Q&A with Samihah Pargas

SAMIHAH PARGAS is a Wits second-year BA Linguistics and Psychology student who independently published her first poetry collection titled Early Mourning Hours at the beginning of 2019. The 19-year-old regularly publishes her poetry on her popular Instagram account, @shadesofherink, where she has amassed over 28 000 followers. She focuses primarily on themes of love, heartbreak, healing and spirituality.

When did you start writing poetry?
I started in Grade 8. I’d always been writing things actually as early as fourth grade. But my first poem I wrote in Grade 8.

What themes do you cover in your poetry?
The things that touch me very deeply. Spirituality, there’s conflict in the world, heartache of course, and love, self-love, acceptance. All things that I’ve experienced in a very intense sense.

Why did you choose the free verse style of writing poetry?
My style of writing differs sometimes. I think the fact that poetry in this day and age seems to not be confounded by any rules whatsoever allows me to feel free to express myself however I wish. I think it’s just the freedom of it, the freedom of the style. That’s why I use it.

Who inspires you and your work?
They’re not always writers; it’s people who pursue their dreams. In terms of writing this book they would be people who never told me that my dreams are too big. And then, in terms of [poetry] writing, my favourite poets are Yrsa Daley-Ward, Nayyirah Waheed, and writers like Arundhati Roy. How they write in such a visceral way, in such a raw way, really, inspires me to not be afraid of putting my truth on a page.

How did you publish a poetry collection at such a young age?
Two and a half years ago I decided I want to one day publish a book and from then on I started compiling [my poetry]. I would never foresee that I would actually end up doing it, so it’s not exactly as if I decided to do it at such a young age. And again, it was never something I told myself I couldn’t do at this age.

What has the reception been to your collection?
Beautiful. So currently, I’m still working on exposure for my book, marketing it, all the really technical aspects of writing a book. But people who have had it, obviously people who do read my work a lot, really appreciate the offering of love that it’s been. And that’s what I want, that’s the whole intention of it. I don’t write so that I may benefit from it but so that it can be received as love and light by other people. And I think that’s how it’s been for everyone who has read it so far.

Where do you want to go with your poetry?
Well, going back to two-and-a-half years ago, I never saw myself with this book in hand. So I can’t say that I do see myself anywhere besides hopefully, pursuing this passion in whichever way has manifested.

Q&A with Niza Jay Ncoyini

Niza Jay Ncoyini is a Wits BA Dramatic Arts alumnus and is currently an actor, director, writer and filmmaker. The actor appeared in South Africa’s award winning film, Inxeba: The Wound as well as Green Matter and Hello Au Revoir. Born in Mthatha, Eastern Cape as Ndiziphiwe Izicelo Ziviwe Azamkela Ncoyini, the openly queer young black actor seeks to take over the film industry through telling stories in his own way.

What are you currently working on?
I have a starring role in a new South African feature film directed by Louw Venter and produced by Urucu Media, which will be released later this year. I’m also directing my first play While We Hate, which I also wrote. It will run at PopART Theatre in June.

What inspired your career in acting and directing?
Watching Sarafina. When I saw Leleti Khumalo on screen, I knew I wanted to perform and tell stories in the same way that she did. I’ve only been directing for a few years, so I’m really taking time to define my voice and fine tune my perspective. I want to tell stories that encourage people to be better than they are. I also want to tell stories that make all people proud to be whoever they are, because as much as I have a very unique point of view, I do want to create work and tell stories that resonate universally.

Have you always wanted to be an actor/ director?
Yes. I’ve always wanted to be a performer and a storyteller. I believe that creating art is a sacred act. There are very few professionally trained actors who are working in our industry, and it shows. The quality of our films and TV shows is a testament to the quality of writers, directors and actors that we have in the country.

What has been the highlight in your career thus far?
Being nominated for a [South African Film and Television Award] for my first role, and becoming one of the few openly gay black actors to get nominated for a performance role in a film. I was nominated in 2018 for Best Supporting Actor in a Feature Film for playing Kwanda, one of the lead characters in Inxeba.

What challenges have you faced as a young black gay actor in the industry?
Very few people are writing complex gay and queer characters which I would be proud to portray, so it makes selecting work really hard. As much as I pride myself in being gay, overtly so, I also resent the idea that because I’m gay I have to play gay characters. I have the know-how and the skills to step in and out of any character.

What advice would you give to youngsters who are trying to get into acting?
Know who you are and know what you stand for. Work on your craft, don’t stop taking acting lessons/coaching, no matter how successful you get. There is always room for improvement. Engage with your industry, both local and international. When you know what is happening, you know what is out there for you to go after.

Q&A with Thokozane Dyosi

Thokozane Dyosi, a PhD student and associate lecturer in the Foundation Phase Studies Department of the Wits Education Campus, is the youngest in her department. Having struggled to graduate, she started a motivation campaign called #SeeYouAtGraduation to encourage higher education students of all ages in all disciplines to push through to the end and graduate.

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Q&A with Busisiwe Mkhumbuzi

Activist Busisiwe Mkhumbuzi has been thrust into the international spotlight once again after hosting the 16th Annual Nelson Mandela Lecture held last Tuesday, July 17. Mkhumbuzi started the South African chapter of the international feminist organization, V-Girls, hosted a TEDxWomen talk at the age of 16, played an active role in the UCT Rhodes Must Fall and Fess Must Fall protests, and founded the social enterprise initiative, Tshimong.

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Q&A with Thato Mahapa

Thato “TeeKay” Mahapa is a menswear and lifestyle blogger and a fourth-year Wits LLB student. The 23-year-old started his blog, The Bearded Muse, in 2016, which focuses on menswear, grooming, and covers lifestyle content such as events, food and design. Mahapa was selected as the 2017 GQ (magazine) Best Dressed Reader, has collaborated with brands such as Spier and Kurt Geiger, and has a long-term relationship with Topman.

Who is Thato “TeeKay” Mahapa?
I am a Polokwane born and Pretoria bred creative and sartorial menswear enthusiast who is studying towards an LLB degree at Wits University.

When and how did your passion for fashion and blogging begin?
My mother started dressing me in formal wear when I was around five years old. In my early primary school years, she would dress me in two-piece ensembles, shirts and formal pants, ties etc. for civvies day. I used to hate it because I wanted to wear what all my other peers were wearing, but for a long time my mother didn’t budge. She only allowed me to choose my own clothes a bit later in primary school.

What is The Bearded Muse?
The Bearded Muse is a platform to learn the do’s, don’ts, the “don’t forgets”, and the “take notes” of menswear and lifestyle through my personal experiences and perspective.

Why did you decide to start The Bearded Muse?
I saw a gap in the market. I wanted to take the lifestyle I was living already and share it with other gents in the hopes of it being the most trusted guidebook in African men’s fashion.

You were chosen as GQ’s Best Dressed Reader last year. How has that influenced your career?
More than anything it gave me exposure to a lot of brands and I got a lot of work as a result.

How do you find a balance between being a full-time LLB student and a lifestyle blogger?
I won’t lie, it’s quite hectic. I just sacrifice my social life to make sure I get school right.

What inspires your own style and your social media aesthetic?
My style is largely inspired by uptown metropolitan professionals and Afrodandyism.

Describe a typical day in your life
I wake up, run a few kilometres on the treadmill, have green tea, get ready for school (picking out an utfit always takes me ages), go to school. I usually have events in the evening so I do that or if my day ends early, then I create content.

What can we expect from you in 2018?
This year expect more content on the blog (in various forms of media), and perhaps a big feature in a high-end in store poster.

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Q&A with Lwazilubanzi Mthembu

Lwazilubanzi Mthembu is an actress, singer and poet best known as Sihle on the SABC1 sitcom, Thandeka’s Diary. She graduated with a BA in Performing Arts from Wits and heads the Live Music division at Word N Sound Live Literature Company. She has appeared in television shows Intersextions, Zabalaza and eKasi and also founded a creative solutions company, The Makers Lab. 

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TALENT AND HEART: Lwazilubanzi Mthembu is an entertainment force who is ready to use her talent for social justice. Photo: Provided

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Q&A with Lwandile Fikeni

Lwandile Fikeni’s life is a series of perfect coincidences. He is a 2016 Ruth First fellow, one of the current Mail and Guardian 200 Young South Africans list and the recipient of the 2015 Arts Journalist of the Year. In the midst of all this, he is also a journalism honors student at Wits.

Wits Vuvuzela caught up with the busy man.

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Q&A with Spiros The Goat

Spiros the Goat has surfaced amid this year’s run-up to the SRC election campaign. He has taken to Twitter to express his views and opinions about the elections as well as Wits University with his catch phrase #ramming. Also known as candidate 47, Spiros has titled himself the “New kid on the Block” with posters and graffiti around campus. Spiros recently made time from his busy schedule to speak to Wits Vuvuzela.

Photo: Provided

Photo: Provided

Why should people vote for Spiros?
A vote for Spiros is a vote against voting.

What does Spiros stand for in the elections?
Spiros is a goat that embodies a collective subjectivity grounded in an earnest politics of irony and the absurd. Spiros wishes to bring to bare the ridiculous and depressing nature of representative democracy where political action is reduced to drawing two intersecting lines in the alienated labour power of a fetishized piece of paper (Spiros is aware that the power is in the worker and not in the commodity).

Spiros is an Act, in the Zizekean sense, where political action involves smashing the nascent totalitarian nature of late capitalist
society and rebuilding in on the basis of a ramolutionary subjectivity.

Who do you support in the elections?
Spiros.

Will you be voting in the SRC, if so for who?
Eat the ballot paper.

What’s it like being a goat at Wits?
WITS University is an anti-goat, anti-black, heteronormative, patriarchal, techno-fascist institution. Spiros’ positionality within
WITS is existentially precarious. It’s difficult being a goat when the grass tastes like Capitalist VW excrement. Spiros is currently reading Sartre and Althusser, in tandem (SIGH!).

Where does the name Spiros come from?
Spiros, as a signifier, does not signify Spiros’ essence but merely signifies it for other signifiers (Jacques Lacan).

Are all goats treated equal at Wits?
Spiros believes that Orwell gives a poor critique of leftist-totalitarianism, read “The Joke” by Kundera instead.

What do you thinks about the expulsions of the seven Wits Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) members?
The expulsion is indicative of the totalitarian nature of the Habib regime and how power relations are skewed against black students and workers on campus. Spiros feels that the exclusion of students signifies a concerted effort to limit the essentially common and public realm of higher learning. Spiros says LIBERATE the common!

However, using Spiros’ Marxist-Leninist-Fanonian-Zhdanovian tools of analysis, Spiros notes that there is a profound contradiction in an organisation that calls itself ‘revolutionary’, seeking recognition from bourgeois institutions. Spiros is disgusted by reformism, and while sympathetic to much of what the EFF stands for, cannot stand as a supporter of closet reformism.

 

 

Do you think there is freedom of speech at Wits University?
Spiros deplores this kind of liberal discourse around individual rights. Spiros is not Francois Hollande. It is Spiros’ view that
freedom and the notion of a ‘voice,’ in the political, is only expressed through a ramolutional collectivity. Sorry Daryl Glaser.

Do you consider yourself an artist after you put graffiti on campus?
“Art is going elsewhere, and politics has to catch up.” – Jacques Ranciere

Do you support the graffiti messages?
Support is an arbitrary, bourgeois conviction.  Just like graffiti.

Since its Women’s month, what is your stance on violence against women?
It is Spiros’ view that Women’s month merely upholds the patriarchy. “Life” in this “society” being, at best, an utter bore, Spiros does not understand how Spiros is supposed to have a stance on such. Ram the patriarchy. Duh.

When you’re not running for the SRC what do you do in your spare time?
Spiros is quite the gastronomist – Spiros’ Lonmin CEO soufflé is to die for.

Q & A with Minenkulu Ngoyi

Photo: Anthea Pokroy

Photo: Anthea Pokroy

 

Minenkulu Ngoyi has made a name for himself in the South African art scene over the last couple of years. The printmaker, ‘zine-ster, artist, and publisher studied at Artist Proof Studios and is one half of the ‘zine duo Alphabet Zoo. Ngoyi, has recently joined the Wits School of Art to run a silk screen and ‘zine workshop for second year drawing and design students. Wits Vuvuzela caught up with the Johannesburg-based printmaker to discuss race relations in the local art space.

 

When you started making ‘zines and subsequently Alphabet zoo, what was its purpose?

We always wanted to do publications and printmaking is a form of publication, that’s why we make ‘zines. More than anything, there is no one who really makes ‘zines in the country, the few [‘zine-sters] we have are mainly in Cape Town. We wanted to say a lot of things and zines allow us to do that.

 

What are some of the struggles of being a young, black artist in the art space?

I think the black space hasn’t transformed much, it’s just that names are not used like they were used back then, for example the term ‘black artist’ has fallen away and now people just say ‘artist’. But it’s still the same for black artists, we are still treated the same. Unfortunately we don’t have enough black buyers or collectors so we are still in a very white space. Aseyethu e-art, eyabelungu [Art isn’t ours, it’s white peoples].

 

Do you think we can still transform the art space?

If people change their minds. If we transform our people, so the people we want to buy our work—which is black people—can know more about art it might change.

 

#SOMETHINGMUSTFALL was an exhibition inspired by the transformation climate in the country, how did you all manifest this presentation?

The show was initially intended to be immediate, after the #RhodesMustFall situation but because of the [difficulties of] black spaces. If we had a black space we would have been able to do it but we then had to find a space and eventually we did it. We wanted to be radical and talk about something that was relevant. So instead of saying #RhodesMustFall I suggested we make people guess and go with #SomethingMustFall not to be typical.

Q&A with Mia Couto

LETTER TO ZUMA: Mia Couto, a revered Mozambican writer, wrote an open letter to  Zuma concerning the xenophobic attacks.

LETTER TO ZUMA: Mia Couto, a revered Mozambican writer, wrote an open letter to Zuma concerning the xenophobic attacks in South Africa.

What motivated you to write an open letter to Jacob Zuma?

It was the news that arrived from our Mozambican compatriots who were subjected to the persecutions in Durban and in other cities. I, my brothers and my family had, in that week, created a cultural foundation. And we thought that we couldn’t stay indifferent to what was happening.

As a Mozambican and a writer, what do you think should/can be done in order to remedy the situation?

I think that it does not only depend on the actions of government. That action is decisive and above all, governments can’t find scapegoats as an excuse for not taking on their responsibilities towards those who are the poorest, from one side or the other side of the border. But other things also need to be done.

South Africans have a stereotypical image of Mozambicans. They are simply “work force”. They aren’t people who produce thought, sentiments and art. That would be the responsibility of Mozambique: to make known the richness of culture and diversity of Mozambicans. So that the South Africans can know them better. We can only like what we know. And even while we are neighbours, we still don’t know a lot about each other.

In your letter you mention that feelings of solidarity and the remembrance of a shared history should be recreated. Why and how do you think this should be done?

After my letter had been published I found out that among the youth that commented with me about this issue, many were completely unaware of how much Mozambique supported, with much sacrifice, the fight against apartheid. It’s sad how history is lost so quickly. The past to stay alive needs to be recreated.

What do you think of Zuma’s response to your open letter?

It was a surprise. I never imagined that a president would respond to a simple writer be him foreigner or national. I am sure that he wasn’t exactly talking to me. But he wanted to speak to others and explain the internal reasons that create xenophobic feelings. Over this part of the letter I would prefer not to comment.

Do you think enough has been done by the South African government to prevent the persecutions of Mozambicans?

Like I said in the letter, our view in Mozambique is that what was done was little and late. Also, I think that those who encourage these phenomenons of violence can’t be left unpunished.

Do you think that the long term and short term measures that Zuma mentioned on implementing in his letter will help to resolve the issues that triggered the attacks?

There is no country in the world where the large social crisis don’t search for a culprit that is always the “other”, being that other from another religion, race or nationality.
What governments should do is to work so as to protect all citizens that live legally in their country, so that they live without fear and with the right to have hope and belief in their future.

Q&A with Andile Mngxitama

 

Andile Mngxitama: EFF member and the member of Parliament

Andile Mngxitama: EFF member and the member of Parliament    Photo: Tendai Dube

Andile Mngxitama, Economic Freedom Fighter (EFF) MP holds an MA in sociology from Wits and has published the first four essays in the New Frank Talk series, a journal of critical essays. Mngxitama is also a columnist for the Sowetan and City Press

What do you think of the current education crisis tertiary institutions are facing?
Here when students say ‘we want free education’, which is a fundamental right, what comes is violence from the police, arrests and intimidation. It shows that this state is anti-black, and totally incapable of listening to the needs of black people, it reproduces the apartheid logic. We should be paying students to keep them at university.

How do you suggest the situation be resolved?
In Bolivia, they pay poor families in rural areas to keep their children in school. that’s what we should be doing.
We should be grateful that our students – after 12 years of kak education – somehow qualify to go to an institution of higher learning. They should be rewarded, not punished.

How did we get to this situation?
In South Africa to get a matric exemption, it’s like we celebrate. In white society, a child is born, they will end in university and it’s not a mystery – it’s a given, but for us, because we have to overcome so many hurdles to actually get a matric exemption or to get university entrance, it’s a huge thing. It is achieving a lot against massive odds and then you get punished in the end.

What are the EFF’s plans to combat the education crisis?
The problem is that the 12 years students spend at school in South Africa, black public schools, are f**cked, it doesn’t prepare them for anything.
So what you do is you bring all the Zimbabweans with O – levels into SA schools and make all our teachers write the basic test – they will fail.
Zimbabwe must become our center for educating. Those teachers who fail have two options, they can get a package and go home or they can get reeducated and we send them to Zimbabwe. Let’s not create a difficult life for ourselves, bring all the Zimbabweans and spread them in rural schools…You just give them a two weeks crash course on methodology.

“The Mngxitama ABCs to solve the education crisis.”
Our teachers are underprepared, uneducated, untrained, unmotivated and they can’t do their basic job, but if we inject this new process then I think that within five years we can get back lot of South Africans into the system who are able to teach. We must build schools also and put real money into those things.
At a university level, not a single student must apply for a bursary. As a student you literally walk up to your university and if you qualify they should take you.
And they can say beforehand that Wits is a pro-poor school therefore we will take sixty percent of all new intakes from bursary students, so I already know what is my bill which I then present to government, to say these are the number of needy students that we have taken. They must make the registration illegal, that thing is evil, once you’re in you must be in until you finish.