The entertainment industry greats paid tribute to one of South Africans great actors, John Kani at his birthday celebration.
Award winning actor, director, playwright, and Wits honorary doctorate receiver John Kani celebrated his 80th birthday in a packed theatre. The celebration took place in his namesake, the John Kani theatre, in the Market Theatre laboratory on August 30.
The event was opened with a performance by the South African jazz musician Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse, followed by an address by Atandwa Kani, his son and an actor in his own right. “We all here to celebrate this big man’s birthday on behalf of the family, I just want to say tata, happy birthday Mlotshane,” he said.
The Van Toeka Af living legends recognition series is an initiative by the Department of Sports, Arts and Culture’s which recognises living legends and the work they have done. Dr Kani’s 60 year career in the dramatic arts played out on stage.
The celebration included different snippets of theatre work that Kani had worked on and won accolades for, among these performances was the infamous Sizwe Banzi is Dead, performed by Atandwa and Nathienal Ramabulana on the night. The play co-written by Athol Fugard, Winston Ntshona and Kani, explored the themes of identity, self-worth, racism, and suppression.
This is the play that won the Tony Award for the best play in 1975. It premiered in October of 1972 and ran 52 times in New York, winning the award three years later.
Kodwa spoke fondly about Kani and the work he has done for art and how he has used art to inspire change through his work during the apartheid and post-apartheid era. “He is the living testament to the power of art, to inspire change, to transcend boundaries and to foster unity,” he said.
Another outstanding theatre performance of Shakespeare’s Othello was performed by Atandwa, Kate Liquorish and Michael Richard. In 1987, Kani’s role as Othello, in particular the infamous kiss shared with Desdemona (a white woman) in the play, faced backlash. The kiss came just two years after laws prohibiting interracial marriages and sex were repealed by the Apartheid government. But segregation was still so ingrained, that many audience members walked out during performances reported the Chicago Tribune at the time.
Kani wrapped up the evening with a performance of a play he wrote called “Nothing but the Truth” which looked at the relationship complexities between the black people that stayed in South Africa and the ones that went into exile.
After his performance he made a speech on the importance of sustainability in the arts. “We have to industrialise the arts, it cannot be a side job because we don’t want to do a BSc [Bachelor of Sciences], it has to be a business, an industry that I can tell my children yes because you’re going to survive, make money and be rich.”
FEATURED IMAGE: John Kani sits down to have an interview with Wits Vuvuzela. Photo: Nonhlanhla Mathebula
The Wits Origin Center is hosting Bev Butkow’s Re-weaving Mother exhibit, which showcases a collection of artworks that explores the question of how humans exist in this world and what they leave behind.
South African artist, Bev Butkow, who has showcased her work worldwide has brought her new project on display in her second solo exhibit at the Wits Origin Centre on August 20, 2023.
The exhibition titled, Re-Weaving Mother shows a body of abstract, woven, stitched, painted, and mixed media sculptures, artworks on canvases and fabric that draped over concrete pillars. The exhibit managed to take a dark and gloomy centre and turned it into a beautiful spectacle of colour and life.
As art lovers walked through the entrance, they were ushered in by draping elaborate fabrics – it was like entering a material jungle and artworks were waiting to be discovered. There were different lights filling each space in the room and each piece was made of different textures and colours.
Butkow holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from Wits University and made a bold move from a successful corporate career in finance to become an artist. She said her current work is inspired by learning a new and different way to exist in the world.
She described her art as “nurturing” and “caring,” harboring different elements of the human body and art mixed into one. She added that her work represented, “the value of women’s labour [and] the traces we leave and the impact we make”.
Butkow told Wits Vuvuzela that she believes, “creativity is the new intellectual frontier,” and added that art creates “new possibilities around how we engage in the world and how we exist together in community.”
Many people came to view the new exhibit, this included art lover Meaghan Pogue who said the artworks made her feel a sense of “comfort” because the material used on the hanging sculptures were made from a soft and “recognizable” fabric. You can almost feel a sense of home with some of the pieces as if they are woven from memory.
Each person may experience the exhibition differently but from interaction with the artwork in form of sight and touch, Butkow seemingly showcased new ways of being and engaging with the world through her art.
The Re-Weaving Mother exhibit will be showcased at the Origin Center until September 30, 2023. There will be creative gatherings on the:
Body and Art: August 30
A Material Uprising: September 06
The value of Women’s Labour: September 12
Traces We Leave Upon the Earth: September 14
FEATURED IMAGE:Ley Linesand other Networks of Care by Bev Butkow in her exhibit “Re-Weaving Mother” on August 20, 2023. Photo: Georgia Cartwright
Fourth-year Wits fine arts student uses Afro-futurism to engage issues of migration and feelings of displacement in an award-winning mixed media installation
Rumbo Mercy was named this year’s winner of the Wits Young Artist Awards, for her work titled, platform Omega: awaiting the twilight train — which uses mixed media in an afro-futuristic installation of a space traveler, looking to belong.
In the exhibition, the space traveler, named Space Kid is suspended in the air, with a green suit and an astronaut’s helmet, floating about with fish moving all around her. It looks like she is floating in a fishbowl. There is a pair of shackles beneath her feet and in front of her, there is an old suitcase with her belongings.
The show also used video and narration to tell the story of Space Kid waiting at a train station, on her way to a planet of outcasts, leaving behind Alcyone, a star on which she never really felt at home.
In the exhibition the narrator explains that Space Kid was born with the inability to be held down by gravity, in a world where belonging is legitimised by being weighted. However, Space Kid had to wear metallic chains around her ankles that added humiliation to the pain of not being weighted – like others.
On why it looks like she is floating in a fishbowl, Mercy said that because fish live in water, they are probably unaware of the water, like we are not aware of the air we breathe. But if we were to flip that around, fish will start grasping for air which will make them aware of their surroundings.
The work was inspired by Mercy’s background of being a daughter of Malawian parents, who came to South Africa, for greener pastures, before she was born. “I have always felt disconnected from South African cultures because I don’t know them, but also, I didn’t know my Malawian side because we didn’t live there”, she said.
She refers to this as being in a state of “liminality,” which is a psychology term that describes the feeling of being in between two states but not quite belonging to either.
Mercy’s work grapples with ideas and feelings of displacement, migration and belonging in an imaginative way, without the usual political connotations that sometimes muddle the conversation.
However, Mercy recognises that her choice of topics is not easy to tell in ways that does not trigger xenophobic sentiments; and she is using her art, to express her experiences in a way that lends itself to more objective interpretations.
Reshma Chhiba, the curator of the exhibition at The Point of Order – an art gallery that is part of the Wits fine art department told Wits Vuvuzela that Mercy’s art installation was picked from a list of 10 finalists at a ceremony held at the gallery.
“It did come down to Rumbo in a very clear manner,” she said, while explaining that her work plays on a “African futurism that allows for a fictionalization and imagination,” which was exciting to see.
She said that this year, they had 113 students who submitted their work, and the selector, Same Mdluli, who is the curator and manager of the Standard Bank Gallery, shortlisted the ten finalists, and 3 independent adjudicators named Mercy’s installation as this year’s winner on July 20, 2023.
Chhiba said that the purpose of the Wits Young Artist Awards is to “recognise artistic excellence within the undergrad cohort…open [only] to third and fourth-year undergraduates of the fine art programme.”
Space Kid’s story is being exhibited online, via the WYAA website.
FEATURED IMAGE: Rumbo Mercy, winner of the Wits Young Artist Awards 2023, looking up at her Space Kid sculpture. Photo: Morongoa Masebe
Performance enthusiasts from all walks of life came from across the globe for the first performance studies international conference held in Africa, hosted at Wits University.
Wits University theatre and performance and Drama for Life departments took delegates and attendees on a journey around Johannesburg when they hosted the first Performance Studies International Conference, with theatre performances, panel discussions and presentations in line with the theme, Uhambo luyazilawula.
The conference was hosted between August 2 –5, 2023, with performances across several cultural sites in Johannesburg including but not limited to the Wits Theatre Complex, Soweto Theatre and Constitution Hill.
Performance Studies International was founded in 1997 to create communication and exchange among thinkers, artists, researchers, and activists working in the field of performance.
“We themed the whole conference around ‘Uhambo Luyazilawula: Embodied wandering practices’ and we located uhambo both as a practice and as a way of thinking about performance studies, looking at the ways in which journeying and collaboration and community function as fundamental ways in which artists and scholars within the African continent position and locate performance studies” said Kamogelo Molobye , the co-organiser of the PSI conference.
Wits Vuvuzela attended a presentation session called Ekhaya which translates as home from Isizulu and IsiXhosa in which music lecturer, Mbuti Moloi presented a paper on the significance of cultural diversity in higher education and what uhambo luyazilawula meant for traditional/African music.
One of the primary challenges he spoke to was bias. Moloi’s views of the bias towards African music comes from the challenges of the past in which African music was modernised.
When speaking to the solutions to some of the primary challenges presented, Moloi said: “There is one solution, we need to get back to ourselves as African people. We need to use higher [education] learning to get back to ourselves.”
In a different session Kwanele Thusi, a casting director presented his paper ‘I dance in my Mother’s language’ in which his argument was exploring the boundary between the body and its surroundings are blurred, all while the decolonisation of African Studies.
“The drivers of language still create and maintain cultural power so there is cultural order, this is seen through systematic foundations set in media, politics and sport…,” he said.
Thusi posits that an everyday example of this is job interviews, most black people struggle to express themselves well in English, which is the barometer of intelligence in those settings. As a byproduct, opportunities for employment and wealth creation remain limited.
“Growing up in KZN and moving to Johannesburg to find a job, I realised how much I struggled and when I spoke to my friends who were black, they also struggled the same way and I wanted to understand why it was so hard for a black person to be sufficient and happy”
“An attendee in both sessions Sihle Makaluza, a student from University of Johannesburg said, “The papers were thought provoking and have left me asking myself questions on what I am doing to get to my true African self.”
The conference was wrapped up at Constitution Hill where they focused on installations and panel discussions and the attendees and delegates were invited to a closing party.
FEATURED IMAGE: Bruce Barnes performs ‘These bones they walk” piece. Photo: Aphelele Mbokotho
Jephta is a bassist and composer and has performed with prominent international artists like Dianne Reeves and Terri-lyne Carrington.
Levin is a jazz studies lecturer while Jephta lectures in both jazz and film music.
Renowned jazz maestros, such as Sisionke Xonti (saxophonist), Bokani Dyer (pianist), Tlale Makhene (percussionist), and Jonno Sweetman (drummer), performed alongside the two during the launch.
The evening was divided into two sets. Levin kicked off the night with tracks from his fifth album, The Past is Unpredictable, Only the Future is Certain, performing 2/3 parts of the album: The first one titled The Past is Unpredictable with movements Gijima and Chaphela and the second one titled Prayers Made From Grass with Homily and Rites.
Led by Tlale’s poetic chants and Xonti’s melodious sounds, an African rhythmic experience was created. The inclusion of African instruments like the udu ceramic drum, cymbals, chimes, ankle rattles, and triangles added a distinct African essence.
Levin said, “The album blends indigenous and western musical instruments, making it a unique and special representation of Pan Africanism in music.”
Following a short intermission, the spotlight shifted to Jephta’s set, performing hisBorn Coloured, not Born-Free album, Jephta’s compositions delve into the complexities of race in South Africa. The music encapsulated his personal experiences as a coloured male in post-Apartheid South Africa.
Jephta’s set featured soulful tracks like An Incomplete Transition and Gadija (part 1), a heartfelt tribute to his grandmother. The bass-driven Ben-Dhlamini Stomp earned him a standing ovation. Closing the show, Jephta’s last two movements, Acceptance/metamorphosis and Resurgence, delighted the crowd with its infectious rhythm and captivating melody, leaving them singing and bobbing along.
Speaking about the two musicians, Wits Music lecturer, Dr Peter Cartwright said, “They are both new in the permanent staff… so it’s a way to welcome them, you know, with their first public concert.”
Elliot Rogers, third year music student said, “Benjamin Jephta is my lecturer for ensemble, and I do guitar [classes] with Vuma Levin; and seeing this concert where their music is coming together is a beautiful sight, looking at it from a [scholastic] lens.”
The Narratives concert got the audience singing and clapping throughout, the multiple standing ovations received on the night spoke to the pair’s expansive talents.
FEATUREDIMAGE: Benjamin Jephta performing his bass-driven composition, Ben-Dhlamini Stomp, at the Chris Seabrooke Music Hall. Photo by: Ayanda Mgwenya
Exhibition offers visitors an opportunity to experience what it is like to have schizophrenia.
The Wits Origins Centre Museum’s latest exhibition Shadow Voices seeks to raise awareness about schizophrenia.
Shadow Voices was a week-long sound installation (July 31 to August 5) crafted by MMus (Master in Music Student) student Annemie Du Plessis, music psychotherapist Karin Meyer, and poet Dan Hoeweler. It explored the profound experiences of those living with the mental disorder.
Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that is characterized by continuous or relapsing episodes of psychosis. Symptoms include hallucinations, delusions, and disordered thinking and behaviour that impairs daily functioning and can be disabling.
The exhibition uses sound that people can listen to through headphones to allow them to experience what it is like to have “voices in your head”. It mimics one of the realities of a person living with schizophrenia.
Du Plessis told Wits Vuvuzela that “given the stigma often associated, we wanted to do a sound installation that would help create awareness about schizophrenia symptomatology” [the set of symptoms that are associated with a medical condition].
“Sound installations can be a powerful medium to allow for immersive experiences, it supports the narratives of music therapy as part of a treatment and support for people living with schizophrenia,” said Du Plessis.
According to a 2022 report by the WHO, schizophrenia affects approximately 24 million people, or one in 300 people (0.32%) worldwide. This rate is one in 222 people (0.45%) among adults.
According to Dr Mvuyiso Talatala of the South African Society of Psychiatrists (Sasop), in an article published by the Daily Maverick in July 2023, schizophrenia affects only about 1% of the population of the South African population. He said, “schizophrenia is a disease of young people, with about 90% of people with the disease first showing signs before the age of 25.”
The Origins Centre Museum’s curator Tammy Hodgskiss Reynard told Wits Vuvuzela that what makes Shadow Voices different is that “exhibitions are often visually focused and this one forces you to listen and use other senses.”
Music psychotherapist Meyer believes that music therapy can be very effective in treating mental health concerns. Music therapy is the practice in which a therapist uses clinical and evidence-based music interventions to accomplish unique and individualised goals within a therapeutic relationship.
She said, “Music can naturally lift our moods and, when used intentionally it becomes a tool for processing emotional difficulties.” She adds that “research has shown the benefits of music therapy for depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, et cetera.”
It is believed that music therapy can be used as an aid in the treatment process of different forms of mental illness.
FEATURED IMAGE: Visitor and student, Aphelele Mbokotho listening to the sound installation which mimicks having voices in your head. Photo: Sbongile Molambo
Witsies showcase their play on the highly coveted virtual National Arts Festival’s stage
Tea for Two is a deeply personal interrogation of the complexities of understanding your identity as a young adult.
Zion and the Voice embracing one another after they had worked through the mind maze. Photo: Supplied
The surrealist play, which was created by two Wits graduates, Nqobile Natasia and Reatlilwe Maroga was performed at the virtual National Arts Festival at the end of July.
“As passionate creators, we have poured our hearts and souls into this production,” said Maroga, as she was explaining their feeling of elation on being accepted into the biggest annual celebration of the arts on the African continent.
Meanwhile, Natasie, who is now feeling a lot more confident in their work said, “It was a tough journey [to get in], but extremely exciting”.
The 35-minute play follows the protagonist, Zion – played by final year dramatic art student Mmangaliso Ngobese. She is a young professional, who finds comfort in their strict routines and self-imposed rigidity. However, Zion falls asleep one day, only to wake up in a deliberately confusing dream world – their own mind.
Here, they encounter a character known as The Voice – played by second-year dramatic arts student Sazikazi Bula – who seemingly looks like Zion. Together, they navigate through and make sense of this confusing “messy mind maze,” by confronting Zion’s deepest thoughts, emotions, and identities, said Natasia.
According to Forum Theatre, surrealism is a style of performance “characterised by its use of unexpected, often illogical, scenarios or images to create a dream-like atmosphere on stage.”
Natasia said that they chose to use surrealism because it allowed them to visually put the audience in the protagonist’s head space; with much of the open-endedness left on the viewers to make their own conclusions. The most positive feedback I got from people is they resonate with the play, explained Natasia.
The themes of the play are self-introspection and identity, focusing on the complex and often confusing journey of self-discovery in your own chaotic minds.
Natasia said that everything on stage was “modelled after my brain – with all the chaos and absurdity.”
The set, which represented Zion’s mind showed this chaos. There was a yellow bench in the front of the set, signs reading “Messy Mind Maze” and “Teens” with tin cans scattered on the floor. Most notably were the red threads intertwined, which Maroga said they were symbolising the brain; and like the mind, “everything is connected”.
“This play tells us that we are not alone…as messy as (our) minds can be, we can work through it” continued Maroga.
The lead actor, Ngobese said: “You realise that (like most of us) [Zion] is someone who suffocates themself in their mind all the time… as humans we bottle things up for ourselves and we are unaware of the damage we do to ourselves”.
Overall, it is a powerful play which leaves the audience wondering how they have dealt and will deal with their own struggles with identity as they resonate with the piece.
An overview of the set as Sizikazi Bula and Mmangaliso Ngobese deliver their lines. Photo: Supplied
The characters, Zion and the VOice, working through Zion’s thoughts on stage for the virtual National Arts Festival. Photo: Supplied.
FEATURED IMAGE: The poster of Tea for Two advertising their appearance on the virtual National Arts Festival. Image: Supplied
Newly Wits PhD graduate uses art to explore the toxicity of fragile masculinity
Nicola Genovese has thrust the issues of fragile masculinity back in the public arena with his exhibition, Sad Boy — which looks at the weight men carry as they are expected to perform being masculine.
Genovese is an Italian/Swiss born artist that recently graduated with his PhD in Fine Arts at Wits. His work is mostly focused on videos, sculptural works, and performances in which he explores issues of masculinity, identity politics and power dynamics in relationships.
The exhibition at the Wits Art Museum, which took place on August 1 was opened with a two-part performance. The first part of it was a reading of an excerpt from his research thesis on the working-class masculinity in the Northern parts of Italy, followed by a poem about the male body and erectile dysfunction. While the performance was taking place, audiences were surrounded by sculptures that attempted to showcase this fragility.
Genovese reading his text on fragility and erectile dysfunction. Photo: Aphelele Mbokotho
One of the sculptures was placed on Genovese arm, which represented a male’s genital. He had his t-shirt tucked in and his belly sticking out, while flapping the object up and down as he spoke about the function of male genitals.
Genovese told Wits Vuvuzela that the first part of his showcase focused on the representation of the “emo punk attitude from the 90s kids” where being sad and depressed looked cool; and the second one looked at the shame men carry when faced with genitals that are not working as they should.
“We are talking about a part of the body that has to work…This was a way to show the ambivalence that it’s massive but also fragile and soft through the use of the metal sheet material that is metallic but also extremely soft that I used in the arm” Genovese said, when he was talking about what the arm represented in his performance.
Title of the exhibition at the entrance of the WAM. Photo: Aphelele MbokothoOne of Genove’s art pieces on display. Photo: Aphelele MbokothoA sculptural piece spelling out the title.Photo: Aphelele Mbokotho
Christo Doherty, the supervisor of Genovese for his PhD thesis said that “It’s been quite a trip [working with him] because he is a very challenging artist that is working in the gender, sexuality area… he’s been exploring and critiquing masculinity but as a straight white male”.
BA General student Hope Nesengane who was attending, said, “I appreciate how well rounded it was, the multimedia, the video element and sculptural pieces made the diversity of it interesting, and I thought the performance was also great.”
FEATURED IMAGE: Genovese performing his text piece for the audience.Photo: Aphelele Mbokotho
Inspired by Ricky Rick’s Cotton Fest, Young creatives give local brands a platform.
Sole Purpose hosted a pop-up store event, bringing together local artists to perform and local brands to sell their wares at Homeground restaurant, in Braamfontein.
Pop-up store at the Sole Purpose event and attendees having drinks and socializing. Photo: Sinazo Mondo
This pop-up store experience was co-founded by Shaun Nzwakhe Gomeza and Nkhensani Mashimane in December, 2021. “We are an initiative that supports local artists, creatives and entrepreneurs by providing a platform and atmosphere for people to network and socialize,” their website reads.
The sixth iteration of Sole Purpose took place on May 27, 2023. New local brands such as Projext, a clothing brand and Avitality (Born to Move), a gym wear clothing brand popped up for the first time. While clothing brands Deity Artisty art painting , Freak sins, Co lounge and Narty returned to the market.
The musical talent included Tiller Sax, Lwaazii and Fried.HZ who provided live music throughout the afternoon.
From left to right, photographer, Dj Alsi Paq and Co-founder of Sole Purpose Nkhensani Mashimane at the deck inside Homeground restaurant. Photo: Sinazo Mondo
Anelisa Mnyweba (24) who attended the event said: “I love the local gin brand Egoli, that I just tried for the first time, the music and performances were good and I’ve bought myself a few beautiful items from the local brands.”
Creative director and owner of Born to Move, Avela Sisilana said,“I love that my brand is being recognised and its name is out there now. It’s been two hours and I haven’t made any sales yet but that’s mainly because my brand is specific as it is gym wear. I’m more here for branding than making sales.”
Ntsako Ntimane owner of Deity Artisty said, “I started painting four years ago and this is my first time actually putting myself out there, I had my first exhibition with Sole purpose in March this year… I’ve made sales and connections today thanks to Sole purpose.”
The event continued till late with vendors packing up at 17:00, while the owners, artists and creatives socialized over drinks. The mood quickly moved from chilled to upbeat as local artist, DJ Alsi Paq(22) ushered in the night with Amapiano hits.
FEATURED IMAGE: Deity Artistry showcasing art work at the pop-up store with attendees admiring. Photo: Sinazo Mondo
Having no formal fashion training hasn’t stopped the shoemaker behind “Khechakat” from bringing her creations to life.
Fuelled by the inability to access and afford a pair of R2 000 European designer boots made by Buffalo, Katlego Khethokuhle Chamane, opted to make her own pair and went on to launch them as a part of her brand and business.
Khechakat – a combination of the first three letters of Chamane’s name and surname – is a shoe brand established in 2022 that makes boots with a fuzzy and warm feel that are covered in faux fur – called the “Dawgs”. The shoemaker is now expanding the range with a pair of heels with fur on the sides of the sole, on sale from Monday, May 29.
Katlego Khethokuhle Chamane holding a packaged pair of the heels with fur on the sides of the soles. Photo: Supplied
She believes that naming the business after herself has made it very personal to her. “I think when something is associated with your name, there is a level of respect and there is a level of care that you put in that [would not have been] had it been an abstract name.”
The 20-year-old shoemaker and third-year economic science student at Wits University believes her brand is the answer for people who like fashion but cannot afford luxury brands.
“Usually, you would find that the best things are always the expensive things,” which is why her prices range from R650 to R1 500.
Moshe Kgame (21), a Johannesburg-based all-round artist and Chamane’s creative assistant, said his employer’s vision is inspiring. “I know her vision [is also something] some people won’t get now but I believe in her,” Kgame told Wits Vuvuzela.
Born in 2003 and raised in Dobsonville, Soweto, Chamane’s township background inspired her to make the most of what she had. Khechakat might have started as a pair of DIY boots, but it is slowly becoming a household name among shoe lovers with the likes of South African-based amapiano DJ – Uncle Waffles – already owning a pair.
She sources everything locally in South Africa to help create much needed jobs. At present the venture is self-funded by Chamane.
Her creative process includes deconstructing a garment just to analyse and understand how it was made, before reconstructing it with her unique twist.
Childhood friend and third-year property studies Witsie, Kamogelo Letsoalo (21) described the establishment of Khechakat as a bittersweet journey. “I have watched [Chamane] fight for her brand, I have watched her find suppliers from far places, catch taxis, I have watched every single moment of it,” Letsoalo said.
Letsoalo added that while she isn’t “really into fashion” herself, she admires how Chamane’s free spirit and raw talent translate through her designs.
Chamane said that her greatest challenge is trying to apply herself fully in both school and business. Part of the reason she is yet to launch a website or dedicated social media account, Chamane said she still finding her feet. Without a mentor, “I am learning all these things for the first time and on my own,” she added.
She currently sells from her personal Instagram account – @Khetho – and it is rare to find a pair ready for you to buy immediately after directly messaging her. “I usually take seven days to make a shoe, sometimes a single weekend if it is a [priority] order,” she said.
Her expansion plans for Khechakat include going in the direction of heels of different types and bags, so she can achieve longevity and reach greater markets.
FEATURED IMAGE: A pair of the highly anticipated heels with fur on the side of the soles, that are being launched on Monday, May 29. Photo: Otsile Swaratlhe
In celebration of Africa Day, Wits invited internationally renowned South African poet to perform and teach students.
At age 73, famous poet, writer and activist, Diana Ferrus continues to dazzle audiences with her spoken word.
Born in 1953 in Worcester, in the Western Cape, Ferrus started writing poetry at the age of 14. She went on to study psychology and sociology at the University of the Western Cape in 1988. She then did a Master’s degree with a focus on Black Afrikaans women writers.
Speaking to Wits Vuvuzela, the mixed heritage writer of Irish and Khoisan explained how her hometown had an influence in her writing — specially to placate her, when hardships arose.
“The winters were so cold that there was ice on the top of the mountains. That has been etched into my mind”, she said, in addition to this, she grew up in a household where there was domestic violence and child abuse.
Furthermore, people in Worcester worked in the surrounding vineyards which paid them with alcohol — leading to the area having the highest foetal alcohol abuse in the world.
She recalls how the street that separated the coloured area from the white area was nicknamed “Kanteen Straat” (Canteen Street) and those who wanted to shop for groceries on the other side of the street would have to pass this road, “many people never got there” because they stopped to drink in the bars instead.
However, Ferrus is proud of her upbring: “The town formed me. Those were my formative years”, she said.
She won a fellowship to study at Utrecht University in the Netherlands in 1998. It is here that she wrote her most famous poem for Sarah Baartman, I’ve Come to Take you Home. Ferrus said she was homesick at the time and learnt about Sarah Baartman again in a course entitled, “Sexuality in the Colonies.”
Baartman was a Khoikhoi woman who was taken by French travelers in the 19th century to be displayed in Paris as a freak show where she died, and her remains were kept and displayed.
Ferrus said when she stared out of her window in Utrecht, “the stars were so far away. If I was in my own country, I’d be able to touch them.” It was then that she heard a voice in her say “take me home” and, she thought, “that must be Sarah. In fact, it might have just been me,” she said jokingly.
Poet Diana Ferrus teaches the Wits community to write their own poetry in a workshop on May 24 at the Wits Writing Centre. Photo: Kimberley Kersten
Ferrus has written many other poems since then about South Africa. One such poem, My Mother Was a Storm, was inspired by the murder of the University of Cape Town’s student Uyenene Mrwetyana in 2019. “I was angry about that, ” she explained.
“I’m disappointed in the patriarchy and the corruption and the violence.” She continued, “It is too far gone now, I do not know how it will change. Unless we put women in charge.”
Philippa De Villiers, Diana’s friend of 15 years and creative writing lecturer at Wits said, “I love her poetry. She is an example of a tradition that has been overlooked by academy, that of the community poet. She carries the dreams of a community. It is the raw animal of poetry.”
Nosipho Mngomezulu, lecturer at the Anthropology department at Wits ,who uses Ferrus’ poetry in her teaching said that her work is important for social science students.
“I use her work to humanize Sarah Baartman and make her a three-dimensional person.” Ferrus humanizes history through storytelling, she explained.
FEATURED IMAGE: Diana Ferrus performs one of her poems in celebration of Africa Day on May 24 at the Wits writing centre. Photo: Kimberley Kersten
Joburg’s oldest market showcases how migrant workers weaved their cultural practices into what is now known as CBD’s popular trade zone.
Anthropologist and music guru, Dr Sipho Sithole and Bridge Books, a bookstore focusing on African literature in Marshalltown hosted a tour of Kwa Mai Mai – Johannesburg’s oldest traditional market — early this week.
Kwa Mai-Mai, located in the CBD is an economic centre, where you can find traditional healers, clothes and medicine. The place is also popular for its food: phuthu which is a staple, traditional South African dish that is made from Mielie-Meal served with braai meat of your choice. Overall, Kwa Mai Mai is a place welcoming for everyone looking for relaxation, healing and traditional items for any purpose.
The market was first established after 1929, as a camp for migrant workers coming to work in the mines. It has now become a home to many people, a community and an entry way to African spirituality.
The tour was part of the marketing of Sithole’s book about Kwa Mai Mai, titled Maye Maye! The history and heritage of the Kwa Mai Mai market. The book gives readers a historical view of market and the people who reside, sell and work in it.
The tour began at Bridge Books in Commissioner Street where Sithole spoke about the inspiration behind the book followed by a trek on the busy roads down to Berea Road, where Kwa Mai Mai is located.
Dr Sithole, who was leading the tour, first introduced the audience to the popular Shisanyama spot and then the Nazareth Baptist “Shembe” church and next to it, a compound where cultural goods are sold. Dr Sithole said, many of those who visit the compound are surprised that the shops, which typically measure 3m x 6m, double up as living quarters for the traders.
Sithole said the market consists of 218 stalls, including shelters, catering to more than 400 individuals and has more than 100 kids living in it with their parents.
Walking into the traditional market. Photo: Mbalenhle Dlamini
Sithole, who holds a PhD in Anthropology from Wits University explained that “this book records my collective observations and interpretations from the ethnographic work that I conducted over a period of four years among Kwa Mai Mai traders and residents”.
The market’s committee chairperson, Malibongwe Sithole said that: “Kwa Mai is an informal trading zone, but we want to formalise it so that it can be recognised and respected worldwide”.
Street photographer Nonzuzo Gxekwa who attended the walkabout said: “[I am] fascinated by the fact that there are a lot of women that run this space, but I have never known the story behind it and going through the city with someone else’s insights is always refreshing, it gives me something to think about”.
Bridge Books founder, Griffin Shea added that the book and the walkabout are a way of thinking about the CBD as “a massive trading space that is super valuable” that can receive the same level of support as places like Sandton get for small businesses to run effectively.
When asked what he hopes the book will achieve, Sithole told Wits Vuzuzela that he hopes it will “redress the past, formalise that place and bring traffic of people to buy there because those people do nothing but sell their goods.” He also added that he wants it to bring awareness to young people so that they talk and write about the place.
FEATURED IMAGE: Dr Sipho Sithole speaking about the office at Kwa Mai Mai. Photo: Mbalenhle Dlamini