Let the hunger games begin

Okay I might have added some spices in that headline, what I mean to say is ‘Let the in-depth games begin’.

Today was our first real introduction to our in-depth projects. A month dedicated to writing and producing in-depth features on a certain topic.

This year’s topic is ChinaJohannesburg – a look at the Chinese diaspora in this city.  A topic that didn’t come as a surprise to most of us because there was a leak (journalists, can’t tell them anything).

We were all divided into groups, each getting a sub-topic and a mentor. My group got given the topic ‘history and the future’ – a topic I begin to appreciate more and more as the day went on. Our mentor is the one and only, Kenichi Serino (yays).

Basically what we have to do over the next four weeks is immerse ourselves fully in this community in order to produce a long form feature with multimedia components (ranging from video, photography, audio and and and).

Our prep consisted of a number of guest speakers to give us some background and advice on our topic. It was a long day but a very informative one. Ideas were coming in and out of my mainframe all day. Especially because a bulk of what the speakers had to say touched heavily on my group’s topic.

Hearing the stories about the realities of being a migrant and of life in China made it abundantly clear that the next month would be an enlightening one. In a real and genuine way, in a way that would bring me closer and deeper than any documentary or article could.

My favourite quote from the day came from Emma Chen, owner of restaurant Red Chamber in Rosebank, she said: “Nobody dislikes the Chinese government as much as the Chinese themselves”. A loaded statement, that left me with much to think about (and investigate).

Tomorrow we have a field trip planned, I can barely contain my excitement. Let the adventure begin J

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Johannesburg: The migrant city that is anti-migrants

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Gallery by Mfuneko Toyana

The Market Theatre’s main stage was the platform where six diverse minds gathered to discuss migration, a topic central to all of their individual work.

The last day and the last panel discussion of the Mail & Guardian Literary Festival helped to make audience members and authors alike reflect on the movement of people in and out of cities and countries.

The poor accommodating the poor

Wandile Zwane from the City of Johannesburg’s Migrant Helpdesk, used an interesting anecdote from a conversation he had had with a woman, illustrating a point made earlier about migration being a situation where the poor are accommodating the poor.

The woman talked about the hierarchy that existed when it came to where one slept in her house. As a young child one was in the main bedroom, the older one got you would move to the dining room and the kitchen to make space for the younger ones. Eventually one would land up in the outside room and from there move on to their own house with a spouse.

Unfortunately her marriage had not worked out so she had to move back to the outside room with her kids, but because there was an immigrant living in that room she had to go back to the kitchen. The story points to one explanation of the animosity that exists around migration in South Africa.

Migration

Chinua Achebe’s book ‘There was a Country’ was the theme around which the conversation around which migration had to bend itself.

The panel consisted of writers who had threaded together stories and books, all zooming in on migration and themes central to resettlement. The panel discussion was largely based on the different writers’ works and their experiences of bridging political and personal narratives in their storytelling.

A young writer making waves in the literary world, NoViolet Bulawayo, said emergent personal narratives are based on political events, and that it was not possible to separate the two in one’s writing.

While the works of the six on stage were central to the discussion, engagement with audience members opened up the dialogue and brought up issues that were left out in the initial conversation.

Photographer and self-proclaimed book lover, Victor Dlamini (@victordlamini) made a poignant point from the floor, which steered the conversation to a meaningful point. He commented on people who are migrants themselves taking issue with people who migrate. He used Johannesburg as an example, saying most people who are in this city are not even from this city. “Johannesburg is a migrant city,” he added.

Panelist and writer, Achmat Dangor responded by saying that he agreed with Dlamini and pinned negative attitudes around migration on mechanisms of ‘othering’. He added that people migrate to places with a gravitational pull because of new ideas in that specific place. This is always the case with ‘big cities’, the activity and promise of economic emancipation lure people in, be it across borders or provincial lines.

Caroline Wanjiku Kihato, author of The Bookseller of Kibera, added to Dangor’s response, saying that human beings had a tendency of finding one another’s differences and using them to oppress one another.

Another audience member asked why was it that only Africans were considered immigrants. He did not understand why the Chinese and Europeans who come to this country were not treated with the same hostility that “our brothers” were.

In response Kwanele Sosibo (@KwaneleSosibo), journalist at the Mail & Guardian, simply said “we do it to ourselves”. He went on to narrate an anecdote about how people in an Eastern Cape community believe in measuring people according to certain pedigrees. Mining house recruiters divided them up according to body size, using pedigree determine who’d make best workers, exemplary of systematic ‘othering’.

Writing Invisibility

The Writing Invisibility e-book was launched. Some of the writers on the panel were contributors in the book which was a project done in collaboration with the Wits African Centre for Migration & Society.

The book is available for free download here.

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La Bonne Vie

LE GOOD LIFE: Samkele Kaase and Karabo Ntshweng having fun in studio. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
LE GOOD LIFE: Samkele Kaase and Karabo Ntshweng having fun in studio. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

Two great minds and voices have come together to bring Witsies and all those in Braamfie ‘the good life’ on VoWfm.

La Bonne Vie is the French phrase for ‘good life’ and is now the name of a lifestyle and entertainment show hosted by Karabo Ntshweng and Samkele Kaase.

La Bonne what?

“We want to expose Joburg in its entirety,” said Ntshweng. She added that they want to give students a taste of the good life that falls within their budget.

Kaase and Ntshweng said that they went about doing this by attending events, informing people about events and having weekly give-aways. Events and places that students previously might not have had access to or just didn’t know about.

Kaase said that they connect with the people who own all the hotspots in Braam and make their proposals for deals and give-aways for the show.

Who’s it for?

Kaase said: “The show is very androgynous. People often assume that lifestyle shows are for women.” The pair added that they are about reaching out to students in the Braamfontein area who want to make things happen for themselves.

Natural progression

The co-hosts have always wanted to work together and this show was the natural progression of their professional relationship. Ntshweng said that they have both been at VoW for a long time and that they wanted to host an “entertaining talk show” that did more than just play popular music.

Kaase is still a student at Wits and Ntshweng now works at a popular Johannesburg radio station.

Witsies can catch La Bonne Vie on Thursdays at 7pm and podcasts are going to be available on VoW’s website from this week onwards.

So I went to an exhibition…

I had been waiting for this exhibition for weeks. No I lie, I had been waiting for exhibition from the very first time I saw Thato Mohuba’s photography – so that makes it three years (give or take).

So you can imagine my disappointment when the sterring of the entire thing (Thato Mohuba) was stuck in Spain on the day. He called me on the day of and I could hear the sadness in his voice from 8371.54 kilometres away.

It would have been an epic culmination of events for him, being his first exhibition and his birthday. But it was still a great day and other artists/photographers got to show off their work in any case.

The venue was The Mills in Newtown – it had a very stripped down, industrial feel to it. What added to this was the paint fumes or rather spray paint fumes that were coming from the graffiti artists live tagging. Of the two murals that were made I liked this one, done by a tagger called Lee.

Lee doing his thing
Lee doing his thing

Along with the taggers, DJ’s were also in the mix setting the mood. There was  also a bar to keep people hydrated. Of the entertainment on offer, I most enjoyed a poem that was recited by aspiring poet, Naledi. She said that the poem was about a race – something which occupies the South African psyche 99% of the time. I made the video black and white, to coincide with the content of her poem.

I really liked the venue and how they went about hanging the photographers prints. They were unavoidable and asked to be looked at, really looked at from the very moment I walked in.

The photographs were hung on wire with pegs and this created a minimalist feeling, which to me communicated that the photographs being exhibited were of extreme import. That they needn’t be overshadowed by fancy frames for instance. The hanging prints were in themselves artistically placed by so doing.

Thato Mohuba's line of prints
Thato Mohuba’s line of prints

I was intrigued by the variety of images put up. I don’t know if there was a discerning theme connected to what each individual photographer captured and I don’t even think that matters. Most of the photographs I saw were powerful enough to just stand on their own – I didn’t yearn for continuity in that sense.

People drawn in...
People drawn in…

I walked around quite a few times trying to decide what I wanted to buy most. Mind you I had to beg my parents for money so I could show my support by buying a print. Student budget aside, the pricing was very reasonable, more than even. If I had more money in my life I  would have bought more than one print.

Finally decided on a photograph taken by Thato Sehlabela of this city that I love. It is one of those timeless images, that will form a part of some of my most valued belongings in life. I literally cannot wait to get it framed and hang it up in my future flat or house (whichever comes first). I can’t wait to look at it everyday and smile at random memories.

Middle centre, is the photograph I bought by Thato sehlabela.
Middle centre, is the photograph I bought by Thato sehlabela.

Before this gets boring, I must say that it was really refreshing and inspiring to see young people coming together to help one another realise their personal (and collective) dreams. Gathering their rosebuds you know?

PS**

(All photo’s and video in this post taken by me).

Court Week [3/5]

Photo: http://www.kenyan-post.com

*heavy sigh*

Had a pretty slow day today, so slow I rested my eyes for a good five minutes *bbm can’t watch*

After getting a R200 parking fine yesterday I was rather reluctant to go back to the High Court but my curiosity got the better of me. I went along with a colleague who also wanted to find out how the rest of the trial would turn out.

In retrospect I should have listened to that little niggly feeling I had on the drive over. Firstly the judge was 20 minutes late, then when he eventually got there we realised that the first witness for the day was also late. So we incurred an extra fifteen minutes of idle chit chat.

When things eventually got underway it was evident that the witness had had time to consider his testimony last night and had very curt answers. The already irritated judge was also quite short with everyone and did not see the need to drag the trial out any longer.

His attempts were in vain though, when the plaintiff took the stand he was up there for an hour straight before they even got to the defense’s cross examination.

The only new information we learnt in those two hours included the fact that “Zola Budd” is the name for a Toyota Hi Ace taxi and that apparently when one police officer arrests someone, all officers present are arresting said person. Illuminating stuff.

I then had a quick lunch at The Guildhall, cnr Market and Harrison street in town. Had the best and cheapest pizza there. Only a scale of 1 to relevant that was probably a zero but oh well.

Anyway thereafter I went off to a trial at the Magistartes Court. It was one of the more dry one’s I have been to this week – but I had to trudge one because our deadline was looming ever closer. Here’s what I managed to get together by deadline this evening:

A GUN AND A BRICK DO THE TRICK

*disclaimer: Our co-ordinator, Kenichi Serino said how we write our individual stories depends on which paper you would be writing for. For this one, I’m writing for the Daily Sun.

*Names changed to protect identities

Pheladi Sethusa

A courtroom at the Johannesburg Magistates Court turned into an examination room yesterday afternoon, as Sam* (36) walked around to show his scar to the magistrate and attorney’s.

Sam was robbed at gunpoint and assaulted by three men in Cleveland, Johannesburg on July 17, 2012. The men made off with his cell phone and dignity, leaving a bloodied Sam at the bottom of a hill.

“They hit me with what I assume was a brick. I started bleeding and the spectacles I was wearing broke,” testified Sam. He said he fell to the ground as he felt dizzy and could not see.

This is when he left the witness stand to show the magistrate, defence attorney Mendes* and prosecuting attorney Shaka*, the scar above his brow.

“The old scar has been noted,” was Mendes’s reply to the physical evidence.

The cross examination by attorney Mendes focused on Sam’s description of the man in the dock, Sechaba* (21).

In Sam’s statement and testimony he could only remember one of his attackers clearly. This was a man with a dark complexion, short hair, medium build and more distinctively a white shirt and earrings.

Mendes stressed the fact that his client had only one pierced ear and hardly ever wore an earring in his pierced ear.

He also mentioned that Sam had only seen his face partially, therefore he couldn’t be sure that Sechaba was one his attackers.

“I could see him clearly as he cocked the firearm,” said Sam.

The Daily Sun reporter noticed that one of Sechaba’s supporters in the court stands was a man with two piercings, a dark complexion and a medium build.

Sechaba has been in custody for just under a year, he had to spend another night in custody as court adjourned due to time constraints. Court will resume at 8.30am on May 23 to hear more from witnesses.

Court Week [1/5]

Photo: http://www.cultofmac.com

Today we went off to the Johannesburg Magistrates Court to get acquainted with courts and to see our justice system at work.

We began the day by looking at the roll for the day to see which cases/trials  we would want to watch and cover for the day. We were all tasked with finding one interesting case and reporting on it by our 6pm deadline.

It was a bit tricky finding the right court to attend but by midday we had found a few interesting cases and trials to cover. Today we went off in little groups so we could all struggle together, hopefully we all learnt enough today to brave the corridors by ourselves come Wednesday.

We had to be back at the department at 4pm so we could all submit by 6pm. It took me a while to decide which case I would write about because they were all interesting in their own way. We had two drunken driving ones, tax evasion and theft.

What I wanted to write about was a refugee from Mozambique who was charged with theft (he stole a Woolies trolley) and not having any “lawful” identification documents. I didn’t knew that foreigners are obliged to carry some sort of identification on their person at all times or face arrest when they don’t. It seems very 1952 to me. His case made me even more sad when he was sentenced to more jail time because he couldn’t possibly afford the R3000 fine required of him for both “crimes”.

Anyway I ended up not having enough solid information to write that story, so I wrote this one instead:

DIVERSION – A LITTLE KNOWN PLEA

*Names changed to protect identities

Pheladi Sethusa

Guilty or not guilty are not the only choices when a plea is being made in court. People accused of small misdemeanours can plead diversion, which is a plea of no contest against the charges being made.

Thomas* (30) from Berea pleaded diversion to charges of drunken driving earlier today in the Johannesburg Magistrates Court. Diversion is normally only granted to people who commit low value crimes, like shoplifting or possession of a small amount of drugs said his lawyer, James*.

James said that Thomas deserved a diversion because, “he is a taxi driver, a Zulu and a South African.”

The magistrate was not impressed with this argument, saying that his nationality should not divert from the crime committed. To this James replied that it is indeed a mitigating factor in getting his bail dropped.

James claimed that his client could not afford the bail amount which was set at R1000. “Are you taking this on as a pro bono case, Mr James?”, “No I am not,” replied James. The magistrate went on to ask how Thomas could then afford legal counsel but not meet bail.

James asked for Thomas to be allowed to enter the diversion programme. Diversion can only be granted when a person does not deny the charges being made against them, explained James.

The magistrate released Thomas on a warning and told him he can go ahead and enroll for the diversion programme as requested by his lawyer. He would have to come back on May 27 to find out how many hours he would have to serve in the programme.

The diversion programme is run in conjunction with the South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (SANCA). The programme aims to rehabilitate people who are enrolled.

Once the hours stipulated by the court have been completed, Sibiya must come back to court with evidence thereof. Then his record will be cleared and he won’t have a criminal record to his name.

That is all for today, I am bushed and I have an episode of Isibaya to watch.

Harvard graduates ASSIST kids in Alex

ASSISTANTS: Pergan Naicker (left) and Victor Sithole (right) from the Wits Volunteer Programme tutoring in Alexandra. Photo: Provided by Assist
ASSISTANTS: Pergan Naicker (left) and Victor Sithole (right) from the Wits Volunteer Programme tutoring in Alexandra.
Photo: Provided by Assist

Underprivileged children in Alexandra are scoring with some assistance from a non-governmental organisation, the African Sports and Scholastic Initiative for Students in Townships (Assist).

Harvard graduates started Assist last September to aid underprivileged children in Alexandra.

The name of the initiative is a clever play on a basketball term, which means helping someone score a goal. In this case, the assistance comes in the form of a mentorship system to tutor children in their school subjects. 

Harvard graduates from the class of 2012 Dennis Zheng, Patrick Li and Ian Choe started the initiative in September 2012. This came after Zheng and Li had visited South Africa in 2011 to volunteer as basketball coaches at the Special Olympics South Africa.

On this 2011 visit they had the opportunity to work at different schools in Alexandra township with intellectually disabled children. Zheng said: “We then became connected with Harry Nakeng, a local community leader of the Alexandra Basketball Association (ABA), and began coaching basketball with township youth every afternoon.

“What Patrick and I discovered was a testament to the power of athletics; each day after school, 50 players of varying ages took to dusty courts in bare feet or their school shoes to learn the sport,” said Zheng.

The children made such an impact on Li and Zheng that they could not stop thinking about them. They decided to return to Johannesburg with their classmate Choe to found Assist. Zheng said: “The programme aims to leverage Alexandra township youth’s excitement about the emerging sport of basketball in order to catalyze students’ success in the classroom and ultimately improve their lives.”

The founders believe it is important to have a balance between sports and academics. Assist incorporates basketball to encourage physical, emotional and mental health, Zheng added. Sports also promotes a sense of camaraderie and helps to develop traits like discipline, he said.

The initiative has teamed up with the Wits Volunteer Programme (WVP) to outsource tutors. “Forty five Wits students are tutors for the ASSIST project now,” said Karuna Singh who heads the WVP.

These students tutor on Monday to Thursday afternoons and on Saturdays. Assist provides the tutors with transport to Alexandra. They help with subjects like Maths and English, Singh explained.

Zheng agreed: “Their consistent mentorship leads to not only better marks from term to term but also empowers each child to develop and reach his or her life goals.”

The initiative continues to seek funding, Zheng: “We initially funded the first year of the programme through the generosity of supportive friends and family, but we are currently exploring local options for financial support while preparing for another world-wide fundraising campaign.”

Up until now, by April 2013, close to 60 learners have benefited from the initiative. If you wish to assist, and help children, then  find out more about the initiative and go to:

theassist.org. You can also visit the WVP at Senate House, Ground Floor.

We Are One

RAINBOW OF COLOURS: What it looked like when we threw the colours at the end of a countdown. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa
RAINBOW OF COLOURS: What it looked like when we threw the colours at the end of a countdown. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

Never in my life did I think I would have this much fun at an event that emanated from a religious practice.

I had wanted to attend from the minute I heard that Holi One (which later changed to We Are One) was coming to Johannesburg this year.

I had seen the Hindu colour festival on TV before and knew I had to do it at least once in my life.

I dragged my feet on getting tickets, which did not serve me well when they were sold out a few weeks before the event.

Luckily for me I know someone who knows someone and managed to get a ticket the day before.

Within in the first five minutes of walking into the venue some over eager festival go-er decided to throw some colour on me robbing me of the before picture I wanted to take.

15 000 people had bought tickets and those same 15 000 were on the grounds of Emmarentia Dam.

I imagined it would be chaotic but it really wasn’t. There were enough bars, food stalls and toilets to cater to everyone’s needs.

There was also ample space for people to move around. I never felt uncomfortable in the crowds.

The highlight of the day for me, were the colour throws that happened every hour. Being in the crowd when they happened was the reason we were all there in the first place.

When you threw your colour up into the air it felt like a New Year’s countdown. Then it felt like you were in the midst of a dessert battlefield as all the colours came down and their residue hung in the air.

AFTERMATH: Moments after the countdown colour throw - torturous to the lungs. Photo: Pheadi Sethusa
AFTERMATH: Moments after the countdown colour throw – torturous to the lungs. Photo: Pheadi Sethusa

The music was great throughout the day. Various DJ’s made our bodies move to their sounds. Goodluck were the headline act and ushered us into the night beautifully.

They also announced that due to the support this festival had received, the band would be travelling to Germany for a Holi One festival later this year.

The festivities started at 11am and were due to end at 8pm. By the time 7pm came around, my feet and legs were done in for.

Towards the same time, none of us looked colourful anymore, just dirty.

It took me a full 40 minute shower to scrub myself clean and an additional 20 minutes to clean all the contents of my handbag. By which time I was exhausted from the day’s events.

I only began to understand the “we are one” title by the end of the day, when we all looked the same.

WE WERE ONE: From left to right, Megan Hamilton-Hall, Paige Fenenga, Pheladi Sethusa and Kayleigh Pierce. Photo: Tracey Hamilton-Hall
WE WERE ONE: From left to right, Megan Hamilton-Hall, Paige Fenenga, Pheladi Sethusa and Kayleigh Pierce. Photo: Tracey Hamilton-Hall

Even though we were all covered in a rainbow of colours, we all looked the same and indeed were the same in that moment.