Slice of Life: How round are your rotis?

Why is it so hard to shake off the stares of disapproving aunts and men in fancy suits? I am almost always on the receiving end of them at every family function. The sourness of the patriarchy that laces these comments never fails to sting and especially while the women slave over pots while the men lounge back.

I have witnessed in my own life and household what I have come to understand as patriarchy. My impressions as a South African of Indian heritage have resulted in a definition of patriarchy where a where a woman’s worth often hinges on whether or not she can make the perfectly round roti.

Being born a girl into a South African Indian family means that you’re hit with a predefined list of expectations shaped by the judgement of an imagined mother-in-law. These prerequisites for the marriage to one of their sons are silently agreed upon by our own mothers, the women we look to for affirmation.. Often, when a couple shows an intention to take the next step, his mother will ask:

Who is her family? Can she cook? How round are her rotis? Can she make all your favourite meals like I can? Has she dated anyone before? If she is studying does she has to know that she can’t work after she gets married?

These questions reflect the unrealistic expectations that many communities, mine included, have of young women about to enter into marriage. As for me, I am probably looking at a life of loneliness as I not only fail to meet these expectations, I am actively resisting them.

My stubborn refusal to to learn how to cook still ignites a fire in my mother. It is often the same argument day after day, which always ends at the same question; “What will your mother-in-law say? … Do you think your husband will help you with chores, you’ve got to be kidding! No one wants someone who can’t cook and clean…” These reprimands though, rather than encouraging me to change, just embolden my resolve to resist my future enslavementAs a woman, despite having a university degree, I get asked when I will get married rather than when I will find a job. There is a timestamp on marriage and once you pass that age South African Indian people, especially the aunties, think that no one will want you and you’ve passed your sell by date. Women are treated as objects to barter with rather than human beings with their own feelings and desires. I have never, and will never, come to terms with this way of thinking.

I look at the way my brother is treated by my parents, a way that gives him the space to live his life, his transgressions excused away with the saying, “boys will be boys”. The only time parents like mine burden their sons with expectations is when they lay down the law on the kind of daughter-of-law they expect to have. I am treated differently just because I am a female, this is not inequality, it is discrimination. “Boys will be boys” is nothing more than a free pass to the male of the to do whatever they like.

I, for one, believe in the concept of equality. Perhaps it is time to grow out of old concepts and develop a culture of sharing and taking responsibility as adults. I think that gender limitations and standards should be scrapped because I never want my future daughter to think she can’t achieve something just because she isn’t a man. And to my future mother-in-law, you need not fear your son will starve if you stop feeding his expectations and his belly and instead teach him how to roll the perfectly round roti.

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Review: A Night at the Ballet

Vuvu Rating: 8/10

The Joburg Ballet is proving yet again why it is considered the country’s largest and most prestigious professional ballet company, with its latest offering, the classic Don Quixote.

The romantic comedy is masterfully staged at the Joburg Theatre through vibrant costumes and scenery transporting the viewer into the world of 17th century Spain.

Don Quixote tells the story of a Don who is obsessed with finding adventure. On his quest for this adventure he meets the beautiful Kitri who is in love with a poor young barber, Basilio.

Kitri’s father does not approve of the match and has more ambitious marriage plans for her. The Don decides that Kitri is worth of his protection from all who may harm the young lady.

Prima-ballerina Burnise Silvius lived up to her reputation of being a vision of perfection, with every delicate move she made in the lead female role.

Jean Carlos Osma, as a toreador, and Javier Monier as a street boy, were notable as standout performers.

But despite the visual perfection of the dancers, their performances were not matched by that of the sound technicians at the theatre.

At times the music was too soft and transitions between tracks, usually seemless, were obvious to the audience. The sound issues were  clearly distracting and broke the “illusion” of the imaginary world created through the performance.

Despite this though, the show remains a must see, and ends its run this Sunday, September 13.

Cool but costly

It may look cool, but graffiti is costing Wits University tens of thousands of rands every year.

The removal of graffiti cost the university R88 000 in 2011, up from R38 000 the previous year.

According to Grounds Manager Andries Norval, American films glamorising graffiti have influenced Wits students.

Norval said it is easy to paint over graffiti on a white wall. But with a lot of Wits buildings, the colour is in the plaster, so painting doesn’t work and the patchwork can always be seen.

“You can sandblast if off… using sand that is sprayed under pressure…but if you do it on surfaces like wood and marble, you actually damage the building.”

Visible patchwork where painters have tried to cover unauthorised tags on the walls of the Umthombo Building. Photo: Hazel Meda

 

“Proper graffiti is a work of art.”

Norval made a distinction betweengraffiti and “the squiggles they call tagging”.

“Proper graffiti is a work of art. If it’s done with the proper permission and in the right places, I’ve got no problem with it.”

He pointed out that Wits has a few designated graffiti zones, such as the pedestrian tunnel between East and West Campus, where students can paint without consequences as long as the material is not offensive to anyone.

Clarifying what is and is not allowed, Norval said: “Definitely not political. Definitely not religious. And definitely not contentious.”

Vuvuzela asked Norval what he would say to taggers who argue that the university is curtailing their freedom of expression by restricting them to designated areas.

He replied: “Ask him: if I paint on his car that is parked in a public space…would he like that? Yes or no? And does he not think this money could be better spent on better teaching facilities or fixing lecture venues or even library books?”

Campus Control officer Aaron Ngcongolo agreed: “It’s not good, because this thing is making the place untidy.”

Sharni Hart, an honours marketing student, said: “It’s a campus and it should be kept neat and clean. You can express yourself in another way. You don’t need to write all over campus.”

Graffiti depicting President Jacob Zuma. The tunnel between East and West Campus is one of the designated graffiti zones at Wits. Photo: Hazel Meda

“A youthful feel”

Several students expressed their appreciation for the graffiti in the designated zones.

As he walked past the colourful murals in the pedestrian tunnel connecting East and West Campus, 1st year economic science student Tarrin Skeepers said: “This is one of my favourite spots at Wits. Period. Because I just love the artwork. I just love the creativity.”

Ngoni Goba, a 1st year LLB student said: “It gives the university a youthful feel.”

Norval could not speak about the situation at other universities in South Africa, except to say that he visited the Soweto Campus of the University of Johannesburg (UJ) and saw no graffiti there. The UJ officials he spoke to told them that they do not have a problem with graffiti.

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See more graffiti from the Braamfontein area of Johannesburg