has also written the James Bond thriller, Carte Blanche, part of which is set in Cape Town.

Portrait of Zakes Mda

 

There’s a renewed vibrancy in South African writing and some of the authors are finding devoted audiences both at home and abroad. It is always a great treat to be at a book shop in a foreign country and to stumble across a novel by Lewis Nkosi or Deon Meyer. It’s wonderful to see South African fiction attracting bidding from movie producers for the film rights for their books. The latest to join this list includes Deon Meyer, Margie Orford and Lauren Beukes.

 

Portrait of a Thriller writer, Margie Orford

The growth in literary events is testimony to the optimism that pervades the industry. From boutique by invitation only private events, to the larger literary festivals, SA has renewed its love affair with books. There is also a healthy presence of private book clubs that can be founded dotted across the country, from Soweto to Umlazi and across the country’s provinces.

 

Social Media has inspired and carried lively literary debates & Twitter #tags like #mustreadbooks reflect the important role this medium is playing in promoting our literature. Sharing articles and photos has never been easier across Social Media, and much of the shared material reflects growing interest in books and the ideas contained in them. If the literary purists were initially suspicious of Social Media, Twitter has certainly shown that it is a compelling way to share and reflect on literary issues.

 

The writers Tsitsi Dangarembga, Gcina Mhlophe, Nawal El Saadawi & Kadija George

 

SA’s youth have been under-served by the market and outside of textbooks, very few titles aim at them in the same way that other markets do. The youth market is an important one as has been seen abroad with titles for the teen market selling in the millions. It is heartening to see Pan Macmillan launch The Youngsters , its series  five pocket-sized books written by young South Africans: Anele Mdoda, Shaka Sisulu, Nik Rabinowitz with Gillian Breslin, Danny K and Khaya Dlanga. Other publishers should join the youth party and bring the voice of youth into fresh writing.

A vibrant literary scene: Anele Mdoda & Mimi Selemela

 

2012 has in many ways been watershed year for the country’s writers as they find new readers in increasingly large numbers. The popularity of political books has also laid to rest the myth that SA is done with politics. It is important for SA to enhance the vibrancy of the titles on offer as books have to compete for their share of the wallet. This is a time of fundamental change, but also great turmoil. Bookshops are closing down and e-books are claiming a larger share of the market. The growth in mobile digital devices and Apps presents new opportunities for both writers and publishers to reach their readers.Those that still doubt the relevance of e-books and self publishing need only look at the phenomenal success of some of the titles to realize that change is already here.

 

The writer and artist Breyten Breytenbach

One of the publishing success stories of the year has been Rev Frank Chikane’s Eight Days in September. This book on the Removal of Thabo Mbeki reflects on the unprecedented events surrounding the recall of South Africa‘s president from office in 2008. Nadine Gordimer’s No Time Like The Present has been another literary highlight. In this new novel from the grand dame of South Africa’s literary invites South African book lovers to a story that is at once familiar but also deeply surprising.

 

Portrait of a poet, Rustum Kozain

It is fair to say that the arrival of a new Gordimer novel is a very serious treat for book lovers across the world. South Africa’s literary universe is a deeply contested one and novels are dismissed or praised in line with deeply held positions. But Gordimer’s literary eye remains as sharp as ever and her storytelling focused on the contradictions that bedevil South Africa’s politics of identity.

 

Each year, Durban kicks off South Africa’s literary festival with The Time Of The Writer and after that it’s off to the idyllic setting of Franschhoek for the book festival named after this beautiful Winelands village. This festival reflects many of the most telling contradictions that define South Africa. It is set in a tiny village of extreme affluence and the audience has remained a largely white one. It is not a cheap festival to attend as the hotels and restaurants cater to a predominantly well heeled clientele. The village has truly gorgeous venues and the Green Room remains one of the best places to run into a writers for a quiet conversation.

 

Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka

But the festival has grown quickly and in its sixth year, the Franschhoek Literary Festival once again stuck to its eclectic formula that brings in a mix of the best in South African writing to political debate, environmental issues, genre fiction, poetry, press freedom, publishing and even social media.

 

The names on this year’s programme included literary big hitters like Imraan Coovadia, Ivan Vladislavic, Michiel Heyns, as well as new writers like McIntosh Polela and Yewande Omotoso. In keeping with the festival’s tradition of drawing speakers from a wide range of genres, satire will feature prominently, with the likes of Gareth Cliff, Ndumiso Ngcobo and Azad Essa likely to heat things up with their irreverent take on things.

Portrait of a novelist, Yewande Omotoso

Lovers of crime fiction were spoilt for choice as top drawer writers Deon Meyer, Marge Orford, Andrew Brown, Joan Hichens brought their voices to the event. In the past the Franschhoek  festival has attracted big hitters like Richard Ford, Andre Brink, Antjie Krog, Mandla Langa and Muriel Barbery. Poetry has featured strongly at the festival, and poets like Gabeba Baderoon, Rustum Kozain and James Matthews have walked the streets of this quaint village.

 

Novelist Richard Ford

 

This year saw the return of The Cape Town Book Fair after it was unexpectedly cancelled in 2011. The
relaunch of the festival will coincided with the hosting of the International Publishers Association AGM in the Mother City. But there is no doubt that this once powerful event has lost its way and its return largely confirmed how quickly things can go wrong.  I still remember the excitement when the Cape Town Book Fair was first established. It has faltered as quickly as it had established itself as probably the most important literary and book event in
the country.

 

Poet Gabeba Baderoon

The Cape Town Book Fair is now planned for every two years. In a historic first for Cape Town, The International Publishers Association held its 29th IPA Congress, the first time it was held in Africa. Other literary events that spring to mind include the Jozi Book Fair, the Mail & Guardian Literary Festival and Poetry Africa, which all  add to the country’s burgeoning literary calendar. The book may be threatened in print form but writers and readers are finding each other in this brave new world where the storytelling remains the supreme arbiter even as the medium changes.

 

Portrait of a Novelist. Ngugi wa Thiong'o

 

International writers visit SA on a regular basis and in the past year we’ve hosted the likes of Nawal El Saadawi, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Wole Soyinka, Kwame Dawes, Chris Abani, Kadija George, richard de Nooy, Tsitsi Dangarembga and many others. This shows that SA is a viable destination for the world’s major literary voices and it reflects our interest in literature.

 

Potrait of a novelist & activist, Nawal El Saadawi

 

One of the stand-alone events of the year was the visit to South Africa by Zakes Mda, the novelist, dramatist, traveler, teacher, painter and bee-keeper who visited Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Bloemfontein, Johannesburg & Pretoria. Mda may have been here to launch his latest play, Our Lady Of Benoni, but his presence in South Africa is always cause for celebration amongst book lovers. His is one of the most authentic voices in SA fiction and his prolific output an important barometer of the health of our fiction.

 

The writer Bongani Madondo

 

The passion of people like Phakama Mbonambi, Jenny Crwys Williams, Darryl Accone, Elinor Sisulu, Sandile Ngidi, Jenny Hobbs, Ben Williams, Mmabatho Selemela, Georges Lory, Karabo Kgoleng, Raks Seakhoa, Gcina Mhlophe, Chris Thurman, Bongani Madondo, Peter Rorvik, Vusi Mchunu and others acts as a catalyst for literature’s growth. Sponsors remain a crucial catalyst for realizing these literary events and they should be thanked for playing such a vital role in encouraging reading and making it possible for writers to be seen and not merely read.

 

Portrait of a writer & walker, the one & only Richard de Nooy

 

Lewis Nkosi
The writer and his hat: Lewis Nkosi

 

Categories
News

Reflecting on No Shame Day

“It’s not who you are, it’s what you have” is the powerful motto of The Siwe Project that today marks its global No Shame Day. The aim of this day is to push an understanding that mental illness should not define the identity of those who have it. It’s an important campaign that I’m proud to support. This campaign has chosen storytelling and community building as powerful weapons against stigma.

I’m pleased to play a small role in promoting the work of The Siwe Project as its photographer in Southern Africa. In the Johannesburg network, I support The Siwe Project’s Mimi Selemela who first introduced me to Bassey. I would love to share with you my story of how I came to be involved with The Siwe Project (TSP) . It goes back to the day I met one Bassey Ikpi when she travelled from the US to Johannesburg for a poetry performance.

It’s not everyday that you meet someone and they go from total stranger to someone you care for in one instant. In my line of work I meet so many people but very few of them stand out. But it was different with Bassey. I was immediately struck by her zest for life, her energy and her powerful presence. She was quick to laughter, the laugh warm, hearty. When she spoke, it was in a rapid fire kind of way.  The words booming confidently and elegantly from one clearly used to commanding the stage. It was no surprise then to discover that she was a performance artist, and that she had toured as a Def Jam poet.

At her performance at Bassline in Downtown Joburg, she delivered lines of poetry that ranged from the personal to the social, and even the political. Underpinning each of her poems was a quest for justice, for fairness. The poet in her seemed to be teasing the words to make sense of a world in which those charged to protect frequently unleashed the most incredible violence on those they should shield from wanton violence.

When she performed Diallo, her poem about the young man Amadou Diallo pumped with 41 bullets by New York cops, you could hear a pin drop. ‘Where do our screams go’ Bassey asks with palpable pain as the lyrics reach a crescendo of anguish ‘We march to mourn another murder in silence’ Listening to Bassey both on and off the stage, it is clear that she’s a woman with a very clear sense of purpose.

In those first meetings with Bassey I couldn’t have guessed that this outstanding performer, this activist for social justice suffers from Bipolar II disorder. She gave so much of herself, was generous on stage, smiled broadly for the camera and derived what seemed a palpable joy from life. This reinforces the relevance of the motto of The Siwe Project, and the rallying vision behind No Shame Day, that ”It’s not who you are, it’s what you have” #noshame

This is why it is so important to support No Shame Day objective of encouraging more people to seek treatment without shame. Instead of worrying about stigma, they will realize that mental illness is a disease like any other and that it can be treated. Bassey named the project for Siwe Monsanto, whose suicide on June 29, 2011 jolted Bassey to found this not for profit mental advocacy movement.  Bassey is not only a gifted writer, but one of her gifts is her frank and transparent reflections on living with Bipolar II Disorder.

I think those of us that may not have stopped to look closely at mental illness, or even know how to deal with it in our own lives or those of loved ones can tap into The Siwe Project. Bassey and her team have gifted us this global non-profit aimed at creating awareness of mental health throughout the international black community.

On this, the first annual No Shame Day, I’ve been encouraged to see how Bassey’s goal of making this an international campaign is already reflected in the conversations taking place on the various networks. People have shared their stories, both of the illness as well as treatment and the forging of a strong sense of community.

This project is bigger than Bassey but I think she provides a very clear sense of the generosity of spirit behind its founding, and the philosophy of caring transparency that underpins it. Let’s all support this worthy cause as it seeks to improve awareness and understanding of the problems faced by those suffering from mental illness.

Let’s make today No Shame Day. I salute Bassey’s courage and her effort to reach beyond her own circumstances to create this potent global force against stigma.  and also to dispel many of the misconceptions about it. That this network already stretches from Washington DC, London, Johannesburg and Lagos, speaks to Bassey’s tenacity and ability to reach across barriers.

As Bassey tweeted today “ #NoShame is trending worldwide. Thanks to you and your willingness to face fear and share your truths. Thank you” This campaign is a trending topic globally because it has touched people in a way that matters to them & they are engaging and deepening this important conversation about mental health.

There is no doubt that in going from poet to create of The Siwe Project, Bassey has simply connected the dots between the activist and the poet with a powerful narrative rooted in social justice and fairness.

In finishing this reflective piece, it’s worth repeating the laudable motto of TSP.

‘It’s not who you are, it’s what you have’

Categories
City blog

Lichawe lemachawe Mshengu Shabalala, We Ladysmith Black Mambazo

Mshengu wena lowatsatsa emajaha lahlabelako ngemavi lesingatange siweve, wabalolonga kutsi baphe umhlaba wonkhe umculo welizinga lelisetulu. Maningi emachawe emasiko lesitigcabha ngawo, lafana nabo Magolwane, bo Magogo, bo Mazisi Kunene, bo Mahlathini nabo Mfaz’ Omnyama. Nakabumba I Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Joseph Shabalala, umshengu lomuhle, waphakamisa sitfunti selisiko lesichathamiya waphindze futsi waba ngulomunye lonotsisa emasiko jikelele.

 
Nawulalele emambazo uyativela kutsi kudzala Mshengu nemajaha ase Mnambithi bangemagagu esicathamiya. Likhono la Mshengu kutsatsa nobe ngayini ayigucule ibe yingoma. Kuletinye tingoma emambazo ahlabela ngemachawe lafana nabo K.E. Masinga, lomunye wemavulandlela ekusakata. Ngalesinye sikhatsi utfola bafana base Mnambithi bahlabela ngelutsandvo, nome bahlabela ngalabadlala ngemali batsenga tjwala.
Batsatse likhono lekuhlabelela sichathamiya, balilola, lacija, lakhalipha njenge mukhwa lololwe ngensimbi.  Tingoma tabo setengca libanga lemculo tisisekelo semlandvo. Tingoma temambazo tisikhumbuto, tijabulisa balaleli, titsatsa tindzaba tebantfu, tesive netigodzi itente tingoma. Tingoma letatiwa kakhulu letifana nabo Nomathemba, nabo Homeless, nabo Uzenzile Aka Khalelwa tinguletinye letitsandvwa kakhulu live lonkhe.

 
Likhono la Mshengu kunganetiseki ngalase awkwentile, umculo welicembu lakhe uhlala utfutfuka njalo. Lebakwenta lamuhla nase utsi uyakutayela utfola kutsi sebendlulile kuko, seba ngetile kuko, sebakwente lenye intfo lejulile. Njengalabanye labanelikhono lelikhulu, Mshengu ungatsi akahlaliseki, uhlala atibuta kutsi angayiletsa kanjani intfutfuko nenchubekela embili. Akunendzaba kutsi balaleli bayijabulela kangani intfutfuko kulomculo leletswa ngu Mshengu nelicembu le Mambazo, intfutfuko ayipheli.

 

Lowaka Shabalala watalwa e Mnambithi esigodzini sase Ladysmith, wanikwa lamabito lalandzelako. Kwatsiwa ngu Bhekizizwe Siphatimandla Mxoveni Joseph Bigboy Shabalala. Labanengi abati kutsi umShabalala wacala umculo adlala siginci. Liculo lakhe lekucala lekalicamba kwaba ngu Nomathemba. Mshengu wagcugcutelwa ngu Galiyane Hlatshwayo kutsi asebentisi sipho sakhe selivi, kutsi ahlabele ngemdlandla nemfutfo.   Wabumba licembu lakhe lekucala walkbita Ezimnyama. Lelicembu lahlabana kumnchuntelwano wesichathamiya.

 
Kulandzela emaphupho lamanyenti lekaba netiboniso kuwo, Mshengu wabese ucamba licembu lakhe watsi yi Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Njenge mazembe lakhaliphako, e Mambazo bekahlula emacembu lamanye. Batsandzi bemculo batitfola balalela e Mambazo ahlabela tingoma letitdvodzile, letizothile, letijulile, letiletsa bunandzi bemculo.
Umculo we Mambazo sowuhambe wafika kumagumbi onkhe emhlaba, ulalelwa ngibo bonkhe labatsandza umculo lomsulwa, welikhono lelisetulu.  Kuhlabana kwe Mambazo akwehli, kuya ngeku tfutfuka, kuyabonakala kutsi umholi we Ladysmith Black Mambazo ngulomunye walabatsetse lisiko lekuhlabelela walitfutfukisa kakhulu. Kuyakhanya kutsi Mshengu te adzinwa kucamba tingoma, nekutsi utawuhlala anganetiseki ngalase akufezile. Akasiye lotsandza kulala ecansini lelindlalwe kutsanti nobe itolo ngobe uhlala abuke embili, hhayi emuva.

 
Bemanga batsandze kabi kutsi emasiko etfu ayanyamalala, nekutsi sitawugcina sesilahlekelwe yonkhe imilandvo nemalwimi abomdzabu. Loku bakusho njengoba bangati kutsi linengi liyatigcabha, futsi likhuma lulwimi lebalumunya. Ngobe bona bangalukhulumi lulwimi, futsi bangaluva, akusho loko kutsi lolulwimi alukhulunywa ngulabanyenti. Siyafundza emaphepheni lokutsiwa bonjingalwati batsi sekuhlwile, kuyahwalala kumasiko etfu, akunalikusasa.

 

Kepha u Mntimandze lobhambo lunye,  Mazisi Kunene uyasitjela kutsi singabalaleli lalabatsi intfutfuko tesayitfola kulawetfu emasiko, funanele sikhohlwe ngawo nasifuna inchubekela phambili. Umntimandze washo kutsi kute lulwimi lolune nkanankana yesi manjemanje ngaphandle kwalo sitawulahlekelwa likusasa. Bemaphephandzaba bashicilela imibono leyenga labanengi ibatjela kutsi abafulatsele konkhe lokumklandvo yabo nafuna kubona intfutfuko.

 
Nasibuka umShabalala we Mambazo, siyabona kutsi kute sizatfu sekutsi utfulatsele lwakho lulwimi nawufuna kuphumelela ekuhlabeleni nobe ekulobeni nobe ekucambeni tingoma, tinkondlo nobe tincwadzi. Nakufanele, Mshengu nelicembu lakhe bayashwampuluta talabanye tilwimi.  Njengoba umlobi Ngugi wa Thiong’o ahlale asho, kufulatsela lulwimi lwakho kutenta sigcila.

 
Asimbonge lowaka Shabalala ngesipho sakhe semculo, lese sinjingise kakhulu lisiko lesichathamiya. Akekho emagama langachaza kahle intfokoto letfolwa ngulababukela lelicembu lemajaha laphuma e Mnambithi.
Nabavala tonkhe tingoma tabo, baya sikhumbuta kutsi bona ngibo ‘Abafana base Mnambithi’ Longati angamangala kutsi yini leleyenta bo Mshengu bangakhohlwa kusho kutsi babuya kuphi kuyo yonkhe ingom lebayihlabelako. Loku kusikhumbuta kutsi asilutfo nasikhohlwa kutsi sibuya kuphi. Njalo nje kufanele sitikhute nase sititfola ungatsi sitinyoni letingati kutsi tibuyaphi, tiyakuphi.

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Uncategorized

Commercial Property Sector Has Failed Transformation Test

The Commercial Property sector badly lags behind other sectors in transformation. There are those that say the sector has simply failed the transformation test. Minister of Trade & Industry Rob Davies recently gazetted the Property Sector Charter, but the Black Association of Commercial Property Owners (“BACPO”) has already said the charter represents a huge missed opportunity. Their concern is that the new charter has downplayed the importance of ownership as a catalyst for transforming the sector.

 

BACPO sees direct ownership and control of property assets as the quickest way for Black entrepreneurs to influence and transform the commercial property industry. For this reason BACPO believes ownership has to be at the heart of the new charter as it will achieve the goals of transformation in the most direct manner. BACPO has already held meetings with various players in the property sector to voice its concerns about aspects of the Property Charter and it is hopeful that a solution will be found.

When the word transformation is mentioned, deal making is often the first thing that comes to mind. But the entrepreneurs that got together to form BACPO have long been in the sector, with one of them building his first commercial property, The Mangalani Mall in Soweto in 1982.  They insist that their focus is to create jobs, build great companies, add value to the sector and use transformation as a catalyst to grow the number of Black landlords.

“Our goal is to increase the number of black landlords that own and operate their own properties. Ownership is the key to unlocking value in commercial property. Anything else is window dressing” adds Bruce Zungu, Secretary of BACPO.

Joe Mathebula, a commercial property developer and the president of BACPO says “For too long transformation has been ignored by the commercial property sector. BACPO believes it is time the big players in the sector embraced transformation and stopped with the excuse” It is the snail pace of transformation in the sector that led Mathebula and the other founders of BACPO to set up their organization. Since the establishment of BACPO, Mathebula has called on all those in the sector to unleash its full economic & transformation potential.

“There is more than enough room for the current players to get decent returns on their investments whilst ensuring that this industry promotes transformation by creating capacity for existing and new black landlords in the sector” Mathebula said recently.

Since its founding it is telling that BACPO has taken its vision of what will create meaningful transformation in the commercial property to the key players within the industry. The group travelled to Cape Town to meet parliament’s portfolio committee on Public Works. The discussions looked at ways to speed up transformation in the commercial property sector in line with Public work’s own policies on transformation.

Since its founding, BACPO has hit the ground running and plans to work closely and harmoniously with the key players in the commercial property sector. These include SAPOA, SAIBPP, the banks, municipalities, provincial governments and the private sector especially the retail sector.

Of these organizations, BACPO has said that it believes government holds the key to accelerated growth the commercial property sector. One statistic is a real surprise and shows the room government has to make an immediate impact on transformation

Only 5% of government leases at national level are held by black landlords . Of the nearly 4000 Department of Public Works national leases, only 186 are held by black landlords. If you look at it in monetary terms, only R120m of the R2.4 billion the department spends on leases annually goes to Black landlords.

This explains BACPO’s lukewarm response to the sector charter as the charter gives ownership a surprisingly low weighting of only 20 points out of 107 points in its measure of transformation. It’s understandable that BACPO would be concerned that ownership counts for roughly 15% of the transformation score in the new charter. This does not seem like the kind of recipe that will pull the sector out of its transformation lethargy.

 
As Bruce Zungu said “As the charter reads, transformation will continue to be slow and painful for Black people in the property industry unless certain amendments are made around ownership and an actual discussion with Government of potential ways to fast track ownership transformation”

 
“We started our discussions with government because of its potential to unleash substantial value that is locked within its portfolio. We believe that this will create thousands of jobs and unlock wealth for the wider economy whilst achieving tangible transformation,” explains Mathebula. He adds that BACPO supports government’s goals on Black Economic Empowerment and its objectives on transformation.

 

“The time for unlocking the potential of the commercial property sector is now and we believe that BACPO is well placed to lead this historic drive’ says Mathebula.

“We can no longer stand on the sidelines and watch this sector drag its feet on the non negotiable issue of transformation. The simple truth is that this sector will remain untransformed unless there is drive to increase the number of Black landlords that own and operate their own properties” adds Joe Mathebula.

Like all the other principals of the companies that founded BACPO, Mathebula is a successful property developer. His Deputy President is Mike Nkuna of Masingita Properties, also a successful property developer. Nkuna will be launching the Protea Glen Mall in September, the latest in a string of high profile malls that he has developed in a career of more than 30 years. Others members of BACPO include the Billion Group, founded by Sisa Ngebulana and developer of huge, highly successful properties such Hemingways in East London.

Typical of the unassuming success of the founders of BACPO is Herbert Cedrik Theledi, Managing Director and Chairperson of Nthwese Investment Group and Nthwese Investment Holdings Consortium. The family owned business grew from its roots in Bushbuckridge to national prominence. Theledi’s entrepreneurial flair has seen him hold his own not only in property but in other businesses such as engineering, warehousing, logistics, motor dealership and distribution industries and Telecoms.

“We believe that the sector has enough people of goodwill and they will join BACPO in ensuring that the commercial property sector embraces rather than resists transformation”  says Bruce Zungu, the Secretary of BACPO.

Transformation remains the R1.9 trillion commercial property sector’s Achilles heel, but organizations like BACPO are determined to ensure that sector plays catch up and  improves its transformation credentials. There is a long way to go, black property owners’ share of the sector currently lies at negligible R10bn, a paltry slice of the R1.9 trillion sector.

It is for this reason that the newly gazetted Property Charter has to focus squarely on ownership if it is to move the sector beyond its low levels of transformation.

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Uncategorized

Beyoncé is the wrong award

Beyoncé is a wonderful performer, a true phenomenon, one of the seven wonders of global music. But Big Concerts or Morris Rhoda can bring her to SA, not the Ministry of Sports. It defies logic that an event that is called the SA Sports Awards should be headlined by one of the most expensive global superstars.

If the Minister of Sports wants to dazzle his guests at the event, he can call on so many of South Africa’s superstars. Just imagine Hugh Masekela, Thandiswa Mazwai, Letta Mbulu, Die Antwoord, Simphiwe Dana, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Black Coffee, Bakithi Khumalo & Jonathan Butler performing for rapt audiences at the Sports Awards. That would be more than all the awesome that Beyoncé can bring to any event.

Our country is blessed with some of the world’s most original artists and our government has no reason to import US pop stars to an event that celebrates SA excellence. At a time when we go out to the world to convince it of our global stature, it is self defeating not to use our own platforms to showcase the cream of our talent. What’s even more galling is that for Beyoncé, the amount she would be paid would be little more than a drop in the ocean. For many South African artists, such an amount would be a significant and responsible investment. On top of that they would give the audience an unforgettable, world class experience.

It’s not even a question of where the money is coming from. Even if there’s a private sector sponsor, or a wealthy billionaire that wants to rub shoulders with Beyoncé, it would still be irresponsible for Minister Mbalula to allow so much money to be squandered under his watch. There is simply no compelling rationale that links importing a high priced pop star with the SA Sports Awards.

As journalist Gus Silber said, with appropriate sarcasm, “It’s fine for Beyoncé to sing at the SA Sports Awards, as long as Bafana get to play at the Grammys.”

Tshepo Mashile admonishes the Minister “Poor form Fikile, poor form. There’s no connection between Beyonce and sport. She should rather perform as part of her tour. What a waste”

Perhaps the Minister need look no further than South Africa’s own sports stars to find someone that can dazzle and inspire a sports audience. We have so many stars from golf, rugby, swimming, football, athletics and boxing. Many of them are global role models and they can inspire and motivate those at the awards. The problem with a big pop star is that it turns the awards evening into just another music gig, albeit an expensive one. But hardly anyone remembers the winners on the night.

As Thabo Ndabula “the same international artists that come here for the awards, know nothing about the nominee’s. Its just another gig for them”

Actor and musician Clint Brink takes it further when he says “ When they brought out Vivica A Fox & Brandy I was really pissed off, its a slap in the face of our own people”

Expensive events like the SA Sports Awards show the extent to which SA has become a country in which spectacle holds sway. For a little bit of glamour, many speeches and many millions later, the attention of SA sports lovers is fixed on a single event that diverts funds away from much needed development. These glitzy events, where so many awards are dished out do absolutely nothing for sports that is sustainable.

It is also interesting that the culture of awards ceremonies is taking place at precisely that moment when SA sport is going through one of its most barren spells. Bafana Bafana have not qualified for the African Nations Cup, the Springboks, Proteas and Banyana Banyana have not lifted a trophy in a longtime. Only at the individual level have you had success. So there is really very little achievement to be rewarded. Like many of these award ceremonies, the dishing out of many awards in one evening reduces the very value they may have if there were few, highly deserved ones.

To complicate matters even more,  you have the Provincial Sports Awards, such as the Gauteng Sports Awards. You have to ask why is there no co-ordination so that there is one event at which awards are handed out. This would be a much more effective and costly way of satisfying those with an urge to dish out awards.

To reiterate, the trouble really is not Beyoncé, but the idea that she can be invited to perform when SA has so many world class performers that would grab the opportunity to headline such an event. Even if they are added to the lineup, it galls that they should be support acts in their own country.

Enough with these US pop stars at SA Sports Awards. The reported R50m price tag for the event is truly scandalous. of this a staggering R17m would be for less than an hour of Beyoncé’s time.  In a country where the social calendars of the elite are crammed with invitations to endless events, the Sports Awards is simply yet another evening out for the pampered classes. But with a little imagination and less razzmatzz, such monies could be put to better use elsewhere.

The last word belongs to Zuzi Seoka who says “Instead of funding sports development, Mbalula would rather spend millions bringing Beyonce to the sports awards! Priorities? Nonexistent”

Categories
News

Interview with Photojournalist D Michael Cheers about music, freedom & writing

In Conversation with D Michael Cheers, Co writer of Still Grazing, With Hugh Masekela