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Xolile Madinda, (left) core founder of the Grahamstown-based Fingo Revolutionary Movement and the Fingo Revolutionary Festival shares his thoughts on the necessity of making accessible, collective art.

Opening his discussion on the work he has been engaged in since 2004, Madinda emphasises the role of music, especially hip hop in his social and political development.

“As a teenager, my uncle told me to read Steve Biko’s book for a week and come back to him to tell him whether I still want to rap.” He read the book, got angry and frustrated with what he learnt, returned to his uncle determined to rap.

Spurred on by his uncle, he read into black consciousness literature, developing a keen sense of what he wants to do in his community. “We realised that we needed to start writing in Xhosa, so that the people can understand, so we did.” They started playing music with other local artists on the Fingo square – a geographic middle and common meeting point for the Grahamstown townships.

Working collectively, to create educational messages in various forms Madinda and his fellow revolutionary artists have been working to address social issues. “We decided not to wait for government to solve problems,” he says.

Urging his audience to listen to American hip hop artists Dead Prez “Let’s Get Free” album, Madinda offers an insightful perspective into the merits of creating socially responsive, politically engaged art which most importantly is accessible to all people.

Listen to the full podcast below:

 

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Writer and poet, Andrew Miller shares his thoughts on the necessary skills required to develop as a South African artist.  He suggests that most artists tend to focus only on their strong points to the detriment of their overall development. He suggests, “focus on developing your weaknesses as a way to re-understand the process of making art…”

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Social Mobility – “the movement of individuals, families, or groups through a system of social hierarchy or stratification.”

Francis Nyamnjoh, Professor of Social Anthropology at UCT, offers his thoughts on the changing meaning of social mobility in Africa.

He draws from personal experience and contemporary African writing and poetry, supplemented by his many years of experience in scholarly anthropological research, to suggest a reimagining of how to study and attempt to locate African identities. Nyamnjoh opened his comfortable discussion by suggesting that, “the physical and social mobility of Africans can best be understood as an emotional, relational and social phenomenon captured in the complexities and contradictions of the everyday messiness of life.”

Describing his own life as a, “life of flexible mobility and identity as an open-ended reality constantly renegotiating with new encounters, possibilities and challenges,” he introduced himself as an embodiment of the intricacies of mobilities and identities in Africa. His line of argument ask for closer relationships between scholars, writers and poets in an attempt to more sensitively study the messiness of African identities in an fast changing global environment. Nyamnjoh therefore suggests not a substitution of scholarship with fiction, but rather the use of African fiction to supplement scholarly endeavour.

 

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Some images from Ubu and the Truth Commission. The famous eye image sits bottom middle.

“Look for the eye,” advised Think!Fest convenor Anthea Garman when she introduced the packed Eden Grove audience to Ubu and the Truth Commission yesterday. “That eye belongs to Jane Taylor.” Jane Taylor’s talk, “Omissions and Commissions: Re-making Ubu, explored the pastiche lead character of the award-winning piece – Pa Ubu.

Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi formed the backbone of Pa Ubu’s character – both are beguiling and greedy figures with shady political intentions and aspirations. Jarry’s Ubu is informed by the Shakespearean tragic hero Macbeth – whose hubris is clearly seen in Jarry and Taylor’s Ubu. Taylor stressed that art exists in relation to other art and this connection should be interactive, and can lead to communication beyond what was originally envisaged by the artist. Taylor overturns Aristotle’s notion of good theatre only consisting of one kind of medium. Ubu and the Truth Commission demonstrates that the patterning of contradictory media and the use of mixed media can make good theatre that is profound in a subtle and perhaps, overwhelming, way.

Unlike Jarry’s Ubu, Taylor’s Ubu does not live in a vacuum. “My interest in re-creating Ubu Roi is to insert him into a world where his actions do have consequences,” explained Taylor. The absurdism of Ubu Roi is not lost in the reincarnation of Pa Ubu. His relationship to Ma Ubu, as well as his comically relentless and often brutal political machinations are likened to “the landscape of Tom and Jerry cartoons”, according to Taylor.

Ubu and the Truth Commission provides the pivotal function of aiding reconciliation outside state politics and the legalese that dogged the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The consequences of Pa Ubu’s actions, and those whom he stands as a symbol for, are of significance to all South Africans living in a post-apartheid context.

Lauren Kruger’s comment of South Africa being in a state of “post-anti-apartheid” raises important questions about the mixing pot that is South African identity and notions of nationhood. Taylor stressed the need to think about these issues to facilitate dealing with the public and national trauma that apartheid created and how art plays an instrumental role in this. Taylor commented on the validity of Kruger’s comment today, as the Manichean logic which was once a part of daily life is no longer. “I am of the belief we are in a post-TRC phase and narratives of self-reflection are significant to South African citizens,” said Taylor.

The significance of the TRC as a staged series of events lends itself to theatre. Taylor notes how this was not done to undermine pain caused to victims, but as a reminder of “the potency of theatre”. Taylor drew on the story of Dirk Coetzee and Vlakplaas to demonstrate how the “public confessional” is a topic that societies, and in this case, audiences, never tire of. Beginning with Rosseau’s The Confessions, Taylor believes “the framing of personal guilt a dramatic revelation” is something still seen in contemporary South African society with our morbid fascination with the Oscar Pistorius trial and addiction to reality TV.

“Artists should be called upon to engage with significant issues. It is the artist’s responsibility to be a part of the philosophical enquiry […] and ethical meaning of a society,” said Taylor. Pa Ubu’s strutting and braggart figure makes for an interesting articulation of South Africans being in dialogue with themselves and each other in this “post-TRC period”.

Megan Wolstenholme Profile photo Design Indaba

Megan Wolstenholme, the PR, Marketing and Communications Manager for the International Design Indaba, talks about its mission to promote African creativity.

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Miyere old Miyandazi talks about his journey through nine Southern African countries on foot, with no sponsor or money and no passport, his experience of crossing borders using a fingerprint, the most genuine hospitality and support from people of all creeds and colours along the way, as well as violence, kidnapping and detention without trial. All of this as part of a mission to pick at those borders, real and imagined, that separate us as humanity.

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Garret Barnwell, the president of MSF in South Africa, talks about working in solidarity with those displaced by conflict and natural disasters.

 


Middle-class South Africans can buy rights (to water, electricity, security, education and health) if they need to and that makes them consumer citizens; those who don’t have the money to get their needs often turn into rebel citizens; those who use patronage links in the ruling party are client citizens and then there are those who are aliens, outsiders and others in South Africa who must avoid the state and live informally and under the radar. Laurence Piper thinks about how economic status and geographic location have impacts on what kind of citizen you can be in South Africa today.

 


Adam Habib takes stock of 20 years of democracy and the skewed relationship between economic growth and inequality in South Africa which has “increased every single year for 20 years” despite the fact that South Africa in 2014 is far better country than it was in 1994. Habib argued that in order to address inequality, rising anger and protests South Africa needs:

  1. Better policy-making on employment and jobs for young South Africans
  2. A pact between labour, business and the govermnent to create work, and most important of all,
  3. Real leadership


National Arts Festival CEO Tony Lankaster talks about the strategic thinking shaping the future of the festival and the arts in South Africa.

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