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full interview with steve biko is here
full interview with steve biko is here
this is a short so-called “poem”
because the truth is there is
no free world anymore.
more informaiton here: http://film-mag.net/wp/?p=18894
more information here: http://www.kulturpunkt.hr/content/nezapadni-antikanon
1. Do you think literature can be didactic in a good way?
Absolutely! In fact, I personally believe what distinguishes good literature from the rest is a successful concealment of that state of being didactic. Let us face it; all of us have a particular stance on just about anything of this world and beyond. And when we create (sometimes the motivation to create is in fact inspired by these stances) we are often guided by these opinions we possess. We may not always be fully aware of these drives, but they are there nonetheless; even if they creep in our consciousness much later when the work we are creating has taken many turns in our attempts to represent it as best as we can.
To illustrate my point on the instructive nature of literature (and other art forms), I will briefly reflect on one of my favourite novels from the so-called protest literature era – Ntate Mongane Wally Serote’s To Every Birth Its Blood. The first part of this book is simply magical in how English as a communication medium is made to work accurately in telling a story about the people of South Africa. Only a few novels succeed in creating this magical realm where language in its various forms creates a fusion of a very real world whose constructed integrity we cannot even question because it is so believable. Sadly, the second part of this novel does not emulate the success of the first part as it ends up appearing to be instructive in a certain kind of way.This in itself is not a bad thing because literature should make us move; hence I imagine those living during the times in which it was written may have been encouraged to do something about the gross injustices of that era. Thando Mgqolozana’s Hear Me Alone, Tracey Farren’s Whiplash and Ntate Njabulo Ndebele’s Fools and Other Stories are some of the novels that succeed brilliantly in avoiding being didactic.
In conclusion and going back to “in a good way” qualifier of your question, I would like to say the following: As long as literature (in a case of a novel) is presented in such a way that we forget about the author’s artistic engineering as we read, then literature is still in the right place. To have this phenomenon only elevates the author to the highest podium as having succeeded tremendously in surrendering to the story. On the contrary, overtly didactic art pushes us away from the created and forces us face the author’s agenda, which we do not want to see because it is his or her creation we are interested in. We should not find ourselves being preoccupied with the agenda the author was pursuing and how successful or less successful they became at it. Instead we should be consumed by the story in such a way that we forget that there is in fact a hidden instructive element somewhere in the background.
2. What is this need to document? Of what use is it?
There is an inherently vital need to document. We tend to forget that our world is made up of fragments which define our present and the future, thus we are always left with a historical account to reflect on. Naturally, it would be a momentous loss for mankind if we were to neglect the need to document. However, this crucial service of documenting needs to happen at different levels within our societies, this way we allow the fragments to tell us one complete story because nothing happens in isolation.
The benefit that the recorded material gives to mankind is timeless – it is for the era in which the record was made and certainly the future’s. Such is the record’s powerful ability to always stay relevant. Memory fails, and nostalgia among other human faculties, tends to influence our recollections of the past. That is why the documented becomes increasingly important – it minimises the possibility of distortions.
In hard news for example, what is initially reported as allegations soon become facts and begin to involve many other parties as the story develops. Similarly, what is initially reported as fact at times, soon becomes something else. Documentation in this regard helps us to establish the truth and other matters related to the story.
In literature for example, in as much the story in the novel is constructed from our reality, the benefit of documenting becomes even more substantive. A novel may present a big moral crisis, and through carefully thought out plan by the author, offer insights and resolutions to the problem that other media may not offer. It is for this reason we are made to imagine our world differently. The same can be said about film and other artistic disciplines in their quest to propel us forward in our thinking.
We are very fortunate to be living in the twenty first century. The mercurial growth of technology has availed to us many outlets through which we can share what we document. A medium such as a book, which was once confined to libraries and other places of books storage and sharing, has since become digital. Contrary to the past, we now find ourselves exposed to a much wider range of thinkers through a plethora of texts we encounter on various Internet sites such as blogs and social networking platforms. These are the kinds of thinkers we may have not encountered as gatekeepers of various publications may have deemed them too rough to publish. But thanks to blogs and other online outlets we are able to see those crucial fragments of the whole I referred to earlier. The beauty about all of this is that we get a universal picture of where we are and are going, as the Internet is worldwide.
In as much as everything seems to be fleeting nowadays, we are able to record all of it anytime and everywhere. If it is not for the benefit of the present era, it will at least be for posterity.
3. Can literature be a means of historical elucidation, an apparatus for constructing truth?
Like I said in the previous comment, literature is in a favourable position to offer us alternative views in how we currently see ourselves and how that can be changed if we do not like what we see. So, yes, literature is a powerful tool with which we can construct truths.Sadly there is a reality of economics and a fierce competition for audience affecting the continued growth and reach of this medium.
We are constantly shocked by the news reports on various aspects of our societies. There is always something occupying our collective consciousness because of its shock value or the way it generally makes us feel. And the society constantly wants to know more about these news items, but sadly even the news media houses cannot keep up with this demand which soon requires in-depth coverage to bring together all the fragments that make up a whole. That is where a great opportunity for comprehensive account of such news items presents itself, hence we see a lot of non-fiction books that offer a wide-ranging account of what the news media could not provide. These books usually go on to become best sellers, a financial success that helps publishers continue publishing literature, a medium they say does not make money unless of course you are like Deon Meyer whose books sell in large numbers.
The above scenario is not an optimistic one for literature. And this does not divorce from the fact that literature does fulfil as important service as non-fiction books do. There is a very complex creative process we find in literature that we cannot find in hard news for example. And it is this creative tool that allows for the construction of truths in ways we may have not seen anywhere else.
I am am again reminded of Thando Mgqolozana’s book, Hear Me Alone. It offers a perfect example of how successful literature can become when it offers and alternative account to the mainstream. In this book, the author, through meticulous language skill, recounts a well-known story of the birth of Messiah. But this Messiah is born in South Africa and of black parents in the rural Eastern Cape. The truth of this story is indisputable because there is great artistic and communicative excellence in how it is presented. We are reminded of how beautiful things used to be among our communities when we still had respect.Stacey Hardy achieves something momentous with her short story The Emperor’s New Hose. The insights she offers on the president’s story we have come to know quite well is remarkable to say the least. In the story the author offers a powerful truth we may often find missing in bare facts we find in the news media.
4. Is South Africa a productive field for literature today? In what way? How would you describe the literary scene here?
Let me get the issues of the literary scene out of the way quickly. It is a very lonely scene, I think. Its demographic make-up is awfully imbalanced. As participants in literary festivals and book launches
often joke, the audience members in these events are largely white senior ladies. There aren’t nearly enough black audience members in ‘the scene’, especially the young ones we so desperately need to read and help in the discourse of this country. In short, the literary scene is like a niche market.This means that there is a lot more work that still needs to be done to grow the literary scene. I often hear that there are book clubs, but they appear to be as hard to pin down as trying to get Number One to account for the expenditure on Nkandla. Due to the haunting loneliness I was beginning to experience within the scene, I found myself content staying home. Mind you I used to love attending books launches and festivals.
On the issue of South Africa being a productive field for literature,well, I’m not quite sure what to say on that one. There are definitely many literary books published each year and this is a good thing because it says people are still producing literature. But what kinds of stories make it to publishers? Are they of good quality? And do they take advantage of how dynamic South Africa has become? I really do not know. What goes without saying is that South African political and social landscapes provide alluring ideas in which literature may thrive. I am just not sure whether we are in fact taking advantage of this abundance.
I feel that we can do much more to revitalise literature so that it can continue to grow in way we may not have imaged before. We need to adopt a new approach in how we generally do things. For example, publishers should be more active in scouting for talent. As I indicated earlier, the Internet is filled with many new voices that may help steer literature to new frontiers. Monde Mdodana, a fellow blogger and friend, comes to mind as one such talent. With opportunities and the right grooming writers such as this one may truly take advantage of the current state of South Africa and produce compelling works.
5. What is the role of music in film?
I am tempted to label music as a conspirator to the visuals and dialogue we encounter in film. But this sentiment may be perceived as negative despite its positive nature. Imagine watching a film without music. Do you think you can experience the same magic as films in with an intelligent score is used for example? Certainly not!
It goes without saying that music gives life to film that other various components of film would not inject in it. Music also enhances parts of the film that would otherwise be less engaging. It helps us open up to a myriad of feelings a work of art such as moving pictures ought to solicit from us. With an exception of brilliant acting and inviting cinematography, films would be dead without music. But even in films with great acting and visual presentation, there ought to be music, unless of course it is a stage play we’re watching which allows actors to do more with their voices and bodies than in films.
I think music is an indispensable part of human beings. I believe music is always with us; whether we’re happy or sad, music is always there somewhere in our psyche. It is becomes such a wonderful feat when filmmakers handle film and music well. Quentin Tarantino is one such consistent filmmaker.
6. What can literature tell us about Marikana? What can literature do with Marikana? With “democracy” after Marikana?
Quite frankly I don’t think any art medium has begun telling us a lot about Marikana. With the exception of your film and that of Rehad Desai among a few, plus the visual street-art employed by Tokolos Stencils Collective and the opinion pieces and other media here and there, I think we are yet to talk about the colossal tragedy of Marikana.
Part of me fears what we have become as a society. Compared to murders committed by the apartheid regime to which there had always been collective sense of solidarity, we seem to have lost that in this new era. The massacres such as those that occurred on 16 June 1976 and 21 March 1960, have a monumental commemoration in South Africa. Sadly there is nothing for the victims of Marikana. Someone may argue that the Farlam Commission has not yet released its finding, hence not much has been done in this regard. I am almost certain that those in power would have insisted not only on a commemoration for this great tragedy before 1994, but a severe punishment for the perpetrators that were directly or indirectly involved in the massacre.
In literature, I feel the best medium through which a lament for Marikana may be communicated to the world at different settings is poetry – both in the written form and the performance type. Compared to novels for example, poetry has an ability to mutate in various setting through its very close relationship with music and stage. Poetry can be performed almost anywhere and at any time, whereas novels are read in individual spaces. Besides,novels take a while to put together. This is by no means an excuse why we have not begun writing anything around Marikana and related events. It has been over two years now and that has been more than enough time to produce a number of books on the terrible event.
Marikana reminds us of how increasingly brutal the police have become. It also makes us acutely aware of the manipulative nature of politics. If I remember well, civil society once strongly opposed the disbandment of the Scorpions. But we all know what ended up happening to the crime-fighting unit? South African people have been wanting the president to account for the extremely exorbitant expenditure in Nkandla, but the president along with the ruling party have been doing everything in their power no to account for anything. All these events, including Marikana, tell us that there is something extremely worrying about our leadership and society at large.