Essay Behind Mojapelo The Film

Mojapelo is a non-conventional surrealist and horror-fantasy film I am currently scripting. The project started in 2013 and I hope to complete the script end of this year. This is an introductory essay I wrote on the themes and issues (conflict) in Mojapelo’s social analysis. In August 2015, my cool friends and I shot visual inspiration behind the concept of Mojapelo which feature in this piece.

Mojapelo. poster image 34 Cole as Nare by Katlego Kganyago

Still from Mojapelo showing lead actor, Colbin Greene as Nare.  Photograpaher: Katlego Kganyago

Introduction

Homophobia is the hatred or fear of homosexuals – that is, lesbians and gay men – sometimes leading to acts of violence and expressions of hostility. Homophobia is not confined to any one segment of society, and can be found in people from all walks of life. Organized hate groups have viciously attacked homosexuals and have used especially violent language in attempting to persecute and intimidate them.

Anti-Defamation League 2013

Homophobia in the African context is ironic because pre-colonial homosexual relationships existed and were widely appreciated (Anderson, 2007, p. 124). Anderson furthermore states that the notion, ‘homosexuality is unAfrican’ should be abolished as Africans used to openly engage in same-sex relations (Anderson, 2007, p. 125).

The historical amnesia is regarded as a mental erasure of experiences through oppression forms like laws, brutality, and colonial rule as mentioned above. Anderson also proves that homosexuality has been widely neglected in African literature and how it contributes enormously to the denial of homosexuality, transvestism, transsexuality and intersexuality.
In this essay, I will discuss how the historical amnesia on homosexuality contributes to homophobia and its impact, why my film addresses homophobia and provides a solution through the filmic world.

Impact of homophobia (Themes)

Homosexuals experience rejection from friends and family, indirectly and directly which causes fear (Fritscher 2012):

The fear of rejection can be life-limiting, preventing us from reaching our full
potential or going after our dreams. A fear of rejection often feels
overwhelming and even hopeless. Although a complex emotional reaction, it is
in many ways like a phobia. The fear of rejection runs the gamut in both
severity and outward expression

Gay and lesbian people experience loss of loved ones. In an interview I conducted with Dr. Nic Theo, he revealed that he lost his parents because of being a transgender male. DJ Divalash, an international DJ from Soshanguve (in Pretoria) is disowned by his parents for being openly gay. I was forced to alternate rooms because my roommate felt acculturated by my sexuality. I lost a great friend in primary because I am gay. This results to emotional problems and addiction is often  a resort (Janine 2013).

Gay and lesbian macabre killings in South Africa alone are becoming frequent (Davis 2012) yet the Constitution protects them. Thapelo Makutle, was brutally murdered in his homewtown, Kuruman for being openly gay. Makutle’s body was discovered with his genitalia placed in his mouth (Nosarka 2012). Phumeza Nkolonzi was also viciously killed by a group of men who were intimidated that she was openly lesbian (Davis 2012).

Character Behaviour
Gay and lesbian people, especially those who are have not disclosed their sexual orientations become pathological liars (Drescher, 2006, p.16):

Sullivan’s (1956) theories of dissociation elaborate how a sexual identity can be separated from the rest of one’s persona. For example, selective inattention is a common, non-pathological process, akin to tuning out the background noise on a busy street. In more intense dissociative mechanisms, double lives are lived yet not acknowledged. One sees clinical presentations of closeted gay people lying somewhere between selective inattention, most commonly seen in the case of homosexually self-aware patients thinking about “the possibility” that they might be gay, to more severe dissociation –in which any hint of same-sex feelings resides out of conscious awareness. More severe forms of dissociation are commonly observed in homosexually self-aware married men who cannot permit themselves the thought of coming out.

Lesbian, gay and bisexual people experience severe sexual repressions and lead to urges of desperate fulfillment of fantasies. This is seen in Oliver Hermanus’ Skoonheid (2011)where Francois (Deon Lotz) rapes his friend’s son Christian Roodt (Charlie Keegan) at the climax of the film. Francois deliberately becomes masochistic so that he could have Christian’s attention. They arrive at a hotel, and Francois offers Christian money for a favour, to his surprise, he is shocked to learn that he has to return the favour by having sex with him. Francois forces Christian to perform fellatio but he is reluctant. Out of frustration, Francois rapes Christian whilst he is yearning silently for help.

Some queer people also experience self-hate because they deny their sexual identities (Kisker, 1997,p.201). Lunga Ngqendeshe, a real-life character in the film connotes in an interview that a man should not possess feminine performativity. The subtext of this erroneous self-affirmation suggests that he was once discriminated and refuted for acting ‘feminine’. Self-hate like the one Lunga has is inevitable as he often seeks approval to heterosexual men, and that is reciprocal: in order for him to be socially accepted he has to act in a certain way to be regarded as masculine, to gain a sense of belonging.

Mojapelo (The Heart-Devourer) addresses homophobia by deriving a concept from an indigenous African proverb in Sepedi, “Mmapelo o ja serati, sekgethelwa ga a se rate” – which closely translates as: The heart devours what it likes and hates if you choose on its behalf. The proverb is still spoken and serves as oral tradition evidence – but confronts the contemporary homophobic African community to begin acknowledging how erased heritage causes a distorted mentality of gender identity constructs.

Mojapelo. Poster Image 29 Cole as Nare by Katlego Kganyago

Still from Mojapelo showing lead actor Colbin Greene as Nare. Photographer: Katlego Kganyago

The film is a parable to the African state of homophobia. In the somewhat surrealistic but fantastical filmic world, the characters have to literally eat their hearts when they deny love to someone to prevent losing their minds. The devouring of the heart is a metaphor of denial as the grotesque imagery of the blood-dripping organ shows cruelty to one’s desires. The prevention of losing the mind is allegorical to the historical amnesia on homosexuality. It is only up to the protagonist, Nare to emancipate himself to pursue love regardless of validation.

Mojapelo. Poster Image A. Nare and Tau Kissing passionately by Hosia Mashao and Katlego Kganyago

Still from Mojapelo showing lead actors, Colbin Greene (Left) as Nare and Mack Kganyago (Right) as Tau. Photographer: Katlego Kganyago

The film provides a solution for African history to be re-introduced in the education system but also be revived as a Pan-Africanist movement. Sexuality and gender studies should be reinforced as compulsory subjects to eradicate amnesia and allow consciousness to prevail in the sexual liberation of the gay community in the future.

Bibliography

1. Anderson, B 2007, The Politics of Homosexuality in Africa. Retrieved on February 07,
2013 from http://www.africanajournal.org/PDF/vol1/vol1_6_Ben%20Douglas.pdf
2. Anti-Defamation League 2001, Homophobia. Retrieved on March 17, 2013 from
http://archive.adl.org/hate-patrol/homophobia.asp
3. Fritscher, L 2013. Coping with the fear of rejection. Retrieved on March 14, 2013 from
http://phobias.about.com/od/selfhelp/qt/Coping-With-The-Fear-Of-Rejection.htm, 4.
4. Davis, R 2012, SA’S gay hate crimes an epidermic of violence less recognized. Retrieved
on March 15, 2013 from http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2012-06-27-sas-gayhate-
crimes-an-epidemic-of-violence-less-recognised/#.UU2g2xdvDs8 Rebecca Davis,
2012
5. Nosarka, A 2012, Outrage at murder of ‘gay’ victim. Retrieved on March 12, 2013 from
http://www.citizen.co.za/citizen/content/en/citizen/localnews?oid=286100&sn=Detail&pi
d=146826&Outrage-at-murder-of–%E2%80%98gay%E2%80%99-victim
6. Drescher, J 2007, The psychology of the closeted individual and coming out. Retrieved on March 14, 2013 from
http://www.sequeltsi.com/files/library/Closeted_and_Coming_Out.pdf

Books
1. Kisker, G., 1977. The disorganized personality. New York: Mc-Graw-Hill

Filmography
1. Skoonheid, 2011. [Film] Directed by Oliver Hermanus. South Africa: Moonlighting
Films

The need for more lesbian heroes in films: A psycho-analytical discursive essay

Introduction

In support of Xolelwa ‘Ollie’ Nhlabatsi stunning short film, Lost In The World (2016) and Cathrine Stewart’s captivating film Whilst You Were Not Looking (2015), this essay aims to promote the interests and concerns of the LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex) community.

The World Unseen Lovescene

Snapshot from The World Unseen (2007), directed by Shamin Sarif, is regarded as one of the gems in South African queer cinema.

South African cinema is one of the oldest in the world but fails to expand because of the lack of superstructure needed and the lack of an artistic portrayal of a South Africa, if there is one (Maingard, 2007). Maingard suggests that Apartheid causes the subject of many South African films to perpetuate thematics of segregation, particularly emphasizing repressed male sexuality, effemination and male domination. As a result, the male protagonist in South African film plays a dominant figure in political liberation (Mapantsula, 1987) and economic emancipation (Gangster’s Paradise: Jerusalema, 2008). The role of the woman in South African film is silenced if not ignored or utmost ghostly. The image of the lesbian woman is, in a way, a haunting demon that needs a deadly vanquish.

Queer cinema is a term used to describe an alternative genre that consists of sexual expression and celebration of homosexuality, bisexuality, transsexuality and intersexuality (Doty, 2000). Lesbian women are less represented in films generally and as a result, they have to ‘watch for the sake of watching’ and have to change clothes, like a transvestite at the cinema as a result (Wilton, 2000).

In South Africa, there is an alarming rate of lesbian women who are being violated for being proud of their sexual orientations in townships and villages (Contemporary Sexuality, 2011). It is men who rape lesbians and this is called ”corrective rape”, as the rapists inculcate an erroneous assertion that raping them would ”correct” their homosexual orientation to a heterosexual orientation. Lesbian characters in South African film are far less when compared to gay characters, as noted above the lesbian character as well is silenced (Botha, 2014).

One of the theories in feminist film psychoanalysis is the Name of the Father and the Law, a theory that metaphorises the symbolic male body and its Order, that implies that women are and should be controlled by men by completely being submissive (Mulvey, 2000). Mulvey suggests that Hollywood’s (alluding to mainstream films and pop culture) capitalist thematics perpetuate the Name of the Father and the Law: the fact that few women are portrayed as bosses in films and that they are shown as showgirls only. This paper acknowledges the historic misrepresentation of heterosexual women in film is parallel to the silenced lesbian character, since they both have to obey The Father.

In this essay, I will discuss the representation of lesbians in a South African film The World Unseen (2007) (part A) in relation to the feminist film theory of Rule of Father and the Law (part B). I will also contemplate on the need for various representations of lesbian characters in future in the depth of my findings, since the lesbian is silenced and haunted, much like a ghost: being absent on-screen but there off-screen.

Film Poster for The World Unseen

Film poster for The World Unseen (2007) showing Sheetal Sheth as Amina (Left) and Lisa Ray (Right) as Miriam.

 

Literature Review
1. Psychoanalysis of the lesbian feminist film
The lesbian spectator as indicated, has to wear several outfits to relate to all the characters since her sexuality is unusual if not allowed (Wilton, 2000):
Issues of identification and spectatorship remain moot within and between competing theories of film and audience, and are of course especially problematic for a lesbian viewer, for only a tiny proportion of films construct a lesbian viewing position or enable lesbians to enjoy uncomplicated identification with either onscreen character or voyeuristic camera. Indeed, if Laura Mulvey is to be believed, it is impossible for any woman to get pleasure from a mainstream narrative film without temporarily unsexing herself in order to carry out what is understood to be an intrinsically male set of behaviours, a la Lady Macbeth (Mulvey 1981).
2. Psychoanalysis of the post-feminist lesbian film
The expression ”post-feminism” focuses on the assumed second phase of feminism which is characterised by women’s collective movements through the 1960s to 2000s, 2000s marking ”post-feminism” (Brunson, 2000):
The key story in this popular story is that the post-feminist woman has a different relation to femininity than either the pre-feminist or the feminist woman. As a persona in the public sphere, the post-feminist woman is also not necessarily ”white”, which I think is the case historically, with the persona ”1970s feminist” which of course is not to say that white women are or were feminists.

Methodology
1. Qualitative research method
The methodology for this paper is a qualitative method particularly focusing on in depth interviews with subjects and also an interpretation of the psychoanalysis of the film The World Unseen (2007) because (Shrum and Duque, 2014): Film and video are used in qualitative research as data collection tools, as sources of information and dialogue between researchers and participants, and as mechanisms for disseminating research results. The 20th century was the century of film; the 21st is the century of digital video. The 20th saw major innovations in recording and film-making, many applicable to ethnography. But owing to characteristics of the technology itself, visual approaches never became a prominent feature of qualitative research. A methodology may be viewed as the application of a technology to some feature of the world, producing the traces that serve as a basis for analysis. Current video technology offers a spectacular methodological promise, making it the first choice for ethnographers of the future. Video is a more robust and transparent data collection technology. As a reflexive prompt, it can help individuals or groups provide richer data.
2. Subjects: My subjects are three lesbian women which I have conducted one-on-one in depth interviews with. Two of them are studying at CPUT in the faculty of business and one is a filmmaker.  I also used film characters Amina, Omar and Miriam (from the film The World Unseen (2007) as subjects.

Findings

PART A.
1. Representation of women in a pre-feminist era lesbian film, The World Unseen (2007)
The film is set in 1952 in Cape Town, where Apartheid’s oppressive laws prevail. The story is about two women, Miriam and Amina from traditional backgrounds who fall in love regardless of the demeaning norms they have to conform to, to be socially accepted. Miriam (played by Lisa Ray), a housewife accustomed to her duties of taking care of the household business and the children, shows her commitment to the Name of the Father and the Law:
1.1. In a scene where Miriam tells Amina (played by Sheetal Sheth) about her life story, the camera is still and framed in a medium shot. Miriam speaks softly in a sombre tone and looks down on the table as she reveals to Amina that she landed in South Africa from India because of the arranged marriage. Miriam’s life as a result, has become monotonous: forever bowing to her husband, Omar (played by Parvin Dabas) and his orders.

The-World-Unseen-01 Snapshot

Snapshot from The World Unseen

1.2. The scene where the film climaxes also reveals the popular castration of the Father (Omar) by the follower (Miriam). In a candlelit dining room, Miriam rebukes Omar that it is her right to learn how to drive to go to work. Omar is terrified by her confidence and as a result, stands up from the dinner table and marches angrily to flip the counter to the ground. Omar’s aggression symbolises the agony of being castrated, this implies that he has lost his power and control over Miriam and that she is not his object anymore (Mulvey 2000; Doane 2000; Brunston 2000; Doty 2000; Clover 2000). Omar yells to Miriam: ”You will not be my wife at work!” Miriam replies, ”But I will work and take care of the children and the shop.” Omar loses his temper again, ”I don’t like it. If I don’t like it, that should be enough.” Miriam answers boldly ”It is not enough. It has never been. I just didn’t know what to tell you until now.”

2008_the_world_unseen_003

Snapshot from The World Unseen showing Parvin Dabas (Left) as Omar (Miriam’s husband) and Lisa Ray (Right) as Miriam.

PART B

2. Representation of lesbians in ”post-feminist” era films
2.1 The interviews revealed that Rule of the Father and the Law still dominates in South Africa’s films and television series at the moment. This implies that the Law has not been demolished and the lesbian character is still silenced and at the same time ghostly – parallel to the frame of the post-feminist heterosexual woman trapped in the ”pretty woman” image. One of the lesbian women mentions: ”…Everyone on TV is straight, there are few if not no lesbians on TV.” This remark recalls that parallel between lesbian women and heterosexual women – that women are being indoctrinated with heterosexuality and are being othered if they choose to disobey The Father. In other words, the ”straight” characters in films are not being themselves and are simply obeying the Law: To be straight and accept patriarchal rule or be ghostly, and in this case no one wants to be a ghost for it will be difficult to come to life. The Father in this context is the collective, masculine driven possession and obsession of the female as the castrator and as the symbol of visual pleasure (Cook & Johnston, 2000; Mulvey 2000).
2.2 The interview with a lesbian filmmaker, inevitably highlights the elixir of Rule of the Father and the Law, she mentions ”… SA television lesbians are not portrayed well. Instead of portraying the real side of lesbianism like the kind of love between the two women, the lifestyle and family, television always portrays the negative side like being raped, unchristian and how the society sees lesbianism.” Since the Rule of the Father implies that women epitomise the fetish for erotic visual pleasure, the spectator, whether male or female subconsciously obeys The Father due to recurrence of the female being the castrator (Mulvey, 2000). As a result The Father orders his followers to have one main vision of the female body and her sexuality, which Mulvey describes as ”to-be-looked-at-ness”. The lesbian character as a result, has to be a ghost, since the heterosexual woman is forced into early sexualisation from birth for scopophilic purposes by The Father.
Conclusion
The Rule of the Father and the Law prohibits the cinematic development of women characters regardless of their sexuality (Doane, 2000). The Father, the collective masculine identities in films enforce women to follow their orders literally and figuratively. Literally, the depiction of women as metanarrative for voyeurism and fetishism have violated their right to freedom of expression. Figuratively, the depiction of women as showgirls shows the analogy for the fear of the male to be castrated – that is denying that women have power and not just their ‘womanliness’ which is is innate (Mulvey, 2000). The findings reveal that the historic misrepresentation of women as erotic objects and castrators still persist and that heterosexual women are trapped in the order of obeying the Father (making their souls perish) for his sadomasochistic pleasure, whilst the lesbian/bisexual women are seen as ghosts as their lives are deemed as not that important to crossover on screen.

See the trailer for The World Unseen

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Books
1. Brunsdon, C., 2000, Post-feminism and shopping in films, Arnold, New York.
2. Clover, C.J., 2000, Her body, himself, Arnold, New York.
3. Cook, P. & Johnston, C., 2000, The place of women in the cinema of Raoul Walsh, Arnold, New York.
4. Doane, M., 2000, Film and the Masquerade, Arnold, New York.
5. Doty, A., 2000, There’s something queer here, Arnold, New York.
6. Kilbourn, R.J.A., Cinema, Memory, Modernity, Arnold, New York.
7. Maingard, J., 2007, South African National Cinema, Routledge, New York.
8. Mulvey, L., 2000, Visual pleasure and narrative cinema, Arnold, New York.
9. Tomaselli, K., Williams, A., Steenveld, L., & Tomaselli, R., 1986, Anthropos Publishers, Bellville.
10. Wilton, T., 2000, On not being Lady Macbeth: some (troubled) thoughts on lesbian spectatorship, Arnold, New York.

Articles
1. Contemporary Sexuality, 2014, Retrieved on May 01, 2014 from CPUT’s EBSCO HOST database.
2. Botha, M.P., The New African Queer Aesthtics, Retrieved on May 01, 2014 from http://www.kinema.uwaterloo.ca/article.php?id=404&feature
3. Shrum, W., & Duque, R.B., Film and Video Qualitative Research, Retrieved on May 01, 2014 from http://srmo.sagepub.com/view/sage-encyc-qualitative-research-methods/n175.xml

FILMOGRAPHY

1. Mapantsula, 1987, Directed by Oliver SCHMITZ, Haverbeam: South Africa.

2. Gangter’s Paradise: Jerusalema, 2008, Directed by Ralph ZIMAN, Muti Films: South Africa.
3. The World Unseen, 2007, Directed by Shamim SARIF, Enlightenment Productions: South Africa

4. Lost In The World, 2016, Directed by Xolelwa Ollie NHLABATSI. Blackweather Productions and Hand Drawn House Productions: South Africa

5. Whilst You Weren’t Looking, 2015, Directed by Cathrine Stewart. OIA Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Phat Free Films and Puo Pha Productions.

 

Ayanda: A beautifully touching film

I wanted to create a strong female role model for young girls, who can be seen on a big screen, and make it possible to be someone who is grappling with oneself and wanting to be successful, but also be dealing with one’s own issues. – Sara Blecher.

12366096_822714097833145_5602175440136686187_o

A still from Ayanda showing lead character, Fulu Moguvhani as Ayanda (left) and supporting lead actor O.C Ojeke as David.

 Ayanda is a beautiful film about love, loss and passion told in a completely refreshing style. The performances are world class, the scenes are tense where need be and light-hearted where necessary. This heart-warming story of a young, multi-talented and free-spirited creative (in the field of car artistry/mechanic all-rounder) whose reluctance of accepting transformation in life halts her from fulfilling her destiny.

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Snapshots from Ayanda showing Fulu Moguvhani as Ayanda (left and below) and Jafta Mamabolo (right) as Lenaka.

Ayanda (played by Fulu Moguvhani) lost her father who she adored greatly. This takes a toll on Ayanda’s identity as she pursues to honour her father’s legacy by continuing to operate his garage which she inherited. On her journey to find meaning about loss and its implications, she discovers a hidden love affair between her mother (played by the effervescent Ntati Moshesh) and her father’s best friend Zama (played by Kenneth Nkosi), before Ayanda’s father died. There are turning points where Ayanda learns how her failed attempt in operating her father’s business blocks her to head into a new direction in life and in that process, she becomes naïve and loses supportive friends.

11879124_773686986069190_4028655588723253473_o (1)

A scene from Ayanda, showing Nthati Moshesh as Dorothy (Ayanda’s mother).

The film has one of the most significant subtext every young adult will deeply resonate with at one point in life: You inherit your parent’s gifts and failures. This means that aspirations and dreams your parents have are passed down to you one way or another. When there is failure encountered in fulfilling a dream, your child is more likely to keep that dream alive if he/she does not know the real story behind her actions in life. One of the scenes that will make you wonder whether you can ask your parent the most heart-piercing question: “Why did you stop dreaming Mama?” This is what Ayanda asks her mother without fear.

Sara Blecher did an excellent job in giving the film a distinct look and feel. The elements contributing to the unique visual style is the use of stop-motion editing, inter-cutting between Ayanda’s story and her story in the lens of the African photographer star on the rise, making powerful commentary about the rich state of creativity in the continent.

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A snapshot from Ayanda showing Fulu Moguvhani as Ayanda.

Ayanda, played wonderfully by Fulu Moguvhani is one character you will adore. Fulu becomes a Ayanda and her realist interpretation of the role will touch your heart. The scene that makes me teary is that one where Ayanda finally learns to let go of the big memento that keeps her ‘father’s ghost’ alive. Ayanda had to let go of the car that belonged to her father. This is the biggest lesson Ayanda was reluctant to learn: It is okay to let go. This scene accompanied by a heart-warming song by Alice Phoebe Lou  called Fiery Heart, Fiery Mind: I burst into tears, I couldn’t hold them back. I just felt moved by Ayanda’s journey and I could relate to her story because we are both young and still trying to figure ourselves out – where we need to be and what we have to let go to grow.

Sara-Blecher-1137

A portrait showing SA film star Sara Blecher, the director of Ayanda.

 

 

 

#PitoriMahlanyeng

A product from Tshwane is taking each person from each and every country in the world and putting them in one room… – Reamogetswe Kgoathe

TSHWANE CREATIVES

TSHWANE CREATIVES: The Fashion Rebels, a collective based in Tshwane (Pretoria) who are also founders of PTA Social Market. Pic by KG Dynamic

THE FASHION REBELS. Pic from Maitele Wawe

I was born and bred in the vibrant Soshanguve, north of Tshwane (Pretoria). A presentation on youth subcultures by Shallom Johnson, a multimedia artist from Canada inspired this piece because she motivated us to see what defines people and their beliefs. That is when I realised my hometown glory when I was far away from home – in Cape Town to be exact. I always wanted to write a tribute to my people before writing about any other place I have been to.

Background

South Africa’s administrative capital, Tshwane formerly known as Pretoria has a population of 2.9 million people. Tshwane, known for its laid-back feel, is the capital city closest to Johannesburg – the city of lights and the economic hub.

SERENITY

The Tshwane cityscape from the National Botanical Gardens. Pic by Katlego Kganyago

Downtown Tshwane on a Friday. Pic Katlego Kganyago

Downtown Tshwane on a Friday. Pic Katlego Kganyago

Tshwane has an eclectic mix of the country’s cultures and influences, which has led to most of its inhabitants forming their own language often referred to as ‘Sepitori’. The language is a combination of 11 official languages including creole dialects. The city is also known for its trademark genre of house music and Barcardi. Hosia Mashao, who is a music and media analyst describes Barcardi as a faster version of house, the vocals are provocative and the infectious high-tempo beats make you want to move. Tshwane’s region has many names ranging from Jacaranda City, City of Party Animals, and SA’s capital of House to Pitori Mahlanyeng/’City of the wild and free spirited’. Almost every name connotes subcultures or rather collective identities that make this city’s atmosphere youthful and enchanting.

The city is built on King Tshwane’s kingdom, who according to the South African History Journal is King Mushi’s son who resided in the city area before it was seized by the Afrikaner settlers in the 18th century. By the early 1900s, the British annexed the city.

Economy

Tshwane’s economy is the second largest in South Africa following Johannesburg according to Tshwane’s Economic Development Agency. The city’s governmental departments and services account over 30.4%, financial and personal services sector 23. 7%, 15.4% in wholesale and manufacturing and 30.5% on other industries. There are several internationally accredited universities in Tshwane, allowing it to become one of country’s busiest research hubs.

THE SOUTH AFRICAN RESERVE BANK. Pic by Katlego Kganyago

THE SOUTH AFRICAN RESERVE BANK. Pic by Katlego Kganyago

Architecture

The city’s old buildings are influenced by British architect Herbert Barker who designed the grandeur Union Building, an iconic landmark in Tshwane. The styles are a combination of Cape Dutch Architecture which has medieval roots in Holland, France, Germany, France and Indonesia. The new buildings are a combination of contemporary designs.

THE UNION BUILDINGS. Pic by Katlego Kganyago

THE UNION BUILDINGS. Pic by Katlego Kganyago

Subcultures in Tshwane

‘Pitori Mahlanyeng’ subculture

(meaning ‘City of wildly enthusiastic/free-spirited people’)

WILDLY ENTHUSIASTIC PEOPLE. Pic by Katlego Kganyago

WILDLY ENTHUSIASTIC PEOPLE. Sharon Khosa and friend. Pic by Katlego Kganyago

Definition: Pitori refers to Tshwane. Mahlanyeng means a place where free-spirited and crazy enthused people live according to the people of Tshwane. Every person in the city has a different yet inspiring perspective of the Mahlanyeng meaning.

Origins: Local multimedia artist, Tladi Mokgokolo mentions that the word Mahlanyeng initially refers to psychiatric institutions found in Tshwane, hence ‘Mahlanyeng’ which means place of mentally ill people in local languages. Other surrounding communities outside Tshwane mocked them using that word. Mokgokolo further stated that people of Tshwane then ‘misinterpreted’ the word into a subculture that sets them apart from other cities. In other words, Tshwane people uplifted themselves with the word and gave it a new meaning instead of being ashamed and being defined with one’s features.

Constitution of Mahlanyeng

Language

The language ‘Sepitori’ is a cacophony of 11 official languages, combined with influences of other African languages and creolised dialects. Tshwane people all agree that the way they speak makes them purely unique and they say it with pride. CJ Dirane, a creative based in Pretoria reveals the humour of his people, “They are easy to invent new words which some are bound to change at any given moment.’’ There are some areas of the city named after track titles like ‘Marry Me’.

Fashion

Tshwane people are known for their vintage inspired dress sense. “Some funky-looking people mix a bunch of styles into one intriguing outfit,” so says a fashionista and socialite Tebogo Mataboge.

VINTAGE-INSPIRED LOOK: Bryan Murei is known for his unique vintage pieces. Pic by Katlego Kganyago

VINTAGE-INSPIRED LOOK: Bryan Murei is known for his unique vintage pieces. Pic by Katlego Kganyago

INTRIGUING LOOK: The founders of the PTA Social Market (aka The Fashion Rebels) are known for their refreshing style. Pic from PTA Social Market.

INTRIGUING LOOK: The founders of the PTA Social Market (aka The Fashion Rebels) are known for their refreshing style. Pic from PTA Social Market.

Music

Barcardi music originators like DJ Spoko reside in Tshwane city region. This subgenre of house is massive in the United Kingdom, and it is only a matter of time until it becomes mainstream, according to music magazine, Dummy. The city is known for having an incredible audience of deep and commercial house followers. Popular musicians like Mujava, DJ Divalash, Black Motion and Uhuru are the city’s music ambassadors hence Tshwane is also called Capital of House. There are other spaces that accommodate alternative and cosmopolitan sounds.

DJ Spoko

DJ Spoko

DJ Mujava

DJ Mujava

DJ Divalash

DJ Divalash

Black Motion

Black Motion

Lifestyle and People

The people in Tshwane live an alternative lifestyle, one might say an African hippie way. One native says “We are a happy city of love”, the other says “We meet in the capital city for nightclubbing that’s where we get to experience other phenomenons from a variety of people”. To sum it up: “Through learning from each other that’s when everything starts. There is a need to show other cities that even when we have a diversity of cultures in this city, we will always be brothers/sisters or always be one big happy family which is called Mahlanyeng…”

My observations around the city conclude that its people are one of the friendliest, energetic and their exuberant confidence sets a street ablaze. The city’s multi-layering of traditional, modern and alternative cultures contributes to the people’s inspiring personalities. C’J Dirane mentions that Tshwane people are humorous and super creative because people from different backgrounds try to accommodate each other, and leads to unidentified subculture (referring to Mahlanyeng phenomenon). Dirane adds, “As history suggests what people aren’t familiar with is considered to be weird and case in point ‘crazy’.”

CJ Dirane: Creative from Tshwane

CJ Dirane: Creative from Tshwane

FREE-SPIRITED: Martha Mathepa proves that Tshwane has one of the friendliest people.

FREE-SPIRITED: Martha Mathepa proves that Tshwane has one of the friendliest people.

Free-spirited Dudu Daisy Mothudi

Free-spirited Dudu Daisy Mothudi. Pic by Katlego Kganyago

Free-spirited Friends: Sive  Msivana and Khangelani Mangeli. Pic by Katlego Kganyago

Free-spirited Friends: Sive Msivana and Khangelani Mangeli. Pic by Katlego Kganyago

Free-spirited Tshego Masha. Pic by Katlego Kganyago

Free-spirited Tshego Masha. Pic by Katlego Kganyago

Free-spirited Nonkululeko. Pic by Katlego Kganyago

Free-spirited Nonkululeko. Pic by Katlego Kganyago

Dance

The city is also known as the party animal town and boasts mesmerising dancing styles that cannot be found anywhere. The dancing styles resemble their startling and diverse heritage, a fusion of contemporary, traditional, township dance forms and a tint of artistic-improve techniques.

Emblem

People of Tshwane all agree that if Mahlanyeng would have an emblem, it should epitomise amazingly smart, free-spirited people having fun and embracing life.

TSWHWANE'S EMBLEM: 'The amazingly smart people having fun' according to the people.

TSWHWANE’S EMBLEM: ‘The amazingly smart people having fun’ according to the people. Pic from Maitele Wawe

The people of Tshwane are artistic according to writer Kutloano Mankoane. They give words a new meaning and celebrate complex cross-cultural identities into a lifestyle or rather Mahlanyeng subculture, to new music genres like Barcardi. It is only a matter of time that its inhabitants start commercializing on their uncelebrated heritage, to allow a process of re-designing their city to draw many visitors and also for them to experience travelling to other African metropolises. This would initiate a new wave of African consciousness.

Writer/Creative from Tshwane: Kutloano Mankoane

Writer/Creative from Tshwane: Kutloano Mankoane

Although the city is seen as quiet, it is only because one of its unique selling points (Mahlanyeng subculture etc.) is not well-curated and this could revive Tshwane to be one of the exciting cities to experience in Africa. The pulse of this city is truly reminiscent to a Barcardi track of high-tempo dance-contagious beats, daring vocals and a non-conformist transnational rhythm that alludes to the startling diversity of Tshwane.

Edited by Kutloano Mankoane, Hosia Mashao and Ruth Matsimane.

Necktie Youth: A state of emergency film

I hope to start a dialogue about the troubles of post-Apartheid youth as well as a new nation’s critical quest for definition and establishing a collective identity. – Sibs Shongwe-La Mer

Portrait of Sibs Shongwe La-Mer

Portrait of Necktie Youth director, Sibs Shongwe-La Mer

Necktie Youth Trailer

This stunning, ground-breaking coming off-age film ignites a call for more African experimental films to tell it like it is. Shot entirely in monochrome, La Mer takes you on a journey of unforgettable characters you know but have not seen on-screen showing their true colours. What I mean is that, this incredible director is not afraid to say what is in the minds and hearts of his peers and the world, with mesmerising lines like: “It’s like people are too clever to fall in love” to “Everybody wants to have their piece of Woolies alone” to the heart-piercing  “Nobody wants to help each other. It’s that simple.”

A still from Necktie Youth.

Stills from Necktie Youth.

Still from Necktie Youth

This is a state of emergency film: it reveals that many young South Africans are depressed and do not want to talk about it or they are too disoriented by their self-destructive behaviour to find closure rather. This is seen as the central character Jabz (played beautifully by Bonko Cosmo) struggles to come to terms with the loss of his girlfriend who committed suicide a year ago. Cosmo’s interpretation of the character leaves you speechless, every scene where he appears demands all your attention because his emptiness state-of-being drags you along, his dialogue is moving and his worn-out look is captivating. Jabz does not need to say much, it is written in his face how he will end up. That’s a stellar performance.

A snapshot from Necktie Youth showing Jabz (played by Bonko Cosmo).

Snapshots from Necktie Youth showing Jabz, played by Bonko Cosmo gives a standing ovation performance.

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At the very same day at the mall, I meet a homeless guy who is my peer, and asks me for loose coins, I offer what I have and we part ways. In a minute or so, our paths meet again and I ask this articulate homeless guy a question: What happened? I can understand what you are going through.  “I do not want to talk no more.” With that said, I refrain from being a journo and become his friend. Feelings of hopelessness overwhelm me as the message from La Mer’s film hits me hard: Where is the love?

A few weeks later, I meet another homeless guy in Tshwane CBD, I also ask him whether he wants to talk after friendly gestures like offering my lunch to him. “I do not want to talk no more.” We meet again after few days and he finally opens up: “I am diagnosed with bipolar-depression since I was 10.” Characters in Necktie Youth pop up in my mind in HD and the film’s spirit goes with me whenever I get to observe young South Africans.

There is so much I can say about this moving film, but the more I say, the lesser you are going to enjoy the movie. Go see it, even if it means putting lunch money aside to order the DVD.

 

 

UTOLLA KGOPOLO (Reveal the Memory)

THE SYNOPSIS

This is the short film I am currently scripting and I dedicate it to my friends who have been pushing if not begging me to portray them.

Utolla Kgopolo is about searching for lost love and reviving memories with a long-lost friend. The film deals with realising a disconnection between friends which lead to resentment and highlighting the ripple-effect of experiencing rejection in all kinds of relationships since the memory. The concept is making peace with forgotten wars: Losing a friend because of a misunderstanding that causes fear to erupt in relationships that are meant to last.

The themes of Utolla Kgopolo can better be described as:

Treasure every friend.

Face your fears.

Every person leaves a mark in your life.

Here is the synopsis.

Chapter 1: June 2009

Every student in Wallmansthal High School fantasize about their ideal matric dance dates. Kabelo secretly fantasizes about Thapelo, his high-school guy-crush of the moment at the ball dancing to romantic music.
Kabelo is afraid to tell Thapelo how he feels about him but does everything for him: homeworks, essays and tests. Kabelo cannot say no to Thapelo. Kabelo’s friends notice how he spends a lot of time with him but never says anything.
Thapelo however, does not notice that Kabelo likes him.

Chapter 2: January 2013

Kabelo bumps into another guy similar to Thapelo called Kamogelo, three years later at Cape Peninsula University of Technology, as he is studying language practice. Kabelo is stunned that Kamogelo has mannerisms like his high-school sweetheart. Kabelo deeply breaks down when he tells Thembi (Kabelo’s friend) about his encounter with Thapelo. Thembi encourages Kabelo to be honest with his feelings.

Chapter 3: March 2013

Kabelo decides to admit to Thapelo about his feelings in high-school in the past tense on Facebook. He waits in suspense for his answer.

Chapter 4: April 2001

Kabelo plays with Thokozani everyday during lunch-break and play together after-school waiting for transport. Kabelo and Thokozani kiss almost everyday when they play. Everyone knows Thokozani in Kabelo’s family.

Chapter 5: April 2003

One day Thokozani does not come to their meeting spot during lunch-break, although he is around playing with Kabelo’s bullies. Kabelo waits and waits for Thokozani to come over until he approaches them, where he is told to never play with Thokozani again. Thokozani does not greet or share a moment with Kabelo.

Chapter 6. September 2007

There are confirmations at Block K Methodist Church in Soshanguve and Kabelo’s sister, Refiloe persuades him to accompany her. When they arrive at church, Kabelo sees Thokozani. Time stops for Kabelo. Thokozani is standing alone, in a way, looking for company. Refiloe urges Kabelo to go and say hello to Thokozani but he tentatively declines.

Chapter 7: April 2013

In literature class, when all students are supposed to write down their life experiences and asked to identify them according to categories so that they can be aware of their life struggles as creatives:

Kabelo realises that most of his life experiences fall under ‘lost love’ and his lecturer, Marnard Myburgh says they should speak out one by one. Kabelo’s heart pounds faster and faster as his chance to speak becomes closer, tears already flowing and heartache growing gigantic.

Kabelo tells the whole class about his loss of Thokozani and how it has affected his potential relationships all because he struggled to be honest to admit his feelings. Kabelo weeps as everyone in the class wipes tears and admits how he has always been afraid to lose friends because of honesty and most importantly, avoiding rejection by all means. It is this day, when Thapelo replied back on Facebook saying Kabelo should have told him how he felt and that he does not feel the same way.

Chapter 8: January 2014

Kabelo begins to search for Thokozani. Will he ever find Thokozani after 12 years of not seeing each other?

Wait for the film.

THE AMAZING BIOSCOPE

After screening our short film, Ons (directed by Marius Myburgh) in 2012 at The Bioscope, it has become one of my favourite indie cinemas in South Africa.

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bioscope

The Bioscope is an independent cinema situated in Johannesburg’s Maboneng Precinct. In its website, a brief history of the establishment is splendidly explained:

The aim of the project as always has been to increase the diversity of content on South African cinema screens thereby becoming an important cultural space in the city of Johannesburg. In bringing new films to new audiences, The Bioscope has helped play a fundamental role in growing new markets for new films, becoming a vital mechanism in developing local audiences for locally & internationally produced cinema.

There was once a time in Johannesburg, when going to the cinema meant watching a movie on Louis Botha Avenue at either the Astra or Royal Bioscopes or at one of the many bioscopes in Hillbrow. The days of the bioscopes are fondly remembered by many today. These were stand alone, walk-in cinemas housed in beautiful old art-deco buildings and were located all over the city.

Today however, independent cinemas have slowly dwindled down to a handful. Commercial cinema has come to dominate South African consumption and most movie theatres are located in bland shopping malls and all screen essentially the same content – mainstream films that look and sound like each other week in and week out.

At these cinemas there is very little will to bring in small international films or documentaries and many locally made films rarely receive a theatrical release for similar reasons. As a result of this conservative model, many great films are rarely seen in South Africa.

Johannesburg, unlike the city of Cape Town, did not have an independent cinema theatre that caters outside of the parameters of mainstream movies. The Bioscope has performed this important role by enhancing the cultural environment of Johannesburg by becoming the city’s only truly independent cinema. A unique exhibition space where on any night of the week, one will be able to find old art-house classics, discover small films from other parts of the world, or watch South African cinema past and present. Other events at The Bioscope include talks, live performances, and film festivals.

The predicament revealed in the text above is that there are few independent cinemas around South Africa, let alone Johannesburg allowing much appreciation of mainstream films and less celebration of world/South African cinema. The popular independent cinemas in South Africa are The Bioscope and The Labia in Cape Town. In this post, I will discuss the vital need for more independent cinemas like The Bioscope to be built around South Africa and how they could improve national film culture.

The emergence of malls in South Africa has affected the shift in consumer behaviour of visiting independent cinemas because malls have cinemas as well. Dion Chang will agree based on his book New Urban Tribes of South Africa (2012). Malls eventually replaced the tradition of independent cinemas. The Bioscope competes with malls because it is more than a 68-seat, single HD projector screen cinema; it has a café called Chalkboard, where discussions/brainstorming are held and the variety of food offered like pizzas and coffees are allowed into the cinema.

 

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CAFE AT CINEMA: Vibrant people dining at The Chalkboard.

The establishment of independent cinemas around South Africa could improve the economic growth and social development. For example if an independent cinema is built in Soshanguve, Pretoria’s largest township, job creation opportunities would be available. The Bioscope has its curators, live performances and devoted audience members. A man in love proposed to his lover at The Bioscope after a live band performance, proving that particular cinema is profound in their memories and repeat business is guaranteed. The Bioscope screens local and international film festivals and offers the venue for hire. Socially, The Bioscope has its film society, offers film education programmes to inner-city schools and has filmmaking workshops.

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MEMBERSHIP: A card showing The Bioscope Film Society Card

 

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MUSIC: A live band performing at The Bioscope.

 

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GIVING BACK: The Bioscope offers film-making workshops for inner-city school children.

The cinemas should be built as soon as possible because of the staggering rate of unemployment at 24.9% as revealed in Stats SA (2012). More independent cinemas should be built around villages, townships, suburbs, towns to cities by utilizing rehabilitated buildings with reference to Paul Mashatile’s (Minister of Arts and Culture) Mzansi Golden Economy 2011:

Throughout the country there has been investment in infrastructure. There are reports of buildings that are unutilised and underutilised for a variety of reasons including embarking on initiatives without prior development of a financial sustainability plan, underfunding to allow full materialisation of the original plans, insufficient OPEX to allow the infrastructure to be used for the purposes originally intended, inappropriate location. The view of role players affected is that a financial injection is required to ensure that existing infrastructure is maintained and operated for the purposes originally intended.

This would improve South Africa’s film culture to become the most sophisticated socially, economically, politically and psychologically in Africa.

South Africa’s first winner of Cannes’ Queer Palm Award Oliver Hermanus explains in City Press (2012) how lack of domestic film culture results to ‘brainless films’:

We may be making more films, but they are burdened with the pressure of having to be hits – at a price tag that will render them poor and half-baked if they show too much creative imagination. Does more films minus more money still mean we are growing? Could this “growth spurt” in South African film simply be a bubble that will burst once those film enthusiasts who are investing in films discover that the audience is still fairly unchanged and continually unaware of most of the products we make?

I would say that R5 million is more than enough cash to give to a director for their first outing. This is a business built on doing more for less, and film directing is all about innovation and creative problem-solving.

But here, perhaps, is our major festering wound: directors. Just because someone says that they want to be a filmmaker does not mean that they should be one – just like saying you want to be a rocket scientist doesn’t mean you are one. The major deduction I could make from the local films I saw in Durban (and this is bound to get me into trouble) was we don’t have great directors … yet.

All the films sounded great, looked great, they were all in focus, the production designer got the colours right, the costumers’ interpretation of character was pitch perfect, but the direction was horrid. Finally, our apparently prolific film industry is subtweeting a major reality: We are not training strong filmmakers.

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OLIVER’S QUEST: Oliver Hermanus.

Hermanus’ proposition proves that without an advanced film culture, skill development and transformation in the film sector would not be as compelling as it ought to be. Hence I propose the establishment of independent cinemas for catapulting South African film, form and culture to a greater level.