REVIEW: Barbie’s pink world turns blue 

‘Barbie’ dominates the box office, with millions of tickets sold in its first weekend of release 

In a whimsical fantasy comedy film, Barbie’s, writer-director Greta Gerwig humanises the infamous doll by critiquing the unrealistic beauty standards it represented for many young girls around the world.  

With the rise of the feminism movement in the 2000s, Mattel Barbie doll’s popularity waned as consumers did not like what the doll stood for: sexism, negative body image, and its lack of diversity. 

Bearing these debates in mind, Gerwig’s movie takes a different route, in the film, she takes us through the journey of Barbie, played by actress, Margot Robbie, whose perfect world is tainted after she repeatedly has thoughts about death.  

To fix this, she is advised to travel to the real, to meet her owner, who might be the one struggling mentally. She is accompanied by fellow doll Ken, who discovers patriarchy and seeks to implement it in Barbieland.  

One particularly pleasing aspect about of the film is how it was able to showcase that women in the real world are still being reduced to their beauty and body; while in Barbieland, they are seen as people, who are celebrated for their intellects 

Matriarchy and patriarchy are both put to the test in the film. However, although the film tries to send across a message of women empowerment, it makes it seem as though a world run by women would disregard the role that men play in society. This is in contrast with what feminism stands for, and that is equality for all genders. 

In its first weekend of release, the movie made $162 million in North America, while cinemas in Sandton, Montecasino and Clearwater Mall in Roodeproot were filled with eager fans. 

Whether you love or hate the seemingly perfect doll, are male or female – we all have something to learn from her. Be it doing some self-introspection or unlearning patriarchal mindsets. 

The Barbie movie premiered in cinemas on Friday, July 21, 2023. 

Vuvu rating: 8 out of 10 

FEATURED IMAGE: Barbie movie poster starring Margot Robbie who plays ‘Barbie’. Photo:


REVIEW: My Name is Reeva

The life of Reeva Steenkamp unpacked through intimate testimonials from those closest to her.

My Name Is Reeva is a documentary series about model, Reeva Steenkamp, who was murdered by her then boyfriend, Oscar Pistorius on February 14, 2013, Valentine’s Day of that year. 

The documentary looks into the model’s life before and after the murder, through the eyes of her parents, Barry and June Steenkamp. The three-part series first aired on August 25, 2022, on Mnet, and was then later made available on DSTV CatchUP and streaming site, Showmax. The documentary was written by Justin Strydom, produced by David Taylor and directed by Warren Batchelor.

The first episode introduces us to a sad, nostalgic when viewers first meet Steenkamp’s parents, Barry and June Steenkamp. Suspense builds as the pair are introduced to the concept of the victim-offender dialogue, a process where the victim of a crime or surviving family members and the offender of the crime in this case, Pistorius, have an in-person meeting. The hope is that through hearing the perpetrator’s side of the story, the victim or their loved ones may possibly get closure.

The pain is evident in Steenkamp’s eyes even ten years on, to them their daughter’s death is still a fresh and raw wound. Conversations with their lawyer Tania Koen bring back the memory of the night they lost their beloved daughter.

The re-enactment of the scenes of the fateful night when Steenkamp lost her life ground much of the documentary. The excellently cast actors in the re-enacted scenes help provide a glimpse into the possible chain of events that unfolded on that fateful night, according to Calvin Mollett’s (co-author of the book Oscar vs the Truth) running theory.

In the second episode, the documentary turns to factual evidence through crime scene photographs and videos taken by the investigating officer. Other evidence from the scene which is analysed included blood stains, bullet holes on the bathroom door and the damaged furniture.

Verbal testimony from the trial is also dramatised.  Pistorius’ neighbours testified that they heard raised voices and a woman’s scream. A chilling reenactment is used to illustrate that testimony in the documentary.

One shocking revelation made in the documentary comes from a painting of a man standing with a gun in hand, and a woman on the stairs going to heaven with wings. Reeva made the painting when she was just 14.  Mrs Steenkamp said she thinks her daughter unconsciously knew about her death before it happened, that the painting was a prophecy.

In episode three we get to hear about Oscar’s character through interviews with Reeva’s best friend, Gina Myers, who said Pistorius “…is aggressive and irresponsible with his gun and how he was obsessive towards Reeva.”

The documentary also highlights hidden and tampered evidence, that was not presented in court. Apparently, Pistorius’s brother Carl Pistorius deleted the contents on Pistorius’s cellphone, which included phone calls and messages sent on the night of the murder.

My Name Is Reeva helped to get a sense of who Reeva was, her life journey and how her murder has had a lasting negative impact on her parents. The documentary is a deep dive into gender-based violence and its many manifestations.

Vuvu rating: 8/10

FEATURED IMAGE: My Name Is Reeva Cover. Photo: Keshet International/Supplied


REVIEW: Victim/Suspect  

In a compelling Netflix documentary, sexual assault victims face the heartbreaking reality of police accusing and arresting them for ‘false reporting’. 

The Netflix Originals documentary, Victims/Suspect follows the journey of journalist Rae de Leon from the Center for Investigative Reporting. Through her investigation, she uncovers a shocking revelation, exposing how sexual assault victims were subjected to intimidation by police during lengthy depositions, ultimately pressuring them into recanting their statements. 

The documentary directed and produced by Nancy Schwartzman, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2023, and was released on Netflix on May 23.   

Schwartzman’s previous work includes, Roll Red Roll, which dealt with the permissive “bro culture” around the rape cases which took place in 2012 in Steubenville, Ohio.  

In Victim/Suspect she was able to craft an enthralling and provocative investigative documentary by tracking De Leon’s investigation and exposing how policing across the US can allow law enforcement to transform sexual assault survivors into criminal suspects.   

 De Leon utilised police interrogation footage, victim testimonies and interviews with legal experts to gain insight into where the potential flaws within the police system lie.   

Beginning with piecing together the victims’ stories of assault, De Leon then compared them with the police’s handling of their cases before they subsequently closed the cases by arresting the victims.   

 By scrutinising the work of the police De Leon uncovered a recurring pattern, noting that when law enforcement officers had a form of scepticism towards possible sexual assault victims, they would resort to employing suspect interrogation tactics against them. These interrogation tactics included subjecting the accuser to hours of prolonged interrogation and repeatedly asking them questions until they reached the point of just wanting to exit the room. Additionally, police officers would lie to the victims claiming to possess surveillance footage of the location where the incident allegedly occurred.   

 It seems that the officers’ modus operandi had very little to do with justice and more focused on bringing the victims to a point of submission and having power over them. The reasons could range from police officers trying to protect a prominent local figure to them undermining the women’s recounting of their attacks to shorten the investigative time. 

 Although this aggressive approach was used on the victims, the alleged attackers were barely interviewed, if at all.  

 While the documentary is compelling and showcases excellent journalism, it is regrettably presented in a manner that is distracting and challenging to follow. The film is loosely centred around the journalist who had been working on exposing the flaws in the way sexual assault victims and cases were handled by the police for years, but the inclusion of documented evidence at random points in the timeline can cause some confusion.  

The voiceover switches between past and present tense regarding the creation of the journalist’s article, yet there are no visual cues to assist viewers in navigating this continuous shifting.  Not only did this create an unnecessarily complicated viewing experience, but the jumbled flow of events also took away from the impact some of the footage could have had on the viewer.  

 At times, the documentary also seems too much like a profile of a fired-up go-getter journalist. Although De Leon’s actions were admirable, placing so much focus on her could arguably have taken the spotlight from some of the victims’ interviews and the footage used as evidence throughout the documentary.  

 Overall, the documentary is a good and necessary watch. As a student journalist, the documentary taught me the significance of setting aside personal fears to advocate for those who cannot speak up for themselves. One aspect that resonated with me deeply was when De Leon mentioned her own apprehension when confronting individuals by knocking on their doors. However, she recognises that she serves as the voice for those who may be voiceless, and this realisation empowers her to overcome her fears and pursue her mission. 

The biggest flaw in the documentary may be the lack of access to the police officers in question as they declined to participate in the film. This leaves the viewer feeling a lack of closure and somewhat enraged knowing that none of the officers were held accountable.  

Vuvu rating: 7/10  

FEATURED IMAGE: Victim/Suspect, a Netflix Originals documentary. Photo: IMBD


REVIEW: Oratorio of a forgotten youth 

The ensemble put together by producer and trumpeter Mandla Mlangeni took the Great Hall audience through the stages of grieving the failed dream of freedom.  

The Amandla Freedom Ensemble led by the Standard Bank young artist for jazz 2019, Mandla Mlangeni, launched their interdisciplinary album Oratorio of a forgotten youth at the Wits Great Hall on Saturday, May 27. 

Mlangeni told IOL that the album was the culmination of a production that started in 2019, that sought to tell the story of how far South Africa had come in confronting its past.   

The production brought together a collaboration of musical ensembles, with their own distinct sounds, laced with provocative spoken word poetry and a visual artist who used sand to draw intricate images with his hands, live, to the sound of the music. The images changed throughout the production but the most memorable were clenched fists and trees that had African faces instead of leaves. The visual artist, Tawanda MuAfrika also created the album art.  

The empty stage was set up as though for a multi-piece orchestra with what initially seemed like too many moving parts. And when the artists walked onto the stage, it was difficult to know where to focus one’s attention. To the right, poet Lesego Rampolokeng sat at a desk with his anthology in front of him, a string quartet and a nine-piece choir behind him.

Jazz pianist Yonela Mnana set up with afro-jazz group A Brother Moves On and visual artist MuAfrika on either side of him. MuAfrika’s sand art was being projected on a screen at the back of the stage. Right at the front was the Amandla Freedom Ensemble with Mandla Mlangeni poised like a conductor with his back to the audience.  

Producer Mandla Mlangeni leads a large musical production, fusing poetry, jazz, choral and orchestral music. Photo: Morongoa Masebe

The Great Hall was half full with a mix of students and non-students, with the audience appearing as if they were in the creative industry by the colourful ways that they were dressed.  

Katleho Hubi, a third-year bachelor of fine arts student who attended the show, said that she was deeply moved by what felt to her like “a spiritual experience”. She said that the production had inspired her to want to explore the relationship between music and visual art in her own work.   

Mlangeni’s production took the audience from mourning to celebration by blending a bit of afro-jazz, afro-beat, classical, poetry and chorus like a true oratorio, which is a large-scale musical production that blends orchestral, voice and choral music.   

The first piece of the night, the gathering, started with Rampolokeng loudly reciting spoken word poetry that sounded like a lamentation over a broken promise. The slow introduction of the bass and a soft djembe drum began to drown out the poet and brought in the hum of the choir. The saxophonists led the trumpet in, and then everything went quiet, leaving Mlangeni in a trumpet solo. 

The choir was reminiscent of an African indigenous church, with the use of music as a medium for connecting with spirit. They took the lead on ubaba, a song about the search for a missing father. The entire ensemble joined into a melancholic sound of a prayer that for a moment seemed to be a petition that was no longer to an absent earthly father, but to a heavenly father, who seemed to be absent and blind to the pain of African people. 

The arrangement came together beautifully. Led by the protest poetry of Rampolokeng, the production carried the same impassioned energy that can turn a church service into a site of protest.  

The afrobeat sound of inkululeko brought Siyabonga Mthembu of The Brother Moves On onto the stage to lead in the demand for the freedom that democracy had promised. 

The drummer played the consistent sound of a marching band in #movement/soldier’s lament and Rampolokeng came back to remind us that “our hopes are buried alive”, when those who were at the forefront of fighting for freedom, turned to gatekeepers of the wealth that should have been shared amongst all.  

In darkness, all the different pieces of the ensemble seemed to do their own thing, like loud mourning at a wake deep into the night, all crying separately, over the same loss. Rampolokeng also cried in his own way, about the disillusionment of protests that yield nothing in the long term, even after lives had been lost. He juxtaposed the 1976 uprisings with the 2015 #FeesMustFall protests and expressed sorrow over the lack of change. 

Crying turned to celebration when the show closed with woza, which got the audience to its feet to dance and rang in my head long after the show had ended. The high tempo and vibrant piece goes “Woza mama, woza” but the audience recast it as “Woza Mandla, woza” as it sang along all the way out of the Great Hall.  

Vuvu rating: 9/10 

FEATURED IMAGE: Trumpeter Mandla Mlangeni leads a multi-disciplinary musical production at the Wits Great Hall. Photo: Morongoa Masebe


REVIEW: Shero, super Smanjie, attempts to save South Africa  

Loyiso Mkhize’s comic book Kwezi has been adapted into a play – with a stellar cast  

The Adventures of Super Smanjie sheds light on how rampant corruption can cripple a country’s economic prospects.  

The comedic play is an adaptation of Loyiso Mkhize’s comic book Kwezi, which was done by the Market Theatre Laboratory’s graduates. 

The show takes viewers through the life of a shero called Smanjie (played by Mathuto Mahlangu) who is gifted with superpowers at birth by her ancestors — but ends up misusing them to gain popularity on social media.  

She is told by her ancestors in a dream that she needs to save the city of Marapong from Muḓagasi, meaning electricity in Tshivenda. Muḓagasi is the city’s villain who has been stealing electricity cables to make himself stronger. To defeat him, she must first overcome her desire to use her powers to gain followers on social media for social approval. 

The production was composed and performed by Market Laboratory graduates: Rofhiwa Mundalamo, Mathuto Mahlangu, Slindokuhle Shabangu, Jack Moloi who is currently doing his postgraduate diploma in dramatic arts at Wits, and Wits fourth year theatre and performance student Zilungile Mbombo — whose illustrious performances provided a convincing mockery of the state of our country. 

The comedy’s simple set with just a chalk drawing backdrop of the city and and actors wearing plain colored t-shirts with leggings and sweatpants forced the viewer to focus entirely on the rawness of acting presented by the team.  

I was captivated by their exaggerated and mimetic use of body language to tell the story.  

Smanjie’s ancestors gifting her her powers at birth. Photo: Nonhlanhla Mathebula.

However, all the actors played more than one role in the play, which made it a bit difficult to follow on the development of each character. There was also not enough time in the play to memorise who played which roles exactly. Super Smanjie is the only exception, as she only played two roles. 

Although the play needs a certain level of familiarity with the South African social media landscape to understand some of the jokes, one can expect some serious comic relief that lightens up the mood on some of the issues affecting the country.  

Moloi told Wits Vuvuzela that it was hard producing the play themselves due to their busy schedules. However, the practical experience they received at Market Laboratory equipped them with valuable skills to finish the play.  

The show ran at Emakhaya Theatre on the 19th floor of Wits’ University Corner from May 26 to May 28, 2023. 

FEATURED IMAGE: The cast of The Adventures of Super Smanjie during their curtain call. Photo: Nonhlanhla Mathebula.


Review: Prime, is it worth the hype?  

Prime a popular drink amongst teenagers fails to quench thirst with no guarantee it won’t leave a bad taste in your mouth   

Prime, the new popular range of sports and energy drinks amongst teenagers that retailed in South Africa at Checkers stores from May 1, 2023 disappoints in taste.  

The drinks were launched in 2022 by popular YouTubers, Logan Paul and Olajide Olayinka Williams Olatunji also known as KSI. “We created Prime to showcase what happens when rivals come together as brothers and business partners to fill the void where great taste meets function,” said the pair on their Prime website. 

The drinks, which are marketed by Prime Hydration have been publicised on social media platforms that it was sold out shortly after it was stocked to retail, with scores of teenagers and parents standing in long queues to stock up. 

I had been trying to get my hands on it for more than a week before it was finally restocked at my closest Checkers in Rosebank mall. The drinks are clearly in high demand, thanks to its brand reputation and how well it was advertised by the YouTubers.  

There are four flavours to choose from which are: tropical punch, lemon lime, ice pop and blue raspberry. I got all four bottles, with each drink retailing at R39,99. 

The ice pop flavour tastes like medicine, it’s sweet and bitter at the same time and it leaves an after taste in the mouth after drinking. The blue raspberry tastes a bit sweet. You can taste the raspberry flavour in it as well as the coconut water. It also tastes similar to the Powerade energy drink, the mountainblast flavour.  

The lemon- lime flavour, tastes good with a hint of sweetness and bitterness, you can taste the lemon lime in it. While the tropical punch flavour is sweet and it tastes like a combination of guava juice and watermelon. 

Despite the flavours, the drink does not hydrate, instead, I had heart palpitations a few minutes after consuming the drinks – even though I did not taste all of them at the same time.  

Uyathandwa Mani, final year BCom student at Wits told Wits Vuvuzela that she did not feel any difference after drinking it, “it did not hydrate me at all, the only thing I felt was a headache.” 

The ingredients listed on Prime include: 10,5% coconut water, filtered water, branch chain amino acids, electrolytes, vitamin B, E and A, citric acid, several antioxidants and flavouring. 

The Sport Science Institute of South Africa (SSISA) said on their website, “Although the Prime website claims the Hydration drink to be suitable for all ages, other sources have warned children under 15 years old from consuming it. Based on the nutrition label provided on the Prime website, the Prime Hydration drink compares with similar drinks in the sports/hydration category.” 

However, the two creators said in a video on Paul’s YouTube channel that Prime hydration drink has no caffeine which makes it safe for children to consume whereas the Prime energy drink (which is not available in South Africa yet) has caffeine and it’s not suitable for people under the age of 18.  

The packaging of the hydration drink is very simple. I like the ice pop flavour bottle which has several colours combined that make it interesting and appealing. The rest are simple 500ml bottles coloured blue, lime and red with the drinks’ name written in black. 

Overall, the hydration drink is overhyped as people made exaggerating claims about the drink saying it’s too good and truly hydrates. Wits Vuvuzela rates it a five out of 10 because the taste was disappointing in three flavours. For the price it retails for, one expected more.  

FEATURED IMAGE: Friends drinking Prime hydration drinks at night. Photo: Sinazo Mondo


REVIEW: Rosebank’s JoyJozi a haven for young and old  

A family restaurant nestled in the heart of Rosebank deviates from the norm in the upmarket mall, catering specifically for patrons who want to play more than they want to eat.    

An outdoor play area with swings, slides and obstacle courses is overlooked by the patio. Photo: Sbongile Molambo.

Joburg’s newest addition to the culinary scene JoyJozi located on 51 Eastwood Road, Dunkeld is a great place for children who need to expend energy and parents who need to take a break.  

Located opposite the Radisson RED hotel in Rosebank, JoyJozi is both a playground and a restaurant, “a place where kids can take their adults out,” is their tagline.  

Upon entering the restaurant, one is greeted by big cute knitted stuffed animals such as lions, giraffes, elephants and other toys lined up on the walls. The foyer then leads to an indoor play and outdoor play area.  

Danielle Green, JoyJozi’s manager says “The space was designed with kids in mind, kids spend too much time on gadgets and PlayStation, so the owner wants kids to have fun and play without the distraction of technology.” 

An amphitheatre at the back of the garden and an arcade game room are some of the other tailormade spaces.   

Parents and guardians can watch their children from a safe but peaceful distance on the patio while enjoying a meal. But there are staffers dedicated to watching over the smaller patrons as an extra measure. 

When it comes to the menu, one must be prepared to part ways with their hard-earned money because the cost of the food stretches one’s budget. The cheapest item on the menu is a side, the twice fried fries, and will set you back by R38.  The most expensive, the Wagyu ribeye, will set you back by R560.  

Wits Vuvuzela ordered the FUNGUY pizza, priced at R142. The pizza was underwhelming with chives that didn’t add much as a topping but were rescued by perfectly cooked mushrooms.  

For dessert, the baked cheesecake (R95 a slice), topped with orange zest looked most appealing, and it did not disappoint. One could taste the sweet citrus flavour that was infused in the syrup, every bite better than the last.  

The menu also has vegan options on offer, like their vegan pizza and dessert. Their menu consists of “everyday food” with a touch of gourmet dishes for more discerning palates. 

JoyJozi has an entrance fee of R60 per child whereas adults do not pay an entrance fee. Although walk-ins are available the restaurant doesn’t guarantee that you will get a table, so reservations are encouraged, especially as it is a popular spot with an average waiting time of 10 to 15 minutes when at capacity.  

FEATURED IMAGE: JoyJozi signage is lit by LED lights at night at its entrance. Photo: Sbongile Molambo.


REVIEW: Fugazzi restaurant – a modern twist on traditional Italian cuisine 

Rosebank’s newest eatery is the coziest spot for winter in Johannesburg. 

Fugazzi opened its doors in April 2023 at the Zone in Rosebank Mall to serve soul-warming Italian food with a twist. 

This is the latest restaurant venture by Warren Murley, owner of other successful restaurants such as Proud Mary, which is opposite to Starbucks in Rosebank and Mama Samba which lies just next door to Fugazzi. Manager of Fugazzi Marco De Costa told Wits Vuvuzela jokingly that Murley has “a bit of a chokehold on the area.”  

It takes a special restaurant to be full of chattering people on a cold Tuesday night and Fugazzi achieved just that.  

The cosy wood-finished interior is influenced by 1980’s New York diners, with long red booths lining the walls and 80’s inspired green tiling and eclectic artwork, adding colour to the large, open space.  

The vision behind the restaurant’s concept pays homage to the way Italian cuisine has been altered by restaurants in the United States of America. This is why Fugazzi is no regular Italian restaurant, “if you want Andiccio’s, there’s one on every corner, but if you want Fugazzi, this is the one and only” said De Costa, adding that: “Fugazzi means different or messed-up” which means that everything served comes with a twist from the traditional Italian recipe. 

The interior and bar of Fugazzi restaurant in Rosebank. Photo: Kimberley Kersten

When entering the restaurant, the warmth from the surplus of gas heaters with bright orange flames flickering around the room immediately makes one forget about the winter outside. The price of the food ranges from R80 to R250 for a main course meal, stretching a student budget slightly. The most affordable beverage option is a soda float or an ice-tea, which will set you back R50, while the pricier cocktail and martini selection ranges up to R100. 

The service was efficient and friendly as the waiter was happy to recommend both food and beverages; and brought everything within a reasonable time.  

Fugazzi prides themselves on their wine collection, and I was impressed by the recommendation of a glass of Mason Road Chenin Blanc, which was smooth and lightly wooded. It was not too dry and easy to drink.  

For vegetarians, the many menu options which catered for me were a pleasant surprise. The waiter’s recommendation was the linguini Aglio e Olio, a linguini served in a sauce made of olive oil, garlic, chilli and cherry tomatoes. The dish was delightfully presented in a tangle of pasta on a long oval plate.  

The linguine aglio e olio and the pasta Genovese with glasses of red and white wine inside Fugazzi. Photo: Kimberley Kersten

The food was flavourful and comforting to eat, however the twist from traditional Italian food is difficult to notice. In addition, the waiter said that they don’t make their own pasta dough and so one cannot help but feel that the simplicity of such dishes, does not warrant a price of R95.  

The warm interior of the restaurant and the carb heavy nature of the tasty food makes this a great place to go to escape the cold, as winter approaches.  

FEATURED IMAGE: The entrance to Fugazzi restaurant in the Zone at Rosebank Mall. Photo: Kimberley Kersten


REVIEW: Keeping play and art alive in the city

The exceptional childlike fusion of art forms enabled the audience to have encounters with our material conditions through art.   

Created by the renowned Jade Bowers (director), Lebo Mashile, Tina Redman (performers) and Yogen Sullaphen (musician), the site-staged work took to Nugget Street outside the Windybrow Arts Centre in Hillbrow from April 20 till April 22, 2023. The theatre work was produced by the University of Johannesburg Arts and Culture division and the Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study (JIAS), and aimed at young audiences although with a broader appeal to people of all ages.  

Bowers, Mashile, Redman and UJ Arts and Culture students created childhood experiences of living in Johannesburg with all their innocence, naivety and boundless play. 

In a press release, UJ Arts and Culture said that Breaths of Joburg was part of a “larger research project that considered creative writing and site-specific theatre as tools for engaging urban publics in dialogue about every day, ground-up, place-making in city spaces”.

Lead researcher Alex Halligey told Wits Vuvuzela that a “smaller model of the research project asks the questions of how we use creative arts, how you can see something in the city and write a poem about it”.  

The Windybrow Arts Centre mostly draws in young people coming from school who use the centre as a place of play and diversion from the stresses of living in the city. Promoting access to art for everyone, Breaths of Joburg enabled the audience to have encounters with our material conditions through art.  

The performances, which were outside the arts centre, attracted children coming from school, students and adults, who lined the wall fence, settled on the pavement and on the theatre’s steps that lead to the street to resemble a theatre in the round.  

Using short and immersive acts, the actors took the audience to a Johannesburg familiar to me – from late night encounters to the vibrant economy of the city run by street vendors, hairdressers and taxi drivers who can take you almost anywhere in the city. 

This Johannesburg is Sindi’s and Babes’ world, two little girls played by Mashile and Redman respectively. The production used plastic beer crates as props and the performers’ creativity to create this world and the characters’ transition from childhood to adulthood. 

Babes (Tina Redman) and Sindi (Lebo Mashile) perform for an audience of schoolchildren at Windybrow Arts Centre. Photo: Mbalenhle Dlamini

“The show is about them (Sindi and Babes) travelling through the city. They want to learn how to make money, and we are those adults,” Redman told Wits Vuvuzela.

The actors had tough conversations with the audience as they explored themes that could be deemed complicated for young children to digest such as crime, death and sex work. However, Redman and Mashile and the student actors gained the young children’s attention with animated singing, dancing and hand-clapping games. 

Mashile captured the audience with her spirited spoken-word performance while the rest of the cast huddled quietly around her, moving in ways that symbolised air and a flowing river. She spoke about how Johannesburg was land that had rivers and fed its people before “they” (colonialists) “discovered” gold. It was an effortless transition of the child into the world of adults that they were trying to convey. 

After the three-day run at the Windybrow Arts Centre, Halligey said, “We are looking for funding to do Breaths of Joburg again and opportunities to do projects that are similar to what we did with Breaths of Joburg.”

Vuvu rating: 9/10

FEATURED IMAGE: Babes plays a monster chasing Sindi around the streets of Joburg. Photo: Mbalenhle Dlamini


The Sabbath: a musical journey of grief and healing 

Jazz musician dazzles music lovers with an acoustic concert 

Multifaceted South African musician, Gabi Motuba debuted her new project, The Sabbath in a concert held at Wits Chris Seabrooke music hall on Saturday, May 6. 

Motuba is a Johannesburg-based vocalist, composer and music facilitator whose music is centred around world politics, black studies, religion and genre studies. She released her first album, Sanctum Sanctorium in 2016 and Tefiti Goddess of Creation in 2019. 

In the project, released on June 28, 2022, Motuba shifted her focus to talk about her experience with grief; as her father lost his battle against Covid-19, during the pandemic. As a result, the project consists of five lamentation songs  that would leave any listener in a state of melancholy.  Motuba told Wits Vuvuzela that: “The project is largely a very reflective work for me in terms of moving from trauma into grief and into the pursuit of restoration”. 

Wits music alumni, Tembinkosi Mavimbela, who played double bass during the performance said that in The Sabbath, Motuba showed immense vulnerability. He described her performance as a form of supplication to a higher power. “Her performance was a prayer indeed; it takes courage to be vulnerable on stage and we shouldn’t look at a Sabbath in one direction because we approach prayer in different ways.” 

Thembinkosi Mavimbela interacting with friends and fans after the concert. Photo: Sfundo Parakozov

What added to her performance was the concert took place at the state-of-the-art music hall . The venue is the only space in the city that is exclusively designed to optimize live musical sound with modern acoustic design. This added to Motuba’s exceptional vocal range.  

Wits art student, Rethabile Zilila said that she was surprised at how audible everything was but appreciated the spacious nature of the hall.  

Motuba explained that as a composure, mostly working with string instruments, she chose the venue because she knew the acoustics of the room will produce a beautiful sound.   

The attendees’ sight senses were also activated. While Motuba was performing, there was a background theme inspired by nature on display.  

Wits Fine Arts lecturer, Zen Marie, who was in charge of the displays said he sets up the landscape in response to the music.  

This was evident as he displayed dark clouds as she was performing a track titled, Nabu Lobosuku , which means here’s the night. This exuded a dimmer and sombre atmosphere with the mood in the room quietening down as everybody was enthralled by her voice.  

The final part of the performance had a much lighter and brighter landscape, consisting of clear skies, which was an important moment showing the transition from grief to freedom. One could clearly feel the biblical reference as she sang the last track on the album, Amen, meaning the end. 

The hour-long concert was attended by the likes of Thandiswa Mazwai and former head of the Wits School of Arts Professor Brett Pyper.    

Rethabile Zilila and Thandiswa Mazwai posing for a picture. Photo: Sfundo Parakozov

FEATURED IMAGE: Gabi Motuba thanking her audiences after her performance. Photo: Sfundo Parakozov


BOOK REVIEW: Uncovering Memory through the camera-lens 

This project takes the reader on a journey across lands to explore the complex nature of memory; leaving them wanting to explore their own.  

Uncovering Memory is a powerful book which unpacks a research project aimed at working through personal, familial and societal memories by using film to locate oneself in the current day. 

Living in post-colonial and apartheid South Africa, the book recognises that South Africans live in a society that is filled with imagery from the past, and it wants to unearth how these images affect people’s sub-conscious minds.  

Written by Wits film and television professor, Tanja Sakota and published by the Wits University Press in March this year, the book is compilation of understandable and practical examples of the power of practice-based research, film and autobiographical style of academic writing that draws on and analyses the author’s own lived experiences.  

For example, the book seeks to answer the question of how a student in the 21st century can look at a statue of Cecil John Rhodes during #RhodesMustFall in 2015, and be so emotionally charged to throw feces on a statue of Rhodes. In an interview with Wits Vuvuzela, Sakota describes spaces and places around us as, “deeply entrenched with the memory of the past”.  

Using the camera as the primary research tool, Sakota and fellow participants walk through chosen areas which represent something historically important to that researcher, and later, they narrate and critically unpack the impact these spaces had on them. In doing so, they seek to “uncover memory through space and place” to try and “make the invisible, visible through a camera.” Sakota does this in her book as well as in a series of short-film projects under the same name as the book. 

Wits Professor Tanja Sakota is all smiles when showing her newly published book Uncovering Memory on April 28, in front of the Wits theatre. Photo: Seth Thorne

In these films, released and explained in tandem with the book, participants explore their own historical trauma. Specifically, and most memorably, Sakota explores her parents own personal trauma through walking along the train-tracks in Poland which once transported millions to their death during the Holocaust in her own short film titled, Shattered Reflection. The topics that Sakota uncovers of her own are at times heart-breaking memories of both past and present, through these spaces. 

The book is separated into three main parts: research with students, then colleagues, and finally the authors. The research focused on locations such as Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Berlin.

As much as each part of the book provides well thought out ideas of the subject matter, the work becomes more powerful for the reader as the book progresses. This is due to the increasingly personal style of writing, where Sakota eventually finds herself central to the research, where she is the filmmaker and researcher unpacking both her own personal and family trauma.  

The book challenges the concept of research being separate from oneself, serving as a key reference for students and researchers (particularly filmmakers) interested in undertaking a similar journey of uncovering their own memories, in attempts to locate who they are in a postcolonial space.  

The book does not have a conclusive ending, but rather serves as a starting point for its readers to use.  

Currently, the book is available on Loot or BridgeBooks.  

Vuvu rating: 8/10 

FEATURED IMAGE: The cover of Uncovering Memory displayed at the Wits University Press. Photo: Seth Thorne


REVIEW: A fallen tree remembered

An immortalisation of how the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu inspired South Africa to be a society where peace could prevail.  

In her documentary, A Tree Has Fallen – Remembering Desmond Tutu, Swedish journalist Marika Griehsel shows the religious stance of the late Anglican archbishop on a politically-fragmented apartheid South Africa.  

A compilation of archive material and interviews, this documentary is not only focused on the apartheid past but also includes present-day footage of children being asked to identify the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Its focus is on comparing the type of South Africa he imagined at the dawn of democracy to what the citizens are currently experiencing.  

Tutu is famously known for the quote, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor,” from a speech given at Stanford University on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1986. In the documentary he is introduced to the viewer as a liberal Christian – he applied the teachings of the religion based on social needs rather than what is traditionally taught, such as staying strong in one’s faith and prayer while waiting for a miracle from God. 

In A Tree Has Fallen, Tutu describes himself as someone who became a leader by default because the political leaders at the time were in exile. Griehsel does a good job reflecting this statement in reality by showing the viewer Tutu’s transition from standing in front of a pulpit at church to standing at a podium at political rallies, yet still in his Anglican church attire. 

Through Tutu’s statements such as, “No human being is beyond the love of God,” Griehsel shows the viewer how the imagination of a “rainbow nation” – coined by Tutu for the post-apartheid multiracial South Africa – began as not only a call to unite all races but also Africans in their diversity.  

In an apartheid society where Africans in South Africa were divided along tribal lines and by political affiliation, Tutu is shown emerging as a non-political, pro-peace preacher to the people of South Africa. This is coupled with some parts of an interview by the same producer of this documentary, Griehsel, done on behalf of the Nobel Foundation. 

Students and staff watch A Tree Has Fallen – Remembering Desmond Tutu at the Wits school of arts cinema. Photo: Michael Jaspan

On Tuesday, April 25, 2023, at the Wits school of arts cinema, students and staff members had an exclusive chance to see the documentary before its unknown release. Griehsel told Wits Vuvuzela, “I think he is one of our times’ most inspiring leaders, like Nelson Mandela.” 

Griehsel does well in visualising the close friendship between Tutu and the former president in the documentary. The use of close-up shots on footage of them holding hands after Mandela was released from prison; footage of their meeting during their pension years and multiple clips that have Tutu referring to Mandela are used as great indicators to the type of friendship they had. In one of the clips, Tutu is caught on camera referring to Mandela in a humorous way: “…he has a poor taste in shirts.”  

In the Wits Vuvuzela interview, Griehsel continued to say, “I am very grateful that I was allowed to screen the film [at Wits] and I hope that it will inspire young people and those who have seen [the film] to ask themselves: ‘What can I do?’ ‘What is my role?’” 

According to Griehsel, the compilation and production of the documentary began in 2001. With the help of a South African editor and principal photographer, Michael Jaspan, it screened for the first time at the September 2022 Göteborg Book Fair in Sweden. 

Vuvu rating: 8/10 

FEATURED IMAGE: Pictured at the screening of the Tutu documentary, on the second row, left, Minister Counsellor of the Embassy of Sweden in Pretoria, Christian Fogelstrom, and in front, the producer of the documentary, Marika Griehsel. Photo: Michael Jaspan