04th May2015

One Thing About Music

by admin

Jeffrey Motlhamme sheds light over the recent violent riots that have been taking place in Baltimore; further illustrating how Hip Hop and influential rap artists contribute to the promotion of positivity and peaceful during such times.

As Bob Marley sang: “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.” But, sometimes when it hits you; you feel the power behind the message instead. When looking at the state of Mu 1society today, things are just not the same. Music should bring people together despite their differences. Any genre of music can communicate messages to society, but because of the violence currently being experienced in Baltimore, I am going to place my focus on rap music. Rap music in the United States is dominant and very influential; but it all comes down to how rappers use this influence. My previous article on Hip Hop, black violence and racism expressed the idea that rappers should use their platforms to communicate and raise awareness about important issues in society. Well, my brothers and sisters of Hip Hop, things are looking good.

Following the death of Freddie Gray, who was in police custody when he suddenly passed, the people of Baltimore, and predominantly young black men,mu 2 began rioting in an attempt to determine what exactly caused Gray’s death. This kind of behaviour is not really surprising considering more and more incidents involving police brutality in the United States are emerging. However, our brothers in the Hip Hop industry really showed some love and urged citizens to take care of Baltimore instead of continuing to destroy it. Lupe Fiasco dedicated his, “It just might be okay,” video to Baltimore as a way of inspiring the people to stop rioting. Fiasco, one of the most socially-conscious rappers, inspired the people of Baltimore to be hopeful in this music video, from his 2006 album, titled: “Food and Liquor”. Wale also personally met with Baltimore students and urged them to stay together despite the violent events that were taking place.

mu 3What these socially-conscious rappers did is a clear example of how rap artists should use their fame to positively affect society. Music has an enormous influence on the lives of people and it can also shape how people perceive or understand certain issues in society. For example, this can be seen in the way people try to imitate and become gangsters because rappers are informing them of how gangsters behave. It can also be seen in the way people dress and speak. In short, music is power exercised in a very simplistic fashion; but it has a greater effect. This is the very same reason as to why when it hits you, you feel no pain.

The rap artists who dedicated music to and visited Baltimore greatly impacted the citizens and encouraged them to act peacefully. This is something that needs to be promoted not only in Baltimore; but also in other communities and countries caught up in the middle of violence. These acts of positive and peaceful promotion should open up possibilities to shape social discourses and also inspire other rappers to start touching on important issues. Music should help free people who are stuck in a tangled web of hatred and violence. Thanks to influential figures, such as Wale and Fiasco, I am hopeful for the end, or at least decline of, violent events taking place in Baltimore. I also hope that there will be change for the citizens of Baltimore and that justice will be served. My brothers and sisters of Hip Hop, I leave you with Lupe Fiasco’s message: “Revolution is hope for the hopeless”.

mu 4

31st May2012

When last did you really LOL? How blackberries reduce real life interaction

by admin

Leenesha Pather shares the presentation she delivered at the recent exPress imPress roundtable debate organised during the WALE festival at Wits University.

BlackBerries could be seen as presenting a major force in our lives today, whether involved in segregating physical social interactions or causing our brains to momentarily lose complete focus when that little red light flashes in the corner of the screen. As I was thinking about this topic, my thoughts and opinions got divided in two very different perspectives on the segregating effect a BlackBerry smartphone has, namely: are they segregating us on an interactionist and face-to-face level but are they at the same time perhaps slowly bridging the class divide in South Africa? To begin thinking about these two perspectives, I could ask how many of us reading this article recognise and relate to the sound of a BlackBerry phone receiving a message?

Usually when a BlackBerry smartphone goes off with this tone, almost a whole room of people tend to begin checking their BlackBerries to see whether it is their phone. Even though my phone is usually on vibrate or silent, I still check my phone because it is a BlackBerry creating sound by association, I must say a BlackBerry is definitely unique in creating a stir in a room where people precipitate to check their IM messages. To put this more in perspective, it is becoming a case where we rather tweet about watching a person fall, rather than going to help that person up.

So that being said, how is the smartphone era segregating South Africans? Here, rather than focusing too much on the class divide, I would like to elaborate on the diminishing amount of interaction one has when one has a smartphone. How often is it that we see people in a restaurant or in this very room checking their phone constantly or letting their thumbs run wild on a keypad to reply to IM messages instead of talking to the person or people right in front of them?  This I think is one major way that smartphones are currently segregating South Africans. We focus on class and race divides substantially but maybe if the whole country had a BlackBerry nobody would talk face to face so there would be no need to pick on these peripheral markers but obviously class and racial segregation goes deeper than that.

When I look at the amount of people that have a BlackBerry, 15% of the population, it is clear to see a small bridge forming amongst the middle and upper class who tend to own a smartphone. When I first saw a BlackBerry years ago, it was only known as a business phone. Who knew years later that 15% of the population would be business people! Of course, I’m joking here but this shows that throughout the years that smartphones have been progressing, a gap between classes was bridged through the use of a phone. Now it is not seen as an upper class business phone anymore but a phone for all – a phone that even a 13- year old operates and demands.

There are many jokes circulating about how a BlackBerry is no longer a smartphone because of the massive amounts of people that use it. One of them being: when is a smartphone no longer a smartphone? When it’s a BlackBerry!  I know that MY first phone was an Alcatel and then a Nokia 3310, and all I ever did was play snake. But if we look at our youth now, that is since the dawn of Mxit up until now (with BlackBerry Messenger as the latest popular instant messaging tool), they interact more on a phone and social media than that they develop real, face-to-face interactions. Interaction on a phone is more important than interacting in public and face-to-face. This is I think one of the major but least focused on ways in which smartphones segregate South Africans. With the integration of Twitter and Facebook as well as instant messaging sites on smartphones, it will become harder to cut this constant phone fixation that smartphone users have. For now this could be the only problem but once television becomes integrated onto a phone, well, you will see the top of people’s heads more often than their full face!

22nd May2012

The Line

by admin

Actors Khutso Green and Gabi Harris

This year the Wits Arts and Literature Experience (WALE) had a number of interesting events on offer. Of all the events I managed to attend, one in particular stood out. I wouldn’t call this piece a review but rather an abstruse comment on the play.It was a fairly warm and pleasant afternoon, the 10th of May 2012. This changed completely when we were ushered into the Nunnery. A Wits theatre space which has quite an eerie feel to it. It felt like we had just walked into a dungeon. This was cemented when the huge black doors where bolted shut for the performance to begin. The lights were dimmed, all whispers faded and The Line began.

It was an amazing play to watch. Even though it only ran for 50 minutes, one was not left wanting. The storyline was robust, intricate and full of devastating truths. Truths about who we are as so called South African citizens. Citizens who are so caught up in the ideas of their superior nationality that they burn, torture and destroy the lives of their fellow brothers and sisters. The play was primarily about the heinous acts committed during the xenophobic attacks in South Africa in 2008.

The script and most of the dialogue in the play was made up by a number of interviews conducted by the director, Gina Shumulker. This made for a far more transparent and sincere opportunity to identify with the characters. There were only two actors (Khutso Green and Gabi Harris) on stage but they managed to tell the stories of several interviewees. Ms Green played five vastly different characters. Just by changing her voice and mannerisms, she managed to play each character with spellbinding conviction. Her physical appearance was but a mirage on that stage. We ‘saw’ a different character every time she opened her mouth.

We got an insight into the kinds of people who propelled the violence, in this case an ANC councillor, a young thug and a woman who was a victim of the hype incited by mob mentality. We got to see people who just stood by and watched, stopping only to take photographs (people like us). But most importantly we got to see the victims of the xenophobic violence. The innocent people we all let down.

There was a discussion after the play. Most of the audience members were moved by the performance. Moved in that they had never taken the xenophobic attitudes and actions seriously up until this point. There was a common feel around the room that the time of shifting the responsibility of dealing with such issues to government is over. The onus is on us as individuals to say to one another that ‘this is wrong and we will not tolerate it’. We can’t stand back anymore and watch such atrocities take place right under our noses. There are a lot of things that we put up with and ‘let slide’. The killing of innocent people should not be one of them.

The Line left me feeling guilty and ashamed. Ashamed of being a South African citizen and guilty in my complicity of inaction. However, there was a trickle of hope in all of this. There was a character who was involved in the violence who was rather remorseful after the fact. Her guilt is a sign that our people haven’t completely lost their humanity. That we still have the ability to feel for others, that all is not lost.

Pheladi Sethusa is a third year student in Media Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand.

10th May2012

exPress imPress roundtable: Digital apartheid: is the smartphone age segregating or uniting South Africans?

by admin

We had fun during the parade yesterday! Check out pictures on our Facebook page. Now we are getting ready for our roundtable debate this Friday afternoon 11 May, 16h00-18h30, Humanities Graduate Centre Room, South-West Engineering. You are all warmly invited! Refreshments will be served. Full details are below.

08th May2012

Wits Media Studies @ WALE

by admin

WALE 2012 is about to kick off tomorrow! Students and staff members of the Department of Media Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand are participating in a number of events at the Wits Arts and Literature Experience (WALE). We hope to see many of you there! For a full programme of WALE, please click here.

Wednesday 9 May, 12h00, AMIC Deck, Wits East Campus

exPress imPress participation in WALE parade

Thursday 10 May, 13h00-15h00, Humanities Grad Centre Seminar Room, South-West Engineering Building, Wits East Campus

Launch Micampus Magazine with Mabogoshi Matlala, MA student in Media Studies, Wits University

Friday 11 May, 13h00-15h00, Humanities Grad Centre Seminar Room, South-West Engineering Building, Wits East Campus

ITCH Magazine Showcase and Indaba with Dr. Mehita Iqani, Senior Lecturer in Media Studies, Wits University

Friday 11 May, 16h00-18h30, Humanities Grad Centre Seminar Room, South-West Engineering Building, Wits East Campus

exPress imPress roundtable debate: Digital apartheid: is the smartphone age segregating South Africans?

Chair: Welcome Lishivha, third year student in Media Studies, Wits University and exPress imPress member

Speakers: Professor Nathalie Hyde-Clarke, University of Johannesburg, representative BlackBerry South Africa (TBC), and Leenesha Pather, BA Hons student in Media Studies, Wits University and exPress imPress member

Refreshments will be served!

Saturday 12 May, 12h30-14h30, Pentz Bookshop, Matrix, Wits East Campus

Book launch of Rethinking Eastern African Intellectual Landscapes (Africa World Press, 2010), edited by Professor James Ogude, Dr. Dina Ligaga (Lecturer in Media Studies, Wits University) and Dr. Grace Musila

25th May2011

Reviewing ‘Khumbul’ekhaya’

by admin

Matshidiso Omega Moagi reviews the play Khumbul’ekhaya which was part of the recent WALE festival at the University of the Witwatersrand.

If you are too far from your roots you can only live in branches: Khumbul’ekhaya (remember home).

“Let me take you back to a place where it all began… when the silences meant more than what was said. These ears cried tears that noone could hear. Wake me up when I can’t sleep knowing who I am. This name I carry on my right knee has a limp. That is why I can’t stay left. I left home and took a right… now I have nothing left. I was instead trapped in a place that was not connected to its roots, and I drowned in a shallow pool of birth… that is where I was born. Wherever I lay my hat, is my home. I have collected too much dirt… I need to wash my hands. It’s time to go home”.

An excerpt from the play Khumbul’ekhaya’s description page.

With it being Friday the 13th and everything, the play Khumbul’ekhaya experienced some technical issues with sound. As the stage manager/lighting and sound director, Gamelihle Bovana, apologetically humoured: “The ‘gods’ of technology are not with us tonight, so ladies and gentlemen I apologise…”. And so we had to listen to the musical background of the play through the laptop speakers which was not very ideal. However as soon as the lights came on and the first actor/dancer started his choreography, all was forgiven and the powerful journey began.

For all those who missed it, allow me to offer my somewhat metaphysical impression of what lay on the Khumbul’ekhaya table. The play was about going back to your roots, hence the title “remember home”. Without going into a literature lesson (which I am atrociously unqualified for), I think it is important to here mention that all the characters in the play were nameless. This is a literary technique normally used in naturalism literature to divert focal emphasis of the text to its plot and broader meaning rather than particular characters and storylines. It achieves a kind of detachment from its authors (producers) and, at the same time, a link to the consumers (readers and audiences) as active participants in meaning creation. The characters then become you and me rather than merely named characters (say Macbeth and Banquo in Macbeth). And I think the strategic use of this particular technique in the play was instrumental in the authentication and validation of the play’s morale to its audience, myself included (beyond all my other personal reasons why I could easily relate to the play of course).

Anyway, delivered through an artistic fusion of dance, song and poetry, it was the story of lost souls who have become disenchanted with their present lives. Disconnected from their roots (homes) they were looking for home but couldn’t seem to find it. “Home?… Do you know where my home is?… Home?”, the frustrated-looking actresses kept questioning as they moved across the stage. It began with a heart-gripping monologue from a male actor. He choreographed an enigmatic expression of someone ardently fighting an external pull towards his right leg (from seemingly his past, his roots) while at the same time grappling with what his present life presented him. A short while later he uttered the first words of the play: “What is in a name?”.

And from that moment on, the audience was invited into a questioning of their existence or rather presence in their adopted world as (I think) was argued by the play. Throughout the play, the performers expressed intense frustration and confusion. With each scene the perpetual hauling from one’s roots kept getting louder and louder though the actors seemed to be moving further and further away from it. Until eventually they could not ignore it anymore. “Wake me up when I can no longer sleep knowing who I am”, a character was reiterated in one of the final monologues in the play. However, unfortunately they had been away for so long that they forgot where home was and now that they were looking for it they couldn’t find it in their new worlds.

More than being a personal story about remembering home in the physical sense, the play also critiqued the overriding colonial role in this move of Africans away from their roots. As the play’s description on the WALE page reads: “Born in a place that was never home”. The play illuminated the pivotal role the colonial order played in dismembering Africans from their roots. Even though there were a few ‘fun’ moments for chuckles here and there. the overall atmosphere in the room was very poignant. And as the performers bowed in thank you mode, I was not the only one, sniffing and wiping tears from my eyes ndikhumbula ekhaya (remembering/missing home).

23rd May2011

Don’t judge an author by his or her publisher

by admin

ReView:  WALE SLLS Authors’ Book Launch

South West Engineering Building, East Campus, Wits University

14th May 2011, 11h00 – 12h30

A smoky room… people speaking in hushed tones, lest they annoy the heavyweight South African authors who occupy centre stage. The enthusiasm in the room is tenable; eager attendees hope to strike literary gold in the presence of these masters! I always imagined book launches to look like this – the stereotype is true. Somewhat.

Theatrics aside, the WALE SLLS Author Book Launch was a worthwhile event to attend, even if the number of those in attendance may have suggested otherwise. It was an intimate (read: small) affair, with no more than 20 people in attendance, including the authors themselves. The bones of the Graduate Seminar Room providing no more warmth on a cold autumn morning than imbawula in an open street. Indeed, we huddled around the panellists not just because the chair spoke softly, but because winter made a guest appearance that morning.

The event was billed as a discussion around publishing in South Africa, with the authors, namely Prof Anton Harber, Dr Véronique Tadjo, Dr Chris Thurman, Prof Anette Horn, Prof Pumla Gqola and Andie Miller, providing particular guidance and expertise pertaining to their personal experiences, challenges, successes and concerns regarding their works published in 2010. A very clear scope of the various genres and their audiences was articulated by the authors, who collectively hail from journalistic, creative and academic writing fields and traditions. A common thread of the discussion, alluded to by all authors, was the concern over readers and readership in South Africa. Indeed, Professor Anton Harber, in his capacity as author of Diepsloot, succinctly stated that there are “more writers than there are readers in South Africa”, which perhaps explains the dearth of audiences who read South African texts. Beyond this obviously middle class, literate market who make up the majority of reading audiences in the country, there are structural challenges that hinder the development of new readerships and audiences such as low literacy levels and lack of affordability of and access to texts, among other pertinent issues.

The publishing industry in South Africa, I found out, is certainly vibrant with a mix of players to cater to all the major and established niche markets. However, the authors were unanimous in their critique of the reviewing culture in South Africa, which I gathered they believed was limited, lacked agency and contributed to the exclusive nature of book review clubs and writing practices in the media. Mention was made of the Mail and Guardian review section in this regard. These authors see the reviewing culture as being guilty of aiding and abetting consumerism, as opposed to stimulating and even driving intellectual and educational imperatives within the journalistic, creative and academic writing fields in particular, and in the literary realm in general. Deep stuff!

For an aspirant author such as myself, it was a sobering – if not tragic – event to attend. I was ignorant of the world of publishing in South Africa until approximately 11h28 that Saturday morning (I was working on African time, unaware that these literary types are quite particular with the sundial; apologies for arriving late); and perhaps even dissuaded from putting pen to paper. Thank goodness for the wonders of technology that have seen this age-old practice go digital, and allowed me to embrace typing and blogging. The panel discussed online publishing, in a rather limited fashion, with not as much fervour as I would have liked.

It would have been a pleasure to see more young people at the event (exPress imPress bloggers: I am directing this tirade at you!) to add some life to the doldrums of the Graduate Seminar room. It was far too old school for my liking. Outside of a customary mention of sites dedicated to purchasing books such as Kalahari.net, and to the Kindle and e-books as reading practices of the future, there was little engagement with online publishing in the broader sense, and the value that can be extracted from this trend.

For one, I did not hear the words blogging or online self-publishing come out of any of the mouths of the authors present. This will be a trending topic in the near future in South Africa, if international trends are anything to go by, and a sure fire way of engaging and establishing new reading publics.  Then again, neither did I see anyone from our team of bloggers engage the panel on this trend. Much as we are a student online community forum, I believe it is important that we become knowledgeable about the publishing industry, markets and processes. And further, engage with new technologies insofar as it relates to our style of writing. Rupert Murdoch started his empire with one book; I’m just saying **shrugs**.  Equally, it would have been a great PR exercise for the blogging team to mix with these literary types, support members of our fraternity and challenge their views, while advertising the site. Perhaps WALE 5.0?

Evidently, I have not read any of the books the authors wrote.  In reality, that was not my motivation for coming. I was genuinely interested in getting to grips with this beast called ‘Publishing in South Africa’. I am going to Jane Raphaely my way through life and need to strike now while the tender is available! I was, however, bemused at the book stand that cut a lonely figure at the end of the room: art imitating book launch?

Review by Naledi Siphokazi Msimang – yes, I review!

12th May2011

The parade

by admin

The parade came and go. We marched and enjoyed. And we were quite impressive. The blue t-shirts stood out! As for our dance steps, we have a few more suprise events in store for you soon where we plan to show off a bit more. Watch this space! A video is coming soon too. For now, enjoy the photo slideshow below (it might take a minute or so to load)!

11th May2011

Join us today and express yourself in the WALE parade!

by admin

As we reported before, we have been sweating for quite some time now in University Corner. Today is the day to show off what we learned, time to express ourselves! Please join us along the way.

See the route of the parade on the map (click on map for bigger version). It takes off at 12.30pm from the Dig Fields close to the tennis courts on West Campus and will end at 1.15pm in front of the Great Hall on East Campus.

You may also like to request tickets for tonight’s launch concert with Crash Car Burn, Blind Watchman (ft. Kahn Morbee from the Parlotones), Singata, L8 Antique and the Kwani Experience. Check out here how to get a free ticket.

10th May2011

WALE screening of ‘Enjoy Poverty’

by admin

As part of the Wits WALE festival, the Wits Department of Media Studies invites you to:

A screening of ‘Enjoy Poverty’ and  Q & A with Dr Patience Kabamba

Dates: Thursday 12 May, 14-16hrs; Saturday 14 May, 10-12hrs

Venue: Appollonia Lecture Theatre, Wits School of Arts, East Campus, Wits University

Enjoy Poverty (2009) is a provocative, documentary-style film made by the Dutch artist Renzo Martens. Critiquing the Western production of images on Africa and focusing specifically on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the film controversially suggests that poverty is a natural resource that can be exploited by Africans. For further reading on the film, please check here.

“Never before has a film affected me so much or created such indifference within me. It took hours before I could process what I had seen. Before I could try to make sense of it” (www.artreview.com on ‘Enjoy Poverty’).

The screening will be followed by a Q & A with the Congolese anthropologist Dr Patience Kabamba from the University of Johannesburg.

For further details, please contact Dr Last Moyo (last.moyo@wits.ac.za) or Dr Wendy Willems (wendy.willems@wits.ac.za)

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