BEFORE I FORGET: HER NAME WAS PETRONELLA

A love poem to a sister I once knew.

She was an artist just like you

and I

A storyteller.

A fellow traveler in this journey called life.

With hopes and dreams which she weaved and

Crocheted  into multi-coloured hats and scarves.

Their  imperfections  perfect against the biting Johannesburg winter.

Ever smiling.  Warmly as if  you were sunshine.

The gaps on her teeth revealed a soft spoken, pink  tongue of a poet.

Whose voice could not reach beyond her shadow.

You had tea with her.

Maybe shared a beer, a smoke.

She showed you her wares

You bought a hat, a scarf.

Out of pity

You promised to pay

Soon

Forgetting  that she too needed to eat.

Just like you

Yet she smiled and said Okay.

Next time my brother. Next time my sister.

Before I forget.

She was Petronella.

A daughter of educated travelers

Who moved as ancient nomads

From country to country

Until they found a place among us.

Yes she is that lady.

The free spirit.

The one  who lived in  Soweto

Afraid to stay alone – in an empty house

While neighbours watched her

Every move.

And stole from her the minute she was gone.

She was the lone storyteller.

Who hitched-hiked and organized lifts to attend your show

your exhibition opening.

She walked through perilous Johannesburg nights

Criss-crossing the city

to attend your gig and dance to your music.

She’s the one that asked for a place to lay her head

For just one night.

For the love of Art.

With you she was among friends.

at home.

Because that is where she could sell her  warmth

Share her wisdom and  hear your stories.

Before we forget.

Her name was Petronella.

You didn’t even notice that she was there.

Yet she loved you.

Advertisements

Black is Not what White is Not

Bheki Dube. Photographer.

This is  photographer Bheki Dube’s paraphrasing one of South Africa’s’ most respected writer, poet and   playwrights;  Lesego Rampolokeng in a way of explaining his work in progress  called  White Trash.  

He shows me some of his pictures  of some  poor white people  he  knows and photographs around his home town  in Troyville.  “ I want to show that white people are not superior or better, I want to document another side of  whiteness” I ask him if (he thinks) some of his friends still have this idea that white-people are intrinsically superior, he laughs again ” I hope there are not still black people who think that white people are superior and we are inferior, but if there are, I hope to show them that that’s not the case”

Bheki and I met when he (and I) was very young – he was literally a boy running up and down B-courts’ red stairs.  We often saw each, passed each other, exchanging shy greetings (children have a way of making me so shy I feel like they see through me, which is scary)  during my many visits to see my  friend at the time who was reading  film at Wits. Until I myself one day  started living there,  found a flat an moved in without a moment’s pause.  That is where he learnt his craft, where he  got hooked by  images, shooting videos with Mr M.

He grew up amongst some of Johannesburg’s “craziest”artists; some  struggling, trapped, abusive, wild, lost and successful.  A great place to experience art at its best and art at its worst.  Art was always in the making, be it in  movies, music, painting, mosaics, performance art, whatever ideas were thought up in nocturnal post exhibition, maddening  just for fun all night parties. Whether it was a dramatic fight or sweet moment spent with stray cats. He grew up amongst free thinking, creatives, writers, journalists, actors, dancers, painters architects, gallerists, curators, art enthusiasts, fans, lovers and strays and he took the best from all of us.

I look at my work as a calling, you know,  it’s something that just happened,  cuz I never thought I could be a photographer, it’s not something I ever told my mom that I want to be”  He says shrugging his well-built shoulders. We look at each as if understanding the obvious about each other for the first time. “but I guess it was bound to happen, growing up at B-Court and all” We laugh, memories. ” Are you still writing?” he asks me,  this time I’m proud to tell him, yes, yes I am.

“I don’t want to confine my work into a category because that will limit the scope of my creative interests” he tells me. My jaw is on the counter at this point, but he is not fazed by my surprised expressions  and draws me in with his charm as if to say, I’m still the Bheki you knew. “If I were to classify it, I would say my work leans strongly towards social-documentation”.  I still cannot get over how grown he is, mind-body and soul.

“Another subject that I am interested in and that keeps coming up in my work is nuns and religion”.  He tells me that he started being interested in nuns when he found out that there were at least ten living within a block from his house. “But we hardly know anything about them. They are hidden” he says, showing me a picture of  a  sister he befriended sitting austerely in her living room and then another of hers reading a magazine, she is at ease with him. “But I am not religious “he says with that disarming smile again.

“At one point I became so fascinated with nuns when I could not see any around, I found a costume  and played around with this dancing trio and took pictures. He shows me a black and white picture of a female black nun reaching as if to the sky while the  two gangster-pop  looking characters look on closely behind her.

Dube, 20,  studied photography at that famous place in Newtown  Johannesburg, The Market Photo Workshop. And Tonight he will be participating in  his first  major exhibition ( 08 Thursday ) at the Backlight:  Contemporary Photographic Exhibition at the Michael Meyersfields’  Studios in Sandton.  His work will be show-cased alongside some of the country’s  leading photographers such as  Francki Burger, Bob Cnoops, Antoine De Ras, Pieter De Ras, Harry De Zitter, Buntu Fihla, Stephen Hobbs, Greg Marinovich,  Michael Meyersfeld, Santu Mofokeng & Marcus Neustetter.

Backlight was conceived by Michael Meyer, Bob Cnoops, Marcus Neustetter and Stephen Hobbs.

Backlights’ main objectives are to offer South Africa’s emergent and establish collector base access to photographer’s not seen in the main commercial gallery circuits.

“I am pretty excited about this exhibition, because I will be exhibiting with a of photographers I have always looked up to, admired” He says walking me out of the coffee shop…

“It’ll be cool if you can come” he says and I give him a warm congratulatory hug and say goodbye.  Tears burning inside my eyes.

Meet Bheki Dube.

Vintage Cru: Bhekifa Dube