25th Sep2017

Speak Out

by admin

Hi everyone,

We trust that you have had a wonderful long weekend. Our team has put together a small edition for you to enjoy. Realeboga Petlele gives us a liberal Christians’ perspective on the End Days and the problem of charlatan pastors using the Church to enrich themselves. Veli Mnisi discusses the problematic nature of America’s current political scene. He also delves into the hypocritical reaction to Kathy Griffin’s photo that featured her holding Donald Trump’s severed head. Our two writers call for us to speak out against various injustices and we should all heed their call.

Hope you have a wonderful week ahead.

Sandiswa and the exPress imPress team of 2017

Speak Out

25th Sep2017

Kathy Griffin

by admin

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The very mention of the messy nature of American politics has become an unbelievable cliché. One can only muster so many expletives to describe Donald Trump and his supporters. I believe the use of the term deplorables pertaining to the American right-wing might as well be trademarked by uBabes WePant Suit, Hillary Clinton. American politics are too tired to feature at any point of dinnertime conversation, and are too tiring to think about – at least until Donnie Trump puts his foot in his mouth again.

However, one of the most noteworthy things I noticed during the year was the way Kathy Griffin was treated for the way in which she chose to share her sentiments on he-who-shall-not-be-named (because even the mention of the current US President’s name is enough to leave a sour taste in your mouth).

Kathy Griffin is an American comedian, famed for her frankness, and getting slapped across the face by the late Joan Rivers at her Comedy Central Roast. Earlier this year, Kathy Griffin took to social media, and posted a photo of herself holding the American President’s blood-soaked severed head. This can be interpreted in a number of ways, but I think the explanation most people are comfortable with is that this was her unique way of protesting against the joke-without-a-punchline US President’s electoral victories and subsequent blunders. It might have been bold and edgy; it might have been distasteful. It did, however, gain tons of attention, and a lot of it was negative. What is even more noteworthy is that there was a degree of consensus between the right and the left about how poor a display this was on the part of Kathy Griffin.

Kathy Griffin’s actions were so divisive that for some time, she saw herself losing comedy gigs because of all the attention she had been attracting. Many Conservatives might have disapproved because they are Conservatives, and to some degree it might have been because any opposition to Donald Trump warrants relentless attack. However, Kathy Griffin also saw disapproval on the left because she seemingly chose to deviate from Lady Michelle Obama’s decree that if they go low, we go high. I’m not sure if Kathy Griffin has ever been known to go high.

Donald Trump has basically been doing to the American people what Kathy Griffin wanted to symbolise through her holding Donald Trump’s bloody face. As if completely forgetting what this man has shown himself to be capable of, the public were quick to crucify Kathy Griffin. Interestingly enough, comedians such as Jimmy Fallon and programmes such as Saturday Night Live seemed to forget about what kind of man Trump is for long enough to each have him feature on their 45 minute to an hour long shows. Thereafter, they took to insulting him in almost every episode. In fact, Saturday Night Live has featured him in almost every cold open, portrayed by actor Alec Baldwin, with plans to continue this new tradition in the coming season.

I think it is important to ask ourselves how long we are willing to make noise about how we are disgusted by certain people and their politics before forgiving and forgetting because, at that particular moment, forgetting is the more convenient thing to do. This is similar to how certain members of the South African constituency will tout the Rainbow Nation mythology, and denounce the use of the ‘race card’, before giving in and using the k-word.

21st Aug2017

Fight the Power

by admin

Defend Equality Love Unites

Hi everyone,

I hope that you have had a great week. Our talented team has put together an amazing edition filled with plenty of reads for you to enjoy. Monde Nqeza has written an album review of Sudanese-American rapper Oddisee’s latest feat, The Iceberg. I’ve given the album a listen and I happily echo Monde’s praises for this album. Veli Mnisi implores all of us to give The Hamilton Mixtape a listen. With all of the star power that is featured on it, it sure looks like it is an album worth many listens. Sekhumbuzo Obvious Nomaele discusses the causes of internalised homophobia and the negative consequences it has for members of the LGBTIAQ++ community. In a short piece, Jabulile Mbatha implores men to reflect on how toxic masculinities result in men committing acts of gender-based violence against feminised bodies who do not adhere to patriarchal behavioural norms. Finally, Tsholanang Rapoo discusses the inherent contradictions of patriarchy; she challenges men to consider what, then makes them men?

Hope you enjoy these insightful reads.

Have a wonderful week,

Sandiswa and the exPress imPress team of 2017

21st Aug2017

The Hamilton Mixtape

by admin

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The Hamilton mixtape is not only the newest obsession of my friends and I; it is also arguably the most beautiful piece of art I have ever come across.

Some background:

Hamilton is an American musical written by playwright and song-writer Lin-Manuel Miranda, inspired by the 2004 biography of Alexander Hamilton who was one of America’s Founding Fathers. The musical follows Hamilton’s story, from being an orphan in the West Indies and making his way by the age of nineteen to the American colonies as an enthusiastic supporter of American independence. His story leads him to meet fictionalised versions of the Schuyler sisters, have a family, and have an affair, ruining his marriage. The play is unique in how it purposefully depicts the Founding Fathers, Schuyler sisters and most of the characters as people of colour.

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Hamilton is also characterised by its incredible soundtrack, boasting a total of 47 musical numbers from both Act I and II. The soundtrack is where it all gets interesting. Hamilton has spawned a cast album with songs from the musical for all those who’ve seen the musical, and those who will likely never see it because tickets are sold out for the next few years. The cast album features the actual cast from the musical who offer an authentic glimpse into the musical. Moreover, Hamilton has also led to the production of The Hamilton Mixtape, the actual subject of this article.

The Hamilton Mixtape is quite incredible. It is a beautiful piece of art that I would recommend to anyone willing to sit through 23 genre-spanning songs from some of the biggest artists in the world right now, including the writer himself – and a gifted rapper – Lin-Manuel Miranda. According to Miranda, the idea of a Hamilton Mixtape preceded the idea for the musical itself.

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The mixtape is genre-bending, incorporating rap, pop and R&B. The most noteworthy thing about the mixtape is the talent that features. Miranda has enlisted the ingenuity and stylings of such artists as The Roots, Busta Rhymes, Usher, Sia, Queen Latifah and Miguel (these three on one song!), Kelly Clarkson, Alicia Keys, K’Naan, Jill Scott, Andra Day, John Legend, Chance the Rapper, Jimmy Fallon, and many more I desperately wish I could mention here. It goes without saying, but the album is great.

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More than its impressive star power, it also brings what each one personally and professionally capable of. For instance, the songs sung by Kelly Clarkson and Alicia Keys, titled It’s Quiet Uptown and That Would Be Enough respectively, sound like song that would generally be performed by the artists, however they also heavily feature the musical’s DNA. They share a number of lines, subject matter and even melodies, without echoing each other too much. These resonances really only become apparent after a few listens.

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Songs like those named above would generally have been sung by the same character in the musical. Even songs that happen to be duets or group numbers employ the same strategy so as to help identify who the key players are.

One of my favourite songs on the mixtape (which was tough to decide because I love most of them) is titled Satisfied. This song was sung by the character of Angelica Schuyler (featuring Alexander Hamilton), Renee Elise Goldsberry who portrayed her in the Broadway adaptation and Sia and Queen Latifah (for the rap portion) and Miguel (as Alexander Hamilton) on the mixtape. This song employs time jumps and glimpses into Angelica and Alexander’s relationship, such as how they met, and how it happened that Alexander ended up marrying Angelica’s younger sister Eliza Schuyler. It is wickedly inventive and catchy. Most importantly it finds a way to fit in Sia, Miguel and Queen Latifah’s respective individual DNA, but sounds like it came from the musical, with the inclusion of Miranda’s lyrical genius. With all of these elements, it still sounds like a Sia song- I can’t even.

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LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 13:  Singer Sia attends The Creators Party presented by Spotify at Cicada on February 13, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Vincent Sandoval/WireImage)

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Another point of Miranda’s genius is how some songs were already written with well-known artist’s in mind. One such example is a song called Helpless. The song recounts one perspective of how the characters of Eliza and Alexander meet and fall in love. The song was initially written with frequent collaborators Ashanti and Ja Rule in mind, and almost as a blessing, Ashanti and Ja Rule perform it on the mixtape. Helpless and Satisfied can be considered sister songs, as they are two different points of view for the same situation – the complex relationship of Angelica, Alexander and Eliza.

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As if the lord has not blessed us enough, Miranda confirmed on the 14th of February 2017 that a film adaptation of the musical is in the works.

The Hamilton musical, and its accompanying albums, is possibly the most underrated and important pieces of pop culture right now and will likely only get attention once the adaptation hits the big screen; but you heard it here first.

07th Aug2017

Connections

by admin

Hi everyone,

This week, our talented writers have written great pieces for you to enjoy. Leah has written a piece about how our subjective experiences affect our ability to connect with others. Stephanie Schaffrath ponders whether social media is worth the loss of privacy that comes with it. Finally, Veli Mnisi writes about all of the great shows on offer that have come with the current Golden Age of Television.

Have a fantastic week and a Happy Womxn’s Day to all of the strong womxn in your lives.

Enjoy!

Sandiswa and the exPress imPress team of 2017

Technologies and Connections

07th Aug2017

The Golden Age of Television

by admin

The early 2000s are touted to have ushered in a Golden Age of television. This is proven by how we’re fortunate enough to live in an era where series such as Game of Thrones (GOT) and How to Get Away with Murder (HTGAWM) are two of many pop culture products we’ve looked forward to at some point in each of the past few years.

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One of the above series boasts impressive, and possibly first-of-its-kind production values, as well as career defining roles for many of its actors who emerged largely as unknowns. The other, follows an increasing trend of having powerful women of colour in the starring role, as well as an exploration of queer relationships and identity. The latter is by no means new, as we’ve witnessed with programmes such as Will & Grace, but HTGAWM provides a poignant view into queer issues, and issues faced by powerful women through the lens of a highly diverse cast. Naturally, a series may be subject to cancellation regardless of the diversity of its cast and nuanced storytelling, but on the basis of its ratings HTGAWM seems to be safe for a few more seasons.

Alongside the evolution of the types of television shows we’ve been viewing over the years, has come an evolution in the way we view those very programmes. Netflix has become an increasingly popular way for people to watch their favourite shows, providing streaming media and video-on-demand services. In 2013, Netflix expanded into film and television production, as well as online distribution. A series that boasts Game of Thrones’ exceptional production values and high budget, its own soundtrack, a young and predominantly black cast, as well as an exploration of how New York City at the brink of bankruptcy gave birth to hip-hop, punk and disco, queer issues and LGBT+ Ball Culture, is Baz Luhrmann’s The Get Down. The Get Down is also a Netflix production, distributed by the streaming network.

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Moreover, The Get Down is quite unique in that it encompasses all the above, including its cancellation. The series was released in two parts, resulting in 11 episodes, and officially stopped airing on the 7th of April 2017. This has been seen as forming a troubling trend of the cancellation of shows with diverse casts. Another such programme, is Doubt, produced by Shonda Rhimes’ Shondaland production company. Aside from decent ratings and a well thought out storyline, the series featured the character of Cameron Wirth, a transgender attorney played by transgender actress Laverne Cox. The series was also ground-breaking in that it showed what was possibly the most nuanced and informed portrayal of a romantic relationship between a transgender and a cisgender person. In addition, Cameron Wirth was shown to interact with friends who also happened to be transgender, and who have also had similar lived experiences.

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This article does not seek to prove that shows such as these have been cancelled because they have diverse casts doing the absolute most in stellar roles. It merely seeks to express concern; with all of these cancelations, who is going to tell our stories? This is particularly alarming when we consider that Shonda Rhimes’ Scandal (starring Kerry Washington) is nearing is final season and How to Get Away with Murder was only meant to last about 6 seasons, nearing its fourth. The fandoms notice and aren’t reluctant to express their derision. The Wachowski’s Sense8 was also recently cancelled, prompting numerous campaigns to bring it back. The show will now return as a two-hour special to give fans closure and allow them to grieve.

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It is most disappointing to witness the death of shows such as American Crime, The Real O’Neals and even Devious Maids – with a talented leading cast of indomitable Latina women. But we can thank the heavens for Black-ish, its spinoff Grown-ish, Fresh Off the Boat and Issa Rae’s Insecure. These shows carry the torch by representing people of colour, complex women and, in some capacity, the queer community as well. We can also be thankful for how amazing South African television is right now. Harvest on etv, starring Vatiswa Ndara and Masasa Mbangeni is a personal favourite right now, displaying impeccable writing, acting and cinematography. There is hope yet. If there was ever any evidence that this is indeed the Golden Age of television, this would be it. As South Africans, we’ve also begun telling our own stories, and we’re doing it impressively.

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15th May2017

Goodbye for Now

by admin

Hi everyone,

This week is our last edition for the semester and our talented team have written amazing articles for you to enjoy. Stephanie Schaffrath, inspired by the five lion fugitives in Nelspruit, has written a lighthearted piece discussing misguided stereotypes of Africa. Thabisile Miya has a list of South African YouTube vloggers that we all need to check out- because as they say, local truly is lekker. We have also included Sandiswa Tshabalala’s Response to “The Millenial Question” which won the Wits Mail & Guardian writing competition. The recent murder in Coligny,North West has inspired Jabulile Mbatha to write a piece decrying the presence of anti-black racism in post-apartheid South Africa. Finally, Veli Mnisi reflects on how #MenAreTrash demonstrates the violence of heteronormative, hegemonic masculine norms.

We hope that you enjoy this edition and good luck to everyone writing exams during this exam period.

Until next semester.

Sandiswa and the exPress imPress team of 2017

Tech Savvy

15th May2017

Trash Talk

by admin

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Men are trash. This is a maxim adopted by self-proclaimed radical feminists who wish to express their disdain for the status quo. A status quo in which not only do men accrue benefits such as higher pay, more career opportunities, and positions of power in society, but also are able to live their lives without fear of experiencing violence of a verbal, physical, sexual nature because of their being considered the ‘weaker sex’.  Additionally, men might be called trash because they aren’t necessarily willing to work towards changing things and enabling a more equal society (because how do you begin working against a system which benefits you?)

Moreover, arguably the trashiest of the lot might be the crowd that floods the internet, discourse, social media and really any public space to defensively declare that “not all men are trash. You are generalising, and cannot attribute the behaviour of a select few to everyone”, as if they haven’t made contributions towards the objectification of women and/or consume media that maintains that very same mandate. But it’s fine. This might qualify them as trash because instead of engaging with the actual discussion at hand, the conversation is taken and made about men and how they’ve begun to experience discrimination themselves. I might even consider myself trash. I stand to gain from the benefits of patriarchy, and while I understand and attempt to empathise with the plight of women everywhere and appreciate the need for change and serious discussions, I am unlikely to actually use my agency to change anything or even forfeit my societal privileges because I am quite removed from the situations that women find themselves in.

However, I identify with a different kind of struggle.

Society’s perceived hatred of women can be linked to the fragility of masculinity, and masculinity’s need to maintain its hegemony because that’s just the way things are. Anything that is seen to deviate from masculinity is considered abhorrent and inherently less. These attitudes play out in a number of different ways. Homophobia, could be related to the need to maintain heteronormativity, which essentially empowers masculinity because in a “traditional” heterosexual relationship, men are seen as being dominant. The Bible (and John Milton’s Paradise Lost) even say so.

We must concede that it is possible for women to benefit from heteronormativity, should they identify as heterosexual, in a way that men and women who don’t, would not. Heteronormativity occupies hegemony in society, which seems to be arguably why we wouldn’t generally hear of such a thing as homonormativity. When you do hear of homonormativity, it is in relation to how homosexuality aligns itself to the ideals and constructs of heterosexuality, such as marriage, monogamy and procreation. This alignment implies that that there is a normal, but it isn’t homosexuality, and there are women who can find themselves within heteronormativity and find privileges that their queer counterparts would not. This is not to suggest that women’s issues are not as pressing and imperative as queer issues, however, intersectionality dictates that we be inclusive and genuine in relation to identity politics.

To have this authentic, genuine debate, a few concessions must be made:

It is possible that women can occupy certain hegemonic roles that are exclusive towards certain other lived experiences. White women, for instance, have certain privileges. As do heterosexual women, when compared to queer bodies, perhaps on the basis of religion. Interestingly, religion tends to relegate women to certain unfavourable roles in society. We must also discuss the amount of cultural appropriation that might occur on the part of women with regards to queer culture and language; concepts such as shade, reading, “yasss” and “hunny”. The erasure of the lived experiences of queer bodies that can be seen in television shows for instance when they are made the “sassy gay best friend” or “pet”. The contribution they make to the cisheteropatriarchy’s violence against the queer body and lived experience when the church makes admonishments against queer people for simply being. The failure to say anything when their pastors, fathers, brothers and lovers decide that the only good queer person is a dead one, or at least one that knows that they ought to be dead. Perhaps, even when mothers kick their sons out because they gave birth to boys and not girls or sissies. Women.

It is also necessary to point out that there is a phenomenon of gay misogyny. Gay men might be gay, but they are also men. However, we cannot regard any struggles in isolation. Because while women are being harmed and killed by the men they trust to protect them; Chechnya has set up a concentration camp where gay men are kept and tortured and killed. In 2017. I don’t know. Men truly are trash. Even making the above arguments probably makes me trash. But I too buckle under the pressures and the abuses of heteronormativity and the cisheteropatriarchy.

To the women who face violence on a number of levels during every single second of every single day, you are Goddesses.

To our queer brothers and sisters: slay and werk, you are Queens.
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10th Apr2017

Disruption Ahead

by admin

Pins

Hi everyone,

I trust that you have all had a restful break. This week our talented group of writers have given us great pieces to read and (perhaps) mull over. Last week proved to be a crazy one for South Africa; with that in mind, Stephanie Schaffrath’s challenges us to appreciate the small blessings we are afforded in our daily lives. Lilitha Mankuntsu reflects on the recent SA Fashion Week (now in its 20th year) and she hopes that SAFW is onto bigger and better things. Charissa Govender gives us a sneak peak into the IPL and the exciting cricket the current season promises us. Zinhle Maeko (in disagreement with Tsholanang Rapoo’s view) argues that Nicki Minaj and Remy Ma’s feud is not exempt from feminist critique.  Naledi Khumalo writes a piece that aims to motivate womxn facing significant challenges. Thabisile Miya reflects on the feelings of vulnerability that accompanied her visit to a gender neutral bathroom. Finally, Veli Mnisi critiques mainstream hip-hop’s hyper-masculine whilst finding solace in artists such as Frank Ocean and Gyre who are quietly dismantling hip-hop’s homophobia and misogyny.

Hope you have a wonderful Easter break.

Enjoy,

Sandiswa and the exPress imPress team of 2017

10th Apr2017

#QueerRap

by admin

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In 2012, singer-songwriter, rapper and record producer Frank Ocean made headlines when he confessed that he had fallen in love with a man at the age of 19, in an open letter posted to Tumblr. He drew even more attention when people assumed that some of the songs on his Channel Orange album were addressed to a man. In the post, Ocean wrote:” 4 summers ago, I met somebody. I was 19 years old. He was too. We spent that summer, and the summer after, together. Everyday almost. And on the days we were together, time would glide. Most of the day I’d see him, and his smile. I’d hear his conversation and his silence. Until it was time to sleep. Sleep I would often share with him. By the time I realised I was in love, it was malignant. It was hopeless. There was no escaping, no negotiating the feeling. No choice. It was my first love. It changed my life.” For the most part, the artist has left his sexuality ambiguous, choosing not to label himself as being either gay, bisexual, pansexual, or really any of the labels that people are expected to adopt and wear either as a scarlet A, or a badge of pride (which is highly unlikely). It is my firm belief that people who identify with whatever sexual orientation or gender identity they do, are only expected to do so because cisgender, heterosexual and patriarchal society needs a name to put to all of this identity in order to other it. It is a lot easier to hate something you choose to not understand if, at the very least, you have something to call it.

The poignancy and honesty of Ocean’s (real name Christopher Breaux) post drew numerous declarations of support. A number of black, male rappers took to social media to praise his courage, among them 50 Cent and Tyler, the Creator. This is particularly noteworthy because homosexuality (or really any sexuality that is not macho heterosexuality) is not normally met with kindness and understanding. Rap as a genre has been characterised by homophobic and misogynistic lyrics. Often times it is not easy to separate the misogyny and homophobia – nor is it necessary to. At times it seems as though homophobia occurs because of a perceived proximity to femininity – an individual who identifies as male being seen as mimicking a woman simply for loving a man. This might be rooted in how little our society has thought of women, and the understanding that anything that resembles femininity is undeserving of any respect. It might be necessary to point out that my earlier thought does not seem to account for women who might love other women in a romantic way. Still, women who identify as lesbian frequently fall victim to all manner of abuse, physical and sexual. The current scourge of “corrective rape” proves just how much men might assume ownership and control over women’s bodies.

This then begs the question; (how) is it possible to reconcile the public displays of support – if it can be called that – shown to Frank Ocean after his confession, with the rampant homophobic and misogynistic culture that hip-hop music festers and thrives in? More often than not, this is a question that goes unanswered. The question of how can you claim to love women, respect someone’s sexuality and appreciate the lives and lived experiences of black people, when you effectively disregard their humanity and differences?

A noteworthy response to the homophobia and abuse within not only hip-hop music, but society as a whole, is the personified status quo disruption known as S’bonakaliso Nene, known as Gyre. Gyre is a queer rapper, who also happens to be a student at Wits University. Gyre is noteworthy because he embraces his being queer, thriving in a genre of music that can be considered highly abusive to his lived experiences. In a recent interview on the SABC 1 youth show, Expressions, Gyre pointed out that he saw the queer community as being an evolutionary leap, “like the mutants on X-men. We’re like those people.” He believed that being a queer individual is something to embrace, and being a rapper who is unabashedly queer contributes to his mandate of being disruptive in spaces that have grown far too comfortable in their bigotry and abuse. On the TV show, Gyre gave a live performance of his most recent song, called Premium Bottom, wearing the most beautiful pair of tight jeans I have ever seen, and a headwrap. In his song, which has been dubbed a #BottomsAnthem, Gyre effectively addresses not only homophobia and exclusion, but even bottom shaming within the gay community. Gyre serves, and exists as a grand antithesis to the rejection that the queer community faces at the hands of society by making a bold reclamation of his and the identities of a proud community.

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