I was fixing to write something rather frivolous about fashion. With a focus on  the Africa Fashion Exchange held by the KwaZulu Natal Fashion Council last week. I say frivolous because I wanted to make up for being too “heavy” in my content. “When did you last write something light-hearted?’ My sister recently asked me. So I was busy searching for  the funny-lighthearted bone in me when I woke up to the news that New Yorks’ legendary street fashion photographer Bill Cunningham (87) had passed on following a stroke.  I hadn’t met the guy and I have certainly never been photographed by him in my marathon walks around Manhattan dressed in dark suits. No. But something which he said about fashion in an interview struck me, when he was asked why he did what he did: dedicate his life to something as frivolous as street fashion. His answer was something unexpected.

American Street Fashion Photographer, Bill Cunningham with his fans

He said “Fashion is the armour to survive the reality of everyday life. I don’t think you could do away with it, it would be like doing away with civilization”. When I heard these words I thought that he was very deep for a man immersed in frivolity. How could he equate fashion to something as profound as entire civilizations?  Perhaps he was too obsessed with fashion, with fabric and clothes,  I thought to myself. And yet he himself never wore fashionable clothing. He wore a blue over-all /protective work coat over light  Chinos as his daily uniform. Minimalist at best and super boring at worst. But he had an  eye for fashion, he was able to spot trends, fashion-copies, those who pushed the envelope or people who were at the cutting edge of fashion sense. He knew what’s hot, what’s new and what’s old.  Everybody who was anybody including nobodies wanted to be photographed by him. He plucked whole characters and personalities out of obscurity with his photographs. He took fashion so seriously he smiled like a child in a candy store while doing it. He looked like someone who was having a lot of fun and yet he had a deep reverence for his art form which bordered on being religious. He never accepted as much as a plate of food at high society dinners, galas and gatherings. He even brought his own water to drink to avoid being compromised by those seeking to influence or manipulate him into printing their pictures in the  New York Times. He was extremely austere in his dedication to documenting street fashion . He was beyond passionate. He lived in the streets of New York, in search of beauty.

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South African Street Wear, Photographed  by Neo Ntsoma



I have been mulling over his words for years since the very first time I heard them. I have been trying to find a connection to them, a connection to their meaning. How is fashion an armour? What does he mean by this?  Bill Cunningham  was a former soldier who was conscripted to the army and returned changed forever. So perhaps for him it made sense. Military  uniform is  an armour, a camouflage, to hide, to protect, project authority, to blend with the environment, to show rank and file. I understood that, uniforms were meant to be protective and communicate a persons role within that society. But  how about ordinary life? How are our ordinary clothes an armour? How can they help us survive the reality of everyday life?  When the Sapuers (the dandies) of the Congo (DRC and CR) became famous and their pictures began to show in high-gloss magazines and social media, it is then that I began to understand what Bill Cunningham meant.  The Sapuers’ flamboyant dress and committment to style was in many ways a means of escaping the everyday harsh reality of living in countries  crippled by corruption, embezzlement, blood-diamond trading  coupled with oppressive regimes which forced people to live in ways that were not acceptable to them. Fashion became a form of self-expression which seemed other worldly juxtaposed against a back drop of societies in decay.  By dressing as beautifully as their money can allow they were able to rise above their immediate  environment to become the beauty which they seek. So clothes were not just a costume anymore or protective gear against the elements, clothes become the interface between us and the world. So that when he said “Fashion is as vital and as interesting today as ever. I know what people with a more formal attitude mean when they say they’re horrified by what they see on the street. But fashion is doing its job. It’s mirroring exactly our times.”   had no doubt that what he had observed was correct. And this is what South African visual artists and photographer Neo Ntsoma was drawn to when she picked up her camera in the late 90’s to document how the times were changing in South Africa through Fashion.


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Picture by Neo Ntsoma

Speaking at the knowledge sharing session on Fashion and Identity at the Africa Fashion Exchange, Ntsoma says there were only a handful of decent photographs of black people when she started her photographic career in the early 90s. “The only photographs that people would find when the Google ‘South African youth’ were black and white images of the 1976 student uprising” She told an audience of industry insiders. I wanted to see vibrant pictures of my generation, black young people who were changing the status quo and I knew then that I was the best placed to photograph them. That is how I ended up following and documenting the Kwaito movement, I wanted to show black South Africans who were beautiful and doing amazing things.”


Perhaps beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but in many cases we are, have been and continue to be conditioned to find certain things beautiful and others not so much. The images that we see and are shown repeatedly everyday through multiple media platforms are embedded in our minds. So much so that  our eyes can only see certain things/ people/ actions and places as beautiful. So much so that even today, in 2016, I have had to tell my niece who is four years old that being a black girl is beautiful. That cinderella can also be a black girl like her. In many ways the  Fashion industry along with its subsidiaries is responsible for reinforcing those beliefs. The way we groom ourselves, the way we wear our hair, where we purchase our clothes, the make-up we wear, how we value ourselves says a lot about the political climate within which we live. It says a lot of about our shared values, who we are as a people. It speaks to our economies, technological advancement, industrialization, our labour markets, trends, how we trade, what we import and why, our rank in society, the art we make and so on and so forth. It  highlights our deep values and aspirations. It projects our egos, our hopes and dreams, it tells the world who we are, what we are struggling with, what we want to hide or accentuate, what we are ashamed of and what we are proud of. What we can and cannot handle, what is acceptable, what we find comforting. Whether you’re wearing seShweshwe, iBheshu, Izimbatata, if your hair is in dreadlocks,  a pony-tail, Burka, Hijab, a Doek or a Sari. If you bought your earings from a friend or American Swiss. That is a statement you are making about yourself – whether you are aware of it or not and whether you want to make a statement or not.   The clothes you choose to wear today tell a story  about you to those you meet. But clothes are just a facade. They can confirm the value we already feel inside or expose our hidden insecurities. Clothes can reveal our emotional state too, how you dress tells a story about what is going on inside of you or what is not going on inside.  So what story are you going to tell today? You make the clothes so,  choose wisely.


Pictured: South African photographer Neo Ntsoma, fixing singer Simphiwe Danas’ dress.







I know this will sound weird but I get turned on by the oddest things.  But the day I discovered it was real was when I read a book by Turkish writer Orhan Parmuk called My Name is Red. It is perhaps true that I have never reached such levels of ecstatic excitement while reading (or in relationship to a body) anything else before and since. Mind you, My Name is Red is not at all an erotic novel on the contrary. It is mostly but not only about art and discipline and vice versa.

The Guardian newspaper’s Hywel Williams describes it as a philosophical thriller constructed around the clash between two world civilizations, east and west. So I got turned on by something as dry as 15th Century Ottoman art something which I had never showed an interest in before. This experience was quite shocking to me. I was aroused by a book. By words which created images that led me to experience physical sensations in places I had never imagined existed before in my life. Places which in some ways still do not exist. But which I found through the book existed in me already, which is how I could just go there, dive in, and soak in every texture, hue and taste.  It was like getting a gentle beautiful massage on your cerebral Cortex. (Head massages turn me on too, no pun intended).

I was gushing over it the morning after the night before in the office one day when a friend and colleague asked to borrow it.  I gladly gave her the book imagining all the amazing orgasms she would experience as a result. When she said nothing I asked her how it was going with the book a few weeks later and she rolled her eyes and said “argh, I couldn’t get in to it, I found it boring!”

To say I was a little disappointed would be an understatement. My multiple orgasms were to my friend like watching paint dry (to her defence the book is about miniature art/ists so “watching paint dry” was a huge part of the book).

But I had to face the fact that just because this book threw me into the throes of absolute pleasure, caused earthquakes, tsunamis, sunshine, rain and hurricanes whose physical pleasure was so great it was painful – storms which moved me  beyond my wildest dreams, didn’t  mean that  another person would have the exact same experience.  So there was no point in even asking her why, because the person didn’t even bother to continue reading the whole book, there was no time. We could never have a discussion about art, philosophy and history because it was not their cup of tea (at the time), so we talked about something else we had in common instead, something  which was of interest to both of us, work. Since then I have never recommended the book to anyone or spoken about it until now. Incidentally the book which was published in 1998 and translated into English in 2001, contributed to Orhan Parmuk being awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for literature in 2006, so I feel slightly vindicated.

Of course I didn’t just ‘come” on the first page. I had to take my time reading the book, getting to know the characters, the terrain, a lot of it was unfamiliar and completely new to me so I had to exercise a lot  of patience. It was not a specific scene or page that finally lit my fire. It was a gradual process, each turn of the page was like someone gently stoking a fire, blowing hot air on my coals, making them warmer and warmer until they were sizzling hot and boiling over, like hot molten lava. The process was repeated again and again throughout the book until I was left panting with an insatiable desire for more. It was like the  Suns heat penetrating every pore and open crevice in my body and forcing me to voluntarily peel of layers of clothing soaked in sweat. Every part of me yearned to be naked. To be devoured.

I have read hundreds of books since. But this one –left me feeling so high on pleasure and happiness, nothing mattered. Of course the subject matter was not always gay. There was a lot of deception, betrayal, murder, death, witch-hunts etc. I suppose the way the story was told was magical to me. It was like downing a huge glass of Ambrosia!

Other things which have (and can) turned me on include: a voice which when I first heard it sounded as if it came straight from my own heart  and travelled through the other persons’ vocal chords so I could hear it. Like an echo, from someone  whose face I had never seen. It was an incredible sensation to feel so viscerally connected to someone I hadn’t even met.  Listening to said voice felt like my heart was speaking to me. Smiles: the way a smile lights up someone’s face is such a fascination for me, I could stare at people who are smiling all day. It feels like such a miracle to me that people smile and can smile with such ease. I often feel quite awkward about smiling, I end up making faces instead of smiling because I feel less vulnerable that way. So people who can smile effortlessly, they turn me on.  Laughter: Beautiful laughter is erotic for me. I grew up in a family which could laugh the whole night and still wake up laughing, they knew how to laugh with such abandon and lyricism, and they could laugh until they cried which was often. Laughter does something to me when I hear it, and I often laugh too just because people are laughing without even knowing what’s funny. My own laugh sounds rather awkward, worse than when I smile, it sounds forced no matter how genuine it is so sometimes I laugh at the sound of my own laughter. The more I hear it, the more it makes me laugh!  Silence: is attractive to me, someone who is still within themselves, someone who is confident is a huge turn on for me. But not in the arrogant, bullish, I’m the worlds’ greatest Mohammed Ali way, but more in a reserved way for lack of a better word. Someone who is confident without the need to shout about it, gets my juices going. A challenge: if someone says to me you can’t, that turns me on, because then of course I must do it!  But the one thing, one major turn on which is what what made the experience of reading My Name is Red so orgasmic and satisfying is this:  Patience! Oh My God! The word also means: self-restraint. Composure. Equanimity. Kindness. Consideration and understanding.

In other words, Time.

This quality wakes me up anytime. anywhere. All the time. As to the rest, we’ll just have to see how it goes…

PS: Thank you for choosing me!

Pictured: Jedi at the exact moment in time when she realized she wanted to be (with) someone who had all the time in the world to love.Sign is in Afrikaans, English translation: HeLP! MUST MARRY. I’m laughing at myself as you read!







Today I want to talk about a subject close to my heart: Food and why millions of well-fed people are dying of hunger, today. See report here.  Why do we eat what we eat? Ever asked yourself that question? Without thinking about weight loss. Why Burger King and not Chisanyama? Why Mcdonalds instead of Nandos? Why buy food at WoolWorths instead of cooking the food yourself? Why go to the Food Lovers’ market instead of the local farmer’s market or street vendors who sell fresh produce? What influences your choices? Is it the country you live in? Is it the car you drive? Where you live? Where you work? The work that you do? Where you went to school? Hygiene? Time? Social and economic status? What are the set of values which influence your decision making process when you go shopping for food or when you decide on a restaurant to eat at? Is taste the only deciding factor? Service? Money? Personal Preferences, Culture, Tradition, Politics, Comfort or Ease?

Do you ever think about it?

I started to think about these questions more deeply in the process of trying to understand how my mind works. I started to notice specific behavioural patterns induced by varying stages or degrees of hunger in my own life. When I started to pay attention to what hunger does to the physiology of the body, its biological functions – I started to see amazing connections between how those energy systems or energy in motion (emotions) influence how I felt, how those feelings influenced my thoughts, how those thoughts influenced my actions or behaviour which then produced certain outcomes or results. Food then was not simply just stuff I consumed to stay alive, but the kind of food I ate also influenced the quality of the life I led.  The more I searched deeper and deeper I began to discover that what I eat, not only influences my health or what I look like, but most importantly how my thoughts are formed. Access to food influences how I think about myself and the world around me. The food I eat on a daily basis actually directly influences the quality and kinds of thoughts I think every day.

Can you imagine that?

I suppose we all know this. The choices you make when you are hungry are very different to those you make when you are full. The choices you make after you’ve eaten a large burger are different from the ones you make after eating a bowl of fresh greens, simply because the nutritional value is different. The fuel is different. The chemical digestive Process is different.  It’s the difference between drinking water and having a shot of vodka. Not only is food essential for brain function but the type of food we eat can enhance or impair how our brain works, how we think, feel and behave.

So what’s wrong with Bread?

Paying attention to my body (biology) helped me to understand the intricacies of the global food system. While the question of how food systems work or how your plate of food influences labour and the economy is too complex to unravel in one simple blogpost, I thought we should at least start to think about how we acquire the food we eat and what it does to us our bodies and the world we must continue to live in once we‘ve eaten it.

Food like politics makes the world go round.  Whole revolutions have been started by a lack of certain foods. So I decided to enlist the help of a dear friend Brittany Kesselman who is a food systems researcher and founder of Jozi(Un)cooked to help me understand how food systems work outside of my body and how those systems impact on my food choices and ultimately my perspective on life or the quality of my thoughts. Ms K can see all the way down the alphabet when it comes to food, so I thought I should ask once and for all what, if anything is wrong with bread (read food) and what I can do about it.

JediW: What’s wrong with bread?

BrittanyK: Many things are wrong with bread and nothing is wrong with bread. The current dehumanization of bread as the evil food responsible for everyone being overweight and unhealthy I think is a bit unfair to bread. But at the same time bread as we know it today – in the mainstream in the supermarkets is in some ways worthy of that characterization because it is made of highly processed, heavily sprayed with chemicals, industrially produced artificial ingredients that are designed to travel long distances and stay on the shelves for a long time and so they are incredibly unhealthy and are responsible for people being over-weight and under nourished.

This bread is nothing like the daily bread of the past.

JW: Are you suggesting that we do away with bread? People can hardly afford it as it is.

Bk: I’m suggesting that we radically overhaul the food system so that it doesn’t produce bread like that anymore. In fact the consumption of bread as a staple in this country (South Africa) by the majority of the population is only about a 50 or 60 year old phenomena. People didn’t eat bread but in the bad old days (Apartheid/colonial era) there were farmer co-ops they artificially lowered the price of bread and pushed it to become a staple for the underpaid labouring majority who hadn’t been previously eating bread and now when the government just raised the wheat tariff to protect wheat farmers in this country, people worried that it would increase the bread price, in fact only about 30 percent of the price of bread is related to the price of wheat.  Which is odd because if you made bread properly, if you just make it and ate it, about 95 percent of your bread price would be based on wheat.

There’s marketing, transport, packaging, the price of bread is not reflective of the ingredients used to make bread but is reflective of all those other things. The costs are born out of this long distance food systems. If you had someone growing wheat nearby, if you had someone milling wheat nearby and baking bread nearby it wouldn’t have to cost so much.

JW: But there’s a bakery  down the road here  which bakes bread every day and bread there costs twice as much as the standard bread loaves found in mainstream supermarkets?

Their bread is pricey because the current food system favours mass production instead of small scale production. So people receive benefits like access to credit and other things from the government for being large which gives them an unfair advantage and that enables them to have very low prices. But they still have all of these other costs that they then add in that makes the prices go up. If you pay labour a fair price and you grow a quality ingredient then it’s also true that food shouldn’t be super cheap, cheap, cheap. Because farming very is hard work and producing food is hard work and so it does have costs and the costs in some ways are artificially low even though they seem to be too expensive for other people because everyone is unemployed. The reality is if you had the proper cost for food to reflect its actual value – good food – then you’d have to pay more for it. People would have to be paid fairly across the economic chain in order for them to afford good food. It takes cheap food to create cheap labour and none of those things should be cheap.

JW: I’m not sure that many people would want to think about what you’ve just said when deciding on what to eat for lunch?

BK: It’s a lot to think about. But for someone who is struggling to buy that loaf of bread might wish to be aware that it’s not their individual fault that they are struggling to buy that loaf of bread but it’s the system. The system that creates that bread is the very same system that leaves them unemployed or working on a job where they can still not afford to buy bread.  And so at the moment good food costs more than it should but some of it is not that expensive. So a bag of lentils is not expensive but goes a long way in terms of calories and nutrients.  A head of cabbage is not so expensive it goes a long way as well. So someone might need to keep buying that bread and fill up on calories right now but could perhaps mixed it in with more healthy items and then we need to start advocating for changing to the systems so that people can afford good food.

JW: Oh my god lentils, I think they’re so boring!

BK: Lentils are not boring, the entire Indian Sub-continent eats them every day and they taste delicious. I mean is mealie meal exciting food? A great deal of this country according to studies live on plain bread or mealie meal, most of the time. That’s not exciting food either, it’s what people can manage, so if you can manage something else that’s better for you… Lentils are not familiar and the fact is lentils are not indigenous to this region but other beans are and nobody is eating those anymore like Bambara beans? It’s not something you see, those are indigenous to South Africa, what happened to Bambara beans? Millet is indigenous to Africa, why aren’t we eating millet?  The thing is these things can grow more cheaply, wheat is  not indigenous to this region so growing wheat here sometimes involves acquiring more chemicals or more water or more costs compared to growing something more indigenous.

JW: Is paying less for bread the solution? #BreadPriceMustfall

BK:The fact that a small number of corporations – the oligopolies of the world own every stage of the food systems in this country from the fertilizers to the seeds, to the large still white-owned commercial farms to the few dealers and a few retailers, all of those oligopolies are making billions of rands in profit while people can’t afford to eat. And the point of the BreadPricesMustfall campaign is that it’s unfair, unjust if not criminal that they could be making billions, while people can’t afford to eat. It’s not as though they are selling the bread at cost, or close to at cost, they are making literally billions! And I would agree that if you treat food as a human right which is what it is according to the South African constitution other than a commodity then you don’t make it about profit you make it about a public good. But ultimately what we should pay less for is not chemical laden, nutrient poor white bread, we should pay less for good food.

JW: How do you define good food?

BK: Good food is nourishing. Not only to your body biologically but also to your spirit. Good food is food that was not produced through exploiting workers, it was not produced by destroying the planet, it was not produced with chemicals, and it is produced with love in traditional ways that then nourish your body and your community and your planet. And Ideally you will then sit down and enjoy that good food with good people around you, so that it’s actually an entire experience and not something you eat while driving your car or sitting at your desk at work.

JW: I’ve never consciously thought of food as a human right, like water. I’ve always thought that if I want food I must go out and work for it. I’ve never thought that my right to life equates to the right to food? Is that crazy?

BK: In this neoliberal world we’ve come to think of food as something you have to pay for, in many ways water has also become something that we pay for, land is something that we pay for and before we know it air will be something that we pay for. That’s the spread of neo-liberalism, the idea that everything falls under the market place.  But I think we need to take certain key things back out of that market system or at least recognize that they are beyond the market system and food is definitely one of them. Because if you don’t have food you cannot enjoy a single other human right. There’s no point in having a right to vote, or a right to education if you don’t eat because, you’re dead.

JW: Are there healthy food systems in the world we could emulate? How can an individual affect change?

BK: It’s challenging because the oligopolistic industrial system is certainly the main one at the moment globally. To seek to imagine alternatives, sometimes it’s more imagining than seeing, but there are pockets of alternatives that have sprouted up all over the place. And are spreading and give us glimmers of hope and some examples like, in Cuba out of necessity when the Soviet Union fell no longer had support from the communist bloc , they had to make another plan because suddenly there was no  cheap petrol coming in and cheap fertilizers, so they transformed the entire agricultural system.

In Chiapas, Mexico you see more of a solidarity economy, in Malawi to a more agro-ecological approach and also changing gender relations within the food system so that they can produce healthy food by involving both men and women in these tasks, so there are little pockets. You see people occupying land in Brazil, you see people saying no to genetically modified expensive seeds and chemicals opting to use agro-ecological approaches, you see people trying to save heirloom seeds and bring back traditional varieties instead of the few mono-cultures that people tend to grow now. So there are pockets were people are either fighting back or imagining new futures or going back to traditional ways which worked well before.

JW: Does buying Organic Food from Supermarkets help?

BK: Look if you’re buying organic from the shop, yes you’re buying a product that wasn’t sprayed with thousands of chemicals and already that’s an improvement. And you’re also sending a market signal through the retailers to the farmers that there is demand for this type of alternative way of production. But if you’re buying it from the supermarket from one of those few retailers which control the entire retail sector then you’re not exactly striking a blow to the entire economic system behind the food chains. So if you have the option of doing it, it is certainly worth doing, but buying organic won’t change the system.

JW: What more would we need to do?

BK: We need to find alternative means of sourcing our food, we need to get out of the supermarkets if we can and buy from small farmers who get such a small percentage of the price when we buy from supermarkets, but if you can skip the supermarket and the other middlemen and purchase your food directly from farmers we can both negotiate a fair price. We can also communicate directly with the farmers about what we want and the types of food they can grow, so it gives the producer and the consumer more control.

JW: But wouldn’t that be inconvenient?

BK:Maybe, but it has become inconvenient because our entire systems of living have changed. In many parts of the world both in the north and the south there are weekly if not daily famers markets, people go and buy fresh things and they buy them because they are good. Why don’t we have that?

 JW: How effective are food gardens in changing the system?

BK:On the one hand they don’t have a big impact in terms of how much food they are able to produce. It’s not likely that the city will be able to feed itself ever.  But on the other hand they have a very big impact first because they reconnect people to their food. Remember there are children who don’t even know where their food comes from or that a vegetable grows from the ground and that’s extraordinary. When people in the community are growing different food they can start to trade it, they can start to share it and they begin to step out of the main economy as well. We can re-establish those community bonds over food which the supermarket takes away from us.

JW: Isn’t that like going backwards? Isn’t that old and boring, haven’t we evolved from that?

I think the modernist notion of progress is something that is questionable. It’s only the neoliberalist system that has convinced us that living an individualistic, career cantered life is of value. Many of the values that may have been lost along the way are certainly worth reviving and preserving.

JW: But Why though? I think some people might aspire to one day being able to afford Burger King…

Brittany K: And once they are able to afford Burger King they will find that they are not any happier! Once they can afford Burger KING and KFC they will still not be any happier. But they will have a higher chance of getting a heart attack or a stroke or Diabetes of Hypertension. The singular focus on wealth as the path to happiness is ridiculous, because it minimizes all of our other elements as human beings and we’re multidimensional creatures if we put all our focus on one dimension we will never be happy. It’s not as if there is a lower incidents of depression amongst the wealthy. That’s just strictly not true.

JW: So would baking your own bread be a solution to the current nutrient deficient bread sold at supermarkets?

BK:Your questions don’t have easy answers. In some ways yes, of course it would. Baking bread is extremely therapeutic you knead the bread and it’s like giving yourself a massage! But if you have to buy the mainstream bread of that flour to make that bread, it’s not significantly radical and in our rushed time pressed world people will find that they don’t have time to bake bread or don’t want to make time to bake bread. But if you start to break bread, if you find it therapeutic then you might look for better alternatives to the flour, find someone who is producing or selling such a thing and in another way then you’re getting out of the main stream and finding another way and you might find yourself baking more bread and sharing it with your neighbours. And then yes the might be a change.

JW: So the problem with bread is the flour?

BK:The problem with bread is the ten things I’ve said before. Certainly, flour is sprayed with chemicals and refined  to  no longer resemble the wheat that it once was in any way shape or form, our bodies don’t even recognize that it’s a food by the time it get into our system. There’s nothing so wrong with Wheat per se, human beings have consumed wheat for about ten thousand years but by the time it becomes that white flour in the supermarket it’s not food anymore.

JW: So are you saying that there’s not nutritional value whatsoever in the bread we buy at super markets even though they say it’s got added vitamins?

BKRaj Patel gives an amazing talk about poverty and added vitamins. Taking all of the nutrients out of an ingredient that originally had them because it looks better and lasts longer better and then pumping all the vitamins at the end is the ultimate capitalist way to approach food. Whereas using the fresh ingredient in its natural state with its original nutrients and then consuming it fairly quickly meaning there’s no shipping or transportation costs would be a better approach. But multinationals don’t benefit from that.

JW: So if I stopped buying from them would that change anything?

BK:Having worker owned co-operatives is certainly a solution. Places like Brazil and Argentina they have a lot of worker own co-operatives which tend to have more than just a profit motive, they have other social objectives to their businesses and they of course would want to make enough money to benefit those who participate from it but they care about their communities as well. Because they understand that they are embedded in those communities. So I cannot just say walk away from your job to those people who need that job but those who are in a position to look into alternatives and eventually create jobs from them should certainly do so.

Brittany Kesselman is a food systems researcher and founder of JoziUncooked, Johannesburg’s first raw food company. You can visit her website at JoziUncooked.com

*pictured: Bread-seller turned model, Olajumoke. credit: cnn.
















There are secrets between us. Stories that our mothers could never share at bedtime, because they were too humiliating to bare. Too hurtful to fathom. They had to keep it together, so that our hopeful eyes could not see the shame inscribed in their souls, their beings.  Simply because they were born into wrong bodies. Plump, soft, curvaceous, al dente. Strong, carved, angular, long smooth and a little rough around the edges, just for control. There are huge, gaping holes in our heads, blurry, greying bits in our collective memories.  Stories that don’t fit together. Facts that lie.  Truths which hurt. Too much. A labyrinth. Of unspoken loses, tragedies, murders, wails and screams weaved and sewn together in the coils of our hair and stirred into our morning porridge. So that we can, with all the hope we can master get on with the business of living. Of putting one foot in front of the other. Of navigating the hurdles, the rocks and blockages on the way to a better life for all.

But sometimes despite our greatest efforts to tell the good story of triumph. Sometimes despite our valiant efforts to conceal our deepest hurts, our source of shame, the reason we live, love and lay awake at night. These stories come out. Unexpectedly, they unfurl like a long ribbon around us, spinning another web, a different story, carved in soft contours with no sharp edges or straight lines. They come, out of context. As if irrelevant, somehow, to current debates. And like bullets coming out of now, here, or nowhere, we are surprised by them. Shocked. Confused.


South African writer and educator Sindiwe Magona (71) told the story of how she came to writing books to an audience that had come to see her including poet Keorapetse Kgositsile and Ghanaian writer Ama ata Aidoo during the Africa Month Colloquium hosted by the South African Department of Arts and culture last month.  She surmised from her experience as a Xhosa language teacher at the privately owned prestigious Herchel Girls High school in Cape Town that black South Africans credit white South Africans with too much (knowledge), while white South Africans are completely ignorant about black lives (current and historical). She told a story of an incident that bared this truth. It was during a break in the staff room when these words came out of her mouth in conversation with other staff members. “There’s no electricity in my house, there’s no electricity in Gugulethu”. She says what followed was shocked silence, you could hear a pin drop, because it was inconceivable to her white colleagues (and her current audience) at the time that she did not have electricity in her house in the 1980s! Meanwhile it was  just as inconceivable, if completely unbelievable for Magona that her white colleagues did not know that she, along with millions of other black people living in black townships including Gugulethu did not have electricity in 1980!  I mean really what’s going on here?

Indaba My Children

Without making apologies for anyone, Magona continued to elaborate on this seminal experience in her life, describing how shocked she was that white people could be so ignorant about black lives. She also explained that people who looked like her (black people) perceived white South Africans in only one way. They were: “White – obviously, Rich- obviously and Happy- obviously!!” According to black people white people had no reason to be unhappy because they reasoned amongst themselves “what reason have you to be unhappy when you don’t carry a Dompass?” As if happiness arose from not having to carry a Dompass.  Then, she says something happened after that moment had passed. “So I started to think that you know we credit white South Africans with too much, because they made the laws we thought they knew everything, well they didn’t. Just as we didn’t know everything, who does?  The more I got out of my particular ghetto and made friends and acquaintances and relationships off all kinds across the defined and delineated areas, it began to dawn on me how little we knew of one another in this country. And there’s no hope of ever changing anything as long as there is this yawning divide of utter lack of understanding and knowing. Unfortunately 22 years later we’re still very much there, although there are now no laws to stop us we still live very much as though we live under Apartheid.”

“When you see how we are perceived and how cheap labour lives and then you read history books and books on anthropology.  It dawned on me that those of us who can string together two or five sentences ought to write about who we were, how we were, where we were. I don’t write to threaten and unseat any great writer. I write the so that the story of my life, our lives, can also be heard from my point of view from my perspective. I write to leave footprints.”


So that when South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoane-Mashabane, told the world about a hole on her head caused by carrying a water-can when she was nine years old,  during an Aljazeera interview. A pin dropped. The interviewer, South African-born Jane Dutton was shocked! She did not know this about her fellow South African sister.  Dutton, trying to recuperate asked the minister how her response was relevant to the question of the EFF being thrown out of parliament and if the  distinctions she was making about their different life experiences were relevant.  Nkoane-Mashabane insisted that, yes, they were. Relevant.

But Dutton could not see how. She could not hear. Her brain could not connect the dots between the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) being thrown out of parliament and a woman (or a girl) being forced by circumstances outside of her control to carry a water-can on her head in South Africa today. Because it is the EFF which says in its own policy documents that: “The state, at all levels, should have the obligation to provide sanitation wherever people reside. This is a fundamental human right, which should lead to the abolishment of bucket and pit toilets.”

Had Dutton “known” perhaps that people (blacks, South African, labour) still carried water-cans on their heads today, that indeed people still used pit toilets, in areas such as Kliptown in urban Soweto (something which the EFF is presumably/ostensibly fighting for) today –  right now – then she could have followed up with sterling questions and conducted a superbly informed interview.  Relevance would not be a question.  It is not Nkoane-Mashabane’s fault (and I’m sure she and her political party have many) that Jane Dutton , a senior-anchor on Aljazeera did not do her homework.


PS: Even Ama ata Aido was shocked! To discover that young students at Rhodes University did not know who Lewis Nkosi was.  And I in turn was shocked! to learn that young students (who look like me) do not know who Jan van Riebeck was. Today, in 2016.