Writing on the walls

Fordsburg is a living, breathing ode to Allah. Islam is the connecting force between the many nationalities and cultures found here. It is in the food, fashions and, literally, the writing on the walls.

Nestled between the homeless sleeping on Crown Road and the panel beaters on Commercial Road is a small, unassuming art gallery beneath a black-and-white sign that reads Orient Art Gallery. This cluttered but vibrant corner shop is known as the birthplace of Islamic art in Johannesburg.

The Orient Art Gallery is a family business that started as a framing store on the rooftop of the Oriental Plaza in 1990. It was founded by Farhad Limbada in 1989 when he was given an old run-down store to start his own business. At the time, the only business Farhad knew well was framing.

Farhad learnt his trade from his father Limson Limbada, who was a sign maker for the Johannesburg municipality. After being retrenched from his job, Limson opened a framing store on  Johannesburg’s West Rand called Limson’s Picture Framers: Limbada and Sons. This was the beginning of the family business that would later become South Africa’s first Islamic art gallery.

LEADING THE PACK: The first Islamic art gallery in Fordsburg, Orient Art Gallery, founded by Farhad Limbada in 1989. Photo: Sibongile Machika

According to the Khan Academy, the term Islamic art emerged after the 19th century. It was developed to describe a field of study that focused on visual artworks produced in Muslim-ruled nations after  the 7th century.   Islamic art is not limited to any medium, craft or religion. It includes architecture, wood and ivory carvings, calligraphy, ceramics and textiles from the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia. Even works produced by Christian artists in such regions were considered Islamic art. Traditionally, Islamic art is defined by its craftsmanship.

Islamic art serves many purposes in the Islamic faith. It can be used for religious expression, temple decoration and as objects used during worship and other traditional ceremonies. As the Islamic faith grew, so did the spread of Islamic art. Today, Islamic art can be found in many countries where there is a Muslim population.

‘This is not the kind of business you can buy or just start. You have to be born into it. I literally grew up here. When other kids went home after school, I came here. When things were tough, I slept on these floors,’ Ridwaan says.

Leading up to the liberation of South Africa, so-called non-whites were allowed more freedom of association and movement than apartheid had previously allowed. Many bans on politicians, media publications and artists were also lifted. In 1994, “there was a shift in the art circles. People were hungry for something new,” says Ridwaan Limbada as he explains how his father’s business evolved.

Farhad saw this new-found freedom as an opportunity to grow his framing business. He started importing traditional Islamic art from Egypt, Turkey and Iran. This paved the way for Ridwaan to join the business they now run together.

Ridwaan, his father’s right-hand man

Farhad never wanted any one of his three sons to take over the business. He always said “this business is too difficult and unpredictable,” says Ridwaan, the oldest son. But for him, joining the business was inevitable. From a young age, Ridwaan was his father’s right-hand man.

“This is not the kind of business you can buy or just start. You have to be born into it. I literally grew up here. When other kids went home after school, I came here. When things were tough, I slept on these floors,” Ridwaan says.

Ridwaan’s mother is also an artist and, with both parents trying to make it work in the fickle art industry, they often had to spend several nights working at the store.  His mother used some of her art pieces to help him with his homework, learning and reciting the 99 names of Allah in Arabic.

Today, Ridwaan is an award-winning interior architect who has had a few of his own successful businesses. But he says his heart is in the family business. His formal education has allowed him to bring new ideas into the business.

It was at university where he learnt the history and theory of art and how to use different elements like colours, shapes and texture in artworks and furniture to create beautiful living spaces.  Some customers have called on these skills to have their homes and offices redesigned incorporating Islamic art.

DISPLAY: A factory worker at the Orient Art Gallery putting up one of their most popular installation pieces, the 99 names of Allah. Photo: Sibongile Machika

Ridwaan says it is their ability to innovate and give customers the best value for money that gives them the competitive edge over other stores.

“We are bringing products that weren’t used in art and art installations. We bank on new ideas,” he says.

The Orient Art Gallery now offers three different product categories: traditional and contemporary Islamic art, customised furniture, and framing. They have opened a store in Sandton City, called Frame Talk, and they are even exporting Islamic art to other Muslim regions on the African continent.

Although Frame Talk and the Orient Art Gallery sell similar products, the gallery is more of a studio space.  At any given time one hears the buzzing sound of wood being cut at the back, where frames of all shapes and sizes are made. There is a workstation with paint brushes and murky-looking water next to some artwork still in progress.

‘Arabic calligraphy, however, is a specialised skill and an important aspect of Islamic art. Writer Umai Stambuli describes it as ‘the spiritual breath’ of Islamic art.’

Frame Talk, on the other hand, looks more like a showroom. Beautifully carved armchairs cushioned with soft, luxurious-looking fabrics like suede and velvet are the first thing one sees. The walls are decked with modern Islamic art and mirrors with detailed frames.

Different clientele at different stores

The clients at the two stores are also different. The people who shop at the Fordsburg store are usually looking for customised work whereas those who shop at the Sandton store are looking for ready-made art.

Many more Islamic art stores and galleries have opened since the Limbadas started.  There is at least one Islamic art store between any two blocks in Fordsburg. Most of them sell traditional or generic Islamic art like framed Persian carpets or prayers from the Qur’an painted on canvases. For many people in this community, Islamic art is a form of religious expression.

VARIETY: Some of the Islamic artworks available at Pioneer Picture Frames, one of the Orient Art Gallery’s competitors. Photo: Sibongile Machika

Mahamoud Abdillah, a freelance artist from Pioneer Picture Framers, says: “People here don’t know the richness of this art. For them it’s just about what they believe.” He says he finds the Islamic art scene in Fordsburg “very” pretentious. He believes people buy Islamic art to keep up appearances of being a “good Muslim”.

Arabic calligraphy is the ‘the spiritual breath’ of Islamic art

Most of the artworks at Pioneer Picture Framers are canvas and ceramic pieces that have Arabic calligraphy on them. Abdillah explains that most of the texts are popular verses or prayers from the Qur’an, written in freestyle calligraphy. Freestyle calligraphy is not guided by any rules. The artist is free to manipulate the text to serve their creative purpose.

Arabic calligraphy, however, is a specialised skill and an important aspect of Islamic art. Writer Umai Stambuli describes it as “the spiritual breath” of Islamic art. To become a calligrapher for spiritual or artistic purposes, artists must not only learn how to write in Arabic but also gain a thorough understanding of the Islamic faith and Arabic history.

‘You can’t separate Islamic art from Arabic calligraphy, that is where the beauty and richness is.’

Unlike most Arab countries, South Africa does not have schools that provide formal training in Arabic calligraphy. Most artists here are self-taught through books, practice and short courses given by international artists who have held exhibitions and workshops here.

Abdillah comes from the Comoros Island, off the southeast coast of Africa, where he says “everybody can write Arabic.  It doesn’t make you an artist.”  Artists there write in all styles of Arabic calligraphy, including Turkish, Persian and Egyptian.

As ancient Arabs moved across Middle-Eastern regions building the Muslim Empire, their ways of writing merged with those of the nations they conquered. This resulted in slight differences in the calligraphy produced in those nations.  Over time, rules were developed to regulate and standardise these various styles of calligraphy.

Abdillah’s face lights up when he says: “You can’t separate Islamic art from Arabic calligraphy, that is where the beauty and richness is.”

The intracies of Arabic calligraphy

In slightly broken English he explains the differences in the various styles of Islamic calligraphy: Egyptian calligraphy runs across, reading from side to side much like Western calligraphy. It often consists of solid vertical lines with the curvier alphabets forming the lower part of the text running horizontally. Turkish calligraphy is more congested and centralised.

The strokes are curvier and form circular text which runs across horizontal and vertical plains. Persian calligraphy is a top to bottom type of text made of sharper strokes that form diagonal lines.

Ridwaan agrees that Islamic art has become more commercialised. He says with Islamic art, Arabic calligraphy has become like Japanese or Chinese calligraphy in that most people do not know what it means but it appeals to them on an aesthetic level. But, unlike Muhammed, he does not have a problem with this. He sees it as an opportunity to widen the Islamic art market.

It is with this in mind that the Orient Art Gallery is gradually moving from using specialised calligraphers to training factory workers to reproduce popular Arabic calligraphy by tracing it, digitally reproducing it and using pre-cut stencils for some of the larger pieces.

When competition in the industry increased, Farhad developed the job card system to differentiate himself from the others. Unless the client asks for original Arabic calligraphy, a job card is developed giving one of the factory workers step-by-step instructions on how to produce a particular piece of Islamic art. This is how he has managed to produce good quality artworks, faster and at a cheaper price, for his clients.

PLANNING: The Orient Art Gallery produces some of its calligraphy digitally. Store co-owner Ridwaan Limbada, right, shows the reproduction artist, left, the job plan for his next piece of art. Photo: Sibongile Machika

This work production process has become standard practice in South Africa. Some factory workers have become very good at it and have gone on to have successful careers producing Islamic art locally.

The generic Islamic artworks at Orient Art Gallery range between R5 000 and R25 000. Depending on the scale, medium and detail, these figures can go up to R95 000. Works produced by reproduction artists are 40% cheaper than those produced by specialised calligraphers.

By industrialising the art of Arabic calligraphy, fusing it with modern abstract and glass art to introducing interior design as one of their service offerings, Orient Art Gallery aims to remain relevant not only to the Muslim community but also to the ever-changing Johannesburg art scene.

It has been 26 years and three generations since the Limbadas first opened their doors for business. It is safe to say that they have found a healthy balance between good business practices and reverence for Islamic art.

But for Abdillah, who is an orthodox Muslim and very passionate about what he does, Islamic art must go deeper than just looking beautiful. He believes that to appreciate it one must understand its historical relevance or, at the very least, have a deep religious reverence for it. For him it is not about the money.

SKILL: Arabic calligrapher Rafique Cajee is a self-taught calligrapher who was only doing Western calligraphy until he joined Orient Art Gallery two years ago. Photo: Sibongile Machika

Like Abdillah, the Limbadas are also Muslim. They too respect the religious rules and connotations of Islam when it comes to art. None of their artworks depict faces or people. With the exception of when it is being packaged or transported, all religious art is kept off the ground. Their studio space is kept clean and neat because according to the faith it is not allowed to keep sacred things in dirty places.

Farhad still tries to protect the sacredness of Islamic art. He ensures all work stops during Friday prayer time. He also keeps some reference books on Islam and Islamic art on a shelf next to his desk and encourages his workers to constantly ask questions and learn about the faith.

But Ridwaan says: “Sometimes ideas are only great in value.” He believes there is no point in investing time or reverence into something when it does translate to financial gain.

“This is a business at the end of the day; it must feed us and clothe us.”

FEATURED IMAGE: The first Islamic art gallery in Fordsburg, Orient Art Gallery, founded by Farhad Limbada in 1989. Photo: Sibongile Machika

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Disciplinary hearing postponed for #WitsSeven

The disciplinary hearing of the five Wits Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and two other students who were suspended after the Great Hall fight has been postponed because they were charged with rules that no longer exist.

Wits EFF members at the men's res march. Photo: Tanisha Hieberg

Wits EFF members at the men’s res march. Photo: Tanisha Hieberg

At the disciplinary hearing which was held on September 16 Advocate Dali Mpofu, representing the students, pointed out the rules the students were charged with were out of date. He presented the disciplinary committee with the new set of rules that had been adopted by University Council in April 2015.

The new General Rules for Student Conduct makes allowance for students to disrupt “classes, meetings or any other activities of the university” if such conduct is reasonably directed towards the exercise of the right to assemble, to demonstrate and picket peacefully and unarmed.

“none of the suspended seven actually have charges against them.”

 

Speaking to Wits Vuvuzela, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Andrew Crouch confirmed that the seven students were charged under the old rules of conduct. He said that this was an “administrative error” which does not change the university’s stance on the matter.

“Anything that results in violence is deemed to be misconduct,” he said.

The charges follow an SRC debate on August 18. Wits EFF interrupted the proceedings by getting on the Great Hall stage and singing struggle songs. This resulted in an altercation between the various political parties turning violent. Following this, seven students were suspended most of whom were Wits EFF members.

Vuyani Pambo briefing EFF members after the great brawl

Vuyani Pambo briefing EFF members after the great brawl

Anele Nzimande, a Wits EFF member, said based on the video footage they reviewed, none of the suspended Wits EFF members were involved in the violence.

“In fact it was Project W who tried to physically remove our members from the Great Hall stage,” she said.

Nzimande added that since the charges are being amended “none of the suspended seven actually have charges against them.”

In a letter written to academic and administrative staff, Politics doctoral student Lwazi Lushaba, one of the suspended students, said that the disciplinary charges under the an old code of conduct had serious implications. He said the disciplinary hearings were “an issue that is now costing the university hundreds of thousands of Rands, has exposed the inefficiency of the Legal Office of the university but has also questioned the integrity of the university itself.”

The suspended students will be served with new charges by Friday, September 25 and the disciplinary hearing will resume on November 30.

New Student Rules of Conduct

New Student Rules of Conduct

new rules pg2

Wits launches banking expo

Wits fees offices hosts banking expo to help students get financially savvy.

Yesterday marked the first day of the Wits banking expo hosted by the Wits fees office. Lead by the Financial Aid team the expo is intended to help students take charge of their finances and becoming savvier with their money.

Wits financial aid team celebrates a great start to student banking expo, with representatives from Edu loan, Absa, Nedbank, standard bank and FNB. Photo Sibonglie Machika

Wits financial aid team celebrates a great start to student banking expo, with representatives from Edu loan, Absa, Nedbank, standard bank and FNB. Photo Sibonglie Machika

 

Representatives from Absa, First National Bank, Standard Bank, Nedbank and Edu loan will be on main campus (library lawns) till the 17th of September to help student open accounts, apply for loans and answer question on investments.

Addressing students at the expo Deputy-Vice Chancellor Andrew Crouch said “Education is not free, someone must pay for it”. He stressed that it is important for student to get financial information so that they can learn to finance themselves.

“Not everybody can qualify for NSFAS.”

When WitsVuvuzela asked if the University was not simply shifting its responsibility to students he responded: “We often find that students are not aware of their options as they are unable or too intimidated to go to the banks. The fees office facilitates approximately 750 million in student bursaries and this is just another way we are trying to assist”.

 

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BA student Nqobile Tshezi speaking to Standard Bank representatives about her options. Photo: Sibongile Machika

The high cost of tertiary education has been a topical issue in the last few months. Many students are an able to access tertiary education because they cannot afford it.  Since the NSFAS crisis in the beginning of the year it has become evident that government can only assist some many students.

Lindani Ngwenya from the Financial Aid office said that the expo would have happened regardless of the NSFAS crises. “Not everybody can qualify for NSFAS”. This initiative is part of the financial aid office’s long term plan to help students gain financial freedom and independence.

First year B.A general student Lesiba Phahladina who opened a savings account yesterday, said he found the experience “quick and informative”.

Some of banks participating in the expo have offered to settle outstanding tuition fees and assist with future fees.

Students who are keen on finding out about some of the funding options available should visit the expo.

Related stories 

Wits Vuvuzela:  One Million, One Month falls short , August 13, 2015

Wits Vuvuzela: Witsies face uncertain future without NSFAS. February 22, 2015

 

 

 

 

OPINION: Seven things we’ve learned from the #EFF7

Wits Vuvuzela journalist, Sibongile Machika, looks back at the suspension, and then court challenge of the EFF7 and suggests seven lessons to take away from the saga.

1. “Habib must fall”

The Wits EFF (Economic Freedom Fighters) has called for the fall of  Professor Adam Habib on a number of occassions demonstrating a growing dissatisfaction with the vice chancellor and principal of the university.

Adam Habib Wits University Vice Chancellor says it is not often that universities in South Africa receive funding of this magnitude.Normally  from sole philanthropists. The funding for universities is largely  sourced from corporates and state funding agencies locally, and international trusts and foundations

Adam Habib Wits University Vice Chancellor. Photo: Wits Vuvuzela.

 

The suspension of the seven students, most of whom were EFF aligned, was completely within Wits rules and procedures. Yet the court found that this decision violated the students’ right to education.  How can a university, a place that is meant to shape the minds of our future leaders have laws that contradict our treasured constitution? What does this say about our universities and the people that govern them?  Surely it is reasonable that such leaders must “fall”.

2. Choose your friends carefully

VICTORIOUS: Wits EFF members and Advocate Dali Mpofu celebrate outside the South Gauteng court, after their suspension from the university was overturned. Photo: Michelle Gumede

VICTORIOUS: Wits EFF members and Advocate Dali Mpofu celebrate outside the South Gauteng court, after their suspension from the university was overturned. Photo: Michelle Gumede

 

Had this been any other group of students involved in a fight or disruption, they would probably have turned on each other at the first sign of suspension. The relationship between the Wits EFF members is strengthened by their commitment to a shared political ideology. Under the leadership of Vuyani Pambo they fought together for a common cause through thick and thin.

3. Stick to your guns

Vuyani Pambo briefing EFF members after the great brawl

Vuyani Pambo briefing EFF members after the great brawl. Photo: Sibongile Machika

 

Throughout the threats, the fights and even suspensions, the Wits EFF members stood firm in the beliefs. They continuously defended the stance that Wits management shifts some of their responsibilities and decision-making to the SRC (Student Representative Council).

4. Timing is everything

Stopwatch2

Although the suspended students are back at university, they still have to face the consequences of their actions. Facing a disciplinary hearing so close to the exams is never a good idea, the outcome could have huge implications on their future at Wits.

 

5. Struggle songs are still sung

We’ve all learnt at least one struggle song from the Wits EFF members.

6. Black lives still don’t matter

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Wits EFF members waiting for the keys to their rooms at Wits Senate House. Photo: Sibongile Machika

 

Some of the suspended students lived at Wits University residences as they hail from outside the Gauteng province. When the students were suspended, they were kicked out of res but there was little consideration for where they would stay and what they would eat. Granted, they are all adults who must think about the implications of the actions but education is a holistic experience.

The living circumstances of students must always be considered in both teaching and disciplining students.

7. Youth drives change

 

Wits EFF members at the men's res march. Photo: Tanisha Hieberg

Wits EFF members at the men’s res march. Photo: Tanisha Hieberg

 

Wits EFF students and the rest of the students driving the transformation across South Africa have inspired the nation in the same way that the class of ’76 did. No matter what happens now, there is no going back.

Hello Ambassador coming to Jozi

The Hello Ambassador creative conference takes place at the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre from September 4-5.

Hello Ambassador is an annual creatives festival now in its third year. Every year emerging artists, creative entrepreneurs and industry experts gather to showcase their talents, forge networks and share business opportunities in their respective fields.

From graphic designers, beat makers, photographers and writers, Hello Ambassador brings together some of the best creative minds in recent times. This year’s line-up includes house DJ Black Coffee, fiction writer Lauren Beukes, and founder of Nandos, Robert Brozin.

The conference takes place over two days and consists of talks, workshops and a creative expo exhibiting the latest and most ground-breaking work in the arts, design, fashion and even food. Students get discounted prices on the tickets which are available here.

 

Wits Rules of engagement

A break  down of the Wits rules of suspension and inquiry 

Vice Chancellor Adam Habib has come under fire for swiftly suspending seven students after last week’s SRC election debate ended in a brawl, triggering questions about what are his disciplinary powers.

There are three bodies that have decision-making powers with regards to student disciplinary action at Wits, namely the Student Representative Council (SRC), the University’s Senate and the University Council.

The SRC’s constitution is the “supreme authority” with regards to student governance affairs at Wits. Section four of the SRC constitution are the rules for student discipline. Unfortunately, most students are unware of this document, nor do they know how to access it.

In the case of the seven suspended students a number of rules may have been applied. Highlighted below are some of the rules that may drastically affect students who find themselves on the wrong side of the Wits law.

Rule one:  Vice chancellor’s powers of suspension.

This rule states that if the vice chancellor (VC) is of the “opinion” that a student may be guilty of misconduct, he has powers to suspend the student from all university activities including attending, lectures and classes.

He also has the power to suspend the student from university residences, this includes access to the dining hall and any structures that are under the control of the university.

To enforce these powers the VC must inform the student of his reasons for the suspension in writing or in person. He must also give the student a fair opportunity to make a personal or written presentation to the VC to have this reason changed.

However If disciplinary proceedings have not started 45 days after the suspension, the suspension will lapse.

Rule three: Summary inquiry by the vice chancellor or deputy vice chancellor

This rule states that if the VC or his deputy conducts an inquiry in to allegation of misconduct, they are allowed to call upon one or two staff member to help on the case.

Where it is considered appropriate the VC is also allowed to request the help of one or two student representatives.

It also states that any decision made or punishment imposed is at the discretion of the VC. He can impose punishments like warnings, reprimands, fines up to R1500, removal of student privileges and exclusions.

The VC can also appoint an ad hoc committee to undertake such an inquiry on his behalf.According to a university

Statute, if the council consult the senate and SRC they are allowed to change these rules at any time.

Infographic

 

Related articles

Wits Vuvuzela, STORIFY: Mixed reactions to student suspensions at Wits, August 22, 2015

Wits Vuvuzela, Timeline: the SRC campaign so far, August 22, 2015

Wits Vuvuzela, SRC debate investigated, August 21, 2015

Bidvest wants big bucks for ‘Vila’

Bidvest denies any talks around Sibusiso Vilakazi transfer.

Bidvest wants big bucks for Vila. File Photo

Bidvest wants big bucks for Vila. File Photo

 

In the past week Bidvest Wits Clever Boys’ midfielder Sibusiso Vilakazi has been in the news regarding the R15-million price tag Bidvest Wits has reportedly placed on him.

However, with only two weeks left of the transfer window, Bidvest Wits COO, Jonathan Schloss denied the speculation to Wits Vuvuzela saying “there are no discussions around Vilakazi’s transfer.”

Schloss did not respond to further requests for comment from Wits Vuvuzela.

According to a report in Soccer Laduma, the Clever Boys have turn down several offers for their 26-year-old star player including a R9-million offer from Kaiser Chiefs. Mamelodi Sundowners were also reportedly unsuccessful in securing ‘Vila’ as one of their own.

According to Soccer Laduma’s website, the Clever Boys will not trade Vilakazi anything less than R15-million or a player of equal value.

“It seems unlikely that they will get the player they wanted in Sibusiso Vilakazi,” an unnamed source told the website.

Vilakazi has been with Bidvest Wits for six years and also plays for Bafana Bafana. Last year he won player of the season for the 2013-2014 Premier Soccer League and the Nedbank player of the tournament in the same year.

Real Talk with Queen B!

South African celebrity Bonang Matheba shares six insights about success.

Bonang Matheba shares here journey to success with young woman at Alexandra theatre.

Bonang Matheba shares here journey to success with young woman at Alexandra theatre. Photo: Sibongile Machika.

 

The Queen of everything, Bonang Matheba, was a huge drawcard at the Nedbank Talk for Success at the Alexandra Theatre last night.  Over 100 young women packed the theatre to hear what radio host, TV presenter and Revlon brand ambassador had to say about her road to success.

From her simple beginnings in Mafikeng and Hillbrow, to becoming a Stuyvesant promo girl in clubs, and finally being South Africa’s favourite” it girl”, these are the lessons she’s learned along the way.

1. Bottle your uniqueness and sell it.

“To make yourself stand out, you must find something that is unique about you that you can bottle and sell.”

2. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

“Every single thing I have done I have planned for.”

Having been rejected several times for jobs at YFM, Metro FM and even Top Billing, Matheba has learned that when you have a plan life’s little hiccups can’t keep you down.

Every time she was rejected she would tell herself “O ho abang kitse ba (these ones don’t know me), I’m going to be on Top Billing”.

3. ‘Overnight’ success takes 2-4 years

Matheba said we live in world where everyone wants ‘instant’ everything. “No one puts in the work anymore.”

When you work for your money, you don’t have to ask for anything, you and have to thank anyone for “helping you out”.

Hard work makes is fulfilling. You get to say ”Chomi, I was at the promotion for nine hours selling cigarettes ko kong, mara  ke rekile di louboutin”, she said while flicking her heel to show off her red bottoms.

The Nedbank igniters: Bonang Matheba, Zoey Brown and Ciko Thomas

The Nedbank igniters: Bonang Matheba, Zoey Brown and Ciko Thomas. Photo: Sibongile Machika

4. The world doesn’t owe you anything.

“Success is your responsibility. Entitlement is a delusion of grandeur.”

5. Believe you are worth it.

The Secret principle says:  think it, write it down, say it out loud and if possible try to experience what it would feel like to achieve it.

6. Break down the barriers.

“You can be whatever you want, whatever! I’m living proof.”  From Hillbrow to Top Billing, the biggest barrier is your mind. So change your mind set.

 

Movie review: Thina Sobabili: The two of us

Believe the hype.Thina Sobabili is everything you hoped it would be.

Set in Sandton extension one otherwise known as Alex, Thina sobabili is the gripping story of two siblings Thulas and Zanele who are facing life ekasi and the socio economic problems that come with it.

Thulas is the increasingly possessive and over protective brother of Zanele who finds herself a sugar daddy in the hope of breaking out of ekasi. Theirs is a simple story that depicts the realities of some (possibly many) young South Africans today.

Director, Ernest Nkosi has managed to show case townships in a way that is realistic.

The movie has done very well internationally. It won two audience’s choice awards from the African Diaspora International Film Festival in New York and the Pan African Film Festival respectively.

Thina Sobabili is an independent film that has a small but strong cast. Leading man, Emmanuel Nkosinathi Gweva makes his brilliant debut along side Busisiwe Mtshali who has been on a few productions including SABC1 sitcom Thandeka’s Diary.

Winning cast: Richard Lukunku, Emmanuel Nkosinathi Gweva,Zikhona Sodlaka, Thato Dhladla, Busisiwe Mtshali and Mpho "Popps" Modikoane

Winning cast: Richard Lukunku, Emmanuel Nkosinathi Gweva,Zikhona Sodlaka, Thato Dhladla, Busisiwe Mtshali and Mpho “Popps” Modikoane

Unlike other South African movies, which often seem to exaggerate, mock or marvel at township conditions and the kasi lifestyle. Director, Ernest Nkosi has managed to show case townships in a way that is realistic. Without adding or taking anything away he makes Alex seem normal, like it is for Thulas, Zanele and some of the viewers.

Abuse is one of the main themes of the movie. Mosibudi Pheeha who is the writer of the movie is not superficial in how she addressed abuse. She goes beyond the violence and gives us a glimpse into the psyche of both perpetrator and victim.  The movie also does well in showing the legacy of abuse, how is creates a vicious cycle of perpetrators and victims who often share deep bonds.

Apart from a few visual bloopers Thina Sobabili is impressive. The story line is authentic and unpredictable. This makes it a very good movie which gets a vuvu 4/5.

Green light given to SRC day house

After settling logistical disputes with Wits management the SRC will finally be ready to open the student day house doors.

 

It has been three months since the official launch of the SRC day house, however students have not yet been able to use the R500 000 facility. The SRC has been in negotiations with Wits management over the operational logistic of the house since April of this year.

The main disagreement between the two parties was around the maintenance cost of the house.

SRC treasurer Mthuthuzeli Mahlangu said the university initially wanted to charge students an “application fee” to cover the maintenance cost. However, they felt this would exclude students who could not afford the fee.  The SRC said they would cover costs incurred for the rest of the year to ensure free membership.

“Establishing a criteria this late in the year might even slow down the process of getting people to the facility,” Talia said.

SRC student services officer Waseem Talia said that while the day house is free, future SRCs may decide to charge for memberships.  Another issue that needed consideration was limiting the number of memberships they could accept as the venue can only hold 60 people at a time.

Any student can use the day house facility, the only requirement is for students to apply by July 27. “Establishing a criteria this late in the year might even slow down the process of getting people to the facility,” Talia said.

Access denied: Student have not been able to use the SRC dy house since is launch in April 2015. Photo Sibongile Machika

Access denied: Student have not been able to use the SRC dy house since is launch in April 2015. Photo Sibongile Machika

Although everyone is allowed to apply, students from private accommodation are encouraged to apply as groups of 10 to 15. The hope is that they will use the facility to develop their own culture and networks in the same way residential students do.  The space was created to give them a venue to host parties, game nights and other events typical of res life that they usually don’t get to be a part of.

Application forms are available at the SRC offices. Selections will be based on a first come, first serve basis.

Students will be notified by July 31 of the membership acceptance and are automatically invited to the launch party happening on the same day. Other students are also invited to the launch.To RSVP students will have come with their student cards to fetch tickets from the SRC office.

Lots of drama at School of Arts imbizo

Students from the Drama department had the most complaints at the first Wits School of Arts student imbizo (meeting).

At an imbizo hosted by the Wits School of Arts (WSOA) student council on Monday afternoon, students from the drama department took the opportunity to file their frustrations. The imbizo was intended to acquaint students with the council, which was elected three months ago, and brainstorm ideas on future activities.

One of their more serious complaints was that drama students felt that they did not have enough access to the Wits theatre. Students are not allowed to use the theatre unless it is during an exam or an actual production.

“The Wits theatre is a separate entity from the school of arts. It functions as a business that need to generate profit.”

Each student is only given 30 minutes to familiarise themselves with the theatre stage before their exam starts. Students said their performance marks suffer because 30 minutes is not enough time to familiarise themselves with the space and use it efficiently.

Chairperson of the WSOA student council Nolo Mmeti,  said they have looked into the problem before. “The Wits theatre is a separate entity from the School of Arts. It functions as a business that needs to generate profit.” For this reason there is very little they can do about it. He also said when students are allowed to use the theatre often things are broken and equipment is not returned on time which leaves them with very little room to negotiate around the matter.

Students also complained that the School rules state that students are to receive their provisional marks a week before their exams but this does not happen for all departments. While others said that some lecturers do not give clear criteria of how students will be assessed. One student went on say that“sometimes I think marks are dependent on how close one is to the lecturer”.

A learder in the arts: Nolo Mmeti, Chairperson of the Wits School of Arts student council.  Photo; Sibongile Machika

A learder in the arts: Nolo Mmeti, Chairperson of the Wits School of Arts student council. Photo; Sibongile Machika

The council gave feedback on some of the requests that they received last semester and assured students that all new matters would be looked in to.

From language barriers between students and lecturers, to marks that are released with students names, students felt  that council had done a great deal in raising real student issues with management and getting timely results.

Mmeti said they hope to have more of these imbizos to “instil a collaborative culture” between students and their council. He also said there isn’t enough “artist collaborations between students of various study years” and they hope to change that.

Students are encouraged to keep an eye on the Wits School of Arts social media sites to find out about events and information regarding their various departments.

Play review: Classic Retakes by Benjamin Bell

A new production takes a fresh look at classic productions for a young audience

Classic Retakes is a vibrant production put together by Benjamin Bell in an effort to bring young people back into theatre. It is a collection of three classical plays written by Anton Chekhov and August Strindberg that have been adapted for a more contemporary audience.

In the last few years theatre audiences have declined, largely because people have many more options to keep themselves entertained. But for some people theatre is simply intimidating, a place reserved for the old and wealth.

“Theatre can be a fun night out.”

“People should move away from the belief that theatre is only about drama and heavy issues, says Bell. In these dark times, comedy is one of the best ways to escape that reality in that moment and enjoy your humanity.”

The hope is to move the production to other spaces around Johannesburg and show young people that theatre can be a fun night out.  While showing writers, produces and director that they can compete with TV and Cinema if their content is relevant and accessible to audiences.

About the play

Three works will form a Season at the Joburg Theatre this month, each piece crafted to leave audiences wanting more. Featuring Naledi award winning Zethu Dlomo along with Thulani Stukie Mtsweni, Lebogang ‘Ketlile’ Mphahlele, Fikile Mthwalo and Andrian Masiba.

In The Bear, adapted by Mphahlele and directed by Bell, the audience can look forward to being entertained by an affirmative action style take-over of Anton Chekhov’s classic farce of the same name. Nopilisi spends her days in mourning crying for her long dead husband. Zilishumi, a would-be debt collector; has come to call in her late husband’s debt. As this duel of Man vs Woman escalates we invite you to share in the ridiculousness of the human condition.

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Zethu Dlomo, Thulani Mtsweni and Lebogang Mphahlele in The Proposal, showing at the Joburg Theatre. Photo: Sibongile Machika

In The Proposal, adapted and directed by Mphahlele. Jabulani Dlamini wishes to propose to his neighbours daughter in order to lead a regular life despite his heart palpitations and constant fainting. Trouble ensues when the would-be couple cannot agree on anything.

In Stronger also directed by Bell, the audience is invited into the mind of a paranoid middle-class house wife. Trapped by her husband’s hard earned privilege, this mother of two must come to terms with her husband’s wandering eye.

May 19 – 23 at 19:30 pm, May 23 – 24 at 15:00 pm
Joburg Theatre
For more information and ticket sales visit www.joburgtheatre.com