EDITORIAL: Twisted love affair

It starts  with some subtle courting, then a proposal for a dinner date. You plan the outfit carefully a week before, pick the right shoes and accessories? The day before you get a call to confirm your date, along with it an sms that night saying: “I’m really looking forward to our date tomorrow, sleep tight.”

You arrive on time –15 minutes before, in fact, just to be safe. You ask for a table right in the middle of the restaurant so your date can spot you immediately and so that  the two of you can be seen. After an hour you start to worry, your call is met by voicemail, you text incessantly but in vain. You start to notice patrons whispering about you.

The waiter is optimistic, says he’ll arrive any minute now. The manager has seen this happen before. She is sure you’ve been stood up and should probably just head home. She comes over and says: “These things never work out, don’t do it again.” After waiting 2 and 1/2 hours you admit defeat and head home, maybe it will work out next time, you think.

Voting in our beloved country has become much like the above scenario for many discouraged South Africans. We continue to show up, allow ourselves to trust, to hope and make our mark. Only the other side doesn’t show up. They leave us all dressed up with nowhere to go.

The upcoming elections present an opportunity to make our voices heard, or so they say. There are millions of voices trying to have their say, our government can only do so much, right? They may listen but it’s hard to believe they actually hear us. My generation has only just entered the arena as citizens with a voice, but already so many of us are weighed down by an overwhelming apathy because of the disconnect we can see in the promises made and the promises kept.

We fill our heads with countless readings, hours of roundtable discussions and engage with one another on theinterwebs trying to find a way. Just trying to find someone and something to believe in, someone and something bigger than the various constraints of our supposed privilege and contrasting poverty. There’s not much consensus between our leaders and us, the youth and the future. We don’t believe their lies, but we know it’s all  part of a bigger  game – if they don’t do it someone else will. We don’t believe there’s any point in choosing the lesser evil either, picking a side just to pick a side. The whole thing smells like a convoluted fishy mess to me.

But what choice do we have? If we keep quiet, we’ll have to watch it all burn. If we make a spoiled mark we may be accused of dishonouring those who shed blood to give us this right. If we agree to just pick a side as an act of “democracy”, we would willingly be hopping aboard  “The Assimilation”, a ship destined for failure.

We don’t have the answers, we may never have them. They don’t have them either but they think they do. We have a choice to make, an important one.

It’s up to us to make the one that says the plan isn’t working, one that says let’s revise the plan, let’s turn the plan on its head if need be.

Our inked thumbnails do mean something and will mean something either good or bad for those to come. As the architect in the Matrix said: “Hope, it is the quintessential human delusion, simultaneously the source of your greatest strength, and your greatest weakness.”

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Artists collabo for LGBTI awareness

CRAFTY SYMBOLISM: Onlookers were drawn to the Faces and Faces wall, full of black and white photographs taken by visual artist Zanele Muholi. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
CRAFTY SYMBOLISM: Onlookers were drawn to the Faces and Faces wall, full of black and white photographs taken by visual artist Zanele Muholi. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

Walking onto the eerily silent ramp that leads to the new exhibition at the Wits Art Museum, one is met by death. Small mounds of sand stand,holding up colourful wooden crosses that have dates of birth and death written on them.These graves that lie in glass containers are in the Zanele Muholi’s Mo(u)rning section of the exhibition.

The next piece of the collection, Faces and Faces catches the eye immediately as a wall of black and white portraits look one in the eye. There are some gaps between some of the photographs by Muholi which speak to the nameless but dated graves.

“The spaces were left there to show that they could have been a part of this section of the exhibition if they weren’t killed for being gay and lesbian,” explained facilitator Ace Kekana, whose face appears in one of Muholi’s portraits. Queer and Trans Art-iculations: Collaborative Art for Social Change is a collaborative exhibition by visual artists, Muholi and Gabrielle le Roux. 

“…men who gang rape women, who murder lesbians, who beat their wives – they walk the streets as free men.”

Muholi’s work is on the ground floor of the museum with a focus on the LGBTI community in South Africa – their beauty, their struggle, their murders and more. Muholi is not only a photographer, so her work varies and in this exhibit includes some of her bead work and a documentary film.

The most elaborate display in Muholi’s section are rosaries that hang from the ceiling. The beads in the rosaries are tennis balls and kitchen utensils. The vertical end of the cross at the end of the rosary is made from a knife which represents the violent killings of members of the LGBTI community experience, and the horizontal end from braai forks to represent the supposed hell killers think they’ve sent their victims to, or perhaps the lived hell victims endure.

“When people kill based on gender they like to say it’s for religious reasons, these crosses represent how dangerous that kind of thinking can be,” said Kekana.

The most moving part of Muholi’s exhibited work is a wall with a number of written messages from victims and their family members about their experiences. One of the messages read: “Here in South Africa you have judges sending women to jail for stealing a loaf of bread to feed her baby, but men who gang rape women, who murder  lesbians, who beat their wives – they walk the streets as free men.” 

This is one of the rosaries that hang from the ceiling. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
This is one of the rosaries that hang from the ceiling. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

In contrast to the quiet reception on entering Muholi’s floor of the exhibition, walking down the ramp into the basement area, sounds from the television screens set up with short documentaries by Le Roux lure attendees with their mixed up buzz.

Le Roux’s collection, Proudly African & Transgender and Proudly Trans in Turkey looks at the experiences “trans and intersex people in Turkey and Africa,” said Kekana. Another facilitator, Thekwane Mpisholo is in one of the portraits put on display by Le Roux.

The painted portraits are inclusive of their “subjects” and this can be seen in the quotes the artist let them scribble on their actual portraits.

The newly launched Wits Centre for Diversity Studies, helped to find the funding for this project. “They’re the ones who helped us with the planning and funding because they (Diversity Studies) study things that aren’t ordinarily studied by other faculties – that’s how they came on board,” said Mpisholo.

There is a lot to read, watch and see at this exhibition and people can do so until March 30 2014 at the Wits Art Museum.

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#Teamvuvu #Neknominated

#NekNomination, a social media challenge, has flooded profile pages and time lines of young people around the world. Formerly a drinking game, #NekNominations are now used to encourage people to do good.

A person or organisation challenged does an activity that helps someone else out, then passes along the challenge. It’s sort of like a electronic chain letter for charity.

The Wits Vuvuzela team (#teamvuvu), was challenged in a #NekNomination from Wapad, the student publication of the North West University. We had 24 hours to take on the challenge of making a difference and recording it.

Wits Vuvuzela reporters hit the streets of Braamfontein to hand out cupcakes to the homeless. But we also wanted to  ask the homeless what they needed because sometimes a simple gesture is not enough.


The Newsroom 2.0: I’m back!

Happy New Year and all that jazz, I do realise that I’m like a month too late, but better late than never goes the adage. Started working as an intern at Wits Journalism last week. Going to be here for a few weeks, “mentoring” the new bunch of Journalism Honours students.

Last week was mad hectic because there were only four of us in the newsroom but somehow we managed to produce an entire paper. Here are links to all the things I did last week:

I’m the editor this week, so there will be lot’s more coming,in my round up of the week over the weekend.

ps – unlike last year I won’t be uploading all my work on this blog, but will put up my favourite pieces for that week on here 🙂

Don’t get stumped by cricket bru

Infographic by Mia Swart

It’s that time of the year again – when camp chairs, people  lathered in sun screen and crowded cars make their way to stadiums to watch cricket.

I use the word “watch” loosely here because even though I have been to many cricket games, I’ve never really watched. I have no recollection of who won and who lost.I don’t even remember who was playing.

What I do recall is the amount of booze that was flowing, getting burnt by the sun and the many details of the “deep meaningful conversations” I had with my friends pitch side. This cricket season I refuse to be a mindless spectator. I want to engage and scream my lungs out like the rest of the crowd. I sought out the help of a few fanatics.

CRICKET-3

Hopefully what they told me will help other people who have been using the cricket as an excuse to work on their phuza faces.

Teams

Let’s start with the teams. There are 11 players on each team. “Teams bat in successive innings and attempt to score runs, while the opposing team fields and attempts to bring an end to the batting team’s innings,” said student and player, Kagiso Mathaba.

An inning is just one half of the game that each team gets an opportunity to bat or bowl.

Simply, apart from winning, part of the game is to get as many runs as possible without losing too many wickets.

Runs

The fastest way to do this is to hit 4s and 6s. A 4 is when the ball hits the boundary line and a 6 is when the ball is hit clean over that line. The slowest way of getting runs is manually running between the wickets.

Some of the main ways of being taken out are: a direct catch after the ball has been hit by a batsman, LBW (leg before wicket) when the ball hits a batsman’s leg which is directly in line with a wicket.

A  run out is when a batsman fails to make it back to the crease (you might have to look this up, I did). Also each batsman represents a wicket, so by the time 10 wickets/batsmen have been bowled out it’s late for the said team.

Duckworth-Lewis method

What I found most interesting is the fact that a team can win a game without playing an entire game.

Apparently when it rains, the Duckworth-Lewis method is used to calculate how a team would have carried on playing had it not been for the rain – but they have to play for a considerable amount of time for this method to be used.

“It’s a strategic game, it’s as much about playing as it is about thinking – it’s about tactical one-upmanship.

“The greatest thing about cricket is the commentary,” said a sports aficionado in the Wits Vuvuzela newsroom.

It’s all in the hands, from spectators who lift beers to umpires with their customised signals, to commentators who offer visual illustrations of the game as it unfolds.

Ducking and diving to get the story

Reporting in war zones of conflict areas can be dangerous for any investigative journalist or photo journalist. Stephen Hofstatter and James Oatway presented ways to stay safe and navigate such areas in ways that will help to get the story a journalist is looking for and stay alive at the same time.

Sunday Times journalists James Oatway (left) and Stephan Hofstatter (right) shared their personal experiences on reporting in conflict areas on the continent. Photo: Prelene Singh
Sunday Times journalists James Oatway (left) and Stephan Hofstatter (right) shared their personal experiences on reporting in conflict areas on the continent. Photo: Prelene Singh

Hofstatter and Oatway have worked together in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in the Central African Republic (CAR) on stories that have seen the two dodging bombs and confronted by armed rebels. Their presentation on Covering Resource Conflict in Africa started off with Hofstatter outlining the essential and practical considerations they had taken when they went into conflict areas. He said that in conflict areas it’s difficult to sift between fact and fiction because of the amount of propaganda punted by opposing sides. A lot of wire services fall prey to misinformation because they rely on once source in many cases, added Hofstatter.

The pair used their stories to highlight some of the do’s and don’ts involved in covering conflict areas:

The budget that they worked on for their trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
The budget that they worked on for their trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

• Budget: The most essential things on the budget include money for a fixer, a driver and accommodation. Hofstatter said that they used up to $250 a day on a trip. Oatway added that while some news agencies had big enough budgets to include security, this presents a challenge when trying to get close to sources and getting a more in-depth story.

• The right fixer: A dependable and professional fixer is essential to survival in conflict areas said Oatway. Fixers are people who can put you in touch with military commanders and bureaucrats because they have nurtured relationships with these people. Fixers can help in attaining exclusive footage because they can navigate around difficult situations and people. · Background: “It’s difficult to get information when you get there,” this is why journalists need to do all their homework beforehand said Hofstatter. A lot of senior officials and business officials from other African countries live in South Africa, they can be very useful sources.

• Angles: While it is important to present a South African angle when reporting, it is equally important to avoid being insular by ignoring international angles. Hofstatter used an anecdote of their experience with rebel commanders in the CAR to illustrate this. “We didn’t just cover the conflict there (in CAR)…We had to show what kind of regime our government was propping up,” said Hofstatter.

Ethical considerations: In such volatile areas, one can witness grave human rights abuses. The pair tried where they could to make ethical and morally sound decisions where both information and images were concerned. Oatway vividly recalled a situation where they pleaded with rebels to release a prisoner they had in their custody after he had taken the shots he needed but added, “I have no idea what happened to him after we left.”

• Balanced reporting under fire: Again Hofstatter stressed the importance of avoiding falling for propaganda. “Where you can highlight unverified information and highlight where you got that information.” Images and information with grey areas can create false negative narratives.

• Safety first: Oatway said that even though he itched for “iconic photos” when there is a lot of action happening, he sometimes has to ignore scratching that itch by staying away from extremely risky situations. Hofstatter went on to list things to do in the face of gunfire or hand grenades going off, “make yourself as small as possible and lie on your back,” he said.

REVIEW: Marikana movie Filmmaker Rehad Desai tells the story of the Marikana tragedy in a real time film

In the same way that Shaka bearing his spears was not on an equal footing with the British colonialists and their rifles, the Marikana miners with their machetes and knobkerries could not have been a true threat to the police.

They were met with nyalas, revolvers, stun grenades and hundreds of police officers. A line was crossed on August 16 2012. That line was the blurry line between self-defence and murder. The Wits Club on West Campus was transformed into a movie theatre on Monday night for a screening of a rough-cut of Rehad Desai’s film, which has the working title of Countdown to Marikana Massacre.

The ”roughness” of the version shown was evident but the story being told was so compelling that there were no grunts and groans when those parts came or technical glitches interrupted viewing. Desai’s version of events shows new evidence that seems damning. The police had footage of the area they now refer to as “scene two”. At this smaller koppie, miners were shot down after the initial shooting.

The police footage was one of the most horrifying yet gripping scenes of the film. It showed just how power had crossed a line and put its rubber boot on the throats or necks of ordinary miners. “Scene two” shows miners’ bodies at the bottom of the koppie. From the way their bodies fell it looks like police officers went after miners who were hiding. Police in the footage are heard congratulating one another for using “nice skills” where their shooting was concerned.

That scene is the climax to the message Desai had been trying to convey throughout the entire showing. He was saying something about the police and their collusion with Lonmin and perhaps even politicians. He pointed out that this kind of collusion was to blame and showed us what a force it was. This sentiment was further reinforced when new footage was shown of how the shooting on August 16 started. Miners no longer look as if they are charging at the police like in most of the footage circulated in the media, but are rather walking slowly towards the Wonderkop informal settlement.

Suddenly, a shot comes from behind one of the police vans, followed by a return shot by one miner armed with a gun and then the story we have seen before plays out.  The film is much like eNCA’s Through the Lens and Seven Days of Night two-part documentary in the way the story unfolds but different because it is clear that one side has been chosen and is favoured by Desai and the commentators he chose to interview.

Journalists are taught to have balance in whatever story we tell and, as we know, there is no such thing as objectivity. As a filmmaker, Desai has chosen the side he believes and backs up his evidence. More evidence has surfaced indicating that on the day of the massacre a call was made to a mortuary ordering four vans, each with the capacity to carry eight bodies. Four-thousand rounds of ammunition were also ordered by our police force.

Even if we tried to put ourselves in the shoes of Lonmin, the government or the police, it is becoming increasingly difficult to believe that self-defence was the reason for 34 miners dying.