Words, Visions, Dreams, Voices of an African Woman Expressed by Thulisa Qangule

The Role/Power/Responsibility of the Artist as a Mirror for & from the collective voice – South Africa

One of the greatest treasures we acquired as a country in 1994 was the freedom of expression.
It was indeed a great time, and something I’d hoped we’d be able to retain as a country.

Out with the necessity of being cryptic, and in with the Freedom to Ex-Press.
Please note the difference between the word:’ EXpress’ and the word ‘IMpress’.

I remember a time when albums by the likes of Miriam Makeba were banned.
A time when Sello Chicco Twala could not openly dedicate a song to Nelson Mandela and so we all sang along to: ‘we miss you MANELO where are you?’
Even though we knew that Manelo is Mandela.
Bra Hugh as he’s affectionately called would come through on the radio:’bring him back home to Soweto!’…’Stimela sihamba ngamalahle…’ (Addressing the then situation in the mines).

Globally, we saw the likes of Michael Jackson sing with many others, that ‘We are the world’ track as means to raise funds, but also, global awareness.
We’ve seen the African Writers’ Series produce people like Bessie Head and Chinua Achebe.
We’ve had poets such as Mzwakhe Mbuli.
Who is ever going to forget Mbongeni Mngema and his ‘Township Fever’ and ‘Sarafina!’ productions?

In fact, one review said something along these lines (forgive me for not quoting the exact source, but its on the latest version of the movie: ‘Sarafina!’)
‘The way the story is relayed is unapologetic. Of course this is a black man in South Africa telling it like it is,and in a way that’s never been done before-in film’

Where’s that spirit today?! Where?!

I turn on the radio in the mornings and my ears are smothered by sounds of lyrics telling me to ‘eat that cake Anna – May’
If my memory serves me well, that’s a line from the motion picture:’What’s love got to do with it’ where Ike Turner beats his wife to a cinder due to multiple psychological complexes that he had. Anna-May was coerced into ‘eating that cake’ and what are we soliciting or teaching? What messages are we sending out here?!

Images of emaciated female figurines dominate our visual media, in a country that’s filled with rather voluptuous women. I have spoken to one too many youngsters who end up either bulimic, anorexic, or are indulging in otherwise unhealthy behaviours because we’ve gone and adopted everything that’s not ours.
Where do we draw the line?!

Where’s OUR Mirror, today in 2014?
What’s happened to OUR STORIES down South of the African Continent?
No offence, but I would have loved to have seen someone like errrr John Kani portray Tat’Mandela and not Idris Elba.
I would love to see a strong and powerful portrayal of Mam’Madikizela Mandela by someone OTHER than Jennifer Hudson.
Where’s the authenticity going?

I thought the reason Denzel Washington played the character he did in ‘Cry Freedom’ was due to the era. (Pre-Democratic RSA) and it so turns out that I was wrong.
One American Celebrity even expressed condolences for the passing of Mandela by using Morgan Freeman’s image from the flick: ‘Invictus’.
Do you see the impact and power of celluloid?

I would love for this country to return to a space of realism, that space where we tell it like it is.
This country has fought many battles through its artist’s voices.
Its such a powerful tool that having grown up seeing sitcoms like ‘Sgudi’s Nice, Velaphi, Inkunsela yase Mgungundlovu’…

…Movies featuring the likes of Mary Twala, Ndaba Mhlongo, Nomsa Nene…

Went a long way in terms of informing my black confidence and self worth and self esteem.

When Zapiro came out with his cartoon Strips, it was a powerful thing, the use of humour as a creative tool.
We may not have all liked what he had to say, but that was better for me that paging through the Sunday Paper and reading ‘Garfield’ and the rest of them that didn’t strike a cord.

The Madam&Eve Cartoons came out.
From the uber seriousness of Shows like: ‘Top Level’ with Felicia Mabuza-Suttle, we were presented with the Freedom to laugh at ourselves.
Out came Phat Joe.
Out came David Kau.
Out came shows like: ‘The Pure Monate Show’

I loved the humour! I still do.
We’ve witnessed the successes of ‘laughing @ oneself via Trevor Noah’ as but one example.
Musically, we saw the likes of Busi Mhlongo take Maskhandi to the International Stage.

I recall a song: ‘South Africa we love you, our beautiful land, let’s show the whole world,we can bring peace in our land’ and this was against the backdrop of blue and white flags…
What a dream…What a DREAM!!!

But almost as that dream was over, we also realised that we had to get past that and deal with #REALITY!
Is a real challenge in this country and I am glad that productions like ‘Soul City’ came out.
Very much like Mngema’s Sarafina!, this is an unapologetic production that falls within the realms of #Edutainment.

I can never thank the creators of #Yizo-Yizo enough.
While some of us had the pleasure of attending multi-racial schools and some were unable to see the truth in terms of what was going on @ grass-roots level. One could just not ignore the #REALITY of the situation in #SouthAfricanSchools and something had to be done.

Stats on #crime riddled all.
It came as no surprise that movies like #Jerusalema and #Tsotsi would creep up to the surface.
Again, a wonderful demonstration on the power of art and the artist as a mirror, reflection and social commentator!!!
In recent times, shows like Intersections have surfaced. I am glad.

The down-side to all this then also becomes: censorship.
This is the kind of covert censorship that has been swept under the carpet that I am beginning to find – disturbing, if not altogether contradictory to the very thing that South Africa has been about all along.

Suddenly, some artists are expressing that expression comes at a price.
That price is: ‘today,we have to impress the powers that be, more so than express’…really? South Africa?
The same land that produced:
»’I write what I like’ by Steve Biko
»’Long Walk to Freedom’ by Dr NR Mandela
»Articles by Nat Nakasa
»Articles by Dr John Dube
»’Let my People Go’ by Chief Luthuli
»Sol Plaatjie
So many, and so many more…
They were censored by factors and powers known to be possess ill-intent.

Today’s censorship?! What’s that powered, designed or inspired by?

I recently watched a powerful flick titled: ‘Nothing but the Truth’ by Dr.John Kani…it is so real,it’s pulpable from beyond the screen.
What reason might we have for not seeing more broadcasting of such films on our screens?
These 24/7 channels on Cable TV that present to us and feed us with profanity, half naked women, twisted values and highly superficial messages @ this point in our growth as a country?!

Let’s please take another look at where we are, who we are and where it is we intend to go and once we’re done with that, start making some intellectually, morally, emotionally and spiritually healthy choices about what,how and when we put what on any of our media.

Written by: Thulisa Qangule ©2014


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