first published here: https://reprobatemagazine.uk/2016/11/19/review-tokyo-elegy/
December 3, 2016
December 1, 2016
November 29, 2016
I have a somewhat rigid approach to writing about the work, whether it be critical of favourable or complimentary or scathing – I hold it all at a distance. I am not yet mature enough to not read it at all (I think that only comes with great maturity and self-confidence) but I am just old enough to know that it is vital not to get taken “off course” by other people’s opinions or takes on the works. By which I don’t mean to sound churlish, but to convey to you something of the distance at which I read about my work (although I do still want to read what is written). It is paradoxical and I have not solved this yet.
i’m immersed in editing this film. i see a lot of you. your face goes by, your words too, but most of all it’s your gestures that i end up hanging on to. editing every film is like taking a crash course on editing. in this one, because there were so many words spoken i’m finding the resolve to lose words altogether and rely on images and music to tell the story of the disappearance of the intellectuals. it’s a document of complicity.
saturday 12 November 2016
November 28, 2016
From Alcatraz to Robben Island is a page
in my notebook away.
I said goodbye to the Devil last night,
bought her one last bourbon.
Tho’ we parted as friends
I won’t see her again.
She’s got a mean streak, is not to be trusted.
From Robben Island to Alcatraz is a
tightrope walk away.
Hope I don’t slip or get busted.
Well I walked up Haight looking for my dream.
What I got was a row of shops selling me packages of a scene.
Now anarchy’s on offer and the Anti-
Christ’s marked down,
it’s a post-Apocalypso special.
But what I don’t understand
is why the bars all shut down
at 2am in San Francisco.
The Devil ‘n me we hung out
on Mason, just jazzin’ with the deadbeats,
listening to their squalor, watchin’
the tables get turned. Changing of the
guard took place about six so we rolled in
to the Punjab. Waiting for our curries,
Devil got listless, start in to breathin’ fire
all over the place.
Damn! She irritate me. I mean
we buddies ‘n all
but this flame-on shit jes draw attention
to the fact that we strangers in town,
who need that ferchrissakes?
Devil she jes don’ give a shit, she say,
“I is Lucifer. I do what I please.
God knows I do. God knows.”
I think about what God knows about
me. All those ladies I abused, especially
the ones that loved me, them the most.
Lord yes, God knows all that. Still shines
her sun down on me. Still breathes her
cool breath on me when my brow be
sweatin’. What about the Devil?
She got a conscience?
I ask her. She say, “All God’s
chillun got a conscience. Conscience
like a sell-by date of the soul.”
“But you the Devil. You got a soul?”
“I’m God’s favourite Angel, niggah,
I am ALL soul!”
Devil snuck outta da Punjab.
I finish my korma. Sip that mango
lassi. Whoopee, Devil sure
one touchy sunnoffabish!
Captain Hook is a veteran.
Usedta believe in the Marlboro
Man. Now he’s not allowed to
smoke in public. Captain Hook
says to me “I think we’re both
insane.” I reply “Aren’t we all,
Captain Hook is snoozin’
Under his bowler hat.
Now can you top that?
This is how it started
In the beginning there was
Just the time before time
No space either
Nothing you could touch,
walk into or out of
Then the goddess got lonely
wanted some company
a mirror to reflect in and on
Youniverse came birthed as
electric and magnetic energies
call ‘em male and female
harmony, melody and rhythm
these are the keys to creation
Well the sun’s shining brightly,
it’s almost Spring equinox but there’s
a cold wind blowing so I stay wrapped
in my pony skin.
I just ordered a second cup of coffee.
It’s drinkable; my license to sit in
this lonely corner diner on 9th and Lincoln
writing this summons to you.
What more can I add?
Wish you were here to hold on to
when they kick me out of that bar
tonight at 2am in San Francisco.
Sitting in the Blue Front Café window
watching Haight Ashbury’s multicoloured
petals of innocence unfold with the accuracy
of a razor blade or a judicious helping of
Louisiana Hot Sauce.
The world is cool now in the late
afternoon breeze and even the
trees can’t be bothered to take
shelter from the man in the moon
and his candy coated darts of loneliness.
There is no cure for the underdose
of affection that’s an inevitable side-
effect of the strychnine kick from
the tabuloid and the download bug
that pretended to communicate while
you got on-line. Then before you knew
it we were all in line for the sales pitch
fix that hooked us up to the brain-
machine that thinks our thoughts
for us while we go endlessly
shopping at the identity bazaar
looking for the requisite garments
to cover up the scars that were left
when they stole our souls.
I was walking up Eddy,
turned left into Divisadero,
found you this birthday card
in a shop called Gargoyle.
Gonna mail it tomorrow.
When you get it I want you to know
you’re my hero.
Yeah sure, I can go it alone,
I’m self-sufficient. I’ve got my pony
skin jacket, my boots made for walking.
It’s not that I’m needy.
I’d simply prefer to have you at my
side tonight when they call last round
in all those bars that shut down at
2am in San Francisco.
OK. Now check this. I’m sitting in
the Cha Cha Cha on the corner of
Shrader ‘n Haight. Minding my own
business. Sipping on a bottle of Cerveza
Pacifico. Waiting for my black bean soup
to arrive. Dude walks in. Ferocious looking
Afropessimist. Face all chewed up like he been
through something real bad. Napalm.
Walks straight up to me. Big loud voice.
Muddy Waters big.
“You know what?”
he barks the question at me.
I sip my Pacifico slowly. Set the tempo.
Regain initiative. Read the label while
he eyeballs me. Government warning 1)
According to the Surgeon General women
should not drink alcoholic beverages during
pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects.
Time to reply.
“You an asshole. That’s what!”
I’m surprised by his perspicacity.
He turns to go.
“How you find out?”
He stops in the doorway. Faces me.
“You not only an asshole. You a snake!” –
yelling now – “That’s what you are! A snake!”
Afropessimist shambles off into the busy street.
My black bean soup arrives. It’s tasty.
Ragga music starts booming out of a system
I sip my Pacifico. Study the
bright yellow label: 2) Consumption of
alcoholic beverages impairs your ability to drive
a car or operate machinery, and may cause health problems.
Waiter tries to short change me five dollars.
I deck him. Damn!
Cha Cha Cha.
Well the Devil was drinking Bourbon
when I sat down right beside her.
She didn’t look up. Whispered straight
into her Bourbon glass, voice hoarse ‘n
raspy like Miles Davis.
“I know what you’ve come for, I know
why you’re here, but there’s no getting out
of this deal. The contract’s long-signed,
I’ve fulfilled my part of the pact. You’ve got
your fame ‘n your gold, leave your soul
in the box at the door.”
You know the Devil was sippin’ Bourbon
when I delivered my impromptu speech.
“Mrs. D when we last spoke
things hadn’t been going too well.
I’d done gotten out of touch with
myself, lost track of who I was.
Thought that I needed silver and gold
and silken clothes and my face on tv
to be someone. Now I’ve had all of that
– thanks for the help – I realise that
I only needed to get it to find out
I don’t need it. See I was born without a
wallet and I’ll leave this world without a
stitch on my back. Everything you offered
me is incidental. What I am is Me.
And all I wish for is to be free.
So on our deal I must renege.
Here’s your silver, your gold, your cape
of silk. My soul is precious to me,
it’s the one thing I can’t afford to lose.
Sorry for the inconvenience,
but your malicious arrangement
I must refuse!”
Well the Devil gulped her Bourbon
down, looked up at me with an evil
frown etched all over her ghastly face.
This is what she said:
“Look here punk, you’re as good
as dead, your soul is mine and you must
deliver or you’ll pay the fine of 9000
lifetimes in purgatorial damnation waiting!”
She ordered another Bourbon with
a maleficient smile curling over her lips,
started in to sippin’ it, steam rising
out of her nostrils. The devil’s drinking
Woodford Reserve. Labrot & Graham
Distiller’s Select. In Woodford country Kentucky,
on the site is now Labrot & Graham Distillers,
Whiskey was first produced in 1812.
Woodford reserve honours this almost
200 year old Landmark on Glenn’s
Creek and its legacy to the distilling industry.
“You guys have to finish ‘em up: time to go.”
The barmaid’s voice from
the depths of the bar.
We stumbled out of there, the Devil an’ me.
She held my hand; we hailed a cab.
She fell into the backseat.
I whispered to the driver:
“Take this bae back to her hotel.”
Held the release form under Lucifer’s nose.
“Just sign over here.”
She did with an “X”.
As the taxi sped away I smiled up
at the full moon.
Her ‘n me ‘n Woodford Reserve
done got the better of Satan!
March 20. Spring Equinox.
Last night I drank Bourbon
with the Devil. At 2am they
chucked us out. The Devil
cussed and threatened the
barmaid with eternal damnation.
“That may well be but still you have to go.”
“Lady, do you have any idea who you
talking to? I am the Devil.
Barmaid look The Devil straight in the eye,
“Sistah, you could be Beyoncé
for all I care, Federal law requires
come 2am I haveta throw you outtahere,
‘n that’s what I’m doing!”
Barmaid upped The Devil’s glass over her head
and suddenly two burly thugs appeared
out of nowhere, manhandled the both
of us out of that joint.
“Let’s party. Take it to the next level!”
the Devil’s gravelly voice rasped into my ears.
“Shut up bish. You’re giving me a headache.”
It’s 2:02am. Me an’ the devil tryin’ ta hail a
cab on the corner of 16 and Valencia.
Cabs ride by, drivers won’t look us inna eye.
We stumble on down to Mission.
“Hey bish, if you the friggin’ Devil
how come you don’ snap your fingers,
summon us the archangel’s chariot?”
She clicks her fingers.
Gabriel’s fire chariot standing on the tar-
mac. Huge motherfuckin’ dragon bristling
at the reins. Devil hops on board. Grabs hold
of the reins.
“Whoa boy, easy.”
Looks down at me, smiles a wicked
toothless grin, “Hop on board gringo,
we heading for Obituary drive!”
She laughs the deranged laugh
of a womxn who doesn’t have to be anywhere
in the morning. Clears her throat. Spits.
I haul myself in. Next thing we’re hurtling
through the cosmos like the friggin’ Silver
Surfer. My hair catches fire but I don’t
notice until my head’s burnt
down to the
In a hotel room on Mason and Eddy
the Devil sheds a few tears
Holds a few more in
sun peeks through a gap in the curtains
Devil looks up says “Hi”
sun gives the Devil a wink
they’re old buddies
go back a long way
good ole days
Devil shuts the curtain
puts the tv on
…and déjà vu is a place that I’ve been
in a time to come or before
where that trumpet swells from a Sousa march
(or a funeral dirge by Ornette)
whatever the source, it’s the one perfect note
the root and the fruit
of the tree of my knowledge of
God and the Devil
– the realm you have to go through
to discover yourself
and when you do
you’ll find out that
you’re all good –
even your evil…
I’m sitting on the corner of 9th and
Lincoln, got a Vegetarian submarine
#2 and lukewarm coffee spread out
before me and I wondering where
I’m gonna do my drinking when
the bars all close tonight
at 2am in San
November 27, 2016
November 17, 2016
Forgive my tongue
For the truth it speaks.
Forgive my mind
For the nomadic adventures it takes.
Sorry for my dreams all pathetic
Maybe I’m just seeking sympathy from the white warder who never feels sorry enough to let go of my black mind,
Who engraved a monograph in my thinking
White is cool black is a disgrace.
A black man is only good for a tool.
Forgive my fathers for their monopolized mentality
White is holy
Black is evil.
That’s how Azanian land was sold,
In exchange for a black book that promised a land la maswi le dinotshi.
Pray to the white God professing to be all mighty and holy.
We listened attentively as our ancestral beliefs were demolished
We kneeled down in temples and prayed now we call our ancestors “agents of the devil”.
Now their job to indoctrinate
Us is done,they allow
A black man to be care taker
Sorry I meant president.
Our birth rights stolen with a green book that labels us with segments of a barcode.
Forgive my tongue
For having it’s own mind
It just wouldn’t allow mental slavery
Thus it’s not scared of steel bars that locked in
Poets before me for telling the truth.
November 16, 2016
I remember once, in the Western Hotel on Voortrekkerweg, I was attempting to purchase intoxicating substances from an elfin looking young fellow who explained to me that he had a bag for ten rand and a bag for twenty rand. “What is the difference between them you elfin looking young man?” I asked. His eyes twinkled and he replied, “This bag is nice,” and then lifting the other bag towards my face, “this one is nice nice.”
November 6, 2016
November 5, 2016
first published here: http://esse.ca/en/on-the-attack-the-cultural-guerilla-of-cinema-abattoir
November 2, 2016
November 1, 2016
October 31, 2016
“Art criticism is a second-degree spectacle. The critic is someone who makes a spectacle out of his very condition as a spectator – a specialized and therefore ideal spectator, expressing his ideas and feelings about a work in which he does not really participate. He re-presents, restages, his own nonintervention in the spectacle. The weakness of random and largely arbitrary fragmentary judgements concerning spectacles that do not really concern us is imposed upon all of us in many banal discussions in private life. But the art critic makes a show of this kind of weakness, presenting it as exemplary.”
For A Revolutionary Judgement of Art (1961)
Whilst Artist In Residence at the Film & TV Department of Wits University in August 2014 I noticed that there was a lot of what used to be called “agitation” going on around the campus, led primarily by students aligned to the EFF. The disjunct between what was happening “on the ground” and the way film was taught in the department was acute. There was something surreal about the way students were lectured about Dziga Vertov in the subterranean basement where the Film department is located, without ever being encouraged to train their camera eyes on the reality around them. This was clearly what the program to decolonize education was all about; making arcane, obscure Eurocentric curricula relevant to the times and the condition of the black student body. I spent the 5 weeks I was at Wits following the activities of the students who were mobilising for decolonisation, a call that, in March 2015, would be taken up by the Rhodes Must Fall movement at UCT.
Exactly a year later, in August 2015, I took advantage of my position as Artist In Residence at STIAS (Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study) to film the Open Stellenbosch movement that was challenging the remnants of white power operating at Stellenbosch University. OS gave me full access to their meetings and organisational activity for the five weeks I was there, resulting in a film they were bitterly unhappy with and that STIAS refused to screen. Extreme polarisation and a breakdown in the possibility of communicating between students and University management appears to be the current state of affairs. I have made these films in the hope that they will contribute to a better, deeper, understanding of the issues fermenting in this incendiary generation. These are not traditional documentaries but constitute episodes in what Zimasa Mpenyama describes as “a living archive”.