Every Day is Tea Time in Senegal

tea making time
tea making time

Tea time in Senegal is not quite the rushed job we 21st century on the run career focused, busy, busy all the time people are used to.  It’s not just about boiling water and a tea bag and a rushed gulp on the run while chasing a deadline or making it on time to that very important urgent meeting in town.  The first time I drank Senegalese tea was last year in January 2012, while on a sudden pilgrimage to the holy city of Touba.  The Magal (Commemoration) of Touba is an annual pilgrimage observed by half a million followers, disciples and devotees ofCheikAhmadouBamba (exiled Senegalese Revolutionary, Spiritual leader, similar to Ghandi of India, Martin Luther King of the USA, and Mandela of South Africa).   Mouridms, which I hope to later, write about when I have learnt more about the religion, put simply is based on orthodox Islam and Sunni Islam.   I had decided the day before to go and experience it and since I was in the country for a holiday, embarking on a spontaneous pilgrimage did not seem at all out of the ordinary. For me it was an adventure, an opportunity to experience an element of the city that turned out to be one of the very important aspects of Senegalese life, as important as the art of making tea.  It had been a long and hard dayof negotiating thousands upon thousands of bodies who walked, shuffledand pushed ahead in a one way, two way straight lines to the Main Mosque and its surrounding holy buildings. I was told by my guide and many others that not many people make it to Touba, and getting there is considered a positive sign that one has a good heart, or that your heart is in the right place.  After losing my guide amongst the throngs of people pushing and shoving against each other and eventually making it to the main mosque, where we walked barefoot on the hot marble floor I was not quite sure what the whole fuss was still about. After my guide went to pray, we ventured to the holy city’s vast library which was of more interest to me. However by the time we got there it was so hot and crowded that I was barely able to see a single book or Holy Scripture on display.  Fatigued, parched and in semi delirium we decided to rest under the cool shade of the library grounds.  Not having been on a pilgrim before I didn’t understand the force and passion with which people shoved and pushed their way through as if trying to make it through the pearly gates of heaven, I was grateful for a moment of peaceful contemplation.

On our way back to our compound, I had a very interesting encounter with what I call the Islam police for lack of a better word.  I was wearing pants( Allandin style)  and though my guide had assured me that it would be perfectly  fine and acceptable  to wear them to Touba,  we soon found that I would have to be detained and forced to pay a fine, and wear something more appropriate.  It really felt like I was playing a role in some ancient epic however the sharp sound of lashes against painful whimpers meted out to others found dressed inappropriately, or breaking a code of ethics according to Muslim (sharia) law brought me back to the seriousness of my situation. After what felt like years, I was released and had to change right there and then into a huge canvas which I wrapped around my body. They would confiscate my pants, my one and only and favourite pair, so we negotiated until I got them back and we were well on our way to our campsite.  We found our meal ready to be eaten – I was famished – after a tiny nap, it was time for tea.  I looked at the whole set up with interest; a small coal-fired stove, small shot glasses, sugar, mint, water, Chinese green tea and a group of friends.  It was time to make tea. I was too tired to  pay focused attention on how they made it,  but what did catch my attention was the  constant pouring of the tea from one small glass cup to another, the waiting, the pouring, the shaking , the tasting  and then eventually the tea, came in a small cup. I was puzzled by all the effort just to make one shot of bitter-sweet tea. In reality it does not take that long to make but for one who is unaccustomed to its ritual nature, it can feel like forever.

After that experience of tea drinking in to Touba I began to notice mostly men and women making tea around the city of Dakar.  If, like me in the beginning you are not living with a Senegalese family, it can be easy to miss this essential part of Senegalese life.  My guide, who soon became a close friend, invited me to tea on Sunday at his home and it soon became a habit of visiting him for tea.  I would watch him with keen interest while he made cup after cup, distributing it to me and other tea drinkers in the house in order of seniority.  I never once tried to make it, still thinking it was a lot of effort for such a tiny cup.  Then one day after having moved in with a Senegalese family through a local journalist I met while covering the pre-election violence I decided to try to make it.  It looked simple enough.  The journalist friend, who is now my partner,was the tea maker in the family, which meant that his tea was the best, and he did it with such ease I was sure I could make it too.  My first lesson began with him, in the comfort of his room which smelled of perfume and Senegalese incense, and Luciano – his favourite reggae singer singing in the background.

adding sugar to the mix
adding sugar to the mix

 

 

 

First you need to prepare the fire on the small portablebrazier using charcoal. A task which seems easy but actually making a fire in a small brazier does take some practice, especially when one is used to just flicking a switch to boil water. Then when the fire is ready, you should already have your tea, water, sugar and mint if you want to make the tea more fragrant ready – preparation is key.  Pour a full shot glass of tea into the teapot and bring it to boil slowly over time until the tea leaves open and create a thick-seaweed looking substance.  After about 20 or so minutes of checking in, pouring a little water here and then, it’s time to put in the sugar, and it can vary depending on your taste. Senegalese use a lot of sugar in their tea.  Shake the teapot mixing it together and leave to boil. After another ten minutes or so, taste the tea, if it needs more water or sugar then you add a little more ofwhatever is needed and then leave it to boil again. After some time or after the sugar has completely dissolved into the liquidtaste it again. If the taste is suitable, pour the tea into one glass and thenbegin makingthe foam.  Pouring tea alternately into each cup until there’s enough foam in both glasses, about half the glass.  After you are satisfied with the foam, pour the tea back into the tea pot and leave it to heat up again, while cleaning the glasses to make sure they are not sticky to the touch and the foam is not tampered with.  When it’s done the tea is ready to be served, two glasses at a time, each person has a glass to themselves. The foam making procedure will have to be repeated if there are more people around. And that is just the first round; the same process of making tea is repeated three times.  Others often stop at two rounds  either because of time, a shortage of ingredients or laziness (being tired)  but the general rule is three cups per person, which can make tea time a whole afternoon event. The practiced hand can make three rounds of tea in an hour, a less practiced hand like mine well… I just stop at two. Typically tea is served or made around three o’clock in the afternoon, usually after lunch.   The first round is usually stronger, and the tea gets lighter with the second, third or fourth round. Even then there’s always room for improvement, there is always a second, third or fourth chance and then still tomorrow is another day.

 

making the foam
making the foam

The first time I learnt how to make tea; I wanted to do it alone by myself. I pulled such a sweat and I don’t sweat easily, I was sure I would never be able to master the art.  It was clumsy, awkward more than anything very uncomfortable.  My hands were charred from making the fire, and the heat of the liquid from making the foam, there was sugar, tea leaves everywhere, the glasses were sticky, my state of mind was just as messy: I was really anxious, frustrated and apprehensive that even after I had been pouring and pouring tea from one cup to another I did not end up with foam on both cups, the tea had made its way to the floor.  More over my hands and arms were trembling and becoming numb from the hand motions of pouring teal from one cup to another – it was a mess. I made tea three times in a span of two months and literally gave up on making tea after it took me the whole afternoon and the better part of the evening to get it together. It was hard labour for me.

It was really an incredible thing for me to realize that I struggled with something that seemed so simple and effortless for others to do.  I left Senegal in May of 2012 thinking that at least I had tried to make tea and would  make it for friends and family back home, show-off  the new skill I had acquired even though I was still not confident in my ability to make it. Back home the usual anxiety of being back got a hold of me and even though I sometimes thought of making tea, I dismissed the idea using all manner of excuses. I convinced myself that I even if I wanted to, I could not since I did not have the things I needed like shot glasses and even incredibly the small brazier to make the tea, even though it was perfectly possible to do it on an electric stove and there was never a shortage of shot glasses in South Africa.  But in retrospect I think the truth was, I was afraid of failing, of trying to show off my new skill and then embarrassing myself because I was not quite good at it, so I never once tried.  I did speak about “being able to do it” though.

I have been making tea again since my return to Senegal this year.   This time I started off as one who actually does not know how to make tea and allowed another new friend to show (teach) me how to do it.   The lessons I had learned the first time around came back and I realized the fundamental truth about life that I had chosen to ignore. That in order for me to improve my tea making abilities, I have to practice making tea every day.    This tea making for me says a lot more about ones’ state of mind than the actual tea itself. The texture, the taste, the consistency the thickness of the foam speaks volumes about where your mind or heart is at while you make the tea.  I found myself focusing on making the perfect foam because it looks aesthetically pleasing while neglecting the substance, which is the tea itself.  So sometimes the tea would be too sweet, too bitter or too weak depending on the state of my three Ps and an F;Patience, Persistence, Positive thinking and Focus. When I worry or am anxious about something while making tea it will show up in the end result in the cup.  Also with this kind of tea making, since you’re making it for others, you get immediate feedback – it’s okay, it’s good, it’s great, no comment. Then I found a new area of focus or worry other than making the tea. Do they like my tea? Is it good enough or bad and getting discouraged or encouraged depending on what people say.  I have found myself not wanting to make tea because I fear people won’t think it’s good and if the tea is not good, it means the tea maker is not good either. So I judge and condemn myself on other peoples’ opinions be they true or false, looking for praise, affection, applause and an award for my labored efforts and not finding it, I stop myself from continuing to learn and to grow, because I don’t make tea like someone who has been making tea every day since they were ten years old.  It’s more than fool hardy to do this to myself.  A recipe for failure if there was ever one.  Perhaps this has been the lesson I needed to learn, that contrary to what I have convinced myself to believe; In order for me to do something well, I have to be willing to do it badly. So if I am not willing to fail when trying something new or learning a new skill, I will never learn anything new, because we all learn by doing, repeating the same thing every day, seeking counsel from others who have done it before, until we know how to do it well and that Failure – that thing I fear with all my heart – is an essential and almost unavoidable element of success.

When I am not focused on the task at hand, when I am thinking about what I should have, could have been doing,  if I’m day dreaming, in a hurry to go somewhere, am unhappy or angry about something and allowing those emotions to take over –  I won’t make good tea. As the tea maker you know if you have been focused or not.   So more than anything tea making is a form of meditation, of mastering the mind and its propensity to make anything and everything else more important than the task at hand the now moment.  In other words there are many ways to pray in this world, in Senegal many pray five times a day, kneeling to face their true north in open and unashamed acknowledgment that they are not GOD, others make tea, others build, make clothes, sing,shop keep you name it, it’s not really important what you do as long as whatever you do is done as a prayer, worshipping the creator by serving others. It does not matter how fast or much of it you do, it’s the quality that’s important, and quality can only be determined or improved with daily practice, patience, persistence dedication, positive thinking  and focus. Virtues, that money whether you have it or not, can never buy. How’s that for a cup of tea?

The end product
The end product

 

Advertisements

FED … UP

The fire is till burning
The fire is till burning

26 Saturday January 2013; The Fed Up youth movement of Senegal or Y’en a marre celebrated its one year anniversary last week with a press briefing auditing some of the promises made by Senegal’s new president MackySall.  Their audit however was not nearly as controversial as the current National Audit instituted by President MackySall on all former government officials and ministers who served under former President AbdoulayeWade’s government.  Assertions by one of the outspoken youth movement leaders that the basic cost of living in Senegal (Dakar especially) has not only remained high but is increasing at a very fast rate, were met with emphatic nods from journalists in attendance.  During his 2012 presidential campaign President MackySall promised that he would immediately reduce the cost of basic foods such as oil, rice, sugar, gas and electricity and so forth once he assumed power.    He called a meeting with retailers, suppliers and merchants in the country within the second or third week of his presidency in 2012, which increased confidence levels in him as he was seen to be genuinely trying to do something to fulfill his many promises.  He found himself already stuck between a rock and a hard place. Rice, Oil, Sugar are all imported basic foods, never mind gas and the rolling electricity problem whose infrastructure  has not been upgraded since Abdou Diof’s Presidency more than 20 years ago. Abdoulaye Wade during his presidency did make attempts at attending to the large electricity   infrastructure problem in the country, assigning the problem  the problem to his son Karim Wade to sort out. But even for Wade  the dream and promise of honour  and glory at the end of a very long and hard political career, equivalent if not higher that the statue of Liberty took hold and infrastructure investments in the country changed  from upgrading public infrastructure for the greater good to investments glorifying  Abdoulaye Wade. During the turbulent pre-election period in Senegal, people’s anger against Wade was reminiscent of a beautiful and long love affair gone bitter-sweet.  “We could have erected a more splendid monument for former President Abdoulaye Wade, in honour of his vast contribution to the development of this country, he would have been honoured and revered throughout Senegal, but he went and built it himself and forgot about us poor people” On trader remarked last year during last year’s almost daily protests in downtown Dakar ahead of the elections.

Abdoulaye Wade in the end used Art to cement his legacy and turn some of his biggest fans against him. The Rennaisance Monument, it’s forward looking Idealism, embodied in the bodies of the nuclear family greeting new arrivals in the city does not mirror the country’s’  lived values  by the majority of its Muslim citizens.  But Art is Art and Senegalese respect the Arts.    And I am quite fond of this work of Art by one of the female protestors, demonstrating in real terms what they mean by the cost of living being too high.

 

Life is expensive
Life is expensive

Detractors of the Senegalese Fed Up youth movement, formed in January last year in protest against former President Abdoulaye Wade standing for presidential elections for a  third term,  say the group of MC’s Rappers and Musicians really just took advantage of a political gap to sell their records, make money and gain free and unprecedented  publicity for their work.   I am a still dancing to one of their catch phrase songs – Gurgi Na dem” which was sung by all and sundry.  The song echoed a sentiment shared by many Senegalese that it was time for 84 year Old Abdoulaye Wade to make way for a younger leader to come into power.

Make no mistake,  Abdoulaye Wade  is a visionary much like  former South African President Thabo Mbeki who both hoped that they would be in the forefront of realizing that dream held by so many of Africa’s Brightest stars and Leaders, a United Africa, moving to was peace love and prosperity.  Mbeki Mbeki hope to realize this through  in his New Plan For Africa’s development NEPAD, Abdoulaye Wade also had a similar plan for Africa’s development, but seemingly both could not work together to make that possible, even though both countries have more in common than meets the eye.

MackySall is still a very strategic man, turning attention away from the more complex problems of high food prices and the tensions in the Casamance region in the North; he institutes   a national Audit into former government officials and ministers, investigating corruption in all government departments.  But his plan at grabbing the tempting low hanging fruit of justice could soon turn against him.   Abdoulaye Wade’s party  PDS (Senegalese democratic party) has written to the regional body ECOWAS complaining that the country’s Justice System was unfairly targeting  government officials and ministers who  are close to Wade in the national audit, while Macky Sall and his friends, who have all held positions under Abdoulaye  Wade Government have been so far exempted from investigations. Politicians and citizens are in agreement, an audit into the country’s public administration departments is necessary.  “ But all former government officials and ministers without exception should be investigated including President Macky Sall and his allies who all served under Abdoulaye Wade’s government” said one senior political journalist in the country.   ECOWAS has agreed to looking into the issue, though, this does not meet that the audit will be suspedent while Ecowas does its work.  Already Abdoulaye Wade’s Son has already endured three days of back to back interrogation into his financial conduct while he was in government and however noble his intentions are Macky Sall’s National audit risks being seen as just another  political revenge tactic which has nothing to do with solving the country’s many problems.  Sall was expelled from Abdoulaye Wade’s PDS Party in 2008 after he called Karim Wade to account for over spending in parliament.

Fed Up youth movement taking interviews  after  protest in 2012
Fed Up youth movement taking interviews after protest in 2012

 

For its  part Yan’nemmar  says it is encouraged the international networks it was able to build in the last year, and is looking forward to making yan’ammmer a sustainable movement which will continue to speak truth to power and mobilize and call  the youth the  action where necessary. Youth unemployment was one of their concerns during the elections, and just a walk through down-town Dark one can see an increase in street merchants trading everything from shoes, clothing, books, art and crafts, second had high fashion, Senegalese’s fashion, sunglasses underwear, belts, shoes, coffee (nescafe), coffe ( Touba), water, tea , tooth brushes, it’s like downtown Jozi on a Bigger scale.  At the same time, there’s been an increase in cars on Dakar’s already busy streets,  huge expensive  land  Ravers  the kind of luxury cars I see on TV  are  becoming common sights  in Senegal, so are the number of street children who rush to the cars with begging bowls asking and  demanding money from their richer fellows.  A sight which makes it impossible to deny that there is growth and development in the country or that poverty is increasing in the number of beggars everywhere.  Two sides of the same coin. It’s a life’s philosophy that is made so clear and palpable in almost every aspect of Senegalese life, which reminds me, it’s time for tea, that bitter-sweet liquid that is an essential part of the fabric of Senegalese life.

WHATSART.

Mali Money Mali Money….. MALI!

Malians Demonstrate outside RTS ( Senegals National broadcaster)
Malians Demonstrate outside RTS ( Senegals National broadcaster) 2012

Friday  18 January 2013.

Mali made headline news in Senegal this week; at least one would think so from the news on  news channels in the country. The Malian Crisis which started in earnest in 2012 intensified this week  leading to an announcement by its parental country, France that they will be sending troops to  the embattled country as a matter of urgency, in a couple of days in fact.  French officials  said the situation in Mali is now completely unacceptable in a speech he gave to a seemingly disinterested audience at the United Nations (Security Council meeting).  Close to 2000 french troops are now in Mali  after initial air  strikes to diffuse the threat by jihadists attacked,  the BBC reports today that Islamist fighters  have withdrawn from two towns in central Mali.   A year ago (2012) France was just as passionate and unwavering in its position not to intervene in the Malian crisis as they have recently proclaimed regarding the current crisis in Central Africa.  There,   calls by the government and it’s citizenry to France “Our brother, mother” to intervene were met with a stern no!  France would not be sending troops to Central Africa to help its government diffuse the encroaching terror of the rebel groups () which is taking over the country. Even though France has troops deployed in Central Africa, they are only there to protect their own interests, they announced to the media.

So now with France agreeing to send troops to Mali, one has to wonder what has changed.  France clearly has interests in Mali which are now being threatened hence the announcement to send troops there. To an untrained eye, France had every reason to intervene in Mali last year;  when the army which deposed then President Amdou Tumani Toure, was losing the battle  against the Taureg fighters  who have now taken control of key towns and cities including the historic town of Timbaktu in the Northern parts of the country declaring the north an Independent Azaawad state governed by strict Muslim Sharia law.  Fighting ensued between the break-away army groups led by Captain Amadou Sanogo – they wanted a new leader, whom they hoped would be decisive in augmenting more fire power to the  country’s army to defend its sovereignty.  Captain Sanogo announced that though they were willing to defend the country from the Taureg Rebel groups they had no ammunition to do so successfully. They were losing men in battle.  TFM, the second largest media group in Senegal, screened a mini-documentary by the television station’s chief editor Bacar Ba this week.  The film showed images of a new group of armed Jihadists saying they are fighting against French Imperialism in Mali.   The film was followed by a panel discussion which discussed some  of the issues at play in Mali.  What is the role of France, Islam,  and the Arab influence in the country, the role of ECOWAS including the role of Senegal is in the whole debacle.   Mali and Senegal as we say in isiZulu “Abantwana boMontu “(they are of the same parent: France) and before they were granted their independence circa 1960,   they lived together as a unit under the Malian Federation.

So if anything, Senegal has more of an interest in restoring peace to its sister country which it borders to the east.  However, Senegal has not pronounced much on what action it’s taking to assist in the unfolding crisis, Blasé Campoare Burkina Faso’s president has been playing a central role in peace negotiations there.  In reality, Senegal has sent more troops that any other country within Ecowas,  ( 500 according to news reports here) panelist during the discussion also agreed that Senegal was key in stabilizing the crisis Liberia and in fact too many other countries on the continent including the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Senegal it would seem has also adopted the policy of quiet diplomacy which one hopes will have better results than that of South Africa and Zimbabwe.

In other news that have left me feeling a little cold; the airwaves are abuzz in Senegal following South Africas refusal to grant 10 Senegalese  journalists visas to travel to South Africa for the African Cup Of Nations (AFCON)  which opens tomorrow. I am saddened by their refusal. Football is important in Senegal, much like the desert needs the rain,  let alone the strained foreign relations that will happen as a result. South Africans  will in the future now require Visas to come into Senegal ( reports say from, July ) something which they never required before. One hopes for the sake of  Africa that the issue will be resolved without any permanent damage.

ON AIR!

FOR YOU: A Blank Cheque for the NEW YEAR…

Johannesburg. South Africa
Johannesburg. South Africa

27 Thursday, Johannesburg South Africa.  It’s almost past 6pm, on the 8th floor of the building I work in, the sun comes out casting a bright light across the Johannesburg Sky. It’s one of those things I love about the city of my birth Johannesburg.  As if it never rained. The clouds part revealing luscious green trees framing the brown structures – washed clean from the rain. Purple Jacaranda trees litter the horizon with their purple haze.   It is beautiful here.

All the more reason for us as we move to the new year to resolve to preserve and conserve what we have.  Yes I am a romantic. But I do believe in the triumph of the human spirit, both individually and collectively.

So for you, Johannesburg, South Africa, My country men, here’s  blank cheque for the New Year.

A chance to start over, to believe again, love again, forgive again, trust again, dream again, and care again.

And we can do that, like our ancestors did, collectively they believed in a brighter future – an equal society – they fought long and hard, and even though some days were so dark they couldn’t see the horizon they still believed – they still hoped, they still loved, they still forgave.

Yes 2012 has been hard for us as all :country, a continent and the world. We have another chance in the New Year, to collectively stand up for what we believe in. Stand up for the rights of every one, from the smallest and weakest. That is is where our collective strength is.  United we stand, divided we fall.

I stand with you.

” Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that Generation”.- Nelson Mandela.

Peace and love

 

Happy New Year!

 

 

 

“WE NEED TO TALK” : Of Rape and Rhinos

The Horn (to end Rhino Poaching in South Africa)
The Horn (to end Rhino Poaching in South Africa)

24 Monday, December, 2012.  Johannesburg South Africa.  As I slowly stretched awake for yet another day of work ( do we really have to go? my body complains, yes we do baby, I say. )  my hand automatically reaches for the remote; my thumb knows the drill and it goes searching for the news channels, on the Beeb/ BBC is The Queen in all her Motherly splendor  wishing her subjects well during the festive season. Ah!  now she  has  had a great year!  Celebrations kicked off in earlier in 2011 with the wedding  of Prince William and Kate  Middleton ( ala Prince Charles and Diana 30 years ago) .  This year 2012,  the Queen became only the second British Monarch to celebrate a Diamond Jubilee.  The Royal  Diamond Jubilees  celebrate milestones in a Monarch’s reign. The Queen isn’t the only British Monarch to celebrate a Jubilee, George III and Queen Victoria both celebrated Jubilees during their reigns.  Her Diamond Jubilee saw London stop with much fan fare , what with  various  members of the Royal Family crisscrossing across the commonwealth:

“The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 54 countries that “support” each other and work together towards  shared goals in democracy and development.   “the commonwealth” is home to two billion citizens of all faiths  and ethnicity  and includes some of the world’s largest, smallest, richest and poorest countries. Over half of its citizens are 25 or under.  Member countries come from six regions: Please do Take Note : Africa (19); Asia (8); the Americas (3); the Caribbean (10); Europe (3); and the South Pacific (11).

Most recent members are: Rwanda – admitted at the 2009 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting; Cameroon; and Mozambique – the first country with no historical or administrative association to the Commonwealth to join.”

British Royals paid visits to each of these voluntary member states conferring the message of the queen (“Thank you for your Services, mineral resources, human capital, your souls).  She really does rule the world.  The Olympics went splendidly for the British Isles she said looking rather pale in a white/silver dress matching hair and make-up and black shoes. She was recording her annual Christmas message, in 3D this time, why not? The pope recently joined Twitter. Oh and she’s expecting a grandchild! Such great news for the Royal family.    This year though, with all this Jubilation going on she couldn’t help herself, attending a cabinet meeting at number 10 Downing street something which hasn’t happened in  over a century!  She’s coming out to play.  And so did some of  the Queens Colonies.  South African President Jacob Zuma was equally Jubilant this year so much to celebrate where shall we start; He got married again this year! One of his sons also tied a knot ;  how lovely! Oh and  his 70th Birthday was  A huge Bash! The ANC celebrated 100 years of its  existence — Jubilation all round, so many parties and so little time! God Must have really smiled on the Zuma family because this year they found more than 200million rands to upgrade their Nkandla  Residence with state of the art security lifts, bunkers, ever-green grass, and a private road to the  their homestead also known as the Presidents  Private Residence.  And then he slaughtered a few prized cows – The Prized Nguni Cow – the best in the world — to ask for more luck from his ancestors ahead of the ANC’s elective conference – and God Smiled at him again. He was re-elected President of the  African National Congress – by majority rule! God does give good gifts indeed.  Our president was having a lot of fun and I wished he could have at least spared a thought for the residents of Lenasia whose homes were razed to the ground two months ago… 80 homes bulldozed: He could have as a good gesture ask his family to at least give them a homes as gifts for Christmas? How about the widows and children of the Men killed in the Marikana Massacre by police for demanding better wages? They could have used a free education? Maybe homes etc as Christmas gifts?  Wine Farm-workers in the Western Cape? Could he have just increased their pay from 50 rand a day to like 200 hundred just for fun? Don’t they deserve a little gift from God?

A woman trying to stop her  house from being Demolished in Lenasia, South of Johannesburg
A woman trying to stop her house from being Demolished in Lenasia, South of Johannesburg

The queen for her part has a penchant for silly extravagance too … why record your message in  3D?  The death of the Australian nurse who shared information about Kate’s pregnancy has almost been forgotten  ” she was stupid” says many royal watchers /fans/ supporters and cynics who followed the story. The nurses’  death was first reported as a mystery then evidence emerged that she had hanged herself.  However tragic I wonder if she was mentioned in Queens Jubilant speech. Skynews – Kate and William break from tradition and celebrate Xmas at Kate’s family home. Ho! ho! ho!.   My thumb moves to Aljazeera there’s a debate about Rape in India! Still ?!!my mind wonders. “Protests over a recent gang rape quickly gained force over the weekend, tapping into longstanding fury against entrenched corruption and lopsided justice, and leading to clashes with the police. ” Reports NDTV.

“Seven days of demonstrations peaked Sunday, as thousands of people joined women’s and students’ groups despite a hastily enacted ban on protesting in New Delhi. The crowds taunted the police and attacked the car of a member of Parliament. The police, in turn, fired tear gas and water cannons, beat protesters with bamboo sticks and arrested dozens.”

Lets compare India’s rape cases to other country’s around the world, says the anchor of the show.  South Africa leads the world with more than 200-thousand- cases of rape being recorded (2010 figures) ,  let’s not forget that a  quarter of the women raped every 17 seconds are  children.

Suddenly I found myself wondering why there is no one protesting on South Africa’s streets. I mean we have enough reason to go out in our numbers like they are in India.   There’s no one protesting on the streets of South Africa. No-one.  These are reported cases of people who actually  bothered to call the police’s bluff and report the violence. But with South Africa’s Justice system being the way it is  many of these don’t even make it to court, those that do hardly any of the perpetrators are caught, sent to trial or convicted.  Eish.  Are so overwhelmed by violence, traumatized de-sensitized by violence that  we marvel at mass protests over one  or two rape ( I at least did) or  worse  even this we don’t  take India’s example. I have to wonder – What’s happening to us?  Lisa Vetten, a senior Researcher from the Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Center say people are just overwhelmed.

There’s is this red horn that I have been seeing on cars  recently it’s Huge. I have been wondering what is the horn about…  until it finally  clicked! It’s a campaign to save the Rhino Campaign.

“The Rhinose campaign is aimed at creating awareness and raising funds for three non-profit conservation organisations.  A Rhino has

been killed for its horn every 16 hours this year.

As a result of these worrisome statistics, The Rhinose Day campaign was launched. This is a campaign to raise funds and create awareness and widen the fight against rhino poaching and the false medicinal myths in general.

Rhinose Day is a joint initiative of three non-profit conservation organizations, the Rhino Action Group Effort (RAGE), the Endangered Wildlife Trust and the Rhinose Foundation.”

We should have a joint  initiatives  to fight rape against women, powered with as much money, marketing, publicity, modern technology, education and  technical know how.  We should  have all cabinet ministers,  the presidency and anyone with a voice – shouting loudly – about this atrocity as they are about Rhinos.

Are we not just as worried that at least 227- thousand women are assaulted, raped, injured and killed each year? Scared, mind body and souls  in different stages of  Post Traumatic Stress Disorders ( PTSD),  many of which go untreated?

Today a  33-year-old woman in the Eastern Cape was arrested after she stabbed her boyfriend with a knife on the chest. Here’s how the story was reported:

“Eastern Cape police at Addo have arrested a 33-year-old woman in connection with the murder of her 39-year-old boyfriend. He was stabbed with a knife. Police spokesperson Warrant Officer Marianette Olivier says the couple had an argument in their house at Nomathamsanqa at Addo. Friends stopped the fight and the man left. Shortly afterwards, he returned and again began assaulting his girlfriend – this time with a pick-axe handle. Olivier says the woman then allegedly stabbed him with a knife in the chest. He died on the scene.”

So what are we doing to stop this?  A tiny search on Google on Rhino Killings brings up more than 2 million pages,  from Save the Rhino to the more glittering page of Stop Rhino Poaching Now!  from the pictures one would swear it was a Miss World contest with all the awards that those involved in the industry give each other.

So who cares about the women?  Why is there so much money , time and political will put in to end the atrociously lucrative business of Rhino Horn Poaching and nothing done to prevent rape  against women and children  in the country? Every 17 seconds a woman is raped? How will these girl children become loving caring mothers? What society are we creating?

When will we care enough to have  – “Red Horns”- as a campaign against the  consistent and insistent rape of women , children and the elderly?  I think it’s apt.   Let’s all wear red horns on our heads in protest as against the rape of women and rhinos, why not?  Let’s all pull our resources together –   build safe homes for women and children who have been violated and brutalized, give them  a place to recover and feel safe and empowered. It is really that impossible?  Have door to door campaigns, to speak to men in schools, offices, street corners, cabinet offices, bedrooms…

Or is just too much to ask ? How much has changed since 1960 -1994?

I wonder.

OFF-AIR ! Beyond the Mangaung Date-Line…

South Africa's Top Story of the Year. The man in the green blanket was killed along with 33 other man on the 16 of August 2012. A massacre that has changed the face of SA forever.
South Africa’s Top Story of the Year. The man in the green blanket was killed along with 33 other man on the 16 of August 2012. A massacre that has changed the face of SA forever.

Friday, 21 December.  Johannesburg South Africa.  The  much-anticipated African National Congress ( ANC)’ s 53rd National Executive Council’s  Elective Conference has come to an  end –  with South African President Jacob Zuma still retaining his seat as the conductor of both party and state, flanked by  multi-million rand business man and former scribe of the country’s constitution Cyril Ramaphosa as his right hand man.   And the World didn’t end.

The road (sic) Dateline to Mangaung was an uphill one, even I sometimes doubted that it will come and go without  even a slight  fever from my side.  The real drama happened before Mangaung and I guess by the time the conference got into full swing, people (delegates) were worn, down,out and were so tired that I imagine all secretely wished for it to be over and done with. I mean it was evident in my work place, from lift, to bathroom, canteen and studio.  People sighed, puffed and served with such reluctance I almost felt like a champion for having had the to wait for my breakfast this morning for almost 45 min this morning.  Everyone is tired.

Of course there (are) were those still high on  adrenalin or just pure natural energy who  were still  excited about the goings on of Mangaung,  and gave blow-by-blow accounts of the conference.  There were those who had no choice, whose job it is to inform. There were those working on “other stories” and had to be there to shake hands, make deals, sign contract, see people.

Even the news that the National Prosecution Authority “may have” found the location of Lolo Sono and Siboniso Shabalala,’s bodies  – was very low-key. Fred Bridgland  a veteran foreign correspondent who has spent more than three decades covering African affairs for, among others, Reuters discovered while following up on his book on the incidents around the Mandela United Football Club in the late 1980s, that the bodies of the youths had been found.  Bridgland  told a newspaper that the NPA had located the bodies of Sono and Shabalala, whose  disappearance and deaths were linked to the now  newly elected ANC- NEC, Member Winnie Madikizela Mandela and the  Mandela United Football Club.   Fred Bridgland says he got his information from Dorothy Sono, Lolo Sono’s step mother  who told him that the  The National Prosecuting Authority  (NPA) of South Africa  contact them to advise them  that  Lolo Sono’s  body had been found and that the  exhumation process will happen in the new year when the dust from Mangaung had settled. In response to newspaper headlines the  NPA released the following statement:

The investigations into this case are still ongoing and possible burial sites are still being examined on the basis of recently obtained information. No exact burial sites have yet been confirmed or excavated.

Once excavations and exhumations are planned in this case, the media will be notified and will be invited to attend, as it will be a public process.

The two youth’s disappeared 24 years ago, and their bodies have  up until now not been found.  Winnie Madikizela Mandela and the activities of the Mandela United Football club had their own special public  hearings  during the  country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission back in 1997.  The SABC recorded those hearings – this is a transcript of the recordings read by Johann Vollenhoven:

“Officially, it was called the hearing into the Mandela United Football Club. Unofficially, everyone referred to it as the Winnie hearing. For nine days between November and December 1997, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela faced a battery of journalists in Johannesburg at the Truth Commission’s special hearing. “She created her own vigilante gang” out of the Football Club, said one of her fellow top ANC members. But Madikizela-Mandela, one of the most potent symbols of apartheid resistance, appeared unfazed. Throughout the hearing, she was dressed elegantly, wearing her trademark sunglasses and flashy gold rings .  Witness after witness implicated Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in killings and assaults. Like Nicodemus Sono, who told the Truth Commission that he last saw his badly beaten son, Lolo, in her minibus “

Nicodemus Sono:

“…She raised up her voice. She was speaking very loud, you know: “I cannot leave him with you! He is a spy!” So I tried to plead with her. What she said to the driver, she said she [he] must pull off. So the driver engaged the gears and he pulled off. When I looked at Lolo, he was in a terrible state, he was shaking. I pleaded with her until she said to me: “I’m taking this dog away. The movement will see what to do.” The kombi turned left at the stop street and as it wanted to proceed, I asked Michael [Siyakamela] to please stop…” 

Though Madikizela Mandela refused to accept responsibility for the mysterious disappearance of the two youths the truth commission found that she was somehow involved:

The commission finds that Madikizela-Mandela was involved in Lolo Sono’s abduction and knew that he was kept on her premises,” its report said. “The commission finds, therefore, that Madikizela-Mandela must accept responsibility for the disappearance of Lolo Sono and Siboniso Shabalala.”

The real DRAMA though  happened ahead of Mangaung, and is in my opinion why so many people were too worn out and tired to pay much attention when the ruling party conference eventually got going.   First it was the Spear Painting in which artist Brett Murray depicted South African President Jacob Zuma in a pose reminiscent of  Lenin, with his genitals exposed. The painting triggered a defamation lawsuit by Zuma’s party, theAfrican National Congress (ANC), and was vandalized on 22 May 2012,  by two men one of them a security guard – destroying the “evidence” as it were. The spear was all everyone could talk about for a while in South Africa, from newsrooms, buses taxi’s and in madam’s kitchen bars or beds.  The country was divided along racial (sic) lines or more nuanced fault lines of what constitutes, art, culture, freedom of speech -expression, and respect for one’s elders, traditions etc.  President Jacob Zuma however had come out the victor in this battle as many Africans young and old agreed  that exposing a grown man’s genitalia regardless of what they have done is just – NOT ON.

Then as if out of the blue – the country watched as police opened fire on a group of striking mine workers in the North West,  in what was to become the Marikana Massacre. More than 34 Lonmin mine workers lost their lives on the 16 of  August.  The workers were demanding a 12-thousand-500 rand wage increase.   Then while the sound of bullets going off was still ringing in the public’s ears, the police arrested 280 striking mine workers on charges of murder – for killing their fellow workers, despite the video footage showing the police opening fire at the mine workers.  Then People started to pay attention but not for long.  Later Lonmin agreed to pay its workers their 12 thousand 500 wage demand. President Jacob Zuma lauched the Marikana Commission of Enquiry, set to continue next year, Standard and Poor and several other economic rating agencies downgraded South Africa’s sovereign credit rating .  But by then Miners across the country had gone on strike, some demanding up to 16 thousands rands in wage increases,  even farm workers in the Western Cape’s wine lands  found the strength to say 50 rands a day is barely enough to live.

The strike actions were labelled illegal, wildcat,  and unreasonable. Workers were urged to go back to work or lose their jobs.  No negotiations. Government said it cannot speed up the process o increasing the minimum wage.  Soon after it emerged that President Jacob Zuma spent 247million adding/upgrading his private Nkandla Residence in KwaZulu Natal.  Newspapers reported:  ” A breakdown of spending on the Nkandla compound, which forms part of the public works department’s prestige portfolio, includes R23m for “emergency work”. Other payments include R121m to builders, R2.4m for bulletproof glass, R9.2m for a fence and a payment of R1.9m to a leading international elevator company. President Jacob Zuma – stood in parliament and said the  upgrades were part of “security upliftments” afforded to any presidential residency, and that he had built it in consultation with the Zuma family using the family’s funds.”

Ah well.  Then came the bulldozers  razing homes to the ground in Lenasia, a residential area/town South of Johannesburg.  What for? People asked and wondered.  Their  home had been built illegally on government land ear-market for low-cost housing. The home owners had obtained the stands illegally through the officials in government. The human rights commission – tried – but the government was not breaking the law – the homes, the owners built themselves because they didn’t qualify for free  RDP homes – were also illegal. They were destroyed. Two houses will be were one had been.Compensation. No refunds.

An air-force Army plane crashed on the mountains of the Drakensberg  on its way to Former President Nelson Mandela’s Qunu home for a routine medical check-up. All eleven people on board are killed.  Soon After 94-year-old Madiba is flown to a Private Hospital in Pretoria where he’s been receiving treatment for a recurrent lung infection and an operation for Gallstones.  He is still in hospital though his condition is said to be improving.   Somewhere in between all this  a  researcher from North West University has found that the internal organs of cattle kept in the area around the Wonderfontein Spruit have been contaminated with uranium and cobalt, the Afrikaans  Beeld Newpapwer reported on Tuesday.

David Hamman, in research conducted for his Masters thesis in environmental science, analysed the animals’ kidneys and found that uranium levels were 4,350 times higher than those in a control group.

In his study, titled “A Holistic View on the Impact of Gold and Uranium Mining on the Wonderfontein Spruit”, Hamman found that the cattle were eating grass that grew next to the river.

This proved that the heavy metals bio-accumulated in the grass, Hamman said.

Even then the story didn’t get much notice – everybody was looking forward to their holiday of well deserved Braais (barberque ) and parties, everybody knows  a plate of food is not complete without a piece of meat. No once can take the pleasure of a “Chisanyama” – Burnt Meat (braai/barberque meat) even though it may be infested with Uranium.

Then  Mnikeli Ndabambi from the South African Weather Service said we could not rule Climate Change as the cause of the countries erratic and expected weather patters, such as a tornado in middle of winter or a lack of summer in summer. But Climate Change didn’t make it as a hot top issue  on the ANC’s policy discussions in Mangaung.

You’re predictions are as good as mine when it comes to what the future holds for our beloved rainbow nation or the world.  The African Cup of Nations  will begin in the new year with the country’s Football association SAFA, just recovering from a match fixing scandal.  No matter… the rand has strengthened, the appointment of  business man Cyril Ramaphosa seems to have done the trick in providing  emergency first Aid to the country’s gaping raw wounds.

It’s been a tough year. In my humblest assessment of  things to come this is not the End as so many have  so far predicted, It’s only the beginning.

For now though I’m sure everyone from the country’s top six to the slaving masses of the country, are looking forward to a few days of time spent with family friends and loved ones, with some good food, music and laughter, mostly at the ludicrous events of the year.   Because  when all is said and done, that’s all that matters.

Home sweet home!

BLACK POWER MIXTAPE (1967-1975)

Angela Davis in The Black Power Mix Tape

A friend asked me over the week-end where my car is. I almost cried. I had been thinking about Black-Panther (my car) in the last few weeks because I miss her.   I even got to thinking that maybe I lost her because my mother changed her name to Faith. We were talking about her – when she asked who is Black-Panther, when I told her she decided t re-name her Faith – because Black Panther had been faithful. Sometimes I think my mother through the christian lens  equates black with evil or the Devil.

But Faith has always been Black-Panther to me, from the moment I laid eyes on her.
We went through a lot together, Black Panther and I, we both loved music, she was my home when I didn’t have a place to lay my head, we were always together, there were times that we were separated and re-united again, thanks to friends, but this year, I knew that unless a miracle would happen I would have to let her go.  She was my cushion through some of the bumpiest rides of my life, always there in the middle of the night, during day, always there waiting for me to come.
Our last trip together to the  Eastern Cape province of  South Africa, we both survived yet again  a near death or serious injury experience together.  It was dusk and we’d just left Grahamstown in June. The biggest Bull I had ever seen appear as if out of no  where, I was on the front left passenger side and the bull was on my side too.  There was a split second moment where the bull and I looked each other in the eye and I thought it had beautiful eyes, as I raised my hands to my face waiting for it to land on top of me. That was it.  I really don’t know what happened.  But all I know is I opened my eyes, and I was surprised – no incredulous  that I was still in the car, and it was still standing, and I looked back and the Bull had already crossed the road, languidly, elegantly. Luckily I was not on my own so I could not have dreamt that one up. The driver was shaking with disbelief, we stopped for a moment,  and she broke down and cried in tears, I was too happy to be alive and well the Black Panther, the Bull the driver and I survived.    Black Panther had lost an ear (the left side mirror), My mirror, as if to say don’t look back.
On the day I had to let her go, I thank her for having been my friend for the past   6 years. I could not afford to keep her, even though I wanted to with all my heart.  I could do nothing about the situation, I couldn’t save her.  I had to have faith – that I we would both be ok. The only person that made me feel better that day, was peace – my brother.
I don’t think I ever mourned her loss,  never allowed myself to because  I have to keep moving, survive, live, stay alive in every possible way.
So I feel nostalgic a little bit today. For Black Panther and the Black Power movement after which I named my  car.  And Perhaps you will understand my grief better by watching THE BLACK POWER MIXTAPE documentary directed by  Swedish film maker  Göran Hugo Olsson..  The docu-film has been on circuit for the past few weeks and will be screened for the last time on Thursday the  29th of November.  A very special day for me. My play Lindiwe Premiers.  I don’t know if it is ironic or not and  I’ve decided not to over-think anything.
It it a collection of never seen before interviews with some of the prominent leaders of the Black Power movement in the United States of America,  though it has at its core a universal message everyone to stand up for their rights.
So  Please go and see the BLACK POWER MIXTAPE,  if you haven’t already seen it already  the Bioscope in Downtown Johannesburg. My good friend and scribe, Katarina Hedren   writes elegantly about it on her blog  InthewordsofKatarina.
I guess it would take a lot of faith and something close to a miracle for Black-Panther and I to be re-united again. And then again, black panther is a state of mind.
love
—————————————————————————————-
THE BLACK POWER MIXTAPE 1967 – 1975
LAST SCREENING 29TH NOV.
The Black Power Mixtape examines the evolution of the Black Power Movement in the black community and Diaspora from 1967 to 1975. The film combines music, startling 16mm footage (lying undiscovered in the cellar of Swedish Television for 30 years), and contemporary audio interviews from leading African-American artists, activists, musicians and scholars.
Writen and Directed by: Göran Hugo Olsson Music by Ahmir Questlove Thompson & Om’Mas Keith. Including appearances by: Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture), Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Eldridge Cleaver, Bobby Seale, Huey P. Newton, Emile de Antonio, Angela Davis Including commentary voice by: Erykah Badu, Talib Kweli, Harry Belafonte, Kathleen Cleaver, Angela Davis, Robin Kelley, Abiodun Oyewole, Sonia Sanchez, Bobby Seale, Questlove.

Lights, Camera, Action! Assume your Role

Are You Ready For Action?

I told a good friend of mine that I will write a book  about  dating myself one day.

She laughed.

I laughed too.

Because it’s ridiculous right  and we all do feel very  sorry for people who are alone in that sense. Ag shame she’s alone, we comment especially at  public and populated gatherings such as concerts, restaurants, big events, parties you can add more here. I wonder what is her story?. We whisper to each other, maybe she doesn’t have friends is the first obvious one, no maybe she’s going through something, or maybe there’s something  wrong with her, her life, she  must be unhappy. There are times when one  person in a group would say maybe they just want to be alone.  Then after that comment everyone breathes a sigh of relief because  – everyone is off the hook, if she chooses this alone woman person  to be alone, we can’t force her to be part of the group, us.  She  can go be all unhappy by herself it’s better that way, nothing is obviously wrong with her, we reason and anyway we don’t know her so we’re off the hook.

If life is a stage who is  the production-coordinator

Everyone goes out in groups, they call their friends and it is much like a  film production.  Everyone within the film industry knows that a  production coordinator is key, very key, to the success or failure of any given project.  They are the one who should be on top of the who, what, when, where, where, how, why and the in between question of a production things like ke back up for each and every element required for a successful film production, from catering to casting, to cameras, set design, extras , to the street security, to the rigging crew. The production coordinator  has to know everything about each department and also be able to trouble shoot problems as and when they occur, before, during and after the final cut. You have to have nerves of steel and be as gentle as a dove, you can’t be anyone’s enemy  – you have to be everyone’s friend  (know how to make them happy for best results) while maintaining a keen perspective on the bigger picture , able to  know and understand each stage of the productions cycle, what and who is needed when and how.

Production coordinators have to be able to make hard, decisive choices while being flexible and open enough to work with what they have and or hear other people’s suggestions. You have to be able to decide on the spot about what will work and what won’t work, for the production  in the  short  to long-term.  They also have to understand budgets – financial management – how to  use of what’s allocated optimally, know how much to spend and where to get the best available services for the production.  Production coordinators are always very busy people, always on the first ones to arrive the last ones to leave. They Never have time. I know I was “married” to one.  Respect.

So the co-ordinator is a very important person, more important than the big chief – the director of the said gig, because  directors  only focus on the details of the picture being as in the “actors ” not the entire production.  The production coordinator makes the director’s job easy, and even possible.

They  ultimately are the people who decide  who’s in or who is out in whatever gig  they are co-ordination be it  a huge  film production or a party gathering of friends.  You call up people, agencies and friends for a reason, this one is good for jokes and atmosphere, this is a good  mediator – a tutu of the gathering, this one is a shit-stirrer, this one always has stories to tell,  this one is a great cook, this one is good cleaner,  and this one will do whatever I want.  So if a production coordinator asks you what are you doing,  you better know your story, if you scratch your head, they move on really quickly  because they have no time to waste, time is precious as we speak they are on deadline  and they need to pull a number of people together so that you can watch a great picture or enjoy a good party at the end of the day.

So I imagine myself as the huge production ( a film a movie, the person I know I am is under construction )  and I play the role of the  production coordinator-assistant.  The production-coordinator being the Creator of us all. So how else will I know what I want, what I need, when and how, what makes me happy, what works, what doesn’t  which stage of the production cycle I am at, who do I need to speak to for support, for Ideas, to rest, to laugh, to cry to advise and be advised, to be nourished, pampered loved, pep-talked to?. How will I know what is going on with me, if I don’t spend time with myself?  I cannot ask to be included in any production ( with another(s)  ) if I don’t know what my role in the production is.

To everything  there’s a season, a time and a purpose under heaven.

I have found myself  involved in  productions in which I didn’t know what my role is, am I a camera woman, a writer, an extra, an assistant? What am I doing here? Why do I hang out with these people, why do I go this restaurant, why do I wear these clothes, is it what I want or am I the person who will do whatever the production coordinator wants of a film production  I think I want to be in wants?, do I even want to be in this particular  production,  do I want my name on the credits after the movie has ended? I have had  a   lot  of  people tell me, oh I thought you were this or that, simply because I was seen on that show with people who do this or that, I never really had a role, I was just there more of an extra, and entertainer, good to look at, dance with maybe.

I have spent a lot time on my own in between the few productions I have been a part of  and almost always, before I was about to be called on for another production, they’ve been quiet moments – dead silent – as in no movement.  Not even a wink in my direction.  My ability or inability to be  still in that   moment has determined to some extent the  kind of production  I will be going into next.  And with each production  I  never had an idea, never knew what I wanted or what my life was about,  any smile would do  I would be so lonely. In many of the productions I was in, I was just happy to be included, to get a call and be part of a team, any team please.  Even though in almost all of them I  was  as a standby, an under-study, body-double, supporting act, never the main character.

The lead Act

When a production coordinator calls, he or she calls people who know what they are doing what they are about,  what services they provide at what cost under what circumstances, what they can and cannot do.  If they agree they sign an agreement with terms and conditions on both sides, so that both the production and the service provider are protected and know who they are dealing with.  They call the because they often know what you offer, seen your work before, worked with you previously or they were referred to you by someone in the industry they trust.  If you are already a good production your self,  or a very good service provider people will move mountains and break budgets to have you as part of their production team because they know you will add value to the production and not the other way around.

So in order to add value to any production, you must know that you have something of value in you to add. One has to spend time alone, with you “craft” whatever if may be – or to figure out what it is .  What services am I offering and do  still want to continue in this line of business. What do I need to make my business (myself) work, function? Am I happy with myself.

So in this way it makes perfect sense for a business to function properly on its own  and optimally before it can merge with another in any shape or form be it a co-production or a collaboration of any sort.  I feel like I have been dating myself for a very long time, even when I thought I was in “relationships”.    I have found myself in conversations with myself about the different productions I have been a part of, which ones I liked, not like and why. What did I gain  from each and every one of them, what I can use what I can I throw away, forget about, I need to forgive myself for treating myself like a nothing, a nobody, a throw away, bubble gum.

When the production – coordinator is in pre-production they are crazy people, all over the place especially the week before the shoot, and often you can’t even see what they are doing running around like headless chickens.  They are trouble shooting problems as directors and executive  producers change their minds about budgets etc, they need to make sure that everything and everybody is in place and running well, by the time the director walks in to say ACTION! and they are on their toes throughout the filming or production, until the director calls out It’s a WRAP! It’s a moment of relief, and sadness and time for renewal for another productions.

The work is not over but the production co-ordinator can relax a bit, it’s now over to post production – adding the final touches to the shoot and then the moment that we all see, is the Movie , the curtain the raiser the product, that we will like or dislike but it all started back there with the production coordinator who selected, make the calls, and spoke to almost everyone in the production chain to make the production a success.  They are never in the limelight,  there’s no Best Production Coordinator Oscar anywhere, they are there somewhere meshed up with the “crew”. But without them, no production will happen. But everyone in the production line  knows her name.

So I understand the value of spending time with myself… of being alone even though it’s feels crazy sometimes, having no one to share your thoughts with, bounce of ideas. It’s  a difficult thing to maintain, but it is necessary.

I think I’m ready to assume my role in this production called life and be – the best role any actor can be given….

Myself.

Alone or in Company.

I am in suspense myself and its the best feeling ev

On an Artistic Note….

Note This: President Jacob Zuma with the new bank-note.

I have been wondering why it (is) was that I was never caught by the  “feverish” excitement over the introduction of  South African’s new bank notes, featuring the face of  former president Nelson Mandela and the big five. It  didn’t excite me. I managed to escape the new banks notes. Until this morning. I got chills when I received change with the new notes,  they look so familiar, so cheap, so worthless.

Reserve Bank governor Gill Marcus who  approved of the changes is quoted by the  South African Press Association (Sapa) saying  “We are proud to be able to honour South Africa’s struggle icon and first democratically elected president in this way,” she said in a statement.

I looked at the  crispy new green R10 rand note and wondered who designed it. It is indeed a work of art when you read the technical security features it has.  Here are its design features also listed in more detail here  on the  South African Reserve Bank Website.

1. Coat of Arms 

The South African Coat of Arms (i.e. the design or shield that is a special symbol of the Republic of South Africa) is used prominently in the top left-hand corner of all denominations. The Coat of Arms is also visible in the security thread, as a holographic (i.e. three-dimensional) image.

2. Colours

The dominant  Colours of the different denominations;

The dominant colours of the new banknotes remain the same as the colours on the current banknotes.
However, the colour of the R200 has changed to a yellow-orange to distinguish it from the R20 because the current two notes are too similar in colour.

  • R10: Green
  • R20: Brown
  • R50: Red
  • R100: Blue
  • R200: Yellow-orange

3.  The main (man) Motif

The image of former President Nelson Mandela is printed on the front of all new banknotes, as the main motif.

4. Languages.

English is used on the front of all denominations. The words “South African Reserve Bank” are translated into two official South African languages on the back of the new banknotes.

5.  Numerals

The banknote denomination numerals on the front, bottom right of the new banknotes are printed in colour-changing ink.

The Big Five animals are printed on the back of the new banknotes

  • R10: Rhinoceros
  • R20: Elephant
  • R50: Lion
  • R100: Buffalo
  • R200: Leopard

I got chills when I received the money in my hands because suddenly a thought occurred to me.  This is how it happens, this is where it starts, this is how you end up with 1, 000,000 CFA  note in Senegal, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Kenya, etcthat is worthless.    A million franc note that is not worth an actual  million.  Inflation;  we are in debt – in over our heads, we have to pay the debt somehow, someone has to pay for the FIFA 2010 Soccer World Cup, Rea Vaya, Gautrain, The new roads, the stadiums, the president’s Inkandla Residence. Someone has to pay for electricity, out-dated infrastructure; – public sector companies are all buckling under mal-administration, we are loosing, money, talent, people,hope.  But someone has to pay for all these services that we are not getting and it’s not going to be the Politician who put us in this debt-hole in the first place.  Someone has to pay. You and I .  We are already paying.

The printing and over-circulation of notes; – the more money you print, the more  you devalue its currency…. economics 101.   I mean  it’s a really cool thing to have our First Black Democratically elected presidents’ face on the  bank-notes I guess –  The UK has the Queen, the US has George Washington,  it’s really not a bad thing in and of itself.  It’s just I have seen how Mandela the “icon” has become a money-making machine;  a commercial entity exploited by well-meaning opportunists.

I don’t see how a picture of Madiba on a ten rand note that can’t buy you much these days is the best way to honour the man. really.  I think tata Madiba’s legacy  would be best honoured if the ten rand could buy you milk and bread.    But  bread is not even worth R10. In fact,  I think it might even have the opposite effect – it might generate more bitterness and hate from people  who are  desperate and unable to make  the ten rand note with Mandela’s face  on it buy what they need, you have a note but it buys you nothing.  I think Madiba’s legacy is more that what money can buy. But It could help if the money could buy something. Like this what I heard in the taxi recently:

“You know” Says the taxi driver to a passenger ” You see we used to think it was wrong for us to carry the dom -pass,  and be arrested if found without them” But now look at this ” We have too many foreigners, bagcwele, baningi la e South Africa”

The woman nods in agreement. “hmm”

” White people know how to govern abelungu bayakwazi ukuphatha”  he continues “even though we were suffering bekungcono ”  saying he thinks it was better to live under oppression that to live in this New South Africa. I am not embellishing the conversation, I am actually “editing” it to make it  less, intolerant.

“You see” He continues ” If they approve i – e-tolling, petrol will never go down, food will increase I mean, what do you think which one is cheaper travelling by car or in a taxi?”

The woman who takes the mini-bus taxi during the week and uses her private car on week-ends and at night to go to church meetings replies..

” No, I save a lot of money travelling by taxi.”  She says opening her bag to show the taxi driver her car-keys ” here they are, but I cannot afford to drive it anymore, I used to use diesel because diesel used to be cheap, but now  it’s all the same 5o rand doesn’t take you far”

So I shudder when I think of this happening now, when all around you see are people struggling to afford the basics of living, from the farms in the Western Cape to the mines in the North West, to Domestic Workers, Gardeners, free-lance artists, youth’s who have no work, workers who barely manage to survive… (selling amagwinya, vetkoeks at work) why at this point print the face of a  man who was once the only source  hope for a better future on paper that can’t even buy you a slice of bread.  Why stand in parliament demand respect for openly and without shame enriching yourself, saying that it  is was your own money that you are  using. When not so long ago you were on trial because your friend used corrupt practices  to lend you money,  when you were in debt.  When news headlines told of how you couldn’t afford to send your children to school.  In four years you have enough money to build for millions and millions of rands, five or more homes, build a private road to your homestead, marry a few wives have parties upon parties,  with no thought, not single thought to the ever-increasing  plight of people for whom you owe your position, millions upon millions,  still standing in line every day, waiting hoping for homes cheaper and shoddier  than the match boxes  built-in Meadowlands… at least they are still standing.

” See” a woman passenger in a taxi pointed out a  water leak inside  Bree’s taxi rank in Johannesburg ” this is government’s services delivery, our RDP houses are just like this, if not worse” She said shaking her head sadly.

I wonder of the wisdom behind it…. and think it is indeed – A classic case of an African Country gone wrong – Something is done  gone horribly wrong.  This way the white leaders will always look good, they will always be viewed with  sepia tinted glasses because at least as the taxi driver says “during apartheid, petrol was cheap, very cheap, we could afford it ”

NGO’s are waiting around the corner, standing by, for a wave of violent discontent, to assist the desperate and destitute  , left homeless, hungry and diseased…   black against black violence has already started in Marikana, now in Lenasia…. it is no longer the White people who are our enemies – we have become our own enemies.

I still don’t know who designed the new bank notes – but I guess  their legacy might last longer than a 50 rand note with Madiba’s face on it.

It was a chilly morning for me  on a Summers Day and it had nothing to do with the weather …