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 The kiss came just two years after laws prohibiting interracial marriages and sex were repealed by the Apartheid government.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
Top achieving students were invited by the Wits Counselling Careers and Development Unit (CCDU) to network and fast-track their next career moves with potential employers.
The CCDU Professional Speed Dating event saw over 100 students from different faculties engage with representatives for multiple companies on August 25, at the Professional Development Hub (PDH) at Wits University.
From companies like L’Oréal South Africa, Life Health Care, BMW Motors, and Standard Bank, students were spoilt for choice when it came to potential suitors. Students with a minimum average of 65% were allowed five-minute interviews, rotating between the companies to gauge what each field had to offer and to gain firsthand interview experience.
Between the dates, ten-minute informative sessions on the latest developments in specific fields were given. This included everything from new disinfectants against bacteria, to transformative constitutionalism in South African law and discussions around decolonizing the content in the National Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement’s (CAPS) economic document.
Along with this, students were also given slots to present some of their research through presentations.
Organiser of the event, Bongi Ndlovu told Wits Vuvuzela that the purpose of the event is to ensure that Wits graduates are “employable” and that they “possess the right attributes sought by employers.”
Many students seemed to have learnt a lot from the event despite only getting five-minutes with each employer. LLB Student Shaheed Wania told Wits Vuvuzela that there was a lot of competition, but he has learnt that “just because you are doing something in a particular field, it does not mean you are stuck in that field.”
Companies in attendance found the event promising with Ndlovu saying that BMW South Africa and the Boston Consulting Group (BSG) have already been contacting students who attended, impressed with their work. Ndlovu said the event was all about “opening opportunities for students.”
South African Breweries representative, Rene Kohler-Thomas said that their company is not looking for “skills” in the general sense but are looking for students who are “dreaming big” and can adapt to change. She added that she has thoroughly enjoyed engaging with students as you can see the “quality of the talent coming through.”
Ndlovu says the CCDU is planning to host more events like this in the future as it teaches students valuable skills for the working world, provides them with networking opportunities, and gives them the chance to brand themselves to potential employers.
FEATURED IMAGE: LLB student Kamogelo Mathekga being interviewed by law firm, Louw Genis & Rajoo Incorporated during the Professional Speed Dating Event at the Professional Development Hub. Photo: Georgia Cartwright
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
Aspiring graduates who were wrongly defunded by the government’s financial aid are left in the dark as they try to rectify the situation
The National Student Financial Aid Scheme’s (NSFAS) remedial process of defunding students who were financially assisted based on incorrect information, leaves some in a precarious position — as the financial aid scheme erroneously stopped supporting students who qualify.
Thabo Ngubane*, a third-year Wits mechanical engineering student found himself squatting in the library and bathing in the gym after NSFAS incorrectly defunded him without warning.
He told Wits Vuvuzela that he realised that he was defunded in June when he checked his application portal and noticed that he was flagged for having a household income of more than R350 000.
But he insisted that the scheme has made a mistake: “My mom works in HR and earns less than 350k [and] my dad passed away,” he explained.
In July, NSFAS said it initiated the process to act on the findings of the Auditor General and the Special Investigation Unit (SIU). This is after in April, an SIU investigation revealed that NSFAS had paid more than R5 billion, from 2018 to 2021, to students who did not qualify for bursaries.
Aphilile Zulu, a second year NMU BCom Accounting student said she received an SMS in June stating that her funding was “revoked because of missing documents, while I’ve [been] receiving NSFAS for the past five months”. She is currently appealing the matter.
Masego Modisane, who currently owes UNISA R6000 in school fees said when she checked her account on the NSFAS portal, “it said that I had exceeded the n+2 rule” despite being in her final year of studying towards a BA in criminology.
According to the Nsfas website, the N+2 rule states that a student can take up to two additional years to complete their qualification, if need be, on top of the number of years it takes to complete their studies.
Meanwhile, Wits SRC’s compliance officer, Karabo Matloga said that the financial aid scheme should have at least allowed students who were currently enrolled to continue with their studies. “They have made the commitment [at the] start of the year therefore it is also their responsibility to fulfil that commitment for the year.”
In a statement NSFAS said, “We have, however, received complaints that some students were defunded incorrectly. If such cases are true, this is regrettable.
“A process of verifying these complaints will be immediately initiated and were proven otherwise, remedial action will be taken.”
Wits Vuvuzela made multiple attempts to contact the scheme for comment on how long the remedial process for students who were wrongfully defunded will take; but is yet to receive a response.
*Name changed to protect identity.
FEATURED IMAGE: Wits engineering student studying in the computer lab with his sleeping bag and belongings beside him. Photo: Nonhlanhla Mathebula.
A suspected gas explosion on one of Johannesburg’s busiest streets, has led to one fatality and scores of injuries and hospitalisations.
It was an ordinary Wednesday evening, with peak time traffic picking up and queues filled with passengers waiting for a ride home, when taxi driver, Samuel Lambane suddenly saw a blue spark and then a loud bang.
“I saw a massive blue spark like it was a lightning bolt and then I heard the sound of two explosions coming in front and behind me,” Lambane said. His taxi was briefly airborne before hitting the ground with a thud that shattered all the windows. He said he jumped to the conclusion that it might be an earthquake.
The explosion experienced by Lambane and others on July 19, remains an active crime scene as police and other authorities begin to investigate the root cause of incident.
Another eyewitness, Sanele Gumede told WitsVuvuzela that the lingering smell of gas in the air “is very concerning”, especially as almost 16 hours had passed since the incident. Officials on site handed out face masks to some to respond to the air quality concern on Thursday morning.
To keep residents, business owners and the public at large safe, the area has been cordoned off and several streets completely closed off. Shops on Bree, Eloff, Simmonds, Harrison, Loveday and Lillian Ngoyi streets have also been shuttered down as a precaution.Speaking at a media briefing at the temporary disaster management operations centre set up at Mary Fitzgerald Square, Gauteng Premier, Panyaza Lesufi said no cause has been identifiedas yet.
Egoli Gas, a supplier of piped natural gas in the city, released a statement on social media refuting reports that faulty gas lines may be to blame.
But Lesufi said: “Egoli gas remains our centre of focus because all of us agree that the cause of this either explosion or impact is gas.”
For now, dealing with the impact on human lives remains key. Lesufi said rehabilitation of affected areas must happen speedily to reduce the “impact on the economic activity of the city.”
FEATURED IMAGE: Taxi flipped over at Bree Street in CBD after the gas explosion. Photo by: Ayanda Mgwenya
Wits SRC has appointed an acting president to deal with the leadership vacuum; pending an arbitration process of their former student leader
A mediation process between seven suspended students, including former Student Representative Counsil (SRC) president Aphiwe Mnyamana and the university has collapsed last week on May, 22,2023. This is after the two could not reach an agreement on a suitable way forward.
The seven, which includes other members of the SRC were suspended in earlier March following violent protests over accommodation on campus.
On April 20, the SRC and University released a joint statement stating that their suspension orders have been reformulated in terms of the University’s rules to allow them to continue with their academic programmes with immediate effect. This recent collapse still means the seven are still allowed to continue with their studies.
Following the collapse of the process, Wits university spokesperson Shirona Patel told Wits Vuvuzela that: “Please note that Mr Mnyamana is no longer the SRC President. His suspension terms were amended to allow him to attend class and to stay in residence, but not to hold any leadership position.”
In order to deal with the leadership vacuum, the SRC has elected a new acting President Kabelo Phungwayo, who previously was Treasurer general of the SRC. Wits SRC compliance officer, Karabo Matloga said: “The SRC sits in important committees that take decisions which affects students, we therefore needed to ensure we have an individual who will be able to represent the students view in the delegated committees such as university council, Senate and forum where the SRC has an opportunity to express grievances and contribute to change that is in the student’s best interest,”
After the mediation process collapsed, Mnyamana released a statement on his Twitter page saying: “We hung our heads in horror and terror as we walked out of their boardrooms because once again, we had fallen into the illusion that we were negotiating with people”.
He furthermore went to say “To silence us[SRC] is not enough, to suspend us will never be enough. We the elected representatives of the students at Wits University are not shaken. We remain evermore resolute in ensuring the realization of the right to free education”.
Despite this collapse, Mnyamana explained that he is currently waiting for a hearing that will be taking place on June 17, 2023; and a meeting will be held with students to update them on the intense months the SRC underwent and what this means as a way forward for the student community.
FEATURED IMAGE: Wits SRC members with Dali Mpofu after the mediation meeting. Photo: Supplied.
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.
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.
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.
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
The award-winning actress has recently ventured into being a voice-over artist and singer.
Wits alumna, Ditebogo Ledwaba, an award-winning actress on Generations: The Legacy conquered “the edge” while working and studying full time.
Born on May 5, 2001, in Limpopo and raised in Pretoria, Ledwaba moved to Johannesburg in 2019 to pursue her studies in BA film and television at Wits University. She completed her studies in record time graduating with honours.
She told Wits Vuvuzela that, “My acting career began in high school when I was doing music and one day an agent came to our school for casting. I auditioned and got the role and went to be on the commercial. I got to be on set and working there was un-explainable; being with the directors and actors was amazing and that’s how I fell in love with it and decided I want to do it for the rest of my life.”
The 22-year-old started working in 2015 when she played 10-year-old Umuhoza in Beautifully Broken. She played another little girl in a Netflix movie, Red Sea Diving Resort, and, in 2019 when she was in first year, she played Alheri, a Nigerian character in the series, Commandos: The Mission. She also played Malu in Professionals.
In 2021 she started presenting on YoTV, a youth show on SABC 1 and played Lesedi in Lioness, a drama serieson M-Net whose second season was released this past January. In Generations: The Legacy, she plays a schoolgirl, Mbali.
Ledwaba says she and Mbali are similar, the only difference being that the character tries too hard to find different things to validate herself whereas the actress has no need to. “I don’t need family, boys, … social media or popularity to make me feel like I’m enough,” she says.
Balancing work and education was a challenge for the talented actress. “It was really overwhelming to a point where sometimes during covid I had to take online classes at work. Sometimes I had to make the decision to catch up with my schoolwork to be able to give my heart at work. What really helped me is prayer and taking it one step at a time,” Ledwaba says.
Ditebogo Ledwaba regularly comes to Wits University to hold Bible discussions with other Witsies. Photo: Sinazo Mondo
From TV she has ventured into being a voice-over artist. She also sings and has released four singles on Spotify, Apple music and other music platforms, under the name Didigaly.
Chrisna van Rhyn (20), Ledwaba’s friend from Wits, describes her as kind and compassionate. “She is always willing to help people and she will call you out if you did something wrong and correct you. You can always lean on her.”
Ntandazo Peter who plays Lefa on Generations says Ledwaba is passionate about acting and easy to work with. “If I would put her into any movie, it would be The Woman King, which she’s part of anyway, but she’s a woman who is a king in her own world and it’s something that other women admire. She’s a young woman who is carried by God, who believes in God and loves people,” says Peter.
Ledwaba describes herself as a disciple, whose favourite Bible scripture is John 4, verse 24: “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” Her ultimate goal is to have her own production company in five years’ time.
Featured image: Ditebogo Ledwaba gets her make up done before going on set. Photo: Supplied
The hiring of influencers by political parties deprives voters of the opportunity to interrogate what politicians have to offer.
With the 2024 elections around the corner, politicians can be expected to use celebrities and influencers to persuade South Africans to vote for their parties.
Celebrities have become central figures in modern politics globally by using their influence to lead party campaigns and social awareness campaigns. South Africa is not a stranger to this kind of culture. In the 2019 elections, celebrities such as Bonang Matheba took to Instagram with the likes of Cyril Ramaphosa, the ANC presidential candidate, telling followers to follow their lead and vote for the ANC.
Four years after the success of Ramaphosa’s campaign, Matheba is singing a different tune about how the ANC has failed the country. This proves that she did not have the expertise to make any politically influential statements in the first place because now she is calling for Ramaphosa to resign.
The fusion of politics and pop culture has not served our democracy well as thousands of people would have taken endorsement of politicians by Matheba, DJ Zinhle and the late Kiernan Forbes at face value rather than interrogating their utterances.
Some celebrities even take the baton and run with it into politics, as proven by Donald Trump who moved from The Apprentice showto the White House as the US president. Media reports slammed his term in office because of a lack of expertise to make the right decisions that even saw him refusing intelligence briefings that were crucial for his position.
Brookings, a public policy organisation based in Washington, USA reported that his lack of understanding of the political space made Trump to shut down resources such as the global health security team that would have helped minimise the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. “Most American presidents fail when they cannot comprehend the government they inherit,” the organisation said.
Recently in South Africa we have witnessed Kenny Kunene who became famous in 2014 for eating sushi off naked women become an acting mayor of Johannesburg for a day at the beginning of May. Questions of his capability to carry out the duties were raised because of his position as an entertainer. I was one of those who questioned what made him drop the chopsticks and move into politics and why he was entrusted with such responsibility.
An article in the journal Political Psychology highlighted that “Research has shown that a politician’s involvement in a scandalous behaviour can severely damage candidate evaluations and may also decrease voting intentions.” This could cause voters to have mistrust when celebrities move from the entertainment industry to politics.
This raises the issue whether politicians should stick to being public servants and celebrities remain influencers and entertainers. But what qualifies one to be a politician? In 2018 the Mail & Guardian reported that “Many MPs insisted that educational qualifications are not the key to a seat in Parliament — being a good politician is what counts.”
The South African Constitution gives everyone the right to freedom of expression, but that right comes with responsibility. During the 2024 elections, I would like to see less of influencers in the political space and if we do see them, they should be aware that words have meaning. They should educate themselves about the parties they are endorsing to their followers.
I would like to see more politically present politicians with a focus on service delivery rather than those with a social media presence. South Africa is dealing with crises of water and electricity among many challenges. As a voter I would rather know what the different parties plan to do to solve these rather than listen to celebrities who see politics as the next paid campaign.
This thrift maven is not only drastically growing her own local, inclusive, sustainable business, but she also empowers others to do the same.
Wits graduate Gabrielle Onay has redefined much of the second-hand scene in Johannesburg through their thrift store “Crybaby Thrift” and popular sustainable flea market “Picnic and Thrift”.
Born in 1999 in Johannesburg, Onay describes herself as a “seichel” – a Yiddish term which is associated with someone who uses ingenuity, creativity, subtlety and nuance in their work and life.
While doing her undergraduate BA degree in sociology and Portuguese – she would later achieve an honours in sociology – Onay wanted to find a way to make money as a university student to not only feed her cigarette addiction but to pay for fees.
With a lifelong interest in fashion, “thrifting” (the reselling of second-hand items) and passion for sustainability, culminated in her online business. Onay hates everything about fast fashion due to its harmful effects on both labour and the environment. “[Big companies] have proven themselves as bad for this earth,” she said.
In 2018, she began marketing her second-hand clothing on Instagram using the name “Crybaby Thrift,” which gained a substantial following and quickly expanded into selling merchandise made with upcycled clothes. In the process of upcycling, Onay uses businesses run by other Wits students to print and embryoid designs.
In an interview with Wits Vuvuzela, Onay said that she believes that a new future of exchange is dawning – with thrift being its new currency. “Sustainability is our generation’s way forward,” said Onay.
In 2019 Onay, alongside sustainable gift shop owner and close friend Ruby Prager created a market, Picnic and Thrift, comprised of young business owners from the university community. Onay described them as “the thrifters of Wits”.
Underestimating their pull, Onay and Prager needed to find a bigger space after attracting several hundred visitors to their own backyard in Houghton. The monthly market attracts around 2 000 visitors, with around 40 thrift and sustainable product stalls.
The market also prides itself on being a “queer-friendly space” – one which allows members and allies of the LGBTQIA+ community to not only grow and support their businesses but allow for free, unfiltered self-expression for attendees. Truthfully so, the event has become very much synonymous with the Johannesburg queer scene.
Rewoven, a company that sells materials and products made from textile waste, came across Onay’s work, and wrote the following:
“Crybaby Thrift sits in the heart of queer eccentric culture – it is a curated and unique brand that is centred around sustainability, high fashion, and ethical consumption and development. Crybaby Thrift is also a community and small business development hub.“
Onay describes this as intentional to change a narrative around the Joburg queer community as “not just being associated with hard nightlife.” She describes the space as “lovely, gentle and welcoming.”
Prager described their pure happiness at witnessing Onay’s business and personal growth. “Watching Gabi [alongside other student businesses] grow in the space that they have, has been incredible. I cannot wait to see what they do next. I cannot wait to see what we do next.”
As much as Onay has achieved in this sustainable business adventure, she says that she is just getting started. So, watch out fashion industry – Gabrielle is coming for you one pre-loved item at a time.
FEATURED: Thrifter and businesswoman Gabrielle Onay sorting through her upcycled Crybaby Thrift clothing products. Photo: Seth Thorne
Audience members were lost in translation from time to time but the appreciation for art trumped any temporary confusion.
A rallying call to hold onto what you can be proud of, and a celebration of South African indigenous languages were central at the inaugural poetry concert – Uphethen’ Esandleni?
The Wits SRC in collaboration with 2019/2020 former SRC member Samantha Mungwe hosted the concert at the Chris Seabrooke Music Hall at Wits University on the evening of Thursday, May 18.
Samantha Mungwe is a two-time Wits Alumni, poet and actress. The concert was inspired by the reaction she received from a recital she posted on YouTube in 2021. Uphethen’ Esandleni? – meaning ‘what do you have in your hand?’ – was the question she was asked in her poem, as she held up a degree scroll in her hand.
A duo of energetic MCs in SRC Legal Officer, Lesego Makinita and Wits student Simon waBatho kept the mood in the room jovial. The first round of individual performances saw rapper Cashflow (stage name) and the singer Mercy illicit much head bobbing and foot tapping from the audience.
Cultural clubs and societies took centre stage after those performances. Khomanani Vatsonga Student Society kicked things off with their traditional Xibelani dance, then followed by uThingo Lwamakhosazana aseWits with their isiZulu reed dance before the Wits Zulu Society closed the group performances with a combination of isiZulu reed dances.
The group rounded off their performance with a rendition of Gqom producer, Dladla Mshunqisi’s hit Upheten’ Esandleni. This was met with much screaming and clapping from the visibly impressed crowd.
The latter part of the programme ushered in the poets, the main act of the night. They walked onto stage in an orderly fashion and sat next to one another. After each recitation, poets ended off with the line “upheten’ esandleni?’ before passing the microphone to the next poet, a symbolic passing of the baton.
Attendee, Njabulo Nxumalo (21) said that she found the concert spectacular. “I think the diversity of it all: the different cultures, the different [use of] language and the mixture of poetry with music [lyrics]…I have to give it a ten out of ten,” Nxumalo said.
Poet of the night and AFDA student, Tiisetso Maeane (21) told Wits Vuvuzela, “[In poetry] the main thing is to be relatable,” and apart from doing the poem in Sesotho, he achieved this by making his poem about abortion. He titled the poem, Pray after death and according to Maeane, “This poem is a resurrection of a baby that was aborted. I am the voice of the baby that was aborted.” This is where he called on to the youth to practise safe sex.
Event organiser and main act, Samantha Mungwe (24) said that she just wanted to create something that would inspire other people and create a platform like this at Wits. “[My aims for this concert were] for students to be inspired, for concerts like these to continue happening and for people to love art.”
FEATURED IMAGE: Members of the Wits Zulu Society dance on stage during their performance. Photo: Otsile Swaratlhe
Today we’re taking a look at the #WitsShutdown protests which are over historical debt and unaffordable accommodation, which have seen several students suspended, physical clashes between protestors and security and disruptions to the academic programme for many. In this bonus episode of We Should Be Writing, we let students unpack their views on what has […]