When Does Nudity Become Art ?

Beauty . Pic credit: Jada Pinkett Smith

Beauty . Pic credit: Jada Pinkett Smith

An Exploring Nudity, Art and the Black (female) Body

What makes nudity art? Perhaps this is an elementary question but bear with me please. Your child might ask you this question one day. So it’s worth a thought.  First let’s look at the prominent spate of controversies surrounding  the artistic representation of the black body in two continents (Africa and Europe 2009 to present day).   Let’s start here at home in South Africa where  Photographer Zanele Muholi’s depiction of Lesbians (women who love other women) in 2009  was classified as  “nation- destroying’ pornography by the then South African Arts and Culture minister Lulu Xingwana who was so disgusted by the images of women showing affection for each other ( touch, hug, embrace) she immediately walked out  of the exhibition held at the  historic Women’s Goal  or  jail at Constitution Hill ( previously  known as number four ) declaring  the content of the exhibition as a danger to society. The same place, where, less than two decades ago women were incarcerated for opposing various forms of apartheid oppression or for just simply walking the city’s streets beyond the state instituted “curfew”  for black women, men, and children in Johannesburg. They conceivably sat together at some point or other ( I imagine) showing each other affection (hugs, touch, and embrace) to console each other and to give each other strength against the mammoth evil that paraded them in and out of their cells every day. Her response to the exhibition was controversial because the exhibition was in fact sponsored by her own department of arts and culture. Her reaction was shocking because she demonstrated a complete lack of respect for the artist and a complete intolerance towards a number of enshrined freedoms such as the freedom of association, sexual identity and expression. Her behavior, in my opinion was tantamount to inciting continued violence against lesbian woman in particular and fueling more hate into the raging furnace of homophobia in the country in general.  Enter artist Brett Mare with a depiction of South African President Jacob Zuma with his genitalia exposed, a public outcry divided the country along racial lines;  Mare’s work was a cheap racist art form which demonstrated a complete lack of respect for the president and his office and by extension the South Africa government. A violation of the President’s human right to dignity. Brett Mare was justified to portray the president with his genitalia exposed, because as President, Zuma is a public figure and is therefore open to criticism and or ridicule by the public or artists commenting on the country’s socio-political-landscape.  Moreover the presidents’ own private use of his genitalia played a significant role in his rise to power, as  explicitly expressed in  his rape trial in 2006 for which he was found not guilty and his current number of wives and children.  It is because Brett Mare is a white artist that so many black people were enraged? Is it because the president is black that The Spear as an art work exists? Had it been a white president would he have dared do the same thing?  Lulu Xingwana is a black woman, who walked out of another black woman’s exhibition of black women in-love with each other. Had the minister been white would the “media” outcry been any different, what difference would color make?  In Europe the Swedish Minister of Arts and Culture refused to bend to public pressure calling for her resignation after she was accused of racism and a lack of judgment for gleefully participating in the symbolic reenactment of the mutilation of a black woman, by cutting a black woman cake on her “clitoris” while the artist groaned and screamed in “mock” pain.  The minister used the right for artists’ to freely express and offend as her defense. “Art needs to be provocative” she said.  The artist did the work to create awareness on the Female Genital Mutilation (also known as female circumcision in some quarters) which is still being practiced (secretly in some cases) in a number of African countries. In this instance the artist was black, the minister who part-took in the “mutilation” white. Would the artists’ work have made a greater impact had he made a white woman cake instead? Would the minister have cut its genitalia to eat as desert with the same amount of glee? Would that change the truth of how, where and on whom FGM as is practiced? By whom? How did the Black Women Cake and the minister’s participation contribute to the fight against FGM on the continent? Perhaps the artist just wanted to “trap” the minister to “prove” that she was indeed “racist”? Now recently a gallery in South Africa took down art work depicting   South African President Jacob Zuma and former President Nelson Mandela as white. No valid reason was given except to say the gallery had a right to decide what work to put up for exhibit and had exercised its right to do so by pulling the work ahead of the planned exhibition on World Art Day on the 15th of April. The work was part of a series other prominent South African political leaders painted in races other than their own.   Does it matter today that Zuma is depicted as a white man and Pik Botha Black?

Is art, or the artist obliged to make a positive contribution to society?

Thinking about art and the black body I am reminded of the role I myself once played in this contested space as a nude model for two white South African Artists, Karl Gietl and Wayne Barker in my early twenties. I was working then as a journalist for the public broadcaster, so when they asked me if I would be interested in posing in the nude for their “Great African Nudes” exhibition I willingly said yes.  I was still nostalgic about art (having studied Art in high school) and having had to forgo Fine Art for Journalism studies.  I wanted a chance to partake in the creation of art – my job as a radio journalist not allowing me enough “creativity” in my opinion.  I also wanted to see what it is about the gaze of the white male eye on a female (because I am female) black “African” body (because I am black and African) that made so many of us desire to be “embraced” by  “them”- as a direct or indirect response to the ” The fear of the Black man”

What about African Nudes I asked, what you are saying?. They are beautiful he said, we just love women’s bodies. Black women, white women, all women are the great African nudes he said.  So I’m just going to take off my clothes and you are going to paint me and that’s it? Yes he said. But you have no control of the end product (can’t dictate the outcome of the work) I’m not going to ask you to make pornographic poses (I basically stood in front of the camera naked) etc. So I posed for them on condition that I will get a piece of art in exchange for my time and use of my image.

Why is nudity more violent and therefore less acceptable for public consumption than say a violent assault, murder or rape on a television series?          

I gathered my friends to go and see the opening of the show, curious to see how they “chose” to represent the “African” Nude aka me and other women of course.  I was surprised to see a huge life-size depiction of a black woman in a reclining position with long braids. Me.  I was truly fascinated by the work.  I was not expecting a real-life representation of my person, because I had ostensibly given away the power to control how they chose to use my image the minute I took off my clothes to pose for them.  I didn’t like the work but I was glad for the experience, the work said nothing about black women or women in general to me, it made no political statement, there was nothing provocative or offensive about the work other it being a collection of distorted women bodies painted in various positions.  There was nothing to be said about the work, accept that it was made.  Or was there?

Wayne Barkers‘ interpretation of the “African Nude” was more abstract and modern, his work in my opinion was more focused on developing a new painting technique he was experimenting with than the ‘ African -nudes”  who seemed to be more of an after-thought addition to his work.

It was art for art sake.

What did stand out for me though was the fact that there were more white women nudes in the collection compared to black women. What is to be said about that? Are white women not African? Are African women not engaged in art for art sake? Why are black women not willing to “pose” in that manner in front of the camera? Why should they have to?

“Come on Jedi we can also do this, we can also be artists if this is art” said my friend as we walked around the gallery in stitches.  The work generated no noticeable emotion on my part except perhaps some compassion for the artist (for having a sad and depressing view of the female form  I did not see the beauty he raved about while he was convincing me to take off my clothes – but beauty is in the eye of the beholder is it not?) and later a bit of bitterness after  Wayne Barker refused to give me a work of art he had promised on the grounds that it was his work and his money and it was “art” and he was “entitled” to “earn” money from it, and by asking him to give me what he had promised I was infringing on his “future” earned income. In other words, though he promised to part with one of his art pieces in exchange for my modeling services, he reserved the right to refuse compensation should the work be perceived to be of more value than he had anticipated at the time of conception/creation or agreement.  However on the other side of the coin the art work was so valuable to the artist  Karl Gietl that confessed to painting over the “Great African Nude” ( a life-size painting of me ) with black paint because it had proved to be of no value or consequence  to the gallery the audience and most importantly himself. It was his work. “I needed the canvass” He said as if to massage my barely visible ego.

So what is it all about then?

The great renaissance artist Michelangelo says “What spirit is so empty and blind, that it cannot recognize the fact that the foot is more noble than the shoe, and skin more beautiful than the garment with which it is clothed?”

Michelangelo (“Michelangelo’s David 1504)

Wikipedia described the nude as “a tradition in Western art, and has been used to express ideals of male and female beauty and other human qualities. It was a central preoccupation of Ancient Greek art, and after a semi-dormant period in the middle Ages returned to a central position in Western art with the Renaissance. Athletes, dancers, and warriors are depicted to express human energy and life, and nudes in various poses may express basic or complex emotions such as pathos.[1] The nude is a work of fine art that has as its primary subject the unclothed human body,[2] forming a subject genre of art, in the same way as landscapes and still life. Unclothed figures may also play a part in other types of art, such as history painting, allegorical, or religious art”

And here allow me to share my views. The beauty of art is that it really does neither the artist nor the audience  which consumes the art any favours. It is the great equalizer.It is like a double-edged sword in that it reveals both the motives and inner world, deep seeded secrete workings of the mind and soul of the artist creating the work as well as the persons or audiences who consume the work.  No one involved in the process of creating art is left untouched/unchanged in some way by the work regardless of the emotions it evokes or lack there of.

The artist whether they like it or not are revealing themselves, their inner core when they present their works: “throwing up” “their fears, hopes and dreams, what they think of themselves and the society in which they live, or the subject matter they tackle.   Many artists often deny that what they produce has anything to do with “them”. Often sayings it’s not “personal”. I disagree with that notion wholeheartedly I believe all artwork is personal.  However what makes one artwork different from the other is the artists’ level of  “maturity” coupled with a number of contributing factors, education, training, mentor ship, confidence, skill in the chosen medium etc.  And let’s not forget the maturity of the audience  consuming the work. The artists’ ability to come face to face with his or her deepest and darkest fears,  their  most tender feelings, their most hurt self with   distance and critical analysis employed to observe the “other”, without making excuses or shying away from what ‘hurts” is how one can possibly  “ measure” maturity.  EQ in modern terms.   You have to guess what an infant or child wants when they cry, and sometimes you have to try a few things before you can locate the source of the problem, as the child grows as they are able use  language to communicate their needs. An adult is expected to be able to identify a problem, articulate it clearly and find solutions to solve it. The extent to which an artist is able to do this in a single piece of work (not that they are by any means expected to) is a measure of their maturity.

My 16-year-old brother says if a piece of art does not evoke an emotional “response” of any kind it is not art, it is like an Ikea chair, practical and functional, but not provocative. So the examples I have used above then should qualify or meet the basic criteria of being ‘art-works’ because they have all caused enormous emotive responses  – of anger, disgust and even hate.  I empathized and appreciate Zanele Muholi’s work because I also share a need to see and appreciate black African female bodies depicted in a beautiful compassionate way, in a society which women are repeatedly mutilated/ assaulted by their husbands, boyfriends’, other women. I want to live in a gentler kinder world, love and be loved – I can identify with Muholi’s search for beauty within herself, her relationships and the world around her. I am in that journey too.  Then minister of Arts and Culture Lulu Xingwana’s reaction to her work is that of disgust, anger, of rebuke.  That says a lot about her personal feelings about same-sex relationships .She is violently opposed to them and is unable to contain her feelings  despite her position as the chief custodian of artistic expression requiring that she be the “bigger woman”. She could not reason with herself. Perhaps she saw a woman, a girl, who looked like one of her daughters, her cousin, a niece a friend, someone she knows. I cannot help but feel violated by the Swedish artist FGM intervention it is repulsive for me in every way because it continues to victimize, exploit, and  offend. I am offended by  it.

The Black Woman Cake

The Black Woman Cake

 Perhaps it exposes a  dislike of white women – because at one point in my life they seemed to have access to ‘everything” a black woman was not “allowed”.  I was angered beyond belief, I was disgusted. But I have forgiven.  Myself. I love. the woman I am creating. But I first had to recognize that it was not white women who needed to change. I needed to change and then only could I move on from being a “victim”.  I feel compassion towards the artist  – because though he is black the “black woman cake” reveals so much violence and turmoil about how he feels about  his “blackness” / Africanness.  I understand what it means to be tormented by hate cloaked in so many  seemingly righteous anger at other injustices’.

 I was shocked that the Swedish minister was able to cut an a groaning piece of cake and eat it with a smile on her face. If art is meant to provoke and offend as she said, she was neither provoked nor offended by  the most grotesque piece of art I’ve seen so far. I do hope that both the artist and the minister including  everyone who laughed with them have  grown from that experience – I certainly have.  With The spear, my response is an unfair but good example of why I personally do not agree with the artist lack of depth in this instance. Newspaper cartoonist Zapiro’s clothed depiction of President Jacob Zuma’s general (mis) conduct with regard to respect for the rule of law, women and himself  is far more provocative and insightful than Mare’s depiction of his bare phallus.  Here’s Why. So What’s Art to you?

President Jacob Zuma and Lady Justice by Zapiro

President Jacob Zuma and Lady Justice by Zapiro

 

THE CHASE

Pictured: Jedi Ramalapa

Pictured: Jedi Ramalapa

We’ve all been there chasing something or someone we really want. It’s obsessive and brings purpose to your day, your life; chasing a dream, a job, a vacation, a relationship, a child, a lover, a mother, a father, sister, a career, a friend, a spirit, God, money, clothes, fashion, shoes, cars, houses, fame, honour, popularity, a beginning or an end to something, an answer. It is a chase because whatever it is you want, ideally you will like it to happen; now, you want it to happen fast, soon in fact yesterday.   I know about “the chase”, I am a journalist. We are always on the run, chasing this story or that story, hoping to be the first with the information or find a scoop, an angle which others have not yet found, it’s relentless even when there is no story to chase we’re still running after something – sometimes there is no thing there to chase but the chase continues  always searching for a loophole,  looking for a  crack somewhere, a scam, a mistake, an expose.

Ask anyone who knows me I have been on the run chasing only God knows what. If I am not physically travelling and on the run chasing  a story or something, my mind does the running around for me, chasing  fears, hopes, thoughts, ideas, things to do always, always  chasing even my own shadow.  In the chase I’ve seen life pass me by like the blurry image from inside a fast-moving car… hardly seeing the sky, the landscape or the flowers and how they bloom because there’s no time for that. Was that a smile, a kiss, a hug? How was the food? The coffee, did I taste it or was I already chasing the next thing I was going to do? What did I just say? Come back! Where are you? You are not here. Have been constant calls from those who love me, often I would go on the chase in mid-sentence, travel over the Atlantic or deep into some dream or memory or an angle for a story. Everything I’m listening to and everything that is happening around me has to be about whatever it is I am chasing if it’s not about the chase then I have no interest. I even have a real life chase account to illustrate my point.  There’s no time to waste “I might miss THE story”.  The story that will change my life, the story that will finally make the Chase worth it.

My mother says she loves the “chase”.  But her chase is very different from mine; it’s not about getting there first, fast and furiously.  It’s about romance and she is the ultimate romantic you see.  Her chase is about the suspense, the mystery you see – what’s the point of knowing the end before you even watch a movie is her answer because I have already asked “so how will it end?”   It’s the journey that makes the destination so much more rewarding. Because you are there for every moment, moving with  the story and allowing it to unfold, going up and down, and  down a bend, over the hill, opening up layer upon layer of i secretes which can be astonishing, sad, amazing, surprising, annoying, painful, funny, crazy, long, hard, exhilarating, breath-taking, mesmerizing, incredible, brilliant, entertaining and full of life. Like a long drive, a cruise, a voyage. It is what makes soccer (the football game I love to hate) so “addictive”.  It’s not the score at the end of the match  that matters so much as  what happens within those 90 minutes that matters, ( YES the score DOES matter !) it is not about kicking a ball around, it’s about the skill, the tackles, the strategy, the shrewdness, it’s about intuition, chance, luck, opportunity, it’s about the individual and the team  and how they all play with each other, t’s about training, hard work, team work, talent, dedication, passion, focus, it’s about loyalty, it’s about support , it’s about respect, it’s about communication, it’s about perseverance, it’s about ownership, it’s about you, it’s about the  coach, the  management, and it’s the combination of all those things working together in harmony that make the game such a pleasure to watch, it is what drives people so passionately mad, so crazy,  makes them stand up, shout and scream and cry, as if possessed,  it is what is so devastatingly disappointing when both teams don’t bring their best game to the pitch.

Knowing the score at the end of a match is not the same as having watched the game for a full 90 minutes and then some.  If it was, soccer players might swell show up  for a penalty shootout  only and then call it a game.

So to continue with the soccer analogy – I have been out of the game. I’ve been sitting on the bench; I’ve had a couple of injuries and a few yellow cards and some red cards, I‘ve changed teams, coaches, management, I’ve consulted, gone free. I was born in Kaizer Chiefs territory (Meadowlands, Soweto South Africa) changed teams when I lived in Orlando West to become Buccaneer (Orlando Pirates) in the English Premier League, Arsenal has always been my team by default because my friends were Arsenal fans. They’ve all broken my heart repeatedly over and over again over the years. So much so I quit soccer, peaking in every now again for the major tournaments always half – heartedly.  I have forgiven myself .

And now? I’m that guy running on the sidelines warming up. No longer a spectator, no longer indifferent.  I am a player and a supporter.  I am part of a team.  Because more than a win or a loss, it’s the knowledge that you belong, that you love and are loved.  It’s the knowledge that you have everything you need, the right training, the right coach, the right management for you, the right support, counselling, all the  resources, everything you need to play your best game – all of it is taken care of. That is what makes you step out into the field with confidence and pride. Because let’s face it, when your team walks out onto the field you are one of them. And as you stand , tall and  shoulder to shoulder with your team mates, at that moment when you place your right  hand across your chest  and feel the blood fueled adrenalin pulsating through your heart –  at that moment  you know, it’s not  about all the games you’ve lost, the yellow cards, red cards, fouls or fights you’ve had before. It’s about the fact that despite all your past failures as a player and as a team –   you’re still there standing  ready to play yet another game …  what a privilege.

Or as my mother would say; it’s knowing that  you are worthy, that you’re already chosen, that you are already the first, the one and the only that makes the “ chase” so exciting.

I love that we finally agree.

WARNING: READ AT YOUR OWN RISK

"The Angry Wind"

“The Angry Wind”

BOOK REVIEW: The lost Kingdoms of  Africa by Jeffrey Tayler

Wow. A huge wide smile spread spontaneously across my face when I stumbled on Jeffery Tayler’s travel book “The lost Kingdoms of Africa” – its tagline– “through Muslim Africa by Truck, Bus and Camel” wetted my appetite so much so I immediately started looking for a cozy corner where I could sit and start reading I was so excited. But it was to be the back summary of the book that made me thank the heavens above that I had found another way of travelling back to where I had just come  from, an abrupt return which I am only now beginning to fully accept.

“This is the account of a journey through the realms of Africa so remote, so geographically and culturally isolated that their frontiers have rarely been breached.  The Sahel region of the lower Sahara, whipped by ferocious winds and shrouded in secretes, home to a vast Muslim population is the southernmost outpost of Islam’s dominance in Africa.  Comprising the southern Sahara regions of Chad, Northern Nigeria, Niger, Mali and Senegal, it once witnessed the emergence of Africa’s wealthiest and most exotic Kingdoms and Empires. To this day it produces some of the continent’s leading writers, musicians and artists, perilous and poverty-stricken, it rarely sees travelers  I was already jealous of this guy, Jeffery Tayler, I mean he gets to travel the Sahel by truck, taxi, bus and boat, something I have always wished I could do and he  gets to do  it! Wow.

Tayler –an American travel writer based in Moscow – already sounded amazing to me, with three titles of travel novels under his belt. Moreover he was well prepared for his adventures into Muslim Africa having learnt and being fluent in both Arabic and French.  Wow. Anyway what lay between the pages is the most uncomfortable ride of my life  full with so many sweeping patronizing  derogatory  generalizations and misguided judgments of  Black/African people that  I literally had to force myself to read it through to the very last line, just to be fair.

I,  like him struggled through the Harmattan (from the twi haramatta, a derivation of the Arabic haram, forbidden, evil, cursed) which he describes as a parching easterly wind that originates above the wastes of the Sahara and blows for days over Central and West Africa. The Harmattan is his constant and most loyal companion through out  his travels and is the most visible character in the book apart from himself – the narrator.  He spends so much time describing it that at one point when someone asked me  “how’s the book” my  response was “I feel as if I have grains of sand stuck between my teeth”.  He does have a way with words. Jalil a name which Tayler uses to introduce himself during his travels.

Tayler prides himself (rightfully so) on his purely classical Arab language skills but has almost nothing positive to say about the countries he visits (the African kingdoms he so lustfully desires are lost to him) nor the people who host him along the way.  Perhaps the timing of his travels as an American in “Muslim” Africa was a miscalculation on his part. He travels to the Sahel shortly after the 2001 September 11 terrorist attacks in  the US. But the Muslim extremism he tries to excavate from the “Sahelians” seems to only to exist in his head. “how about Bin Laden?, al Qaeda?” he keeps asking as if expecting an  answer more congruent with his perception of Muslim Africa as the breeding ground for  Muslim fundamentalists bent on launching  a full war against the West.

My envy of his travels vanished and was soon replaced with sheer sympathy for him. I had the heavens to thank for that I had  not read the book before traveling to one of the lost kingdoms of Africa  because  the book does an excellent, if not superb  job of discouraging the reader to never dare set foot there.

Page after page is littered with the same monotonous accounts of religious fundamentalism, Christians against Muslims and visa versa, black Africans hating themselves, abusing, enslaving, oppressing and killing and maiming their children mercilessly in the name of culture or  tradition and let’s not forget their collective yet secrete  hatred for all  Arabs, which  is trumped only by their  collective love and admiration of their truest  savior – the white man.  Poverty, corruption, disease, tribalism, hatred, back-ward and uncivilized cultural and traditional practices are highlights of his trip. At some point he admits to recoiling at the mucus ridden dry faces of  black children greeting him and wanting to touch him ” I couldn’t help it” he says. It is ultimately “nature” in the form of the  snake like Niger River and the moon which offer him some solace during the 2500 mile trip.  It’s as if he never moves from one country to next, as if he is constantly and mercilessly trapped in the blinding epicenter of the harmattan orbit   The last three chapters pretty much some up his experience of the Sahel —-Djennes bitter winds (the book was initially published with the title Angry Wind in 2005), Death in the Sun and Misere.

His description of Bamako -Mali in Chapter 19 (Misere) sums up his entire book:

“The chants of the mendicants, the hyena-honks of taxis, the grunts of the women, and the oaths shouted by angry drivers all compose a cacophony of urban distress as grievous as it is in vain. Vain because beyond the Sahel the voices of these people cannot be heard, their stories will never be told. They are born to live poor and die hard, leaving nothing behind: their misery once the subject of ideologies of liberation and revolt now inspires no one. ‘The Wretched on the Earth” Franz Fanon called people like them in another time, but he is dead, and his oeuvre, passé. However, in defiance of intellectual fashion the wretched remain orphaned of Western defenders, ever leaner, ever hungrier, increasingly angry, serving their sentences, awaiting an emancipator, a commander. For now , poverty and despair  banish thoughts of revolution among these masses, but later when a savior appears, he will exploit their suffering to create an army of the enraged that will swamp coalitions of the willing, breach the walls and storm the west”.

It is of course hard to maintain or sustain the self-righteous anger that so easily bubbles up to the surface as I read what  I can only describe as well written yet putrid account the Sahel because that is ultimately his experience, moreover the facts of what he observes; civil wars, disease, hunger, corruption and general lack of progress in many African counties is frustratingly still true today. What is upsetting is he posits all of judgments as truths ‘that will never change.  He is so confident and self assured and  misunderstandings I wished I could talk to him about it. Take his description of a typical greeting:

“How was I she asked, and how was I doing with ‘la journee? Et ta famillle? Et ta sante? Et la fatigue? Et las journee? Et la famille? Et la santé? Et la…. ‘One did not answer each inquiry but responded simultaneously with an echoing litany of languid verbiage, interspersed with “merci, merci, ca va, merci, oiu merci,et vous?”

He concludes that this greeting ritual must have been inherited from North African Arabs whom are the only people he seems to have modicum of respect for throughout the book. Another  misguided  assumption. Despite my efforts to free myself from mental slavery and not reduce Tayler’s’ work to a simplistic black and white racial interpretation of us and them –  I also just couldn’t help it. The book makes it hard for one to go anywhere else.  He does at time try to provide some semblance of objectivity, or balance. In  the final chapter of the book he tries to collect create some context to WHY  Africa is so  “Wretched and miserable”  but his deep seeded Afro-pessimism  prevailed to the very last line:

“Western companies continue to control African export markets, fixing the prices they pay Africans for the commodities they take from their shores. These impersonal facts and figures add up to a bleak but human truth:  Sahelians will suffer in the future more than they do now, and die more than ever. Their imams will tell the survivors whom to blame.”

That’s where the book should have started. But I am grateful to Jeffery Tayler for writing this book – because now I will make it my personal  life’s mission to ensure that there is another account  of Africa, written from a Black African Female perspective….of love, triumph , prosperity and freedom, because there is life in the Sahel – he just didn’t  want to see it

THE HANI MOMENT

Chris Hani

Chris Hani

10 April 2013.   I was 12 and I had just woken up from a bad dream, it was a Saturday so happily I along with my siblings would be staying in at home.   My father had recently installed black and gold iron gates the next step in the fencing off our township home.  Putting a fence around one’s   home was considered then   (as I am sure it still is now in some quarters) as a sign  of prosperity   and increasing wealth. Even though the brick wall around our home was not yet complete, it re-classified us as one of the more affluent families in the Proper Township.

My dream involved our new black gates; something horrible had happened on our drive way or somewhere near though there was no sign of the incident on the red gravel earth.  All I could see in my dream apart from the “eerie” feeling was  the ground.  Street lamps cast yellow light, highlighting menacing tall thin shadows of young men walking as if parallel to the steel rods which made up our golden black gate.

They were just shadows but I could not shake the bad feeling as I walked into the lounge in search of my mother, where I found her  and my father as if frozen in mid-action staring at the television screen as if shocked by electricity.

Noxolo Grootboom our favourite Xhosa news reader was being interviewed a crowd had assembled around her, she must have just woken up, unkept  with a doek (scarf) on her head, she was saying something I couldn’t understand. Then the camera followed the crimson trail leading to someone lying face down his head and body barely covered with red blankets. I am guessing the cameraman must have been equally stunned by the fresh blood trail which seemed to still flow from South African Communist Party Leader Chris Hani’s motionless body.  He was laying face-own-his paved driveway.  A tragic end to what had started off as a perfect  Saturday morning, it was a beautiful day.  Chris Hani in track suits had gone out to buy the paper, which I assume he would have read with a good cup of coffee on a kitchen table – why is there no movie about his life? Then came the cry that  I will never forget ; Tokyo Sexwale’s grief stricken agony reverberated throughout  multiple TV screens  all around South Africa but ever more loudly in my head! Chris Hani was dead, the nation was in morning and I didn’t even know who he was.  I had forgotten all about telling my mother about my bad dream. It had all   become too real.