27th Mar2017

Identity

by admin

Identity

Hi everyone,

In this week’s edition of the blog, our talented writers have explored the issue of identity. Stephanie Schaffrath, after walking past the Israeli Apartheid Week exhibitions, wonders as to whether we can live in a world without any labels. Obvious Nomaele derides Christianity’s judgement of members of the LGBTIAQ+ community and makes a call for greater compassion for members of the community. Sandiswa Sondzaba discusses how Brenda Fassie complicated our understanding of the ideal black womxnhood in post-apartheid South Africa. Sandiswa Tshabalala discusses the toxicity of hegemonic masculinity. Finally, Sandiswa Tshabalala shares a poem which celebrates the strength of black womxn.

I hope that you will have a restful research break.

Until the next edition,

Sandiswa and the exPress imPress team of 2017.

27th Mar2017

Strong Black Woman

by admin

Strong Black Woman

She’s a dark, Nubian queen.

Her Strength a spine made of diamonds.

She is a hurricane of a woman.

A woman who doesn’t care about the hushed

whispers the world envelops her with.

She is a bulletproof spirit made of a living,

breathing black womanhood.

Her body, mind and soul contort and buckle

like the capricious African landscape

under the beating sun.

She carries the weight of the world’s scorn and

derision home

only then does the cracking,

calloused veneer dissipate

like drained leaves

as winter winds push them away to reveal the

bare willowy frame they decorated so

distressingly.

No longer is she strong,

no longer is she the hurricane

that knocked the wind storm

so effortlessly out of her.

The world’s narrative of ‘strong black woman’

has left her mourning in silence,

her silent moans echoing back to her in the

uncomfortable quiet.

Slowly stripped of her humanity and her pain,

her vulnerability

A power so practiced it only serves to struggle

against the scorn.

This ‘strength’ is the only power she has left in

her to strike back; to dance to the unchained

rhythm of the ‘strong black woman’ narrative.

Predisposition is to always stifle her sadness,

to hide even her happiness lest she be

labelled ‘loud ghetto bitch’.

She is filled with magic

– the stuff of faery tales –

ethereal and elusive like the slow, howling

winds before the storm.

The moments of deep anxiety

and depression where the darkness within

herself eclipses all else are frequent reminders

of her humanity before everything else.

Her strength will one day be just words in her

narrative not the cover and content,

too often used to silence her true evocation

when the world looks upon her pages

for the nourishment of their thoughts.

Never downplay her power,

for she is,

from the vivacity in her veins

to the tears on her tongue,

a ‘strong black woman’.

And in the earth of her threshold,

is engraved the image of a Nubian goddess,

so pity the fool that crosses

her unconquerable spirit.

27th Mar2017

What Makes a Man?

by admin

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This is a question which has made room for much debate. In my Sociology class, one girl proclaimed that what men are made from the lies they tell. While we all chuckled at that view (which, for the most part, remains true), the question remained unanswered. I would argue that traditional society’s view of what being a man is all about is focused solely on masculinity- which is a dish best served toxic.

 

Toxic masculinity is indelibly tied to masculinity in general, as by definition being masculine means that you have qualities traditionally associated with men, especially strength and aggressiveness. And isn’t that every mother’s dream, that their sons will grow up to be strong and… aggressive? The most extreme example of this kind of hope for a child would be Caius Martius from Shakespeare’s Coriolanus and his mother’s excessive excitement at his violent exploits, but since this is real world, and this kind of fanciful scenario is out of reach, it is quite alarming that lots of Caius Martiuses exist in modern society. Aggression; lack of emotion; and domination have become the standard for masculinity. This is what is meant by toxic masculinity.

 

A crucial factor in understanding how this is manifested is through understanding that masculinity (toxic or otherwise) is not innate. This is what makes it most dangerous. We have all heard the saying “No child is born racist,” and the same goes with this concept. Masculinity is entrenched in society through familial teachings and the way households are structured around performing chores and interacting with members of the opposite sex from childhood. This is why girls have to stay in the house and learn how to manage a household with respect to cleaning and cooking whilst boys do outside chores, if any. It also begins with vast differences between the girls’ and boys’ aisles in the toy stores. The boys’ aisles have automotive toys that make use of a child’s motor skills, whereas a girl’s toy usually involves the kitchen, and learning how to take care of a baby and how to maintain one’s beauty. This communicates to young boys and girls what their place in society will be, and what should be important to them.

 

Now, this does not necessarily mean that if you enjoyed playing with Barbie dolls and now you know a thing or two about beautification or if you enjoy cooking now, you’ve been manipulated into doing so by society or by your upbringing. The problem lies in how you’ve been taught to do these things. The same goes for how boys are taught masculinity. Young men have often been told to “act like a man”. This instruction often means that men have to be unemotional, angry, better than others, and never weak. This is one of the ways in which masculinity is dangerous– not only to women but to men themselves. Everyone is born with emotion, but a person who actively suppresses their own must be living a highly regulated and uncomfortable life and that is no life at all.

 

More than this, toxic masculinity  becomes an endless cycle of teachings because, even though that view argues that men are inherently not good or nurturing parents, a man must mould his son into the best possible version of manhood possible. Men may grow up thinking that they are unsuited to being nurturing parents, and that they have certain roles with regards to being a father, i.e. being a breadwinner. This further entrenches household inequality and influences how boys in a house are raised in relation to girls. This problem comes full circle as the ways in which a man views his masculinity give us great insight into how he views women. If a man thinks that understanding women, enjoying fruity colorful drinks, crying, or being emotionally supported by another man or caring about his appearance emasculates him, then it is apparent that he views women (and other effeminate people) as being weak, frivolous, and overly emotional.

27th Mar2017

Being a Good African Girl

by admin

On 1 February, Beyonce used Instagram to announce her pregnancy with twins. Of course her announcement went viral, with many going on Twitter to exclaim that her news had saved 2017. The following day, she released a highly referential, avante-garde photo essay on her website. The photo essay was a collaborative effort with several photographers, including Awol Erizku, and had references and allusions that centred her in a long, historical visual narrative around motherhood and womanhood. The visuals referenced included The Madonna and Child, Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, and the African water goddess Mami Wata. Moreover, Beyonce made use of these references during her performance at the 2017 Grammy Awards, using her performance to pay tribute to motherhood and divine mythologies around fertility and motherhood. However, not everyone is a fan of Beyonce’s deification of motherhood. Naomi Schaefer Riley, in her op-ed piece Having a Baby Isn’t a Miracle and Doesn’t Make You a Goddess, criticizes Beyonce’s visual references as being a form of pagan fertility worship. Riley goes on to criticize society’s deification of motherhood. That critique makes sense; however, Riley seemingly reduces motherhood to a banal performativity without any consideration for why Beyonce, a black woman, would feel the need to deify black motherhood within our globalized misogynoir society.

 

This is not the first time that black feminist icons have been unfairly criticized for celebrating their blackness. Brenda Fassie, patronisingly characterized as the Madonna of the Townships, was an icon who problematized societal narratives around black womanhood. Brenda Fassie was an icon who, besides recording multiple classics such as Weekend Special, had a profound impact young (black) women’s self-esteem and psychosocial energies. Regardless of the progressive tenets within our Constitution, South Africa is a deeply conservative and patriarchal society. Black womanhood- and black women’s sexualities are consistently under the heteronormative patriarchal gaze that manifests itself through virginity testing, high levels of gender based violence, and rampant homophobia. Homophobic attitudes have been problematized, with the Somizi Mhlongo’s highly publicized recent walkout of a Grace Bible Church sermon that discussed the “unnaturalness” of homosexuality. That Brenda Fassie dared to be proudly queer in the 1990s and early 2000s is an act of transgression that we have yet to uncover within our collective imagination. Seemingly Brenda Fassie’s queerness has become invisibilized within the mainstream media’s memorialization of her music and legacy as late- and post-apartheid South African artist. Brenda Fassie audaciously spoke of her multiple male and female lovers. Later on in her life, she came out as lesbian; yet, she dared to self-identify as a good African woman. This self-identification complicated our understanding of black femininity.Within mainstream understandings of black African femininity, a woman is either good or bad. A good woman is virginal whilst the bad woman is lascivious and self-destructive.

 

Without a doubt Brenda Fassie was self-destructive. However, she was revolutionary in that she used her music (and her life) to challenge the legacy of ownership over black bodies and their sexuality. She embodied this rebellion in her later life as she chose to sing exclusively in South Africa’s indigenous languages. She used the public exposure of her private life to inform her music and activism. Brenda Fassie used her celebrity and proud embrace of her sexuality to challenge our understandings of what a good African woman is/was. Brenda Fassie commanded us to love her as she was: a sexual black woman. If we truly did love her, then we should start to embrace her complex and transgressive legacy as a queer black woman existing within post-apartheid South Africa’s political milieu.

Brenda Fassie

 

27th Mar2017

Society and the “GayZ”

by admin

 

It is very amazing how Christians react to PEOPLE in the LGBTIAQ+ community. For those who do not understand what LGBTIAQ+ stands for, let me teach you. It stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersexual, asexual, queer and other sexual orientations and gender identities but I will get more into detail on those in upcoming editions (Wits Pride).

 

There is a scripture in the bible that reads “Thou shalt not judge”, but what we encounter is the script being ignored by those who call themselves the ‘superior Christians’. I am not against Christianity, but I am against false practice of Christianity. I have realised that a lot of PEOPLE in the LGBTIAQ+ community do not attend church. This is not because they do not want to. Rather it is because of the Christian society that judges their sexuality.

 

Although it is a sin to have same sex marriage, it is equally a sin to judge. When the society judges an LGBTIAQ+ member, they quote the infamous Sodom and Gomorrah. They may think they are spreading the word (which is true) but they are also destroying the kingdom of the Almighty. They forget that they too did not just wake up and decide to be male or female. If you now anyone who is a member of the LGBTIAQ+ but does not identify as such, I am sure you understand what I’m talking about. LGBTIAQ+ people did not just wake up and decide to be different. Some were born gay, lesbian and all that but some were forced by uncontrollable and uncomfortable situations to identify as members of the LGBTIAQ+ community.

 

A good example of what I mean is thus follows. A boy who cannot be named was living with his uncle in the rural areas. The boy hand an androgynous look. The uncle was the bread winner. Because of his being the head of the household, culturally whatever he said was to be obeyed, even though it seemed wrong. The uncle (who was unmarried) started raping the boy every day. The boy got used to the way things were because he had nowhere to go. This gave him the thought that that is the way things are. The rape lasted until grade six and the boy started dating other boys. The story is an extreme case. Most of the time, members of the LGBTIAQ+ community do not have to go through extreme trauma to become members of the community. I know some many criticize the situation but you just have to put yourself in the boy’s shoes. What would you have done? I know he had a choice to run away but where was he going to run to ‘Ezilaleni’ (in the rural areas)? What was he going to eat? Even if he tried telling, no one would believe him because culture rules.

 

It is hard living life where people around you are always questioning and judging the way you live. Being a member of the LGBTIAQ+ community is not wrong but using the word of God to dehumanise other people is wrong. What I am just trying to say is that people in the LGBTIAQ+ community are also human. Love thy neighbour like you love yourself I remind you. If you have a problem with LGBTIAQ+ people you will just have to keep it to yourself. I am just saying! This is South Africa so keep calm and allow yourself to become part of the true Rainbow Nation.

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27th Mar2017

A World Without Labels

by admin

When you go to the grocery store, everything seems to have its place. The apples belong in the fruit and vegetable aisle; the flour in the baking aisle; and the window cleaning products in the housekeeping aisle. You will even find multiple brands of the same product neatly placed next to each other in order to allow for a fair comparison of brands. Furthermore, some customers even go to the effort of comparing the packaging of two identical products to determine which one is the better option. I trust that I am not alone in recalling an occasion where I walked into a store to buy a measly little packet of sugar, only to discover, in the previous week, the store underwent a serious makeover. This resulted in me trekking up and down every aisle in search of that packet of sugar. Of course it would be on the very bottom shelf of the seventh aisle, just as you turn the corner where all of the Easter eggs have been displayed. How silly of me for not thinking of that in the first place! The point of arranging a store in such a painfully rigid manner is to make the customer’s shopping experience a pleasant one—now that’s what I call good service!

Grocery store 1

Problems arise, however, when we try to replicate this kind of organisation and structure in the real world. I do not blame people for trying to label others and categorise them accordingly as this makes life a lot more comprehensible. The world is a very big place that is home to many different people. It can be very confusing at times, however, the real world is not a macrocosm of the grocery store. The real world is a mess; a beautifully chaotic mess!

 

Following the recent Israeli Apartheid Week that took place on WITS campus at the beginning of March 2017, the question of religion has been highlighted. According to The Daily Vox the aim of Israeli Apartheid week is to bring attention to the apartheid-like crimes committed by the state of Israel against Palestinians. Every year this annual campaign creates some tension between students who sympathise with Zionist and Palestinian groups. As a Christian, I found myself subconsciously picking up the pace as I walked past the collection of people handing out fliers and voicing their opinions to anyone who would listen. Although I feel that this campaign makes a valid point, I also feel like one should promote the rights of humankind as a whole, rather than just one particular group of people.

 

I believe that religion is a very personal decision, possibly even the most personal decision a person ever makes. Initially the whole idea of religion was to create a sense of community. People would turn to a higher power in times of need and desperation. The point is to not feel alone in the world. Why then do we continue to discriminate against people of a different race, gender or religion? Everyone is different. Even if we had to compare two identical bottles of Tomato Sauce we are bound to find some differences between the two.

Labels

Often we place too much emphasis on labels such as race, sexual orientation, and religion. Throughout history religion has been a game of power but at the end of the day, we are all human and our religion is our personal choice. We need to stop reducing people to labels. When I look around I just see many different human beings going about their daily duties. What do you see?

Skeltons

20th Mar2017

Wanderlust

by admin

Hi everyone,

We have another great edition this week with many stories from our talented team. Thabisile Miya discusses the nationwide students’ accommodation which has culminated in the rise of movements such as #Shackville and #SouthPointFeesSoRidiculous. Lindokuhle Kolanisi questions whether the post-apartheid political order could be more inclusive of gender and sexuality. Tsholanang Rapoo explains why she believes the recent feud between Remy Ma and Nicki Minaj is not anti-feminist. Molebogeng Mokoka explores the continuous devaluation of the BA degree; is it really worth nothing? Veli Mnisi gives us an in-depth look into how thrift shopping has, culturally and economically, transformed itself. He also gives us an insider’s perspective of Braamfontein’s newest thrift shop- haunt, The Thrift Vintage Shop (T V Shop). We’re also featuring Sandiswa Tshabalala’s poem, titled Black Girl Magic. Finally, Charissa Govender gives us the ultimate traveller’s guide for exploring New York City.

Hope you enjoy what we have to offer. Have a wonderful Human Rights’ Day tomorrow.

Sandiswa and the exPress imPress team of 2017

Wanderlust

20th Mar2017

Traveller’s Guide to Conquering the Big Apple

by admin

New York City- the city that never sleeps. That is the gospel truth. If you are a thrill seeker, a travel junkie or merely just want to start checking things off your bucket list then New York City is the place to be. From beautiful architecture to indulgent food; it really is a must-see city.

Time Square

One of the biggest attractions to the city has to be Time Square. Always lit up and bustling with people. The place to be on New Year’s Eve to watch the infamous ball drop. It is the part of the city dedicated to showcasing Tony Award winning shows and the place where one can shop till they drop.

Empire State Building

Not too far from Time Square you could find yourself at the magnificent Empire State Building known for its remarkable 102 floors and beautiful view of Manhattan. It truly represents architecture at its finest.

While in the City why not embark on travelling on all the transport services? You can try either the clichéd yellow cabs, the underground subway or, the trains at Grand Central Station.

Grand Central Stattion

Staten Island Ferry

If getting out of the hustle and bustle of the City life is what you need, then hop onto the free Staten Island Ferry and embark on a journey across gallons of water whilst being surrounded by the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and The Brooklyn Bridge.

Central Park

However, if peace and quiet is what you are looking for whilst remaining in the city then make your way to Central Park. Hidden within the heart of the city, it is a scenic environment where you can relax, ride a bike and even get rid of some of those extra vacation calories by taking a jog (or a run for the incredibly health-conscious).

Now if food is the priority, then I am to announce that New York City is home to, personally for me, the best milkshake and burger joint around. Shake Shack. Easy, on the go food that will satisfy your hunger needs and have you wanting more. Situated both in Grand Central Station and Columbus Square, it is the place to get food to die for. If a snack is what you are craving, then New York City has it all. With hot dog carts, pretzel carts, burrito carts and so much more you will soon be feeling like a kid in a candy store.

Shake Shack

Pretzel

American history is quite fascinating and insightful. So, while you are in New York, why not pop a visit to the 9/11 memorial. Located where the Twin Towers previously stood, are fountains paying respect to the men and women who died in the 9/11 massacre.

911 Memorial

As a student, studying should be your priority. If you aspire to study abroad one day, then New York City is an excellent choice. Both NYU and Columbia are situated in New York. This would make studying simple and exciting whilst living in the city of dreams. As a young adult, the city is a good place to begin your adulthood. It enables you to be independent while still being able to embark in childlike adventures. Career opportunities are also quite diverse in New York which is another reason why it is a good place to live and learn in.

NYU

Columbia University

St. Augustine once said “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page”. This quote truly embodies, for me, why New York City is the best city to travel to.

20th Mar2017

Black Girl Magic

by admin

She was born a black girl, if human beings were stars,

she is the sun.

Scorching brighter than the world afraid of her

shine.

 

She was born a black girl, any strength she

had was hard earned,

not hers to have.

History forgets the stories of loss and violation

written in her skin,

 

Written painfully in obscured obsidians and

abused Browns.

 

She was born a black girl,

The most undesirable commodity

built for mass consumption.

Tongues that bludgeoned her blue to black,

called her broken

 

She was born a black girl.

A root.

As the world clipped at her genteel roots.

They ceased to exist.

 

In a world of white saviours and evil darkness,

She was born black magic,

She was born

A black girl

 

Black Girl Magic

20th Mar2017

Do You Catch My Thrift…?

by admin

Disclaimer: I write this as a lay person. I am a stray observer of the amorphic microcosm that is Braamfontein, wherein it is possible to see someone wearing a dashiki or Eileen Fisher kaftan, and someone else wearing a suit, all on the same street. I do not pretend to be privy to the mandate of those who adhere to particular aesthetics as part of a movement or trend (seeing as how my own dress sense resembles that of a particularly unstylish 12-year old). I do not pretend to understand the dynamics of these exclusive and kyriarchal communities, but give only evaluations and opinions.

What was once shopping out of necessity, largely due to the cost of purchasing clothing items at mainstream retail stores has morphed over the years into a noteworthy cultural phenomenon. Historically, religious and charity organisations such as the Salvation Army and Hospice Wits created thrift shops for individuals and families who could not afford to shop at up-market retail establishments. The proceeds of these sales were directed towards raising funds to help the needy, and the needy would generally be the people purchasing these clothes. In this way, thrift shops served as a unique means of recycling, and facilitating a relationship between the needy in their respective communities, allowing people to help one another without even needing to know each other. It seems to me that this cultural dynamic saw longevity through having what we can call a market for these second-hand goods; because, as long as people found themselves in dire and precarious socioeconomic positions, there would be a need to shop at thrift stores. Furthermore, with people being inherently consumeristic and holding ownership over clothing items and the like, there would be a need to dispose of them. Thrift shops allowed people to get rid of their possessions, knowing that they would no longer be hoarding, that these items would be sold at reasonable prices, and that the proceeds would go towards helping people in difficult situations.

The nature of thrifting, however, has evolved immensely. People now show a preference towards thrifting for the aesthetic value of the garments they might purchase. Thrifting has now been reclaimed as a means of counterculture and being alternative, and finds many parallels (and contradictions) with other aesthetic and taste-making movements such as Hipsterism.

Economics

Historically, thrifting found itself developing out of a need for people to find decent clothing at reasonable prices. This clothing happened to take the form of second-hand items donated to religious and charity groups for the sole purpose of helping those in need. I think it is safe to contend that this is no longer the biggest influence (if any) for individuals to opt for thrift shopping. The economics play on a marginal part of this, in that many students are looking for affordable clothing that is not only in good condition, but is aesthetically pleasing and vastly different from anything owned by anyone else. While thrifting, for the most part, harbours these economic considerations; one is also highly likely to find students with considerable buying power opting for thrifting. Their reason for thrifting differs in that they thrift because they can. Equally, thrift shops seem to have also done away with a business model that requires them to donate their profits to the needy. There is no longer an inclination towards this social justice and responsibility. This can further be attributed to the fact that organisations such as the Salvation Army and Hospice Wits no longer claim monopoly or ownership over this means of retail. This speaks to the current atypical culture attributed to thrifting. Further, is the irony behind complaints that I’ve heard that thrift stores are not necessarily as reasonable as they ought to be. This is largely because they have become fully-fledged businesses, boutiques that use the idea of thrifting as a selling point because it speaks to economics and buying power, culture and the aesthetic value of clothing, as well as the status one derives from simply looking different. It needs to be noted that for all intents and purposes, these establishments are businesses with expenses and overheads (however low), and a profit motive.

Counterculture

Traditionally, people would not want to be caught dead in someone’s hand-me-downs, either because they belonged to someone else before, or because they didn’t look new. Thrifting as counterculture has gone as far as reversing this, with a certain status and value being imbued to the aesthetic quality of certain clothing. This largely derives from the seemingly repetitive nature of media and fashion. This could be Bruno Mars channelling 90s R&B, to clothing that would have been worn by our parents as youths. This return to vintage fashion is not a new thing, and thrifting seems to be a by-product of that. Counterculture is essentially about opposing what mainstream producers of media deem to be the acceptable standards of anything. The irony rears its ugly head when we have to note just how mainstream even vintage fashion has become. Retailers that shouldn’t have this fashion in this utopian idea of counterculture in society are also selling and profiting from these trends and clothes. The counterculture and opposition to aesthetic hegemony also hits a brick wall when there are levels of kyriarchy displayed within counterculture. Kyriarchy generally concerns the othering and rejection of certain people within an alternative community that also finds itself being othered and kept in liminality. There is a degree of shaming even within these communities because for them to exist and thrive, there must be a mainstream or hegemony to oppose, even within their own ranks.

Thrift shops have been showing up more and more, but it could be argued that their existence also finds difficulty, particularly when a retail giant can mimic the aesthetic quality of their clothing, and making more of it because of their inherently greater capabilities, whereas thrift shops must rely on alternatives means of acquiring this clothing.

It seems then that innovation is essentially if one seeks to stay and thrive in this sort of business. I recently came across a particularly interesting case across Wits University’s East Campus. A small thrift shop run and managed by for youths named Amos, Teboho, Gila and Sello, called the Thrift Vintage Shop (T V Shop). I consider it prime real estate due to its adjacency to two educational institutions with students who possess an interest in thrifting.

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Their business finds its survival in selling not only clothes but a variety of snacks as well. Amos argues that this is to afford peace of mind to the individuals who choose to frequent the shop. They also have a loyal and attentive market of regular customers who patronise the establishment often and have a relationship with the managers of the store. The owners of the store also play an array of music, with a preference towards classical music. Their case is noteworthy because it works. In the short space of time between my visits, their stock seems to have expanded, both the clothing and the food. At one point they even lowered the prices of some of their snack to appease their customers. Amos states that starting the business required raising an amount of capital, and a degree of courage, opting to start their own enterprise, as opposed to working for someone else. Their business also finds survival through the fact that they are passionate about thrifting as a culture and only see it growing more, and that their clothing-snack variety sets them apart from everyone else in the same business.

Thrifting is not what it once was, and it shows no signs of turning back. It has abandoned its roots as being solely for charity, and has served as a means for people to group themselves aesthetically, and now allows youths to generate an income for themselves.

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