Thursday, 19 April 2012

Blacks on white TV - with illustration by Mpumelelo August

The incredibly talented Mpumelelo August's work

I am prone to cynicism about almost everything (including issues of race), thinking about the harsh realities some have to deal with often leaves me unpleasant taste in my mouth and psyche. So, I’ve really been trying to look on the bright side. I try to acknowledge how much more Black folk have to practice their crafts on public platforms. This bubble of delusion was burst when I saw a media campaign advertising Candice Breitz’s exhibition in which she tackles issues of being the white other in South Africa.

To my horror, I saw that she super-imposed pictures of herself into still-shots of the soap, Generations. I’m sure I don’t need to introduce any of you to the vacuous mind-fuck that is Generations.  Is that the Blackness to which constructions of whiteness are juxtaposed???? That is not to say we should be dogmatic about race, it is fluid, a social construct but a lot of meaning has been vested in race, in the supremacy and subjugation of some, so juxtaposing race is quite stupid. 
Breitz's work: image from internet

Because of this 400 year old tale of subjugation, television and mainstream media at large is dominated by white folk. That is supposed to sound more diplomatic than it does, but hey, it’s not a big spoon. It’ll be very difficult for someone to contest that statement but I welcome the challenge. Speaking as a person who has lived south of the Sahara my entire life, I am not claiming that this is the case world over but I’d like to think I speak with some authority. Although I grew up surrounded by Black faces and ZBC tried with all their might to interest us in Gringo and Studio 263 just as SABC did with Velaphi and Bophelo ke Sempego amongst others, I was more drawn to Beverly Hills 90210 and 21 Jump Street, I was fortunate however to grow up in the glory days of Black comedy, the early 1990s where Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and the Cosby Show (Denise Huxtable is one of my biggest style inspirations) provided alternative images and archetypes of Blackness.
Denise Huxtable - image from the web

Fast forward a decade plus later and the situation has changed and remained similar, Anglo-Saxon ideals and images are now projected, alongside other fleeting trends, at an exponential rate thanks to twitter/tumblr/Friendster/the list goes on. Black comedy is mostly a bunch of cheap laughs and playing to every stereotype you can name. This is not to say there isn’t some great content whatever the orientation, we are more similar than we are alike right? However, hardly ever do we question what images of Blackness are portrayed on the stupid box and what those images mean for us and our children.

The sad truth, folks, is that Generations really has come to represent to many people, what Blackness is or at least should be in some people’s South Africa. Swathed in layers of highly flammable satin, layers of hair extension piled on in the suffocating heat and feet squeezed into towering stilettos – that is the average Generations character. Add to this Tyler Perry style stereotypes of Black women as hostile and in the eternal pursuit for male approval and we have a certified recipe for disaster. We are teaching our children that to be is to consume conspicuously and that one must subscribe to one ideal type of beauty, an active effort needs to be made by those who produce and project media images to explore the diverse identities and interests of souls in Black, White, Puerto Rican, Asian, name it skins and we as consumers need to give Generations  and Tyler Perry less ratings if we have any hope of changing the status quo. 

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Martha Graham

Zimbabwe at 32: Rambai maka shinga

When one mentions Zimbabwe, whether around dinner tables with sophisticate folk, in seminars with the scholarly or overloaded minibus taxis, images of police brutality and starving children are immediately conjured. For some, images of Mau-Mau style displacement and terror come up, 'innocent' farmers macheted and shamboked out of their safari-style African dream. Not to mention the pistol-whipping, both literal and figurative, of propaganda into the working class's heads by state police and ruling party youths.

In these moments, amid recurring carelessly thrown about remarks about Zimbabwe's dysfunction (scathing because of their truths), I find myself awash with despondency, it is difficult to stick my neck out, to 'shinga' (be strong) as my patriarchs demand.  At the height of Zimbabwe's famed political and socio-economic meltdown, chapped lips grimaced on the half hour throughout the day as battery powered, car and occasionally electrified radios and TV sets strained to blast "taane minda murambe maka shinga," meaning, "we now have land, stay strong." ZANU-PF had commissioned, probably without pay, its  TV and radio broadcasters to play this skit throughout the day, it was publicized in newspapers and the occasional pamphlet, it was the ruling party's daily rhetoric. The nation was now free of 'imperial domination', free to chart its course ahead. And the conjurers of this grand plan?  I often wonder, how does one sleep peacefully at night, with Operation Murambatsvina ( a systematic, dehumanizing purging of shack and informal settlement dwellers from the city of Harare to make it look pretty for some or other international envoy) on your conscience? I can not answer these questions and the people responsible for this plunder have thus far not been brought to book. What I do know is that their pillows stained, if not with worry then the lather of hair dye, desperate clasps at virile youth. To their pampered wives' chagrin, what a waste of a million thread count really. While their husbands rouse up and arm the poor, they shop up a storm. The old men straightened arthritic backs, lifted their canes and over knobby noses, peered through spectacles pointed at the future. 

As jubilant village women gyrated to the militaristic beat of land acquisition, drenched in copious amounts of the blood of our  forefathers, don't you forget, the septuagenarians continued to stack their riches. Zimbabwe's globally desirable workforce, products of a formidable 82 % literacy rate, starved and hustled into economic exile. Imagine, the generation that read and passed down Dambudzo Marechera, took cheesy pictures next to Harare gardens' abundant bourganvilliea and competed fiercely in education now waits tables and lives at the mercy of iron-fisted immigration departments and hostile local citizenry. Many people are returning home, some are farming, stepping up to the demands of rebuilding the economy but there are many cracks in the wall, a consumption driven economy is steadily being built on the ruins. Does it have any roots if our history hasn't been questioned, re-written, if we don't have any faith in our own capabilities. 

My Zimbabwe is not in the cataract eye of some old man. 
it is not blood drenched land
but rather that which feeds.
It's a tiny mulberry stained hand
the progressively sown seeds
of a questioning mind pursuing knowledge.
I refuse to remember the urge
to spit in a smug officer's face
but rather, David Whitehead lace
warm Pork-pies and chilly Cascades
as i watch the blue and white escapades
of clouds gathered in the Limpopo
and scattered into the Zambezi

My Zimbabwe is not bone, skeletal
it's wrought iron and granite sculpture
Undulating hills of green, eerie mountains
which rise and fall like fountains
of rhythm, Chimurenga songs
the place for which my heart longs
leaves my feet dusty with its soil
rooted to earth
my senses awakened
from sole to soul
a grand departure from the cataract eye of some old man.

Rambai makashinga - the rhetoric continues doesn't it

This video takes me back to very dark days, the legacy of the past decade plus is engraved in our hearts and minds. Dzimba dzamabwe do not crumble, they are only shaken

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Nubi-a-sthete: Zola Chalufu

Meet the beautiful Nokuzola Chalufu. I asked the 20 something year old to tell me about her hair-scapades and style inspiration. Dig in...

"I'm a dreamer, a lover of the arts, collect all things bright and beautiful, love people who make me laugh until my tummy hurts, enjoy listening to peoples stories, love taking random pics, lover of reading, lover of eating and coming up with new recipes, music is the air I breath and my soul mate whom I occasionally cheat on with clothes. I love ugly looking shoes and making them look good hahaha, parks and picnics make me happy, love travelling.
I have fallen in love with Africa and  respect people who take pride in who they are

Some of the things I love in captured moments:
photo moments 

chilling with friends

the beach
music and fringe singles


My Hair Journey
I can write a book about my hair (ok not really), but it has a story and I will try and keep it short.
I have had countless hairdos, from your step 1 relaxers, Black silk, to Dark n Lovely, I tried out most of them. I preferred Dark n Lovely growing up because it gave my hair that “silky look” (gosh like that was cool).
Part of my childhood I had a “schicko”, wish I had photos of that, s-curled the hair, grew it cut it, had the bob cut blah blah… My  Mom used to like curling my hair with rollers especially if we were going to a wedding or somewhere special, I really hated it because for some reason it seemed to make my head look bigger. I liked cornrows, and there was this weird plait called “ithambo la fish” in Zulu which means “fish bone” , the name fitted the plait because it looked  just like a fish bone when done (really wish I had a photo of that) but you can probably imagine it. Wheuw my head kind of experienced it all, different hair looks always excited me (still do).  Enough about my childhood hair drama.
I decided to cut all the relaxer drama 6 years ago(wish I did it sooner), it was really a spontaneous move, I plaited in between and just let my hair grow naturally
mini fro
I plaited my afro every single night before I slept
to avoid it looking shady  the next morning.What I love 
about growing hair naturally is that it’s an unpredictable 
journey,that has whole lot of different crazy stages
before it actually looks decent (it has a lot to do with patience
 as well washed it two two three times a week and moisturized
 it with any good hair food I could get my hands on at that time. 
It eventually looked like this
box braids 
red vintage blues
pin up style

I shaved my afro sadly because I converted the afro to dreads, which did not turn out too well. I do not have photos of the dread-locks-gone-Bad!!! I randomly think of how my afro would look now, but that is just a sad thought, Sigh.

For now I am loving the no hair·Low maintenanceTime saver. 
At the end, hair does grow, but for now I am enjoying the freedom of no hair


when i grow up my hair's gonna look like this

i recently dyed my hair

Friday, 13 April 2012

Nubi-a-sthete: Pam Grier aka the OG Foxy Brown

Famous for her portrayals of bad ass women in  blaxploitation films, Pam Grier circa 1970s is arguably my ultimate hair icon (wig or not), and not just because i have a penchant for guns and taught abs. I'm really considering investing in a wig looking at these pics, some major dress up will be in order.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012


Nubi-a-sthete: Marsha Hunt

Songstress, novelist and social activist Marsha Hunt went to Berkely, protested against the war in Vietnam and later become a stage sensation (and is Mick Jagger's baby mama) She's a breast cancer survivor and looks gorgeous with or without her ridiculously voluminous fro. RESPECT

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

nubi-a-sthete: Shingai Shoniwa

This  style powerhouse was born in Zim (represent!). She's the lead singer and bass guitarist of The Noisettes, not only is she dripping swag goo, her hair is just on some other shit. A little inspiration for all my natural stylistas

Mos Def - New World Water

Saturday, 7 April 2012

if you were wondering where Nicki Minaj got her flow

Digable Planets - Nickle Bag Of Funk

Outfit post: pre-Autumn picnic

Bidding farewell to an eventful summer, a few friends and I headed out to enjoy the lush green and birdsong. I took the opportunity to bear some midriff while I can. Fresh cornrows ( a little beading), a sari top and Indian cotton gypsy-style skirt.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Body no be wood: we say no to colds n flu naturally

Winter is around the corner, and as seasons change our bodies take strain and act out. Colds and flus are the most common signs that our immune systems are taking a beating. So beat the sniffles and dose up on Vitamin C. You can get yours in potent doses in grapefruit, oranges, lemons, kiwi fruit and believe it or not, tomatoes. All that colorful stuff. Fruit juice, smoothies, sliced into cereal &/ yogurt, in salads, as stuffing/sauce if you eat meat, baked with muffins/bread...just juice up! Add to the mix honey (in tea with lemon slices or to sweeten cereal, even on toast) and ginger and your immune system can thank me later.

Jean Depara's Kinshasa 1951 - 1975

Angolan born Jean Depara's collection of images of Kinshasa has been globally exhibited, should you ever come across his work, devour it with caution, it is delicious. A sneak pic


The outfit speaks for itself

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Health and Hair-scapades - the grow out challenge

The state of one's hair and skin is often (but not always) an indicator of what's happening in the body and mind. I have notoriously problematic skin and have tried too many products to mention. My hair was also showing some strain so I did a mini-chop and revised my health habits. Exercise, at least 2L water a day and eating as close to earth as I can = happy naps. Spot control is steadily en route