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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20th Mar2017

Choosing Passion over Talent: The Stigma Surrounding BAs

by admin

For most students, transitioning from high school to varsity brings an exciting prospect of learning what one loves, rather than what is required to merely pass. There is however, that lingering afterthought of job security upon graduation. This afterthought plays a significant role in determining which degree a student chooses. The variety of bursaries offering to fund scarce skills courses does not make the decision any easier for prospective students.

Degree of Doubt

I recently had lunch with three of my friends; two of whom are studying a BCom Law degree, with the other pursuing a BA Law degree. I was amazed at how the conversation shifted from BA students having it easy to insulting remarks about how BA students ought to either have a backup plan regarding future financials or marry rich’. Being a BA student myself, I felt excluded from the discussion, and at some point, I started to question my choice of study.

It is no secret that the BA degree comes with a lot of stereotypes, and in an environment like Wits, it is perceived as being lowest on the hierarchy of intelligence. One of the ways to emphasize this lies in the building of the university. A comparison of the Wits Science Stadium with the Wits School of Arts, which is in dire need of renovation, is one of these. Arguably, the Wits Arts Museum (WAM) is in great shape; however, the question is why this is so.

Wits Science Stadium

Wits Art Museum

Well, from a personal perspective, the kind of environment where Arts students learn does not have much significance, however, the products of these students labor, with reference to WAM, is important for the good representation of the university’s public image. Although looked down upon, a BA degree improves writing and communication skills, exposing the students to different fields of interests at the same time. What students from other faculties fail to understand is that the flexibility of the BA degree and the application of theory do not guarantee a distinction. It is not about the binary between right or wrong answers. It is all about broadening your understanding. Successful BA degree-holders include EFF leader Julius Malema, who graduated with a BA in Political Sciences from Unisa, and Mashabela Galane who has a Wits University Honors Degree in Dramatic Arts and Media Studies.

In essence, if the BA degree was prioritized as much its fellow counterparts, if more funding was provided to these students, and if more job opportunities were opened up, the BA degree would have greater significance than it does now. At Wits, publications such as the Vuvuzela, outlets such as Vow FM,  and blogs such as @exPress_imPress play a significant role in making this degree worthwhile and enjoyable.

20th Mar2017

Chicken or Beef: Nicki and Remy

by admin

Does my womanhood take away my right not to like you?

Remy Ma Nicki Minaj

Following the flurry of commentary around this beef and how Remy was wrong for ‘slut shaming’ Nicki Minaj and vice versa, I am left with one question: Does the fact that I am a feminist strip me of my right not to like you because you are also a black woman? Yes, we are all women and yes, we need to uplift each other and reconstruct the patriarchy thrusted upon us. However, some things should be taken at face value. Nicki and Remy, have got nothing to do with me and my struggles as a black woman.

Remy’s personal and professional views on Nicki Minaj have nothing to do with women in general. The idea that all feminists, or all women for that matter, ought to get along is one that I find highly ironic considering that all of us know people, men and women, we don’t like. We might share the same values but if I don’t like your behaviour and I feel like you need to get checked, why not? This is hip hop; tracks and whatever is said on them ought to be viewed in that context. The patriarchy that we are trying to prevent is the patriarchy that you are perpetuating by not allowing these women to openly challenge, and destroy their direct line of competition. The release of ShEther, is a play on one of the most famous beefs in hip hop- between the New York giants, Nas and Jay-Z who later settled their difference after many fights, war of words, and the release of Ether by Nas. It is with this in mind, I feel people should listen to Nicki and Remy, the battle between two New York giants, going at it. In my opinion, their gender has no bearing in their lyricism. It is fun and it is what hip hop is all about.

I know some might be thinking that if this is a pure hip hop battle, why post it on social media, and why the release of intimate information by both parties.  Well in response to that I say that all is fair in Love and Hip Hop. It is a battle and it is not going to be pretty, something must get beaten, besides their make-up. Dirt was dug and mud was slung from both sides, some more than others, but that is the nature of the game. Only the best will survive: it is eat or be eaten, killed or be Nicki’d. For every punch that was thrown in ShEther, there was a comeback in No Frauds. Where Remy referred to Nicki’s surgery, Nicki did the same. When Remy came for Nicki’s brother, Nicki came for Remy’s children. It was blow for blow, grimy and ruthless on both sides and this brings me to my point; Remy does not like Nicki, Nicki doesn’t care, and the audience is entertained.

This is all that there is to it. To assume that empowering females in all spaces relinquishes my right not to like you is not only patriarchal but it’s a bit naive. As feminists, we are not in the position to judge every situation based on gender under the assumption that all females who believe in a free, equal and non-sexist world need to love and support each other at all times. It is in cases like these where I think that we should truly consider what feminism means not only as a movement but for all women; Black, White, Asian, Indian, Mexican, Latin, and all other shades of womanhood. If these two rappers weren’t female, would there be so much fuss about what was said and how they said it, and would we even be discussing how objectified and disrespected the females in their lives must be feeling. Equality and justice are not the same things and as feminists we need to ask ourselves as to whether we are fighting for equality or Justice? These are all important questions that we need to address however, in a hip hop battle, I find it more helpful to ask: Who won? Who came out on top? In this case, who was the better rapper?

 

20th Mar2017

Gender and Sexuality Issues Under the Political Lens

by admin

Gender inequality and discrimination based on sexuality have always been issues that have brought with them pertinent discussions and debates. A lot of “important people” debate and deliver speeches about issues on social media platforms; however, the truth is we have never really seen any of these problems being practically addressed. We live in a country where equality and fairness are always encouraged; the representation of all people is something that is highly emphasised. However, this does not reflect the reality for most people. Please note that this article is based on my own personal views and opinions and I do stand to be corrected.

For years we have been about feminism this and feminism that. And I say “we” because I, myself have been a part of those who have considered themselves a feminist without really taking into account the conditions under which feminism exists in this country. After attending the Feminism Indibano organised by SASCO Wits (credit ought to be given to the speakers) I have come to believe that feminism is not only about our social stance; it is also about how our political institutions have a bigger role in reinforcing what the social institutions preach. The social hierarchy pyramid places us black women at the very bottom, with black men right above us. This means that black women have three privileged groups “oppressing” them. For years, non-feminist have not understood the fuss around being “equal” has been about; and have went on complaining about how black women want to be “equal” to men. The truth is that WE DON’T AND HAVE NEVER WANTED TO BE THE SAME AS, AND EQUAL TO, these other groups. Why be equal to a black man who is oppressed on the basis of his race? Why be equal to a white woman, when her gender disadvantages her? And why be equal to a white man who has the ultimate power over our lives and could oppress us at any given time? However, this is a story for another day.

The main issue at hand is, how are our political institutions addressing sexuality inequality and discrimination? As much as we have a women’s league in South Africa, what has its role been in ensuring that women are well represented in state government? Of all the premiers in the current cabinet only one is female. This brings forth the question about what the state is saying about its faith in women leadership and its stance on the patriarchs who constantly take feminist movements two steps back. The political field as a whole is held by men and is also driven by them. And as long as such issues are not reinforced in the one “field” that practically runs everything issues of such importance will never be adequately addressed.

Coming to the representation of sexuality in our country, well, this has been a dismal fail. This is despite there being a youth league that is supposed to be representing the young people as well as ensuring the problems the youth are encountering are addressed by the national government. We are facing a difficult time of being discriminated against on the grounds of our sexuality. We are facing high rates of unemployment. And as students, we are faced with the challenge of high university fees whilst we are making the call for free decolonised education. How is our youth league attempting to address such? We ought to have a division in the youth league which will be mainly run by people who know the struggles which come with being Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual (part of the LGBT community). We may all be young people; however, we do not all face the same daily challenges. It is for this reason that I believe that political institutions should be inclusive and regularly address issues related to those of genders/sexuality regardless of economic status. And as much as we would like to mostly focus on women, we cannot ignore the fact that there are “men” who identify as women and “women” who identify as men. Thus, we have to consider the discrimination that comes with that identification. Politics practically run this world, and if issues of such importance cannot be addressed using politics, then clearly equality will never exist.

Please do excuse the lack of academic language in this article, but I do hope it provokes thoughts and questions about what role the political arena is, and should, be playing in creating a gender/sexuality inclusive environment in the country.

Gender

20th Mar2017

So on the Issue of Accommodation Huh?

by admin

Wits EFF Protest

It is almost the end of block one and many students are still faced with the problem of not having accommodation. Many endure sleeping in libraries and toilets or travel long distances to get to lectures. The scarcity of accommodation both on and off campus has been a persistent struggle mostly due to university residences being unable to provide spaces for every single applicant and the ludicrous amount of money required to secure a place and meals as well.

I used to live at one of the South Point buildings and I swore I would never go back again due to reasons including high prices, bad customer service, various safety and security issues, maintenance, etc. Despite all of that I found myself back in the same building because on campus accommodation had limited capacity and slightly higher prices compared to off campus accommodation. One has gotten used to this yearly struggle, and the university has not done much to help with this issue. The national student financial aid scheme (NSFAS) also seems to distance itself whilst most of its recipients rely on off and on campus accommodation. Seemingly though, NSFAS continues to accredit certain buildings that charge high prices which they are failing to cover. This results in a huge shortfall that students must top up on from their own pockets. The student representative council (SRC) has made efforts to help alleviate some of the stress caused by this crisis but their efforts have been a drop in the ocean. Last year, we saw some activism and physical action directed at South Point accommodation and their ridiculously high fees with the hashtag #SouthPointFeesSoRidiculous. Moreover, a march to their office for a memorandum handover by the Wits EFF Student Command managed to draw attention to how private accommodation providers charge unfair and unregulated prices; in addition to how these providers have been exploiting poor students who have no alternatives and are forced to pay exorbitant amounts for accommodation of a lesser quality.

Southpoint Fees So Ridiculous

I write this article as I want to alert and inform most students who may be in a sticky situation when it comes to accommodation to not fall prey to people who may want to exploit their desperation. If they are still on the waiting list to get on university residences, they must continue to be proactive and probe the university and the SRC to come up with more effective solutions to the nationwide accommodation crisis.

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