Data dominates investigative journalism gathering

Farah Wael (left) and Tebatso Kgagke before the first session. They travelled together and plan to sit in on the data journalism sessions together.

POWERFUL: Farah Wael (left) and Tebatso Kgagke (right) before the first session of the tenth Power Reporting conference. They travelled together and plan to sit in on the data journalism sessions together. Photo: Zelmarie Goosen.

The tenth installation of the continent’s largest investigative journalism conference opened its doors yesterday to delegates from more than 16 countries. Hosted by Wits Journalism at Wits University, the 2014 Power Reporting conference kicked off with a focus on data journalism.

Internationally acclaimed author and academic Jock McCulloch opened the conference with a keynote address about his research into corporate crime in the South African mining industry.

McCulloch’s book South Africa’s Gold Mines and the Politics of Silicosis took nearly 54 months of data collection and analysis. Through his work, McColloch was able to show how the mining industry, together with the apartheid state, hid the extent of the occupational lung disease among its workers for nearly a hundred years.

Online journalist Lenyaro Sello, from local broadcaster enca.com, said she believes data journalism is the “future of the craft”.

Marvin Adams from The Citizen said he would like to learn how to truly understand data journalism because he thinks it’s useful in “becoming a better investigator”.

Many of the delegates said they are looking forward to the new skills offered at the conference but also to learning from one another.

“I want to attend as much as possible and learn from journalists with decades of experience,” said Anele Mjekula from South Africa’s oldest independent newspaper, Grocott’s Mail in the Eastern Cape.

Yaw Gyau, a journalism lecture, said he was very interested the tools used for data journalism and hoped to take these back to his students at the Ghana Institute of Journalism.

As part of the programme, the annual Carlos Cardoso memorial lecture on freedom of expression will take place tonight. This year the will be given by Rafael Marques de Morais of Maka Angola.

The conference runs from November 3-5 at Wits west campus.

About those stacks of bricks you’ve seen on the Wits campus

IMG_7030 - Copy (2)

HOME DÉCOR: Masters Students Jamy-Lee Brophy and Megan Heilig exhibit recreations of the home environment at various venues in and around campus. The displays are part of their new project which focuses on creating what they call ‘institutions’, which explores and examines what we as multicultural beings experience as an institution and the effects of this experience. Photo: Provided

You’ve probably seen the stack of bricks arranged outside the Wits School of Arts, the Great Hall and other random places around campus and been curious and confused about why they’re there.

As part of a new project, Wits Fine Arts students Jamy-Lee Brophy and Megan Heilig have collected unused bricks from campus and around Braamfontein and built small-scale structures they call ”institutions”.

The project focuses on exploring and examining the idea of what different institutions, especially homes, mean to us in Johannesburg and as students on campus.

“We’re questioning the ideas of institutions, and how institutions reinforce ideologies and constructions and we try and challenge them,” said Brophy. “We have collected bricks … and what we do from this is basically try to build an institution, one that can create a conversation in different spaces and one that’s kind of transitory.”

Heilig added: “I think an institution is an experience, so in everyone’s lives we experience things such as race, class, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, cultural background, and all these things amalgamated within the city and especially in Johannesburg.”

Brophy and Heilig collected the bricks for free from people who wanted to get rid of them, but they also “stole” materials some of them from campus. Heilig said they stole materials because Wits wouldn’t give them funding for their project.

The duo also want to challenge and question the idea of claiming space on Wits campus. The current installation placed outside the Great Hall, which appear to be a pile of bricks, is seen as a “cornerstone”, the implication that there’s an institution outside of another institution. They move the bricks around to rebuild these institutions in various locations so that people will start talking about it and about why they’re doing it.

The focus of their project is somewhat political, and they look at political parties as institutions in themselves and what they represent or how they misrepresent. They created the Halfa Pitchca Party, which is their own organisation and which helps them examine the idea of the relationship between politics and art.

“I think that art is political, and that what’s happening here can be political and it can be social, and it can relate to other people,” said Heilig. “This thing is not just about art for art’s sake, we’re not painting to look how nice paint looks on a canvas, that’s not what all people do here.”

They want to encourage other students on campus to go to exhibitions held at places like the Substation and the Wits Art Museum and know that art is for everybody and something everybody can relate to. Their current project is a way of getting out on the streets and getting talking.

“We want people to know about it [exhibitions],” said Heilig. “We don’t want it to be this underground thing where only if you’re cool and in with the art kids you can come and check out their stuff, that’s bullshit. We need something fresh, something new, and we want to open up spaces in the city on the street and have spaces that we create, especially in the city.”

The Arts and the African City

TOGETHER THROUGH ART: The theme of the 2014 Arts Alive Festival is 20 years of democracy, emphasizing the role the art's had in ending Apartheid.

TOGETHER THROUGH ART: The theme of the 2014 Arts Alive Festival is 20 years of democracy, emphasizing the role the art’s had in ending Apartheid. Photo: Provided

The people of Johannesburg once again have the opportunity to experience the city in an artistic way. Poetry, music, dance and theatre are being celebrated during the Johannesburg Arts Alive International Festival, which kicked off on the 31st of August.

“Cities are more than just about bricks and mortar, they are about the quality of life,” says Festival Director Lesley Hudson.

“The arts makes a huge contribution to the way we experience our city, and the Johannesburg Arts Alive International Festival plays an important part in this.”

Hosted by the City of Johannesburg, this is the 22nd year the Festival is being held. It has an intense programme that offers a wide range of performances, exhibitions, workshops and musicals, taking place at various venues in the city.

The theme of this year is 20 years of democracy, and a lot of the shows were organised around it. Hudson emphasizes that the organisers of the Festival try every year to consider the different genres, ages of the audience when deciding on the festival’s programme.

“But most importantly, we try to pair the unexpected with the better known. So, you will come to a concert because you recognise a name, but will be exposed to a performer you would not ordinarily have seen,” says Hudson. “It’s about broadening horizons.”

The Festival started during the last few years of Apartheid, when the arts were used in the drive to shift South Africa towards a democracy. Hudson says the city of Johannesburg realized an arts festival could “give voice to its citizens” and be part of building a better and fairer society.

The festival is running until the 10th of September, and Hudson encourages both students and the public to go beyond what they know and feel comfortable with, and let the festival “wow them”.

“There is nothing more thrilling than seeing 24 000 Joburgers all speaking the language of music; enjoying the sun, the sound, and each other,” says Hudson.

SLICE OF LIFE: Hold on, there’s hope

Twenty years into democracy and we are at each other’s throats. Levels of dissatisfaction go far beyond the high crime rate and unemployment figures. I could list the issues which have caused most despair and conflict over the past few years, but they’re old news now.

South Africa is not the only country whose government appears to fail at every turn, nor are we the only society bursting with violence. But we are part of a country which is still trying to transform itself into a “rainbow nation”. And, I don’t know about you, but I’m more than ready for that to be realised now.

Byline_vuvuzela_Zelma-maria

I’m tired of apartheid. I’m tired of reading about people who had to get violent to get access to basic human rights. I’m tired of judging, being judged, and feeding off a never-ending stream of negativity.

I think you’re tired too. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a call to arms. The message I’m trying to impart is this: I do believe that, despite the undeniable challenges still to be faced, we are actually halfway there.

“For a long time, our history has formed a very real part of our present, but we are moving away from it now in a very real way.”

 

Unfortunately, in many ways our parents’ view of South Africa and other races and cultures will continue to follow us as we carve out our future. The misconceptions and cruel beliefs we’ve had to see them struggle with and try to impart on us are a part of who we are, whether we like it or not.

I don’t want to go on a tangent about how we should make more of an effort to get along and accept each other – we’ve all heard about that. Ironically, it’s also what we’ve been taught alongside being taught to be cautious of the ‘other race’. We already know that we have to do better. We know that we want better.

There are issues that we must still face and they are serious issues with the potential to cripple the country. But our generation is nonetheless achieving what anti-apartheid activists fought for: we’re standing as one, despite our differences. For a long time, our history has formed a very real part of our present, but we are moving away from it now in a very real way.

Yes, it sounds dreamy and romantic but for the first time I feel that, despite every horrible twist and unbelievable turn, we are getting where we’ve always wanted to be. The very fact that our government has let us down time and again means that we’ve been forced to deal with what’s truly important. When we look back one day, we may realise that it’s the sole reason we’ve moved forward.

It would be dangerous and wrong to say the strikes, the protests, and the general apathy of our government have all been a good thing. But at least our generation is moving South Africa into a space where we can talk about uncomfortable things and accept each other for who and what we are.

There’s no doubt that things will get worse before they get better, and we all have a lot of work to do on ourselves, but at least we have reason to hope.

 

Miss Gay Jozi crowned in colourful pageant

by Zelmarie Goosen and Robyn Kirk

Article cover

FLAUNTING IT: Miss Gay Jozi 2014 finalist Sjarmanté Diamanté showing off her first outfit backstage before the start of the show. She designed and made the dress herself. Photo: Robyn Kirk

Over the top make-up, fabulous dresses, and South African gay pride came to the Wits Theatre this weekend for the second annual 2014 Miss Gay Jozi pageant.

Miss Thabo Tee Menu took the title of Miss Gay Jozi in an event that featured 12 female impersonators or drag queen finalists.

The first princess was Thibe Monale and second princess, Theasare Jaars.

The theme of this year’s competition was a celebration of the country’s  20 years of democracy. The ladies did the first walk of the evening in a traditional outfit of their choice while Labelz performed Wakka Wakka, the song made famous during the 2010 World Cup.

“We basically do it [the pageant] within this month because on the 25th of May is Africa Day, so we want to celebrate and commemorate Africa Day and also show that us drag queens, and us gay people also are African,” said event co-ordinator Zsa-Zsa Whitney Gabor-Houston. “And we also believe in our country and believe in our rights and this is just a way of us expressing our rights as well as a gay community.”

Many of the organisers and finalists emphasised the importance of being proud of being gay and South African. “Be brave, come out, and don’t be afraid to explore,” said producer and director Dino Abrahams. “Don’t be afraid of who you are.”

Technical difficulties and wardrobe malfunctions meant the event got off to a slow start, but it was worth the wait. Along with Labelz several other performers wowed the crowd, including Divas of Drag, Ellah Elkenaza, Eldrid aka Mr. Carter, Sonwa Gxilishe, Foxy and Rosslyn Van Der Woodsen Bass.

The road to Miss Gay Jozi started with auditions of 25 hopefuls. The number was cut down to 12 finalists for Saturday night’s show, and throughout the evening only six made it to the final round.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pub hangout opens on Wits west campus

ENCIRCLED: Ex Witsies enjoying food and drinks at the newly opened Wits Alumni Pub. Photo: Zelmarie Goosen

ENCIRCLED: Wits alumni enjoying food and drinks at the newly opened Wits Alumni Pub on west campus. Photo: Zelmarie Goosen

By Zelmarie Goosen and Lutho Mtongana

Staff and alumni of Wits now have an after-work hangout on west campus.

The Alumni Pub  opened its doors for a trial run yesterday in one of the many spaces at the Cape-Dutch styled Wits Club.

The pub caters for alumni, staff, and the Kudu runners, a team of Wits alumni runners.

Postgraduate students and alumni from other universities are welcome at the pub which currently consists of a lounge and outside dining area.

Jimmy Neophytou, manager of the pub, says the menu currently only consists of small food items. “It’s a starting point, we want to grow it, and once it’s grown we will add more items to the menu,” he said.

“This is like a test run. As it develops we will have specials and discounts and events”, Neophytou added.

The Alumni Pub is an initiative of the Wits Alumni office which wanted to provide a relaxing, after-hours meeting for alumni of Wits and other universities.

The pub’s survival is dependent on the number of people that will make use of it. “As it grows the menu will grow, the number of days will grow, so this [opening] is just to see if people are interested in it” says Neophytou.

The pub opens every Wednesday from 17:30 to 21:30.

Campus radio station helps to keep students warm this winter

A CHANCE TO GIVE: With the weather becoming increasingly colder, students can donate clothes to those in need. Photo: Zelmarie Goosen

A CHANCE TO GIVE: With the weather becoming increasingly colder, students can donate clothes to those in need. Photo: Zelmarie Goosen

Winter is fast approaching and while most of us are geared for the cold, there are many students that need some help keeping warm.

Wits campus radio station VowFM recently launched their annual campaign to collect warm winter clothing for those in need.

“Every year we have different homes that we work with in the Braamfontein area,” said Vow’s marketing manager Lucky Mdaweni. “This year we’re working with the Wits Volunteering Office, [now called] Wits Citizenship and Community Outreach (WCCO).”

The WCCO office helps VoWFM locate charity homes, as well as students within the university who are in need of the donated items.

“They work a lot more closely with students on campus who need the clothing and other things … which works nicely because not all students on campus want to be known as the kids who want clothing, so they work with them anonymously.”

Mdaweni says that Witsies have responded positively to the initiative. “We’ve had a lot of requests to have the boxes stay a bit longer, purely because of the demand in terms of people giving a lot of clothing within the university,” Mdaweni said.

The campaign runs until the end of June, when all the clothes that have been donated are given out, but continues after that if people want to donate more. Boxes, such as those pictured above are located all over campus.

OPINION: Freedom is not lost

Freedom is not lost

FREEDOM: We stand together, free and as one where no boundaries separate us. Photo by: Zelmarie Goosen

This year South Africa celebrates 20 years of democracy. For some this is cause for celebration. For others, it’s a reminder of how we’ve failed. But take a moment, and ask what this really means and answer honestly to whether or not we really have reason to be so upset.

While no one can argue that South Africa still has long way to go and there definitely are things that should be fixed in our system, isn’t it true that our country is still in its infancy?

It’s easy to focus on the negative, especially with everything that’s happened in the last few months. Our government has let us down, our president has let us down, and it all makes us feel like our ideal of a true rainbow nation can never be achieved.

But Rome wasn’t built in a day, and I can promise you, neither will South Africa. Think about the friends and colleagues you have now, about your Friday night parties or Saturday afternoon braais – we all complain about the same ANC-related problems. And isn’t that, using a certain twisted logic, exactly what it means to be free? Your black friend who brought the pap didn’t make it because you ordered him to – he brought it because he knew you’d like it. Your white boss isn’t yelling at you because of your colour, he’s probably doing it because you did something wrong. And when you fall in love with someone who has a different skin colour, you don’t have to worry about a law keeping you from expressing that love.

This all may sound dreamy and romanticised, but the Apartheid regime wasn’t taken down because of logistics; it was pure humanity that fueled that need. We seem to sometimes forget that South Africa has to rebuild itself and become a completely new nation.

We have to work hard to scrub away what we’ve broken down to make way for the new things we are erecting. We seem to forget that the struggles of 20 years ago is in the past, and the goal of what they wanted to achieve was reached. What we should remember is that there was a certain layer of human issues we had to get rid of before we can really start building towards the future. Isn’t that now?

[pullquote]This all may sound dreamy and romanticised, but the Apartheid regime wasn’t taken down because of logistics; it was pure humanity that fueled that need[/pullquote]

Education, poverty, housing, water supply and safety should of course not be forgotten or downplayed, given the seriousness of these needs. The fact that many people are not receiving basic education or electricity or water is horrible, but it’s also got nothing to do with freedom. We can stare at the facts and the stats all day and say that we’re not free in the sense we should be. But we can also choose to look at them differently and say that we’re not at war (in any way), or hiding from extremists who’ll kill us for our point of view; we’re not bound by laws that take away our rights, or forces us to make decisions. We can choose what we want to do – which is the definition of being free.

Like I said, it’s easy to focus on the negative (a lot easier than on the positive), but 20 years into our democracy we have to remember that all the things that aren’t right, all the logistical issues in our country that we have to fix, and all the problems areas that make it seem like we’re not a nation standing together is not a ‘freedom’ problem. We’re all struggling under a government that doesn’t deliver.

We’re all plagued by the same things we want fixed.

The real hard work may only really begin now. But it means we’re moving forward. We’re going somewhere good, and South Africans of all colour, gender, race and ethnicity have endless choices along the way they’re allowed to make.

And that, my friends, is freedom.

Cheapest Zamalek in Braam

By Luca Kotton and Zelmarie Goosen

MORE REFRESHMENT: Wits Vuvuzela’s Anazi Zote sitting at Vuyo’s enjoying a refreshing beer after a long day in class.                                        Photo: Luca Kotton

MORE REFRESHMENT: Wits Vuvuzela’s Anazi Zote sitting at Vuyo’s enjoying a refreshing beer after a long day in class. Photo: Luca Kotton

EVERY weekend student, after a hard week of studying, need some time to relax and get away from the books. But making the student budget stretch to include the many great pleasures in life can be difficult.

For beer drinkers, a nice cold beer in the downtime is a good way to settle the nerves. So Wits Vuvuzela set out to answer the all-important question: “Where can we get the cheapest beer in Braam?”

While the locally-made Castle may be a popular choice for some, the sweet taste of the internationally awarded Black Label came out tops this time round. Known as the “Zamalek” for its strong after-effects, we decided to use it as our basis for finding the cheapest beer in Braamfontein.

We looked for this most popular beer at four different places and also made a mental note of the venue’s atmosphere.

[pullquote]So Wits Vuvuzela set out to answer the all-important question: “Where can we get the cheapest beer in Braam?”[/pullquote]

The prize goes to…

The most expensive Black Label went to the Orion at R23 for a “dumpie”, which is understandable considering its upper-class target market. The second most expensive Zamalek was found at Kitchener’s, at a cost of R21. We could argue they offer much more with their student atmosphere and vibey music. Their noisy neighbours, Great Dane, sold their dumpie of Zamalek at R20. This beer of choice goes down well with one of their famous hotdogs, while dancing on their five cent floors. The cheapest beer in Braamfontein was awarded to the new kid in town, none other than Vuyo’s which sells beer at R16. Sitting outside Vuyo’s, listening to old school tunes, while knowing Mama Vuyo was in the kitchen making our favourite South African food, led to one of the most relaxing sunsets we have experienced in Braamfontein.

The truism stands: you get what you pay for. A bottle store is still the cheapest, and that comes as no surprise, but we doubt a bottle store can offer you a night to remember with great music, great friends and, more importantly, great South African beer.

Government Inspector tells of corruption through comedy

By Zelmarie Goosen and Robyn Kirk

 

THE RICH AND THE DUBIOUS: (from left) Obett Motaung, Campbell Jessica Meas, Michelle Schewitz, Jonathan Young and Peter Terry (foreground) in Jessica Friedan’s Government Inspector at the Wits Theatre. Photo: supplied

THE RICH AND THE DUBIOUS: (from left) Obett Motaung, Campbell Jessica Meas, Michelle Schewitz, Jonathan Young with Peter Terry (foreground) in Jessica Friedan’s Government Inspector at the Wits Theatre. Photo: supplied

The wealthy vying for the favour of the powerful, people giving gifts in order to gain something and a society in which greed conquers all. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

These are the central themes of the play Government Inspector that opened this week at the Wits Theatre.

Written more than 150 years ago the play is clearly still relevant to modern-day South African audiences.

For South African audiences

“It’s a satire set in Russia, not in South Africa, but I think we’ll see a lot of ourselves,” says director Jessica Friedan, a former Witsie. Friedan feels that through laughter, people look at issues differently. “I think we’re feeling a little brutalised with the country right now … we have enough commentary that’s very direct and very blunt and very harsh and we have enough depressing stuff.”

With the struggles South Africa is facing 20 years into democracy and the fallout from the Nkandla report fresh on our minds, Government Inspector takes a light-hearted look at what the elite will do to stay rich and powerful  through the deeds of a string of unlikable characters produced (or performed?) by  talented actors.

“I think it sort of brings out the universal themes of awful people using their positions to get lots of money and get lots of opportunities, which is as true in imperial Russia as it is here and anywhere else,” says Friedan.

Famous faces

The play sees guest performers Peter Terry and Matthew Lotter (both leading South African entertainers) acting alongside Wits School of Arts students. Friedan said she was  “very delighted” to have Terry and Lotter work with them.

“I think they bring a professionalism and an insight and also a perspective of what it is to work and what matters and doesn’t matter. The students have learnt a lot from them”.

Government Inspector is showing at the Wits Theatre on west campus, Braamfontein from till 30 April.