School’s out, now what?

If you had told me a week or two ago that I would be wracking my brain over whether or not to leave the UK six months into my degree, you would have got an unequivocal no from me. I still have so much to do right? A podcast to finish, two documentaries to shoot, concerts to attend, so much travelling to do here and in Europe.

But the situation has changed – drastically so and it still changing . So to put this all in context, I am studying towards my master’s degree in Digital Documentary at the University of Sussex. As the degree name suggests it is a practical heavy and intensive course which is exactly why I chose it. I wanted to sharpen and hone my skills behind a camera lens again and hopefully use what I had learnt to take my journalism career on a slightly different path, not a complete off-ramp, just an on-ramp to a different highway lets say.

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Our podcasting class in a practical session in the foley studio.

Anyway, my studies got underway last September with a slight disturbance at the end of November when academic staff went on strike for a week and a half, but other than that, all hunky-dory. We had access to a state of the art foley studio, photography and filming studio, edit suites and a fully kitted equipment store which we could take advantage of 24/7. The new term held the promise of building on what we had learnt, adding to our technical proficiency and hopefully producing work worthy of watching and listening to. My subjects this term are podcasting and short documentary and I was super excited to dig in, learn and grow. But three weeks in that enthusiasm was tempered with the announcement and commencement of another round of strikes – this time for four weeks. Luckily for one of my subjects, neither of my two tutors were striking so we continued to attend those classes when we could, on and off-campus. While all of this is happening the coronavirus infections in the UK are growing, slowly but steadily. But nothing is amiss, we all bought hand sanitizer, washed our hands and kept travelling, drinking and eating together.

Eventually the strike ends and the first day (last Monday) we are meant to resume classes, contact classes get cancelled for the rest of the academic year. As in the last time we were in class (weeks ago) was the last time I was seeing my classmates and tutors in person – wild. We get reassured that teaching will continue online and our assessments adjusted accordingly. My immediate thoughts were this is great, the government is finally taking the pandemic seriously, this is a good call. It’s not until a few days later when we are told we will no longer have access to the equipment store and labs we need to produce our practical assignments that my brain starts breaking. How is one to film without equipment? My phone, my own little DSLR? Surely not, that goes against the dream we were sold, the thing we came here for. I start to think of the ways in which it might be possible to record via Skype or phone for my podcast; try to think of a way – if any – that I can adjust the documentary projects I had in development. A day after that, people I know start talking about the practicalities of going home. At this point, two of my five roommates have fled to their home countries overnight. It still seemed rash, I felt confident in my “obvious” decision to stay.

A day after that development my scholarship sponsors assured us that they would help facilitate our exits from the UK if we so chose. Some universities have actively encouraged their international students to go home. That’s when I first began to even think that this was an option I would consider. But how in a critical phase of the pandemic here and in my home country? New infections were/are on the rise in both. Deaths were on the rise here. People weren’t all capable of practising social distancing at home. People are unwilling to practice it in some cases. I would be covered if anything happened to me here. I left my medical aid when I left home. I could make others sick in transit or at home. Oh shit, I would have to be on a plane on a train. I haven’t done a lick of work in weeks, will I be able to motivate myself to press on? Social distancing, cool cool cool. Why’s there no toilet paper at the shops? Wow, September is far. June is far. May is far. Can I do it, here? Where would I rather be stuck for the next few months?

These frantic thoughts have raced through my mind on a loop since Friday. I change my mind every hour on the hour, I feel like the window is closing to make and commit to a decision that I can live with. But I just don’t know. This is not about being homesick and just wanting to see my mom, I have to go back home at some point and I can’t imagine it’s going to get easier to try and do that. It’s an impossible choice and I’m going to get judged for it but it’s a choice I’m going to have to make.

Walking in the footsteps of JK Rowling

Literally. I went to Edinburgh, Scotland over the winter/Christmas break and the one and the only thing I wanted to do when I got there, was see where the magic happened. The locations, monuments and scenery that were the backdrop that provided J.K Rowling with the inspiration to finish writing the Harry Potter series.

So the first order of business when I arrived was finding a walking tour that would show us all these places. I booked a two hour guided tour with GetYourGuide and let me tell you it was the best 12 pounds I have ever spent.

z+Uhjut4RWurP3KAFX%SewAs you can tell, I am a Potterhead – a big one. So much so that when the little walking group I joined was sorted into our wizarding classes I was classified as a Death Eater because I answered yes when asked if I believe only people who had read (and reread) the books and watched (and rewatched) the movies was a true fan – I mean duh. But shortly before that, we had been sorted into houses and the “sorting hat” placed me in Gryffindor– so a bit of a tricky one but we move. 

The tour started off in a place that needed very little explaining to the group – Greyfrair’s Kirkyard – the actual graveyard that inspired the (traumatic) scenes from the Little Hangleton Graveyard in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, where we last saw Cedrick Diggory alive (sniffle). Apparently, a mixture of those grey turned black headstones, the names on those headstones and a deep depression inspired Rowling to write some of the most iconic characters and scenes for the series.

She spent days looking into the graveyard from a window at a nearby cafe, the Elephant Cafe and walking in it to keep building on the story she had started writing on a train years earlier about the boy wizard we all came to love. Some of the engraved names I spotted on the day included one Thomas Riddell (Tom Marvolo Riddle/He Who Must Not Be Named/The Dark Lord to us), an unofficial Sirius Black one scrawled on the wall with spraypaint on an unmarked grave and even a little statue that looked exactly like Nearly Headless Nick. Just next to us was a very Hogwarts looking school, George Heriot’s School (circle on left), this building and the Edinburgh Castle (circle on right) a short walk away were reimagined to become the school of witchcraft and wizardry we all wanted to go to.

 

What struck me most in that graveyard (and along the rest of the route really) is the sheer will to press on, in the face of loss and failure, she just kept writing, making space for the process in every free minute of every single day. Picking up the pieces of a broken and grieving heart, raising a baby, studying and trying to survive didn’t get in the way of writing a chapter or two when she could find a quiet enough spot to do so. And to do that and manage to write one of the best book series of all time feels surreal, but one thing it also left me with is the fact that it is possible if you show up for yourself and believe in the things you are actively pursuing. And I believe it is that quality that allowed her to see and harness everything around her so beautifully and craft it into the story of Harry Potter. There are pieces and places that seemed so familiar to me all around Edinburgh because of the way she managed to weave the places and names into her work. I know it will sound cliche, especially in this context, but it was a true and simple lesson of the magic of commitment and determination. I hope to one day harness and live out this lesson.

Marine subjects now in schools

Cape Town, January 30 2019 – Some students are getting a real DEEP perspective on the world.
Several schools in the Western Cape have added Marine Sciences to the curriculum. Students can now take it as an 8th subject in Grade 10. They attend lessons twice a week, at a cost of 500-rand a term. Here’s eNCA’s Pheladi Sethusa. Courtesy #Dstv403

Clifton waiter apologises for ‘2 Blacks’ bill

“CAPE TOWN – The waiter responsible for describing patrons as “2 Blacks” at The Bungalow at Clifton Beach in Cape Town has said he never intended the offence taken.

Screengrab of slip.
Screengrab of slip.

The waiter, Mike Dzange, says he regrets the controversial incident.

“I’d like to apologise deep from my heart for the trouble I have caused; it happened without intention of hurting anybody. I’d sincerely like to apologise to Mr Scott and partner,” Dzange, a Zimbabwean national said.

He has been suspended from The Bungalow, where he has worked for eight years.

Scott Maqetuka tweeted a picture of this slip describing him as one of two blacks, accusing the Bungalow restaurant in Clifton of racism.

Dzange admits he was wrong to use racial descriptions for patrons. He has been suspended in the interim.”

eNCA caught up with Dzange.

Dressed up as revolution

Dabbling the dark arts of fiction, read the full but short story here.

“Their conversation is punctuated with the topping up of wine glasses and champagne flutes. The men and women dressed in black and white lingering on the side-lines catching bits of conversation, looking annoyed as more food is ordered by the increasingly loud bunch — their agitation making those seated at the table slightly aware of their privilege.”

Be gentle.

ON: Being a news voyeur

I haven’t written anything on here in a few months and it has everything to do with my new job. My new job isn’t the kind of job that affords one the time or “space” to scribble one’s considered views on current affairs or even personal affairs.

I get to work with moving pictures which, I grew to love in 2015, and I suppose you could say I still get to write via scripts. However, it’s not quite the same.

I miss writing so so much. I miss being in the field everyday doing something different and speaking to different people, getting to see the “real” South Africa unfold before me. I miss talking to my people, talking about my people, talking through my people.

Don’t get me wrong, I still do the news but it’s slightly different when you do the news for an international audience and for pure profit. The space I was speaking about shrinks or maybe widens, depending on who you are and why you came into journalism.

It’s like watching things around you happen in slow motion, you are there but at a distance. Stuck in a fixed point unable to move close, probe deeper, ask more – just standing there with the best telephoto lens on the market – but far, very far from the centre of the riot.

It’s a good job, the opportunities that come with it are positively amazing, I’m getting invaluable experience, imali is good and and and – but we miss what we miss. I’ll be gone til November 😦

 

Literary Postmortem: The Reactive

My excitement and expectations going into this book were quite high and I must say I was not disappointed at all. This debut novel by Masande Ntshanga, is one of the best things I have read in a long time. He is a young, black writer from the Eastern Cape aka everything I want to be one day (save for being from the Eastern Cape).

Anyway so late last year I attended an event where he read an extract from the book and I knew then that I had to read the book. He writes in a way that demands you to carry on reading. If you plan on reading the book and want to be surprised don’t read this – there will be spoilers.

Right.

So I mentioned the high expectations – shattered not long after I had settled into this read. I expected to read about his younger brother, Luthando dying at an initiation school and the guilt his older brother, Lindanathi felt over his compliancy in that. That’s actually why I was so interested in the story to begin with. It’s a horrible thing that happens to young boys out in rural areas in our winter. Luthando’s death is always lingering throughout the book but I still felt I needed to know more about his death.

Initially I thought the immense guilt the protagonist (Lindanathi) feels throughout the book irrational because you know things happen, right? But then the more I read about his drug induced hazy days in Cape Town with his two friends Ruan and Cecelia, the less empathy I felt.

They did drugs. Often. A lot of drugs. Often. It scared me. Scared me because it just happens so easily, they are at the point where it’s routine, they need the drugs to peel themselves off Cecelia’s apartment floor. It also scared me because Ntshanga writes about the drug use/dependency with far too much accuracy to not be drawing from personal experience (or so I think). There’s also quite a bit of kinky bordering on messed up sex, group sex with masculine porn endings *purses lips*.

But anyway in a nutshell, these three are drugged up all the time and sell pharmaceutical drugs (ARVs) on the side – they lead a life that looked like absolute chaos to me. But there are reasons for why they are the way they are, some which we don’t really get to learn about. Personally, Lindanathi making himself reactive was the most chilling for me. There’s a lot of ambiguity in the book, shielded by absolutely beautiful imagery and sentences. I can’t recall how many times I had to stop reading to re-read and mull over the perfect sentences.

To me, Lindanathi redeems himself towards the end of the book when he decides to stop running from his problems and avoiding his family. He goes back to do the thing he promised his brother he would do with him. He decides for a change to look his life in the face and show up. Then we meet Esona, ah I would have loved to have one more chapter for their story – she sounds like the thing he has needed for a long time.

The way the book ends is comforting, still sad (yes, I cried) but it feels like things happen as they should. It really was a brilliant read, it felt extremely honest, therefore heartbreaking but also so necessary.

I am just a girl with a blog who read a book but I would definitely recommend The Reactive.

Imbawula: Modern storytelling

We laughed, we cried, we were enlightened and we were simply enthralled when four vastly different people told us stories in a basement  at Bean Republic, over wine last week Thursday.

It was the first Imbawula event jointly hosted by Random Window and Quarphix Foundation, under the stewardship of Siphiwe Mpye. He got the ball rolling by telling us a tale of how the idea for what will now become a monthly event came about. He remembered always being curious about the time shift that happened as the sun set and he had to run home to when the dark settled leading to older boys taking over street corners to talk sex and politics next to informal fireplaces.

I imagined that people would read something short that they had written – but it was really just four people telling us stories about themselves, which was really something. First we had Lee Molefi, who told a very moving story about being a kid on the cusps of teenage drama, who had to navigate  not black enough, too smart and and an untimely death. He has the kind of voice you can listen to for hours and so it was nice to hear him speaking in such a personal way as opposed to the very serious MC’ing I’ve only ever heard. His story had us gasping, laughing  in one moment  and then suddenly crying.

The second storyteller was, the sultry voiced, Vutomi Mushwana. She spoke about love and used the example of what was one of her most important relationships to illustrate how love can smother, hurt, heal and ultimately make you grow. As a lover of love, her story was my favourite. Not because of the topic but because of the reality of what  a toxic relationship can do to you without you realizing. She definitely hit us with some wisdom. I have read some stuff on her blog and I have become a fast fan.

The third speaker was one of my favourite commentators slash bloggers, Milisuthando Bongela (better known as Miss Milli B). First of all her outfit was fierce and fittingly so because her tale was about where her journey with fashion began. But the bigger story she told was how she met her intuition while on the job, when it seemed that the world was coming crashing down around her. We so often second guess our intuition and if she had that day things would not have worked out as intended.

The night ended of an a light note when Anele Mdoda’s storytelling time turned into a bit of a comedy set. She regaled us with a tale from her early childhood, one I had read before in her book, It Feels Wrong to Laugh, But (part of The Youngsters series) but because of how animated she is in person I loved seeing that story come alive. I cried but not because there was any sad part in the story but because I was laughing so hard.

I loved the intimacy of the evening because it let those who told stories do it so freely and made those of us who listened privy to some the four storyteller’s most telling tales. I am keen for the next event, to hear more stories over wine in a basement.

PS – In between the storytelling, Melo B. Jones serenaded us, here’s a little taste of that:

On Ferguson – The System Isn’t Broken, It Was Built This Way

All of this.

The Belle Jar

I have an uncle who was a cop.

His kids, my cousins, were around my age and when we visited our family in Québec every summer I practically lived at their house. As soon as we got to my grandmother’s house, all rumpled and grumpy from our eight hour drive, I would start dialling my cousins’ number on her beige rotary phone. I spent the whole damn school year waiting for summer, and my time with my cousins, to come; we wrote each other letters all through the dreary winter, hatching plans for new summer exploits. Life with my cousins – swimming in their pool, family barbecues, playing hide-and-seek in my grandmother’s mammoth hedge at twilight – was lightyears better than my boring life in Ontario.

Pretty much every summer my uncle would, at some point, take us to visit the police station. He would pretend that we were criminals and…

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