Rastafari Trade Routes: Part 1

I have been a Rastafari devotee for more than a decade, like many brothers and sisters in the movement/faith/lifestyle, I have faced many challenges and weathered many storms. The most difficult battles have been wither within the family institution and the state.  The difficulties that one experiences from society in general are negligible compared to the amount of pressure that one faces from loved ones as well as the state institutions such as the Legal system, the Police as well as Government and the Health systems.

It is difficult to maintain a state of objectivity or academic detachment from the subject when one is writing about ones own life. But this is what I have attempted to do at various times when writing or speaking about the enigmatic global as well as personal Rastafari Movement. Suffice to say, I still believe that there is so much opportunity for Rasta’s to channel the world towards Peaceful and Equitable co-existence, and that this can be done from within any sector, from the Cultural to the Business levels.

One only has to look at the foundations and the progress of the movement since its inception to realize just how pertinent I and I are to global progress. It is also obvious that there is always room for improvement because Rastafari is also not a homogeneous cult, but a diverse and dynamic movement and lifestyle made up of individuals with multitudinous goals.

Let us deal with the various aspects of Rastafari:

1. Spirituality

2. Culture

3. Global and Local Scope

4. The Music

5. Economic Power

6. Present, Future Visions and Ways of Being Rasta

7. A S.W.O.T. Analysis

 

Conclusion:

 

 

 

References:

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

My Presentation at 2017 Essence Festival

Esoteric Africa Masterclass: Afrikans In Science Fiction

Facilitator: Menzi Maseko

Organisations:  Green Ankh Works/ CineCulture / Mercurial Africa

Dates: 30 September 2017 (?)

Time: 3pm

Venue: Mangosuthu University of Technology (?)

The Guideline:

  1. What is the purpose behind studying Esoteric African works?
  2. Which subjects did you do in high school and which institution did you start crafting an understanding of the facts and myths behind African cultures?
  3. How long does it take to gather information about Afrocentric characters to help heighten the environment they are surrounded by?
  4. How does Esoteric African study help influence the work black filmmakers create a world in a film believable?
  5. How do we create a solid voice in the industry that is young with regards to the Science Fiction genre?

 

Introduction

Life is a collection of Stories, some stories are well told and available for all to hear and see, while others are seldom told or told falsely. Afrilka as the cradle of Humanity possesses some of the most ancient stories. Before there were the great legends of the Pharoahs and the ancient Egyptian/Kemetic Goddesses and Gods, there were mythological tales of the Creators of the universe.

They are still known by many names, but very few of us know the power and significance behind those names. It is in our own interest to search for those ancient stories and retell them with the benefits of new technologies, mediums and Artistic expressions.

Afrika is a land of many contrasts; perhaps we should simply call them contradictions. Many of these contradictions are not Self-Created, in other words, we as Afrikans have not invented much of the confusion and states of poverty we exist in. One of the most pervasive questions that come up in various sectors is the one concerning Afrika’s wealth. The Rastafarian revolutionary Artist best known as Peter Tosh puts it this way: “Africa is the richest place / yet still has the poorest race.” The Artist puts it as a statement and not as a question. In other words it is a matter of fact. But what is the cause of Afrikan people’s poverty? Surely there is a level of dysfunction or a serious discrepancy within our systems or our institutions.

We all know about the colonial and apartheid history that ravaged Afrika for centuries, some may say that the legacy of these evil systems continues today but the slavery is now in the minds and even Spiritual lives of AbaNtu/the Afrikans.  The challenge we now have is Freeing ourselves from Mental, Systemic as well as Institutional slavery.

In this presentation we shall deal with Esoteric African systems. There may be many definitions to this term, but we shall choose to simplify it, hoping that we shall have more opportunity to delve deeper some other time.

Define: Esoteric denotes something that is hidden or concealed. Much of what I will mention is not new yet the essential and scientific value of it is un-explored. Esoteric Africa then is the knowledge of the hidden treasures of Afrika’s wisdom. Afrika’s knowledge is concerned with healing the person and the Earth from Within. We see ourselves as Ancient Spiritual beings, Divine beings having a human experience. The quality of that experience depends largely on how much we Know about our True Self.

Methodology:

We will utilize the multi-lineal methods that have been used by Afrocentric teachers, Pan Africanists, Black Consciousness scholars and activists as well as Healers from various Afrikological disciplines. The essence of Our Presentation is akin to a Healing Process as well as a Rebuilding process. We are healing from thousands of years of brutal detachment with the Land and the Ways of our Ancestors, Esoteric as well as exoteric traditions that ensured that we are still alive this very day.

As children of Afrika we shall begin with acknowledging our Ancestors and the Tree of Life. We Shall also Acknowledge our predecessors and present ourselves according to the values of Ma’at or UBUNTU. Ubuntu/Ma’at is what connects us both socially as well as cosmologically.

An Outline of Afrikology

An Outline of Afrikan Indigenous Knowledge Systems  

Afrikology is essentially an Afrocentric methodology that incorporates various schools of thought towards creating a logical framework for the research, study and promotion of Everything Afrikan. Afrikology with a K is uniquely used by specific scholars who place Afrika and Afrikan women and youth especially at the centre of all solutions.  In the words of professor Dani Nabudere:

African scholars must pursue knowledge production that can renovate African culture, defend the African people’s dignity and civilizational achievements and contribute afresh to a new global agenda that can push us out of the crisis of modernity as promoted by the European Enlightenment.”

In keeping with these words of wisdom, the Institute of Afrikology continues on its mission to: “Provide an Afrikan Centred system of education, incorporating a practical approach to Indigenous Knowledge Systems, Afrikan Renaissance, Health, Organic Farming processes and in-culcating the philosophy of Ubuntu.” – Menzi Maseko, Rock ‘n Rule, 2016.

 

  1. Opportunities and Challenges Posed by Afro-Futurism

 

  • Much of Afrikan knowledge is Oral and Customary. It does not take such a long time for an Afrikan child to imbibe and restore their sense of Afrikanness.
  • As Long as the impediments and social constructions such as religion and colonial education are limited or eliminated, it only requires a knowledge of Self, Family line and choosing a Discipline to focus on.
  • The Technological era presents great opportunities for learning as the internet has opened communication channels, one can download PDF’s from various Afrocentric teachers from Marcus Garvey, to Empress Afua to Ra Un Nefer Amen and Credo Mutwa, one can even join groups on Social Media where some Esoteric knowledge is transmitted through Animation and Meditation and Yoga classes.
  • Filmmakers who are Afrocentric are few and far between but those that do exist remain part of the Documentary, Animation/Comic and Social Media platforms, but there is very limited number of Fiction/Science Fiction makers due to structural and budget constraints.

 

  1. Esoteric VS Exoteric Knowledge

 

  • What are the phenomena that are known and measurable?
  • What are the hidden phenomena that can only be subjectively and contextually experienced?
  • What are the types of knowledge that should be Open to Public and Which Ones should remain within Afrikan Secret Societies and Initiation schools.

 

 

  1. Scope and Relevance of Afrikan Esoteric Concepts:

 

In everything we do we must evaluate the Need, Necessity and Value of it in today’s terms. How does knowledge of Afrikan systems help us to Create Better Lives, Better Arts and Sustain Ma’at or Ubuntu in all that we do?

  1. How does Esoteric African study help influence the work black filmmakers create a world in a film believable?

Afrocentric study is essential and enriching to filmmakers who are keen to develop a appreciation of Pre-colonial Afrikan knowledge. Many books by Black science fiction writers exist and many of them contain excellent and researched materials from the Global Afrikan sources.

  1. How do we create a solid voice in the industry that is young with regards to the Science Fiction genre?

The key is to develop reading and critical thinking skills. Reading material or books and digital information developed by Afrikans must be made available from primary schools to institutions of Higher Learning.

Background:

  1. The Orisha or Santeria System/ Candomble in Brazil

An outline of the concepts of the Yoruba originated Divinity system and its Global scope.

THE IMPORTANT CONCEPTS OF ASHË, and IWA PELE. There are two concepts that are vital to the core beliefs of Santeria.

The first one Is Ashe (also known as Ase, Ache or Axe). It means very simply life force.

Ashe is generative energy that Olodumare has blessed us all with. It is energy; breath, life force and we cannot exist without it. Ashe gives us the power to create and the wisdom to see things through. Without Ashe there is no life.

Iwa Pele, means in essence good or gentle character. For Santeria followers, initiated as priests or not, It is important to grasp the meaning and entity of Iwa Pele.  Living with good grace is what gives us a purpose in life. As spiritual beings we are responsible for living the best life that we have been blessed with.” – https://oshunschild.com/2013/11/08/making-ocha-and-the-initiation-procedure/

  1. The Concepts of One God or Creator With Many Names and Attributes

“There is only One God. Like many modern religions, Santeria followers believe in just one God, the Creator known as Olodumare.  It is neither a Polytheistic nor a Pagan religion, nor an animistic one.  The reason why there is confusion is that many refer to the Orishas as Gods.  Strictly speaking, the Orisha are not Gods but aspects of Olodumare that are manifested in the natural world around us.

It is thought that there are hundreds of Orisha, but there are some that are more popular in Santeria than others. Amongst the most well-known Orishas are Elegua, the trickster deity.  Respect is paid to Elegua before any other Orisha. Ogun, the blacksmith warrior and Ochosi the hunter. They are collectively known as “The Warriors.

Yemaya, The Mother deity that rules the Ocean and is the mother of us all.

Oshun is the deity of the sweet waters and is also the patron of all that makes life worth living, the arts, music, love and sweetness.

Obatala is the King of the White Cloth, the Owner of all uninitiated heads and stands for wisdom, patience and justice. He also reminds us to respect our elders.

Shango is the King of the Drum, a deity who was once a King of Oyo. His Domain is Thunder and lightening.

Oya is the Orisha that guards the gates of the Cemetery; She is also Queen of the market place. There are many many others, all who have equal importance.  Each individual is thought to be a child of one or other of the Orishas.” –

The Inner and Outer Life of Initiates and Believers

Dress Code, Hygiene and Sex:

White is the emblem of the iyawó and it must be worn for one year and 7 days after initiation; this is both in public and at home.

We Shall Explore How Various Afrocentric Divinity Systems Have Many Things In Common and How these Esoteric Symbols Have Permeated religious practices Globally. The Orisha System has a lot in common with Ubungoma which we shall also explore.

Female iyawós wear for the first 3 months a shawl, skirt, bloomers, panties, stockings, brassiere, undershirt, slip, long or calf length skirt, shirt with sleeves and no cleavage showing, white closed shoes, handkerchief and hat.

  1. Important Studies and Research Regarding Afrikan Spirituality

These days there are many scholars and writers interested in the revival of Afrikan spirituality. But there are few names that come to mind, such as Isanusi Credo Vusamazulu Mutwa, Dr Mdende, Dr Malidome Some and Shekhem Ra Un Nefer Amen and Dr V.V.O. Mkhize, but I shall mention the work of two lesser known researchers.

A study of literature on the essence of ubungoma (divination) and conceptions of gender among izangoma (diviners)

By Winifred Ogana; Vivian Besem Ojong Post-doctoral student, School of Nursing and Public Health, University of KwaZulu-Natal.

 UBUNGOMA: “Literature highlights some personality traits are more apparent in females as compared to male izangoma. Among the Zulu a diviner is expected, first and foremost, to uphold high moral ideals. To this end, it is befitting for isangoma to be in ‘a state of light and purity in the profane world she lives in’ (Ngubane 1977: 86-87). A diviner is expected to espouse these attributes always in order to play the vital role in linking the living and their ancestral spirits. In illustrating the importance of upholding above-average moral values, the author observes that the diviner’s attire, which includes white strips of goatskin, are permanently strapped over her shoulders and breasts. In Zulu culture the colour white symbolizes good, but can also signify extraordinary goodness or power, which izangoma enjoy if they remain upright. Lee (1969: 140) offers a similar explanation when he says: ‘ Possession imbues an individual with social status, since his or her ways are clear’”

 

REFERENCES

We shall also explore how Ogana and Ojong deal with matters of Gender equity and Power in their work.

Here is an extract from their Abstract:

In South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Province, the isangoma (diviner) remains firmly entrenched at the apex of the hierarchy of African traditional medicine (ATM). This review article raises two questions. The first interrogates the essence of ubungoma (divination), while the second focuses on gendered notions in this line of work.
The latter question probes four issues: why izangoma (plural for isangoma) are mostly women; whether these females possess disproportionate power as compared to their male counterparts; and whether such womenfolk possess their power by virtue of being female or izangoma per se. The fourth aspect addresses sexual orientation of ubungoma.

Plausible explanations for these questions were gleaned from a scanty – albeit fascinating information – collated through a literature search and personal communication.

Female izangoma were found to have attributes that outclass their male counterparts. This review also interrogates the manner in which African beliefs have been represented in literature. Western epistemologies have tended to misrepresent the realm of African beliefs by dismissing them as mere superstition. Alternatively, they create boundaries of intellectual segregation by treating African beliefs as cognitive false consciousness. In contemporary South Africa this form of misrepresentation has not deterred Africans from seeking the services of izangoma.

Keywords: Ubungoma, Divination, Izangoma, Divine, Initiation, Indigenous Knowledge Systems

At the beginning of the 21st Century most izangoma (diviners) among the Zulu in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal Province are almost exclusively women. Despite being female in a patriarchal society, the female izangoma remain at the pinnacle of the hierarchy of African traditional healers in the province.

Historical Background

Interest in the gendered nature of ubungoma originated from the findings of an earlier qualitative study, where among a sample of 10 izangoma, only one was male.

Over three decades ago, the World Health Organization (WHO 1978) officially acknowledged the importance of traditional health, recognizing its holistic approach encompassing the environmental, social and spiritual aspects of illness that biomedicine does not always take into account. In South Africa, among reasons for the reluctance to endorse African traditional medicine (ATM) earlier is that indigenous systems were, and still are, equated with negative practices such as witchcraft (Green 2005).

Nonetheless, in contemporary South Africa, ATM is gaining popularity as the prohibitively high cost of allopathic medical care coupled with expensive pharmaceuticals pushes patients to seek the services of traditional healers (Kofi-Tsekpo 2004). It is for such reasons that he dismisses the frequently touted figure that 85 percent of Africa’s people use traditional medicine, observing instead that the figures are much higher and continue to rise. The popularity of ATM can also be explained from other perspectives. In 2004, former Deputy Health Minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge acknowledged that traditional health practice had defied easy definition in legal terms (South Africa Government Information 2004). Hence, she borrowed the following definition used for ‘African Traditional Medicine’ from World Health Organization’s Centre for Health Development. African traditional medicine is defined as:

The dearth of information underlines the fact that while gender has become a major research focus in African Studies in the past two, men have rarely been the subject of gender research. If anything, the study of masculinity on this continent is still in its infancy (Miescher & Lindsay 2003). Hopefully in future, interested researches will fill this lacuna – “http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1011-76012015000100004

Winifred OganaI; Vivian Besem OjongII

The FUTIURE NOW:

In Conclusion we must take a brief look at the Future of Afrikan Esoteric Knowledge …

Tricksters and Animal Fables. Many African myths feature a trickster. The trickster may be a god, an animal, or a human being. His pranks and mischief cause trouble among gods, among humans, or between gods and humans.

West Africans tell many tales of a wandering trickster spirit known as Eshu among the Yoruba and as Legba among the Fon. This trickster is associated with change and with quarrels; in some accounts, he is the messenger between the world and the supreme god.

Animal tricksters are often small, helpless creatures who manage to outwit bigger and fiercer animals. Anansi, the spider trickster of the Ashanti people, is known throughout West and Central Africa. Tortoises and hares also appear as tricksters. In one such tale, the hare tricks a hippopotamus and an elephant into clearing a field for him.

Other stories about animals show them helping humans. The San Bushmen say that a sacred praying mantis gave them words and fire, and the Bambara people of Mali say that an antelope taught them agriculture. A popular form of entertainment is the animal fable, a story about talking animals with human characteristics. Many fables offer imaginative explanations of features of the natural world, such as why bats hang with their heads downward or why leopards have spots.

Read more: http://www.mythencyclopedia.com/A-Am/African-Mythology.html#ixzz4u69c4BRO

Reality and Imagination Influence Genius in Sci-Fi

Are there any stories that particularly influenced these novellas?

I started writing Binti when I was in a deeply bothered state. Much of the Binti series came from personal struggles, narratives, and imaginings. I can’t really name any novels that were a specific influence.

When I look back, I can see flashes of Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind in Binti. The character of Nausicaä has a lot of similarities to Binti: both are agents of change and mediators. Binti, however, is far more nonviolent. Also, some other elements from the graphic novels and animated films found their way into the DNA of the Binti trilogy. I’m a big fan of Star Wars, and my love for that series and world helped me find the courage to write my own space opera. Lastly, there was a cartoon I loved from the ‘80s called Galaxy High. It was about an intergalactic high school. I loved that cartoon.

https://www.theverge.com/2017/5/25/15610998/nnedi-okorafor-binti-home-night-masquerade-cover-interview-read

Heroes of Black Science Fiction

In the late 1980s, Butler published her Xenogenesis trilogy—Dawn (1987), Adulthood Rites (1988) and Imago (1989). This series of books explores issues of genetics and race. To insure their mutual survival, humans reproduce with aliens known as the Oankali. Butler received much praise for this trilogy. She went on to write the two-installment Parable series—Parable of the Sower (1993) and Parable of the Talents (1998).

In 1995, Butler received a “genius” grant from the MacArthur Foundation—becoming the first science-fiction writer to do so—which allowed her to buy a house for her mother and herself.

 

https://www.biography.com/people/octavia-e-butler-38207

“I wanted to write a novel that would make others feel the history: the pain and fear that black people have had to live through in order to endure.”

Phinda Ufak’ugesi: For The Love of the Electronic Sound

Couch Session

Buzzing with the adrenaline inducing sounds of Jungle inna mi newly dread-less hed …

I remain in awe of Music, its healing and revealing powers …

feeling great and newly liberated but still feeling rather weird … the music helps …heals visible and invisible wounds …and as Marley sang “When it hits u feel no pain …”

Its a Jungle in here and its a Jungle out there …

No its not drum and bass, its Jungle, a ruff and dexterous mixture of Reggae, R’n B throwbacks, EDM, Dance-Hall and Pure Energy …great vibes to drive to at night. Anyone hearing what I listen to would think I am truly mad, how can one listen to Terrence Blanchard’s Flow during the day and DJ Hype’s  – Jungle Warfare – Droll de Bass at night … same day …transitions from organic to electronic soundscapes …and remain sane?

I have just returned home from a Listening session …

Just read an article on Felix Laband ….in this nice Counter-Culturish journal/magazine, I think its called The Lake*, reminds me of one of my fave Odd Future …songs “Meet Me At The Lake …”

Anyway, I was introduced to Felix Laband’s eclectic electronic vibes by an odd friend called XJ aka Jobe aka many aka’s … Hey I did not know that Laband was from PMB, always thought his progressive otherworldly and often dark sounds had some kinda Jozi, Cape Town thing about them …and I have been to some gigs where he was playing in Cape Town …he is kinda legendary …Anyways …this is not really about him …but the article exposed as lot of basic truisms about the NIGHT Life. Mine is almost over with due to fact that I am married with Triplets …what with curfews and what not …but we are at peace …

When I got home, I wanted to simply write about the listening experience organised by Russel Hlongwane, one of Durban’s best curators, organizers, musical, artistic, lifestyle things coordinator extraordinaire …

This Couch Session, although there was no couch … featuring dude from Switzerland was advertised thusly : “Zurich based producer and beatmaker, Melodiesinfonie, is doing his South African tour, part of which includes a BeatLab at the Fak’Ugesi Digital Festival currently happening in Jhb. Melodiesinfonie will spend four days in Durban where he is hosting a workshop in Groutville, gig at the Winston Pub and a couch session/ meet ‘n greet at Khaya Records.

The discussion will circle around Melodiesinfonie method, his influence and production style and the experience of being a hip hop/ jazz – soul – electronica musician in Switzerland. He will also share his reflections of participating at the Beat Lab. He is also looking to meet and engage with the local community of musicians, producers, DeeJays and consumers. He would also present a brief set or maybe play around with his gadgets, who knows. We will also have our friends from Weheartbeat which is an integrated multi-media beat platform consisting of a concept record store, live events, workshops, listening sessions, monthly podcast releases, webisode features, music compilations, clothing and exhibitions.” 

It was a joyful experience. I drove home characteristically early. But I was glad I got to play my childhood faves Donna Summer*, and Michael Franks on the vinyl player …

But when I drove home I put on my brother Khaya’s Junglist tunes, Heavy Bass, Hardcore Reggae, Electronic, Drum and Bass and positive messages … Hopefully one day I shall write a little more about the Jungle Sound, about Dub and about Reggae and about Why such a Beautiful Coastal City such as Durban still does not have a Jungle/Reggae/Dub scene that is lucrative enough for Artists to make a living …

But then again, much of the Sounds that are discerning and require true Artistry ever get the mass appeal …many Artists from around the world can testify …Its cold out there outside the Pop World …

But as the Junglist said in the mix: “Only the fittest of the fittest shall survive …kill all the fuckery out there”

The only good system is a Sound system.

 

 

On the dangers of Self-Help Guru’s

The pursuit of Wisdom as a precondition to joy, happiness and proximity to the Divine is as ancient as the Step Pyramids of ancient Kemet and Nubia, older than the plethora of temples in all of the East and beyond. Humanity’s search for the knowledge that would free us from what we perceive as ignorance and suffering is remarkably archaic. But one wonders whether after so much has been learned, why is it that Self Knowledge remains ever so elusive to many people?

Today there is a huge commercial market dedicated solely to what is called Self-Help books. There are just as many Guru’s from India to Senegal, Mali to the heartlands of the USA and all imaginable countries – men and women who are supposedly the chosen ones, the messiah’s and light bearers whose sole purpose is to liberate all of us from the darkness of our own being. As I had just lamented to my younger brother Khaya, all of these Guru’s books are repeating the same message – it does not matter how unique one may claim to be, they are all saying the same thing with just a minuscule amount of personal touch or style. This evening I told my brother how shocked I was at what I read earlier from Osho*. Without saying too much let me just quote him:

“Capitalism is not an ‘ism’ at all; just don’t get too obsessed by the word. Sometimes words become too important to us and we tend to forget the reality. Capitalism is not an ideology; it is not imposed on the society, it is a natural growth. It is not like communism, or fascism, or socialism – these are ideologies; they have to be imposed. Capitalism has come on its own.” (page 69, Osho, 2003)

Needless to say, even though I am not surprised that this is coming from Osho, who plies his trade from proverbial shock and awe, I became worried about the impact that such misleading words might have on young impressionable minds, who read the rest of this mans work, which is clearly a mixture of the truth and blatant nonsense. My brother gave a clear answer: “Osho is a charlatan, he is like all these so called new age teachers, getting rich by exploiting ancient knowledge.” Suddenly it made so much sense, because Osho and all the New Agers like himself are in the business of selling something that should not be sold at all. They are like the pharmaceutical companies, ensuring that you keep coming back for the same prescription, and they are connected to the whole network of the sickness business. They are not at all at the service of humanity, but like a talented Artist who decides to satisfy his or her baser instincts, would rather make a quick buck instead of producing something Soulful and Authentic.

This is how Osho, prefaces his book, aptly titled Come, Come, Yet Again Come: “You have heard many people, you have read many people; but hearing me or reading me is a totally different experience, for the simple reason that I am not a speaker, an orator, a lecturer. My words are not important. What is important is your silent listening.” 

Now can you imagine if one has to choose to listen to either Osho or Lenin, regarding the same subject of capitalism? Please read the following and make up your own mind.

Osho writes :”Capitalism is individualism, it is not a social structure, it is more than that, it is just democracy and freedom. Capitalism is pure freedom. Of course, everybody is not capable of creating wealth, hence it creates jealousy. But we should not be dominated by jealousy. Capitalism is not an ideology at all, that’s why I prefer it.” ( Osho, page 77, Come …)

Lenin writes: “Finance capital, concentrated in a few hands and exercising a virtual monopoly, exacts enormous and ever increasing profits from the floating of companies, issue of stock, state loans, etc., tightens the grip of financial oligarchies and levies tribute upon the whole of society for the benefit of monopolies.” ( Lenin, Imperialism, The Highest Stage of Capitalism, A Popular Outline, 1939)

Lenin continues to give examples of how pervasive and detrimental to human well-being and progress capitalism really is. To think that the one author writes at the turn of the 20th century while the other writes such hogwash at the beginning of the 21st century makes me shiver. But the point I am raising here is that there is more to the world than capitalism or communism.; yet to simply pretend that a system that has rendered the world a market rather than a home for the species, a system that has turned even water and many other natural resources into profit is the ultimate freedom, is lunacy.

Communism has its flaws, but at least it gives a cogent rationale towards making a world a better place, a more equitable and fairer place to live. The New Age Guru’s simply tell you to listen to them and take their opinion as the truth, because they are unique, possessing some uncanny wisdom.

I have just discovered this disturbing story from another blog:

( http://matthewremski.com/wordpress/boycott-satyanandas-literature-and-methods-until-reparations-are-made-for-sexual-abuse/ )  but I am also adding what I think is a great response from a reader: ”

Thank you so, so much for this well-researched and very thoughtful piece, that sadly only scratches the surface of much vaster web of deceit, hypocrisy and abuse within the yoga, guru and ashram worlds. Unfortunately these things are far too often swept under the rug. The old model of deifying our beloved teachers I think needs to be reconsidered in this day and age, as they so often seem to buckle under their own impossible standards and go undercover with behaviors that, under a veil of secrecy, become increasingly more depraved. Someday I hope these leaders figure out that most people respect and admire self-effacement, humility, and transparency. Nobody respects a liar, abuser and hypocrite. The Bihar School and all who are associated with Satyananda’s teachings have an opportunity here to set an almost unprecedented example of fearless adherence to yogic principles by publicly acknowledging, condemning and apologizing for these abuses, and as you said, take steps to make amends to the victims.

On a side note, I think the spelling is Niranjanananda, nor Niranjananda. 😉”

Compositionz -Undoing The Other-ring

After viewing Sphephelo Mnguni’s exhibition for the first time, I wanted to remark that his work, although probing into uncomfortable racial and gendered narratives, appears to NOT BE ANGRY. Yes, there is a lot of red and a lot of aspects that provoke one to reflect with concern over the un-transformed state of our Urban settings, but the Artist appears to have measured his message quite evenly, making his testimony in what seems to be a more reflective/ mirroring and objective way. Speaking during the launch of the exhibition, Mnguni mentioned that though he has a story to tell, he is eager to emphasize that his is “Not the only story.”  He urged us all to find in his work, a way to tell our own stories and face our own fears and prejudices. To question the spaces we exist in and often take for-granted as merely given. It is possible that I may be misreading his messages but as a person who also grew up in the Township before moving to the Suburbs, I saw so much of myself in this depictions of taxis moving along the ‘white area” along the walls, the  White routes in and out of the Ghetto. It is a story of Separate Development and deliberate race based underdevelopment, it is also a story of violence against the black body and as Mnguni also mentioned, the “Shameful violence against the Black woman.” The image of the primus stove, conjured up images of nights in the Township of KwaMashu where my Grandmothers would vigorously pump this hazardous ‘poor peoples stove’ in order to cook for us and keep us warm. But let me begin this way.

It was a serendipitous to walk into TheOtherRoom, an arts, books and music space situated next to Khaya Records at the corner of Lilian Ngoyi and Florida Road in Durban’s Morningside suburb. Being one of Durban’s burgeoning vinyl record companies which is just one  area where history is brought alive so vividly by the kind of music that issues from within these walls. This particular afternoon was even more special as I walked into the space while a song called Ma-Afrika by Sister Cool was blasting from the record player. Sister Cool happens to be a Afro-Pop group which released this record through Cool Spot Productions way back in 1989. Before I proceeded towards my mission of viewing Sphephelo Mnguni’s installation titled Compositionz* in the OtherRoom and displayed all over the passage walls, i read these interesting words on the back of the Sister Cool album sleeve: “Afrika, Everything About You Appeals To All Nations.

Entering The OtherRoom I sat down on a stack of magazine cuttings, to view a film titled Ubuqhophololo/Staircase, Created and Directed by Sphephelo Mnguni. I was not too surprised to hear the distinctive guitar refrain aka Madala-Line of KZN legend Madala Kunene forming the first part of the film. The all too familiar Township scene that is shown against this musical background is both disturbing and intriguing in its ordinariness. Mnguni’s rendering of  black and white light, space and the textures of the shacks is a cinematographic masterstroke. After we see a Black boy running through the precarious pathways in the shack-lands carrying a 2 liter Coca Cola bottle half-filled with a clear liquid which we later discover to be paraffin, the scene shifts to a depiction of an older Black youth going to fetch water from the communal tap. While everything around him is rendered in Black and White, the 10 liter containers he uses exude a golden glow.  Once he returns into his one room shack he proceeds to have a bath, but while he is doing so, the screen is halved so that we also see a white woman in an advert for Palmolive soap, which appears to be a skin-lightening ingredient. The youth is applying soap and water on his face while the white lady also wipes her own face with this Palmolive, the image immediately reminds me of Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin-White Masks*. Mnguni’s work as evidenced by many juxtapositions and scenes in this short-film and shot-through the whole gallery space presents us with the unmistakable nuances of the Black Consciousness tradition. So the Fanonian imagery is obviously not a mistake. Infact, although the young Mnguni does not come across as a deliberately political or ideologically motivated Artist, it is clear from viewing his work that there is no fence sitting here and that everything is political whether we want it that way or not.

I am not sure which aspect of this expansive and thought-provoking work to begin with as all of it is composed in such a way that one can see the politically fraught transitions from Township to the Suburb that part of this work explicitly focuses on. I am also careful not to give away to much information, as it is best to view the work for oneself. I will revisit this work and write a little more and perhaps add some images.

Leaving the gallery, these are the rough notes I jotted on my journal:

Draft Review: “Compositions, Collages, Co-existence, Confluence, Conditioning, Art as a conduit…

All these terms and more, come together in Mnguni’s installation work, visual arts, music and a psychological exploration of what it means to commute daily from a place of blackness to a place of whiteness while knowing that you are part of the majority population – yet the way the city is planned still makes you feel like The Other, the alien in your own native land. The work somehow reflects the character, personality and current conditions of the artist himself. Whether his work may be categorized as social-commentary, protest-art is speculative and would probably only box the Artist into some concept coined by both liberal and conservative viewers from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.

What strikes me about this massive and expansive work is how it is devoid of any condemnation, bitterness or confusion. It is as the title suggests, Composed. It is the Artists work acting as a mirror to a society that is still grappling with the legacies of colonialism, apartheid and a convoluted nationalism. Mnguni’s voice reminds me of how Hip Hop mentions everything that is happening around us yet does not claim to hold solutions or any antidotes. The writing is literally on the wall. Sphephelo Mnguni is really a promising and intelligently articulate young Artist to watch closely. His sense of compassion and revolutionary consciousness is original, distinct and quite refreshing to see.” –

The Exhibition, titled Compositionz is up for the whole Heritage Month of September. Check it out and lets tell our own stories.

Menzi Maseko (c)