April 27, 2014

the oberhausen profile – 13 films by aryan kaganof curated by stacy hardy

Filed under: kaganof,kaganof short films,kerkhof short films,stacy hardy — ABRAXAS @ 5:43 pm


nicola’s first orgasm

south africa
April 2002
5min 41 sec

starring nicola deane
music Vladimir Ashkenazy Beethoven Piano Sonata 21
camera, sound, edit, produced and directed by aryan kaganof

A fleeting yet funny anti-porn that sends up the “cum shot” while also delivering a strict feminist manifesto against sexual stereotypes. Funny, blasé, insouciant and allusive, Nicola’s First Orgasm bristles with a terrifying absence that evokes fleeting pleasures, lost opportunities and erratic fumblings towards orgasm.


signal to noise


starring acéphale and masami akita
produced by frank scheffer for allegri film
sound recordist jeffrey babcock
sound mixer michel schopping
online editor j.p.luijsterburg
line producer misako furakawa
music : release from agony; rectal anarchy by gore beyond necropsy & merzbow
last kind word blues by geechie wiley
a real slow rag by scott joplin performed by david boeddinghaus
filmed on location at the kamakura temple
script, camera, edit and directed by aryan kaganof

Inspired by an art created miles from its origins to become its own translation of signal, texture, and pattern, Signal to Noise disrupts boundaries between tribute and theft, reinvention and repetition. Featuring music by Merzbow and evoking Roland Barthes, it’s both an art object and a sonic experiment investigating cinema through the lens of accumulation.

Screen shot 2014-03-31 at 12.48.29 PM

western 4.33

namibia-netherlands-south afirca

starring boy thomas shipanga
produced by wiro felix for mandala film
director of photography wiro felix
sound design jane snijders
online editor Neil Stuart
super 8mm laboratory Frank Bruinsma
German translation Katharina Conrad
voiceovers by blixa bargeld and zola
music alec emprie, sun ra, macy gray, calexico, friedrich nietzsche, robert schumann, rodriguez, lamonte young, harold budd, virgins
script, edit and directed by aryan kaganof

In Western 4.33 Kaganof responds to the horror of the Herero Genocide with a cinema that is just as powerful as the pain delivered by the colonial oppressor. Filmed in the ruins of a German concentration camp in Namibia, where thousands of indigenous Herero people were incarcerated, Western 4.33 is a song to silence; a paean to a past that comes to us as present; an elegy that refuses to be an elegy, refuses to let the dead disappear.


a perfect day

south africa
3min 3sec

Shot on the first day of the first democratic elections held in South Africa and edited to commemorate the tenth anniversary of that democracy, A Perfect Day masterfully creates and expands a singularly intense metaphor into a beautiful yet disquieting argument for the revolutionary possibilities of love. As cutting as it is tender, as fleeting as it is endless.

Screen shot 2014-03-31 at 9.56.21 AM

Song For Hector

South Africa
5min 03sec

re-edited and produced by Aryan Kaganof

music M.Ward performing David Bowie’s Let’s Dance

In Song for Hector, Kaganof remixes the Soweto riots of 1976 into an experimental cinema that demilitarizes, deconstructs, and decolonizes master narrative. Against the bleak banalities of South Africa’s violent history and the propaganda and amnesia of the present, Kaganof strikes back with a bracing admixture of remembrance, repetition, recapitulation and reinvention.


nice to meet you, please don’t rape me!

south africa-netherlands
35min 21sec

starring eric miyeni, matthew oats, gustav geldenhuys, bill curry and winnie ryall
produced by joost van gelder and aryan kaganof for stichting zapruder
shot on location in yeoville, johannesburg during the three days of the first democratic election held in south africa, 26-28 april 1994
written by aryan kaganof and peter j. morris
sound design stefan warnas
original editor j.p. luijesterburg
re-edited in 2009 by aryan kaganof

Made during South Africa’s first democratic elections, Nice To Meet You, Please Don’t Rape Me is a biting musical satire that challenges the newly found rainbow nation, questions the limits and constraints of freedom and forces us to acknowledge the devastating extent to which South Africa has been fucked and fucked over – systematically perverted by apartheid.


interactions: a strategy of difference and repetition

south africa-netherlands
33min 10sec

filmed on location at the Goethe German Cultural Centre Johannesburg 21-23 November 2010
produced by Jeanneke Den Boer and Aryan Kaganof for Nederlands Theater Institut and African Noise Foundation
music by African Noise Foundation featuring David Mayekane
camera, sound, edit, produced and directed by aryan kaganof

Made in response to a commission by the Theater Institut Netherlands, Interactions: A Strategy Of Difference And Repetition expertly peels back the tattered facade of art world hypocrisy, deploying a compulsive inventiveness to provide an excoriating challenge to all cultures of complacency. Here art serves both as escape and as a threat, at once suspect and yet our only consolation.


Ashraf Cassiem – I’m Resisting

South Africa
may 2011
7min 31sec

produced for the Africa Centre
directed by dylan valley
edited by aryan kaganof
camera Antoinette Engel
music Blaze

Unnervingly timely, Ashraf Cassiem – I’m Resisting rages against the political apathy of the present. Thinking and speaking its way through the insidious, tragic inequalities of globalization, capitalism, and democracy’s alleged freedoms, it employs bracing intimacy, fervour and defiance to persuade its viewers to disavow a cynicism we can’t afford.


too drunk to fuck

south africa
september 2006
2min 31sec

camera catherine henegan
music nouvelle vague’s cover of the dead kennedys song
edit, produced and directed by aryan kaganof

At once a livid riposte to dry piety and a sobering comment on the social and political degeneration of our society— our marriages, our sex lives, our addictions and search for oblivion, Too Drunk To Fuck pulls the rug out from under our old stolid habits and our empty lives.


south africa
9min 18sec

music alan lomax prison song; daniel ben-pienaar mozart sonata no.12 in f Major; zim Ngqawana umthakathi, gumboot dance, interlude; afrikaaps wild op s
filmed and edited whilst artist-in-residence at stias (stellenbosch institute for advanced study) oct 2011-mar 2012
introudction text by giorgio agamben
camera, sound, edit, produced and directed by aryan kaganof

What kind of intervention can cut through neoliberal configuration of today’s university, which betrays its own liberal commitment to bring about emancipation? Kaganof’s answer comes as Stellenbosched, a powerful and necessary intervention that rages against social inequality and oppression and invites us to imagine and realise social life otherwise.


the legendary syd kitchen in “g-string blues”

south africa
33min 57sec

“composed” and “directed by aryan kaganof
performed by syd kitchen
camera robert johnson
sound recordist jabu mxhaka
editor madala e. waters
sound design king tubby
additional music j.s.bach ich ruf zu dir, herr

Aryan Kaganof and musician Syd Kitchen meet at the crossroads to explore the deeply troubled waters of our social and sexual psyches, risking much, but, with courage and persistence, returning to tell the tale. Maybe, as The legendary Syd Kitchen in “G-string blues” suggests its only through such radical vulnerably and intimacy that the urgency of love can arise.


a leisure society of severe preponderence

netherlands-south africa
33min 19sec
cape town june 2011

camera wiro felix
sound hugo dijkstal
edit j.p. luijsterburg
filmed on location in The Hague september 1995 at the crossing border festival
directed by aryan kaganof
produced by louis behre, george brugmans and aryan kaganof for vpro and african noise foundation

A Leisure Society Of Severe Preponderence delivers a devastating assault on conformity culture, neo-liberal politics, literary pretension and the all around follies of the Western world. Using, ironically, anti-art strategies – appropriation, violation and collage, he Kaganof splinters the division between the high and the low, revelling in the contradictions and absurdities that transpire in a life lived crossing borders.

all synopses written by stacy hardy

April 24, 2014

Giuseppe GARIAZZO: aryan kaganof, le sens de la mémoire

Filed under: french,kaganof — ABRAXAS @ 4:25 am


Le sud-africain Kaganof travaille depuis toujours sur la mémoire des images et sur leur sens politique, en approfondissant la relation entre la parole et la musique avec des codes non narratifs et en utilisant la technologie pour explorer la potentialité, le temps même, plus novateur et classique.
A la fin 2001 il s’appelait encore Ian Kerkhof, cinéaste expérimental de renommé ayant réalisé de court metrages et de long métrages sensoriels aux Pays Bas et au Japon. Depuis 2001 Ian Kerkhof n’existe plus, «il est né de nouveau », comme il a précisé sur son nouveau CV, sous les traits de Aryan Kaganof, c’est à dire le nom de son père biologique, qu’il a connu pour la première fois en 1999. Quant à son nouveau nom Kaganof , il lui a ouvert une nouvelle voie inédite dans sa filmographie, en confrontation directe mais jamais pré-visible avec la mémoire du peuple de sa terre, la terre sud-africaine. Ainsi, à la fin 2005 et au début 2006 une nouvelle aventure d’avant-garde a été lancée dans le monde : le premier long métrage de fiction entièrement filmé avec de téléphones portables.
Ian Kerkhof est né en 1964 à Johannesburg, il a étudié et vécu en Afrique du Sud jusqu’à l’âge de 19 ans, jusqu’au début des années 80 quand il a abandonné son pays natal pour devenir objecteur de conscience et éviter son service militaire sous le régime de l’apartheid. Il s’est stabilisé aux Pays Bas et à la fin des années 80 il a commencé à faire des films en vidéo, en super 8, en 35mm, en 16 mm et en ordinateur. Le sexe, la violence, le regard glacial sur l’ambiance et les corps, en évitant l’analyse psychologique, constituent les traces sur lesquelles est fondé son parcours créatif extraordinaire et original, toujours en mouvement dans l’urgence de re-définir de sa propre identité artistique, et pas seulement. La contamination des langages est extrême et rituelle, de ses premiers court métrages jusqu’au « Shabondama Elegy » (1999) tourné au Japon (où le réalisateur a fait plusieurs films) et interprété par deux stars porno du pays, de « Mozart Bird »(1993) à «Dix monologues de la vie des tueurs en série » (1994) où son style devient le support d’une recherche de l’intérieur du phénomène des serial killers par le biais d’images d’amateurs et pornographiques. Kerkhof travaille, depuis toujours, sur la mémoire des images et sur leur sens politique tout en explorant en profondeur la relation entre la parole et la musique. Ce sont des éléments fondamentaux de son travail. On pense, par exemple, aux films « Wasted / Naar de klote » (1996), le voyage d’une jeune fille au cœur de la nuit d’une grande ville, et « Beyond ultra violence, Uneasy listening by Merzbow » (1997), une vidéo expérimentale inspirée de la musique électronique du compositeur japonais Merzbow.

La recherche est inscrite dans un registre de codes non–narratifs qui utilise la technologie afin d’explorer les potentialités, au même temps, plus novatrices et classiques, pour chercher plusieurs degrés d’expérimentation, toujours liés à la mémoire. « Western 4.33 » (2002) marque un écart sur sa filmographie. Kerkhof est rentré à Johannesburg en 1995 à la recherche de son père. Ce retour pour le père l’a conduit à élaborer un rapport intime, souffrant et stratifié sur la mémoire d’un peuple et d’une nation. « Western 4.33 » (premier prix au festival du cinéma africain de Milan 2002) est l’exemple parfait de cette recherche. BT, un jeune camionneur noir, voyage avec son camion de Johannesburg à Luderitz, en Namibie, et pense à son grand-père mort dans un camp de concentration allemand du début 19e siècle à Shark Island, devant Luderitz. Il pense aussi à sa copine. Diverses mémoires se rassemblent dans ce moyen métrage sans dialogues, construit comme une partition musicale, en noir et blanc avec une touche importante de rouge : une femme qui traverse le cadre serait une représentation, selon le réalisateur, d’un corps, celui d’Afrique, blessé et sanglant. La mémoire tourne autour de la douleur personnelle et celle de l’Histoire, pour une réflexion sur l’impossible rêve colonialiste de « civiliser » l’Afrique. « Western 4.33 » est une réflexion inscrite dans la douleur du corps et de l’esprit, où l’image et le son, la photo et le montage nous laissent une expérience sensorielle et politique élevée, une nouvelle manière de vivre et observer le rapport entre l’espace et le temps.

Kaganof a introduit une série importante d’essais filmiques brefs qui puissent tous ensemble être vus comme un seul film, celui qui l’obsède. Les gestes et les sons libèrent un mouvement visuel et sonore sans relâche. Kaganof, qui est aussi peintre et écrivain, nous plonges dans une apnée qui touche, dedans des images d’une durée « expanded », érotique, hypnotique, en transgressant les frontières entre le documentaire traditionnel et la fiction. Ainsi le clip politique « Nigga » , les images d’une mémoire retrouvée en noir et blanc et en couleur, de « Self portrait with nanny / Autoportrait avec la nourrice » , l’expérimentation pour déconstruire les paroles et les phrases dans « Reich Dance Redemption », la sonate-blues on the road « Casbah and back ». Les concepts de la durée et du temps lent sont élaborés dans leurs rapports avec les corps et les espaces qui se trouvent dans chaque film – essai de Kaganof comme « A perfect day », « Seascape », «Rêverie » « Kaganof in Broklyn » et dans la marche funèbre- folklorique- érotique « At last I am free », bref et immense chef d’oeuvre tourné à Rotterdam.

Et ainsi on arrive à « SMS Sugarman », un film tourné avec huit téléphones portables, actuellement en post-production, qui sera prêt entre mai et juin. Ce sera le nouveau défi expérimental de Aryan Kaganof . J’ai vu seulement les premières minutes du film au dernier Festival de Rotterdam et au dernier Festival du cinéma africain de Milan et elles m’ont laissé enthousiaste. Kaganof n’utilise pas le nouveau médium pour être à la mode mais pour tracer de nouvelles voies de mémoire filmique. L’histoire se situe pendant la veille de Noël à Johannesburg et elle est filmée la nuit. « SMS Sugarman » est basée sur la riche tradition sud-africaine du workshop, cette fois avec l’apport original de la technologie numérique pour un travail sur le noir, en accentuant ses nuances les plus expressionnistes. Kaganof fait citation à Fritz Lang, avec l’émotion, l’ambition, la simplicité et la conscience d’explorer toujours nouvelles identitées visuelles sans jamais oublier les expériences du passé. Pour un infatigable lien entre la mémoire et le présent.

April 6, 2014

fresh smegma

Filed under: music — ABRAXAS @ 4:29 pm


Sea Urchin is excited to join forces with Pigface Records from Portland, Oregon! Since 1979 Pigface Records has had a dual mission: reflecting the personal, L.A. centric freak aesthetic of the improvisational group Smegma and revelling in aspects of the current and past Portland scene. After the initial burst of vinyl and cassettes (1979-86) Pigface Records was dormant for some 25 years. The label has been reinvented by founder Ju Suk Reet Meate as a cassette label to carry on its work into the future. Follow this link for more information about Pigface Records, Ju Suk Reet Meate, Smegma and others: http://smegmamusic.com/site/

Three absolutely great Pigface releases on cassette are now available from our catalogue:

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Ju Suk Reet Meate was born in 1952 to a non-musical family in Covina, California and played trumpet in the fourth grade through his high school marching band, but then stopped playing music altogether. However, shortly after moving to Pasadena in 1972 and with no further musical training, Ju Suk Reet Meate started the band Smegma, which continues to this day. He moved to Portland, in 1975 and started Pigface Records, putting out tiny quantities of 45s , EPs, LPs and cassettes, some with hand-drawn covers. He has played live gigs (mostly in Portland), several times a year ever since. Recently, he has performed collaboratively as ‘The Tenses’ with Rock and Roll Jackie (also of Smegma) and solo.
SOLO 1978 & 1979, Volume II was recorded in various locations in Portland Oregon 1978 and 1979 as ‘real time’ improvisations with no overdubs, edits, or remixing. Some final EQing and editing was done in Smegma’s Studio in January 2013. Many tracks were recorded on portable cassette decks with automatic level control. Ju Suk Reet Meate plays guitar, record player, bowed sheet metal, trumpet, vocals, gnome synth., 1880′s pump organ, bass guitar played with feet, and 1/4 inch reel-to-reel multi-head tape loops.



The improvisational ensemble ‘Smegma’ came into being in Pasadena, California on November 23, 1973. Despite having no formal art or music training, several friends decided to experiment with playing ‘real’ music. They tried a ‘band without musicians’ concept by allowing musicians only for special parts as needed. The only other rule was, “NO HIPPY MUSIC” or any other contemporary sounds. They developed their own ‘primitive suburban folk’ approach and traditions. They were aware of the LA freak scene (Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart, Wild Man Fischer), but it was only a distant influence. John Cage, Harry Partch, Eric Dolphy, Sun Ra, Buckminster Fuller and many other great minds of previous generations were more influential than their peers.
The wild, improvised pieces on Wild Blue Yonders were recorded in 2011 at Smegma’s Studio in Portland and Juan’s Studio in Pasadena by Ju Suk Reet Meate. The cassette is a reissue of the 100 copy LP on Ideal (Sweden), which was released at Perspectives festival, 21 April, 2012. Smegma here is: Dennis Duck, Ace Farren Ford, Donkey Flybye, Ju Suk Reet Meate, Rock and Roll Jackie, John Wiese, Madelyn Villano, Rogue Iiniki, and William Cyrus Ford.


This cassette is a 40-year anniversary edition with original recordings by Ju Suk Reet Meate in Altadena, California on May 16 1974, except Side B, track 3, which was recorded on May 20, 1974. Final Editing and EQing was done in January 2014. On this recording Smegma is: Paul Rioux, Ace Farren Ford, Amy, Bev, Dennis Duck, Chuck-O-Fats (Donkey Flybye), Cheez-it-Ritz, Ju Suk Reet Meate, Chuck, and Cheez-Bro.

March 31, 2014

deon simphiwe skade reviews marikana symphony

Filed under: 2014 - Marikana Symphony,deon skade,reviews — ABRAXAS @ 3:04 pm


Dear Aryan,

It has been a while since we last spoke. I hope you have been alright – I have been.

You would be pleased to know that I managed to once again watch your film, Marikana Symphony. I must say that my experience has been very different to the first time I watched the film. For one, I can actually write about my experiences around the film because I discovered very interesting features. As you may recall from my last correspondence to you about the film, I could not share anything tangible. This was largely due to various concentration lapses I experienced during my first viewing session; that of course coupled with the sophisticated structural framework of the film, which I believe may have been a fusion of two major separate events to create one complete piece. The two events I am referring to here are Hearing Landscape Critically dialogue sessions and the Marikana massacre itself. I believe other underlying factors fuse with these subjects to complete the work. Below is my reflection on the film. It still feels like I am watching it even now.

I must say that the title, Marikana Symphony, caught my attention. The two words that make up the title each stand for crucial parts of our global history. Marikana has come to represent the horror and the tragedy that is the Marikana massacre. Symphony on the other hand, represents a great feature of classical music that is synonymous with harmony and concord, beauty and overall human triumph in an art form. I find myself immediately conflicted by the title as I read off the DVD copy before I slot it into my video player: Can anything be associated with harmony where the Marikana massacre is concerned? I ask myself, remembering how bodies of men were mowed down with assault rifles. At this point I acknowledge what begins to feel like my bias towards the massacre creeping up. This occurrence may have well been triggered by my lack of clear recollection of my earlier experience with the film. But soon a reflex I have sort of come to master in separating my preconceived ideas from the presented work immediately kicks in, just as the folk music begins playing in in the background to mark the film’s official start. The work should present its story in full first, so that I may evaluate its impact in its entirety; I tell myself finding a comfortable position in the seat.

The film begins in a classical music themed-style, where the film title is framed within a classical music CD cover with the picture of the Marikana massacre right in the centre. And in a true symphony style, the first narrative begins with a movement; a feature which is consistent throughout this particular work. I find this stylistic approach interesting in arranging and presenting the fragmented nature of this big story.

Not long into the film my heart and mind are conflicted yet again. This conflict stems from a series of shots that play on the screen. The first shot is of a very beautiful and poignant rendition on a flute by Marietjie Mauw. Soon after this shot disappears, horrific visuals of miners being shot down by the police emerge. From a focal point of view, the massacre scene is handled in such a way that the music from the flute forms a backdrop to the murders. At this point my heart is sunken by the burden of anger and pain I feel towards the brutal killings. But the music from the flute soothes my heart, only for a short while though because the visuals that succeed the massacre create another powerful conflict within me.

Soon after the shot of the massacre disappears, Mauw appears on the screen again. She is in a musical hall and there is an audience that is captivated by the sensitivity with which she handles the fragile sound of the flute. Who would not be moved by such incredible artistry? I am deeply moved by the music myself, except my heart is holding on to the image of the murders that were on my screen only a short while ago. That gruesome image of the murders, no matter how many times I have seen it, continues to fill me with rage. As if to fight for its place in my heart, Mauw’s elegant music keeps its hold on me too. But its grip is loosened by the gravity of the massacre. The audience members then applaud her astounding performance. But the sound of their applause is muted by the editing intervention. All I see are hands that move in a clapping motion celebrating yet another human triumph in music. It is strange indeed! Very strange, because I am applauding with them in my heart. What I have just witnesses is too godly not to behold. But the images of the massacre refuse to go away. Instead, they spur a greater conflict where I feel guilty for being in a celebratory mood when I have just seen people die as though they were wild animals. Such a sharp contrast speaks to the burden of having emotions.

My conflict inevitably leads me to a moment of reflection over the Marikana massacre. Part of me knows that there has been worldwide condemnation of these ghastly murders. Each one of us who has seen that terrible footage has expressed all sorts of emotions and sentiments regarding this horrific event. Yet I find myself not really sure if we really succeeded in dealing with the full extent of its various connections to the past, the present and the future of human behaviour. I also find myself not really certain if we have managed to speak to the core of this great tragedy.

I find the film laced with various silent triumphs. These come mainly from the texts that come up on the screen to mark the different fragments of the film, thus piecing together the preceding shots with unfolding parts. There are of course many other triumphs, stylistic and otherwise. But these ones are a bit conspicuous to be deemed silent. Here I refer to the manner with which the sound has been used, from the voice-overs, the music and the many words spoken at different intervals to weave the pieces together.

Another wonderful fusion in the film’s subject matter is achieved where Emily Macgregor delivers a lecture on ‘control’ and ‘discipline’ in Hearing Landscape Critically dialogues. This segment combines seamlessly with a lecture delivered by sculptor, Willem Boshoff. The sculpotor’s analogy on the Inyanga’s fits in perfectly with the events that preceded the Marikana massacre along with other components of the film. All this of course happens under the segment appropriately titled: “Movement 0 – The Highest Resolution That Can Be”. Boshoff’s sentiments around the resolution of the image on the projector seem to have a semantic relationship with the resolution of the miners when they expressed their discontentment around the wage scale that they needed changed. Here I find a dynamic of a complex and intriguing nature. Mind you, there are several other dynamics elsewhere in the film that form beautiful and seamless narratives.

Kyle Shepherd’s appearance in “Movement I – Larghissimo”, where he plays a solo piano while the footage of the massacre appears on the screen once more. However, his tinkling on keys somehow cannot erase the feeling of great loss in shootings.

Another impressive infusion of relevant material comes when Winfried Lüdemann delivers her lecture, where among other things; he speaks of a perceived division between the observer and the observed. Part of his speech touches on a theory of an artist becoming one with what he seeks to represent. This is of course the part where you turn the camera on to yourself, thus becoming one with the event. This also has great resonance with the editorial success achieved; the rearrangement of material to complete an art piece.

I think this film is among the most advanced forms of communicating I have seen from you. Each part of the film, even though speaking to the Marikana massacre, opens up other avenues through which we can view and discuss contemporary struggles of South Africa societies, especially problems experienced by blank people.

I appreciate how the footage of that small squatter camp under a bridge near Stellenbosch University is used in the film. Synonymous with the South African narrative, the struggles of a people are vivid in that footage. The ever enduring issues of poor or non-existent sanitation, housing and general economical matters glare at us once again. The residents of the shanty town under the bridge complain about the discrimination they received from authorities. They refer to an instance where the drainage system of their toilets not cleared, despite having made numerous pleas for this problem to be solved. Similarly, the miners in Marikana and other mines in South Africa are given serious red-tape whenever they need salary increases.

The relationship between the aforementioned features of contemporary South Africa cannot be ignored. That is why I appreciate how the film works with these features through the tragedy of Marikana.

One of the most haunting fusions of music and visuals comes when the music of Theo Herbst Trio accompanies the reoccurring visuals of the massacre. The narrative still carries the same horror. But the music twists it and exposes another element of it that confirms that this tragedy is quite layered.

Perhaps one of the most conspicuous triumphs of the film is where Willemien Froneman delivers her lecture. This is when the camera focus shifts and lands on the blank projector screen, after which two speakers appear in succession dissecting the issues of landscapes and sound.

Allow me to first quote Daniel Grimley’s words when he says: “… the boundaries between sound and music are constantly being negotiated and mediated in different ways… thinking about sound and music actually demand different kinds of vocabularies, they’re always intricately related. And those boundaries are constantly fluid, they’re constantly being challenged, and they’re constantly being pushe.”

It is when Grimley says the above; against a very delicate piano sound by Neo Muyanga, that an image of a black labourer dressed in red overalls appears. The scene becomes a symbolic strife of a people, when the labourer strikes the metal chisel with his hammer and the sound takes the form of a gunshot. What happens in this scene is magical: Here is a very complex socio-political matter dissected with the aid of science and art. Coupled with that is a sad illustration of an enduring struggle of a people: the hard labour of miners and road workers among others. Thus the narrative of the film appears to complete itself. But only on the screen, because it immediately opens up a new journey for me. For I get reminded of my late father who was once wasted by the gold mines of Welkom and Klerksdorp as a labourer. Then I get extremely sad and nostalgic. And then everything feels extremely personal: the horrors of poverty I have witness, the psychological strain that the black folk had endured over the years.

How long should black people continue to suffer? I ask myself and immediately remember that a similar question had been asked so many times in the distant past. “How long?” the late Gibson Kente had asked in his musical. Kente was asking from a point of view of the one who wished to see apartheid dismantled. However it has been twenty years now since the death of apartheid, yet that question is still asked within black communities. Does this not say we are failing humanity as demonstrated by various features of our South African society?

I listen to the music as the film progresses, the piano sound that is so delicate yet so bold. Muyanga’s music keeps the footage of a road-work labourer company. It stalks the visuals and almost seems like it is singing the labourer a sympathetic ballad. The lyrics are in Sesotho and there is a part where a question on the father’s return home is posed. The labourer toils and toils. He needs to put food on the table at the end of the day just like the slain miners wanted to.

Overall, the film achieves something momentous with its ability to spark reflections. With its presentation of both the horror and the symphony, it may well pull in the audience to create some kind of some kind of oneness; provided the audience begins to see itself as part of the narrative of the raised issue. By being part of the narrative, I am not necessarily suggesting culpability per se, but some kind of responsibility they have and should exercise in helping shape a better South Africa for all.

In conclusion; I cannot help but think a little about the quotation attributed to Johnny Mbizo Dyani towards the end of the first part of the film. The quote says “When you start talking about music, you start lying.” I think this is very much true. Perhaps we may talk of music as a complement to a whole in the instance of this film, for a lack of a better word. Otherwise how else does the reoccurring footage of the massacre take so many forms in one’s mind while different kinds of music play? But then, we may never truly know. What is clear enough is the successful coverage of such a wide-scoped subject matter, which one may have not imaged possible from the mere mention of the film title.

P.S. The snippet of the very last lecture in the end of part two, together with the subsequent footage of South Africa’s first black president dancing at the inauguration, are well executed. The text that says: “the manufactured messiah” may help those who are not critical of this part of our history look at it from a different point of view, without the interference of the sleek mass media propaganda. After all, that is where the new dispensation took its form.

Allow me to express a concern over the text that comes up shortly before the last shots. It says: “I watched the film until the film itself became a kind of blindness”. Would this not take away from the film’s triumph and possibly confuse some viewers? Don’t get me wrong, part of me feels it works very well in that segment.

Well done for such a powerful film. Like I said, this is one of your most significant works ever. The posture of the underlying musical lament is such a brute force that one cannot help but surrender to. Yet, the sincerity of film mitigates the effects of such a turbulent force with an encouragement for the viewer to reflect openly about the massacre and our society at large.

Best wishes,


March 30, 2014

Shameful, Cowardly European Art By Andre Vltchek

Filed under: art,politics — ABRAXAS @ 10:43 am

March 24, 2014


I searched for pain, and I found none.

In those enormous halls of the Louvre, I searched for reminders of the agony of the people from the Caribbean, from islands like Grenada, where the native people were entirely exterminated during the French colonial onslaught. I searched for at least one tear, one moan, one canvas saturated with sadness and remorse. I searched for confessions.

But I found none.

I was trying to catch a glimpse of the desperate, terrified facial expressions of North African women, dragged into some empty rooms, and raped brutally by French soldiers. I was looking for paintings depicting the torture of Vietnamese patriots, and their execution by decapitation, for nothing else other than fighting for freedom and for their fatherland, against the appalling French colonial rule.

No – I found nothing, nothing at all in the Louvre, or in any other major French museums.

I stood in front of bizarre, sick and cold religious artwork, full of adult looking, perverse baby Jesus’s, or of some saints with daggers sticking out grotesquely from their heads. It was mostly total kitsch, created to order from the Christian church – a morally corrupt religious entity responsible for the extermination of entire nations, of entire races, worldwide!

I could find no paintings depicting the destroyed people of Rapa Nui, no killing of Southeast Asians, Africans and the islanders from both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

I have searched and searched, for years, during my ever decreasing in frequency visits to that old and sick continent, responsible for dozens of holocausts on basically all the continents of the Earth.

Then, one day, recently, when I was presenting my documentary film (on Western-backed tyranny in Indonesia) at SOAS in London, I asked my mother, a renowned painter and cartoonist, to join me, and to search some more, just in case I have been missing, or overlooking, something substantial.

We spent days, crisscrossing several major museums in Paris, but we found nothing there, nothing in the Louvre.

Earlier we had found nothing in the State Gallery of Stuttgart.

And I found nothing in the Royal Academy of Art in London, or in the National Maritime Museum, or in the National Art Museum in London.

Not one excuse, not one apology, not a glimpse of remorse. I found no soul-searching, not even an enormous, erect, shouting question mark.

Brainwashed, corrupt and arrogant, European art has stood proud and unapologetic, unmoved by the suffering of those hundreds of millions of people who lost their lives because of those who patronized and funded most of the artists for centuries – the Christian Church, and the European political and economic establishment.

There has been no artwork depicting the torture and humiliation of entire nations; the vanishing of numerous great civilizations in Latin America… as there appeared to be no canvases illustrating entire Ukrainian villages burnt to ashes during WWII, or of the savage bombing of Leningrad, or of the medical experiments performed by German Nazis on human beings. Enormous canvases showing the holocaust against the Herero people of what is now Namibia were nowhere to be found.

I am not exaggerating, I honestly searched, but I found nothing remotely accusative, outraged, or furious at the Western torment of the world that has been going on for centuries, even millennia…

I found nothing brave or courageous, and nothing revolutionary whatsoever in the galleries of Stuttgart, or in the museums, exhibition halls, galleries of Paris and London.

I found no j’accuse. There was no scream and no agony, no suggestion that the West should be held responsible for all those crimes it has been committing. In all those European ‘temples of culture’ – all guilt was banished, as all the terror imposed on the world from Washington, London or Paris, was completely ignored.

I faced no images of the impact of the carpet-bombing on the Vietnamese villages, and no images depicting the rape of Algiers. I did not even see the suffering of Palestinian people – no artwork depicting it – or that total and quite well documented, recent destruction of countries like Libya, or Syria or the Democratic Republic of Congo.

On the paintings at the Tate Modern or at those countless Parisian galleries that I have been visiting, there were no images of women with their breasts cut off- a common occurrence during the Western-backed 1965 military/religious coup in Indonesia, which took at least one, but perhaps three million human lives – or of the women savagely gang-raped and mutilated in the DR Congo, where between six to ten million people have lost and are still losing their lives, in order to satisfy the unbridled greed of numerous Western companies, governments and consumers – greed for Coltan, Uranium, Diamonds and Gold.

Western art generously forgave everything; all the crimes committed by the Western Empire. Yes, everything is forgotten and forgiven… as it always is by the establishment itself; by the Western regime imposed so completely on our planet.

Bunches of forgiving blokes are now running museums and galleries. Stunningly ‘forgiving’, are the great majority of Western artists themselves, who are paid/rewarded generously and glorified relentlessly for such ‘bigheartedness’. Just as they always have been remunerated for centuries, because, they agreed to put form over the substance.

Just keep painting countless cans of mass-produced soup, while your country is murdering millions of innocent men, women and children, and you will be elevated to a deity, by the regime.

Because the regime and the art establishment are one single entity! And they don’t want you to be political, politicized, well informed, or angry with what your government is doing to the defenseless people of the world. And they don’t want you to, god forbid; suggest that the masses should be informed and outraged!

Just entertain, spread your colors on huge canvases, and enjoy all those great privileges!

During my life, I saw many; too many destroyed lives, I saw craters and burning cities, and I saw women – too many women – victims of savage rapes. I saw pain and despair scarring countless monstrous, overpopulated cities, as well as vast and impoverished countrysides. I saw misery and indescribable sorrow on all continents, and on too many occasions.

But during these last ten days in Europe, I saw many endless lines, numerous ovals, and squares. I saw orange triangles and pink dots, as well as fluorescent disconnected words and grotesque bizarre objects… and I saw meditations on space and on failed erections… on multiple orgasms and on rubbish, shit and gore.

I observed ego trips and psychedelic LSD visions. I witnessed sex in many different forms. I saw countless studies on parents and their children: conflict between different generations… I saw emptiness.

I found it difficult to recognize the world, in which I was living – to recognize it in the Louvre, in British museums, and in several German museums… As I previously found it difficult to recognize it in Spanish museums, in Belgian museums… and in hundreds of contemporary art galleries all over Europe…

Nothing appeared to be recognizable.

I was not asking, I would not dare to ask, for outright realism, or naturalism… I was not demanding Socialist Realism. For now I was only longing for at least some links between the ‘flights of insane fantasy’ and the universe inhabited by human beings… I was yearning for some sense and some logic, for something that could serve our humanity, something that could enrich and improve the lives of millions of people.

But all that was flying into my face, were vulgar and egocentric concepts; art for art’s sake… or some primitive and frivolous entertainment genres – the best allies of the Empire which was now willing to pay any amount of money just to convert human beings into some empty, emotionless and unthinking organisms.

For several long centuries, most West European art has been corrupt, prostituted and rendered toothless.

Lately, it has become out-rightly poisonous, anti-humanist and anti-human, deadly.

During those ten days that I spent in Europe searching for ‘courageous art’, I kept hunting for life, for real life, and for genuine feelings…

In between self-serving cacophonies of colour, I struggled to recognize some elements of great the Mexican murals and Soviet political posters… But there were no Diego Riveras and no Siqueiros.

Instead, there were countless phantasmagoric ego trips… There were lunacies and they were all supposed to entertain me, to impress me, to keep me floating in some abstract, cold but metallically cool, and always detached realm. But there was no strife for building a better world, no optimism, and enthusiasm, like in the great post-war paintings created in Vietnam, the Soviet Union and China.

Cynicism, detachment and selfishness – these were all promoted, paid for, and in vogue.

I desperately wanted to smell, I wanted to feel, to love fully and passionately, to hate, to struggle… I wanted all this, as almost every human being does want all this… as almost every man, woman and child wants to… even if secretly… even if shyly and subconsciously… in every society.

“We shall be returning to the simplest of the roses”, a great Czech poet Jaroslav Seifert wrote in his unforgettable poem.

But almost all simple roses seemed to be gone; they have disappeared, faded away.

Everything was diverting me, taking me far away from reality… The art was grotesquely mutating into a social media form, and it was having dirty brutal intercourse with the lowest grade of pop ‘culture’. I noticed that the colours were now increasingly fluorescent; while human lives were becoming increasingly blurry… before they began disappearing altogether in the distance… as they were decreasing in size and importance, as they were pushed further and further away… as it was becoming obvious that they were going to be gone, and disappear altogether… soon.

Modern European art was not dreaming about a ‘better world’. It was hardly offering any social criticism.

But has it ever?

It was not calling people to the barricades… It was not dreaming about overthrowing the fascist global regime.

But after days in the Louvre and in the National Art Gallery, I was coming to a chilling realisation – it never has… Not in Europe… It was whoring here… For as long as we can remember, ever since we have been able to monitor…

Drunk, in fact totally stoned from an excessive intake of European classic and modern art, I struggled to remain firmly on the surface of our mother Earth.

The art was everywhere, all around me, and much of it was now absolutely free, here in Europe… But most of it was clearly on some sort of sinister mission – to simplify reality, to mute and humiliate all honest, positive and constructive emotions, to depoliticize societies, and in the end, to push people away from thinking and feeling altogether.

Perhaps it would have been better to have no art at all, than such art as this!

What was it that European propaganda was criticizing Soviet or Chinese art for? I recall words like ‘censorship’, and ‘fear’!

The Louvre… Prado Museum… National Art Gallery… what else are those other than collections of incomparable and shameless orgies of submission, or servility, of cowardice, which would be inconceivable in any other culture on Earth?

Canvases of the Louvre: In horror, I observed the crawling infant Jesus depicted on every second painting… then crucifixions and of course countless resurrections… all with a frightening repetitiveness.

An image of baby Jesus with a perverse and adult face, crawling on the ground, while adults are watching with subservient admiration. There are images of some religious freaks with knives sticking out from their heads… There are bizarre angels flying, falling from the sky, fighting and threatening looking with their mean faces.

There are cardinals, bishops, and popes. And there are aristocrats, kings, governors and simply rich merchants who could afford to hire ‘big artists’. All that creative prostitution; all those paintings produced to order, forming the essence of European culture; of European art!

I walked with my mother from hall to hall. “Great technique”, she uttered sarcastically. Yes, I agreed, truly great technique… but the substance!

“All the might during those centuries was concentrated in the hands of the Church”, commented my mother. “The Church was much more powerful than the throne and the aristocracy. And the church of course employed the greatest masters, such artists as Caravaggio, Leonardo da Vinci, and Rafael. And they were ready, happy, to be employed by the church, naturally, because the church paid them exquisitely, and because it was ‘protecting them’, making sure that they will not get burnt on the stake as so many others, and that they would not be tortured and murdered…. naturally, artists were not calling for rebellion, and there was no diversity of thought, no criticism of the system, or of the bestiality of the Christian dogma itself…”

In those years and centuries, Christianity murdered tens, hundreds of millions, of innocent people all over the world.

It financed ‘expeditions’ to what is now north and Latin America, to Africa, the Middle East, and to almost the whole of Asia.

Entire nations, countless great cultures were destroyed, and people of much more advanced civilizations, like the Inca, were forced to destroy their own identities, by ruining their own temples and dwellings, and then use the stones in order to erect monumental churches and cathedrals for the satisfaction of ruthless, merciless Christian invaders.

Where is all this being documented? Of course it can be seen in the great schools of painting: those of Peruvian Cusco and Ecuadorian Quito… but in the West?

Where in the Prado Museum in Madrid, are those sculptures and paintings depicting Christian barbarity? Where are those hundreds and thousands of artworks depicting Christian monstrosities: People being tortured for days and weeks, their bones broken on wheels, sharp objects inserted into their vaginas and rectums, men and women burnt on stakes? All this, so that they would admit that they are ‘sinners’, that they are ‘evil’? That it is justifiable to murder them without remorse.

Where are those artists who would have dared to depict the results of the crusades – the bestiality, and the looting committed in the name of the cross? They are nowhere to be found – as they were all cozily copulating with the church, as they were paid by the church, and corrupted by the church!

Where are the paintings showing full Christian coffers, stretched from booty? And again, where are the images of the millions of victims, decapitated, cut to pieces, with their eyes poked out, tortured on stakes, burnt alive?

I walked slowly through the endless halls and corridors of French, Spanish, British and German museums. And I saw nothing, nothing at all, depicting crimes, genocides and holocausts committed by the most evil institution that ever existed on this earth; the most evil institution of all times – the Christian church.

This church, this horrific establishment which has been intimidating, scaring, and torturing billions of people worldwide, for millennia, is still ‘morally’ and ‘intellectually’ in control of the most powerful and the most destructive country on earth: the United States of America.

And it is still forming the cultural essence of Europe. It is – until now it still is!

In Europe, the majority of people may not go to churches, anymore, and it may not believe in Christian dogma… it may not believe in the religions at all, but its ‘culture’ is clearly shaped by aggressiveness, ruthlessness and the brutality of the Christian church and its realm.

It is not that ‘people kidnapped good religion and made it monstrous’ – it is religion that brainwashed people, entire nations, turning them into intolerant, bigoted murderers. But search for such thoughts on the canvases in the Louvre…

I saw almost no ‘dissident’ works in any of the major museums of Europe.

I felt shame. And I felt horror at the monolithic essence of such spinelessness.

I was walked through the Louvre and through the National Gallery in London, blushing like a little boy.

How could this ‘culture’ criticize great artists in China or Russia, or Latin America? How could such a submissive and cowardly culture dare to criticize anything or anybody at all?

There, in Latin America and Asia, art has been standing tall; it has been at the vanguard of all changes, of progress!

Even in Indonesia, the greatest post-war painter is Djokopekik… My friend Djokopekik… An ‘outrageous’ political artist, with a fabulous heart on the left politically, with guts and endless courage… He used to be a former prisoner of conscience in the Western-backed jails of fascist, post-1965 Indonesia… A painter who immortalized Suharto as a swine, and former President – Megawati – as a puppet! And his own, brainwashed, indoctrinated nation, as a horde of monkeys!

Where are those ‘brave’ European ‘masters’? Where are they, damn it!

Paintings, murals, posters, songs, theatre and cinema – they have all been struggling and attempting to improve societies in many parts of Asia and Latin America, even in Africa. How socially-oriented the greatest Latin American and Chinese art is! How empty, submissive, irrelevant, is art in the West!

In Venezuela, Brazil, in Ecuador and Bolivia, in Cuba, Chile and Nicaragua, art is offering both beauty and hope; it is searching for new directions for their societies. So many songs that are sang there are deep, poetic, with stunning lyrics and music. So many of them are ‘engaged’.

The art in the West is now trying to cover up, by its complex curves and uneven squares, its total impotence, its moral emptiness, as well as the frightening brutality of European and North American culture.

As I walked through Paris, from the Sorbonne University to the Musee Quai Branly (the one that the French wanted to name, originally and arrogantly, as the “Museum of Primitive Arts”), I passed literally hundreds of art galleries.

In those days, the West had been, as I described in several of my recent essays, involved in a deliberate and determined attempt to destroy almost all the countries and governments that were still resisting its fascist grip on the global power.

‘Opposition’ movements were consistently manufactured in North America and Europe, and then implanted into Venezuela, China, Ukraine, Russia, Eritrea, Cuba, Bolivia, Brazil, and Zimbabwe, and to numerous other nations, on all continents. The Arab Spring has been literally derailed and bathed in blood, as the fascist and pro-Western military juntas have been arresting and murdering the opposition, and former revolutionaries.

I saw not one reflection of this reality in the galleries of Paris!

At one gallery I observed several metal dogs on long metal leashes that were sticking out into space… I was confronted by hundreds of pop topics, ranging from Italian sausages, nude girls and Frankenstein…

On Rue Mazarine, I was expected to admire several black garbage bags and one carton box… and then much the same in countless galleries of Quai Voltaire, only with more subdued and expensive finishing.

By now, France was heavily involved in almost all of its former African colonies. It has been playing as distractive a role on African continent, as the United States.

But you would never guess it from its visual art – from its museums and galleries!

It was all totally intellectually empty… It was finished… indifferent… and embarrassing. There were almost no dissident voices that were audible.

I was instinctively longing to escape from the Parisian art scene, as I, two days earlier, literally ran away from the National Gallery in London, ‘cornered’ by Juan de Valdez Leal and his “Immaculate Conception of the Virgin, with Two Donors”, and the portrait of a pompous and obviously well paid Don Adrian Pulido Pareja, painted by Juan Bautista Martinez de Mazo.

I ran earlier, two years ago, from Brussels, where I kept stumbling over another ‘great artwork’ – statues of the King Leopold II, a true Belgian hero, who ordered the slaughter of a total of ten million Congolese people at the beginning of the 20th century – those who were accused of being too slow while working on his rubber plantation. The typical form of killing was the chopping off hands, but millions were also burnt alive, after being locked in their huts. Confronted by such deeds, one can hardly argue against the refinement and greatness of Christian and European culture!

Statues of Sir Winston Churchill and Lloyd George, those jolly good blokes who murdered millions of ‘those niggers’ in the Middle East and Africa, are also considered as masterpieces of European art, not to speak of the sculptures of dozens of the vile monsters responsible for genocides in the Americas – those that dot both Madrid and Lisbon. And there is no graffiti in Europe that would add at least some color to those gray and bronze ‘masterpieces’, like: “assassins!”

Frankly, ten days of hunting for meaningful European art exhausted and depressed me to the extreme.

I came there to search, once again, for truth, but I found centuries of accumulated propaganda, layer after layer – piling on top of each other.

This was perhaps my last attempt, as I had already spent years and decades studying Western art, crisscrossing Europe and North America, visiting museums, galleries, concert halls, opera houses, as well as all sorts of tunnels decorated by graffiti. It was time to accept the obvious conclusions, and to dedicate my time to something more meaningful.

I searched for kindness, but I found intimidation, fear, and brutality.

I searched for answers to all those horrors that were spread by the Western way of thinking… I found only pompous sculptures and canvases, repetitive and made to order.

There were some, very few, painters, like Otto Dix in Germany, or the Norwegian Munch. These two at least managed to show the tremendous fear that has been spread by Christianity, the hypocrisy and perversions of Western dogmas.

At Tate Modern, in London, there was a substantial exhibition of Soviet poster art. And at the Pompidou Center in Paris, I visited a huge and impressive exhibition of Henry Cartier-Bresson, which confirmed, once again, that one of the greatest photographers of all times was actually a Marxist and very close friend of both the Soviet Union and Communist China.

But these were clearly some exceptions, and most of them were like an echo from the past. It is a well known fact that Western art exploded out for three decades after the WWII, attempting to join humanity… Yes, it exploded, but it burned itself quickly, way too quickly! Emptiness and soullessness quickly returned.

As the world has been, once again, screaming in pain; as neo-colonialism has again been murdering tens of millions of men, women and children in Africa, Asia and the Middle East (but also in such places as Venezuela, Egypt and Ukraine), Western art continued to do what it did best, for centuries – painting absolute shit, and strictly to order.

Be it the church, the throne, the merchants or now the multi-national corporations or conservative governments – European and North American artists are ready to serve them all loyally, as long as there is an uninterrupted flow of dough! And they are ready to compete for this money, and to even cut each other throats.

They are eager, ‘technically and artistically capable’ to deliver anything that would stop progress, to cover up all those monstrous crimes of religion, business and the state. They are ready to turn their trade into a deadly weapon, to stir people away from conscience, from rational thinking, from compassion, even from love and from basic kind human instincts and feelings.

The fluorescent lights, and huge art installations filled with plastic straws and blinking lights for idiots – that is what it is all coming down to.

Billions of those who are starving to death and living in a gutter, matter nothing. They do not pay – therefore they do not exist.

Andre Vltchek is a novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. His discussion with Noam Chomsky On Western Terrorism is now going to print. His critically acclaimed political novel Point of No Return is now re-edited and available. Oceania is his book on Western imperialism in the South Pacific. His provocative book about post-Suharto Indonesia and the market-fundamentalist model is called “Indonesia – The Archipelago of Fear”. He has just completed the feature documentary, “Rwanda Gambit” about Rwandan history and the plunder of DR Congo. After living for many years in Latin America and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides and works in East Asia and Africa. He can be reached through his website or his Twitter.

first published here: http://www.mediachannel.org/shameful-cowardly-european-art/

March 29, 2014

sean jacobs on an inconsolable memory

Filed under: 2013 - An Inconsolable Memory — ABRAXAS @ 8:40 am


In 1966 the South African government declared District Six—a high-density, mostly coloured residential area intrinsic to the fabric of downtown Cape Town and situated on prime land beneath Table Mountain —to be a white “Group Area.” The state promptly set about forcefully removing District Six’s “non-white” residents (eventually about 60,000 of them) to land up to 30 miles further to a flood plane known as the “Cape Flats,” which consisted of mostly swamp land and sand dunes populated by invasive vegetation.

Despite the fact that nowadays developers and the city council (governed by the mostly white Democratic Alliance which relies on the votes of poor coloureds who now inhabit the Cape Flats) would sooner forget that District Six ever existed (they want to remake that part of the city into a Maboneng-style district for hipsters and whites with money), and despite the fact that nothing but an ugly gash on the hillside near the city is the only evidence of razed buildings, its historical significance has been extensively memoralized. There’s a downtown museum—a few blocks from the original neighborhood—dedicated to its memory and District Six, and its former inhabitants have been the subjects of scores of books, novels, films and photographic exhibitions.

What we get from the Museum and these media are celebrations of a multiracial milieu: it was, after all, the neighborhood that started as a home for free slaves and black migrants to the city, a place which also attracted poor European—mostly Jewish—immigrants. We also see, in the objects and photographs of remembrance, evidence of the residents’ resilience—of how the mostly poor and working class renters made it in a city that made life difficult for them already. Finally, we see how, through forced removals, these people who built a vibrant place of possibility were condemned to various parts of the desolate Cape Flats.

Though District Six also had other black residents, it is coloureds that primarily lay claim to District Six (most coloureds don’t identify as black, but many trace their ancestors to Mozambican and Angolan slaves or Khoi and Xhosa unions). District Six is for them a lament for a lost city and a lodestar in reconstructing a more integrated metropole. And because the land where District Six stood has not been occupied much since, the area still stands as a monument for racial inequality and exclusion. Even as you drive above it on the elevated highway that takes you from the suburbs into central Cape Town, you can’t miss the presence of its empty expanse

The result of its lasting absence/presence is that popular memories of District Six—though it is punctuated by occasional stories of deprivation and communal violence (the infamous Cape Town Mongrels gang originated there)—generally celebrate those who lived there. (My father, who was born in Peninsula Maternity Hospital in District Six—but grew up in Newlands and Kirstenbosch—has the same nostalgia for “die Distriek.”).

The now-razed neighborhood also had profound influences on the city’s cultural life. The writer Alex la Guma (he died later, an exile, in Cuba) brought the quarter to life in his books (“A Walk in the Night”) as well as in his journalism for the Communist papers, The New Age and
The Guardian. Musicians like Abdullah Ibrahim honed their skills in its clubs.

Yet, occasionally, residents recall more complicated memories, like how they remember or care to forget the history and legacy of institutions like the Eoan Group.

Eoan, a derivative of the Greek word for dawn (Eos), was founded by a white British immigrant, Helen Southern-Holt, in 1933 as a kind of ethnic uplift organization—a “culture and welfare organization” aimed at coloureds in District Six. Its politics was hardly radical. The emphasis was on teaching “the Coloured race” how to speak “proper,” have good posture, manners and hygiene. More importantly, they would also learn the arts, especially ballet and opera. The group used a building, the Liberman Institute, donated by a Jewish philanthropist.

Led by conductor Joseph Salvatore Manca, an Italian immigrant to Cape Town who worked as a bookkeeper for the city council, the all-coloured company (in terms of the performers; most trainers were white) performed from the early 1940s onwards, and gained some local and national fame. Condescending white critics were fond of declaring the group up to their high standards and some group members took this as genuine praise. But Eoan was a genuinely talented company of performers, conducting national and, later, international tours (especially to the UK).

Eoan was a performance company that consisted of talented members; it was not a charity for half-baked dancers. Were they born somewhere else (free from race prejudice or dictatorship), they would have been celebrated for their work. What is remarkable is that a number of Eoan members would go on to prove themselves on global (meaning European and American) stages. They include the ballet dancer David Poole, who passed for white (one Eoan member remembers: “he went to London coloured and came back white!”) and joined the Sadler Wells Theater Ballet as well as the Royal Ballet in London, or Gordon Jephtas, a pianist and arranger who on occasion accompanied famed Italian soprano Renata Tebaldi at the Royal Albert Hall in London. One of the male lead singers, Joseph Gabriels, a former municipal worker, became the first South African to sing at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.

By the time the government had bulldozed District Six to the ground in
1968, the Eoan Group had moved to Athlone township on the Cape Flats,
where they made their home at the Joseph Stone Theater, built as a
theater space for coloureds. (Any visitor to Athlone will recognize
the theater situated on Klipfontein Road, a main thoroughfare close to
Athlone Football Stadium). By the late 1970s, however, Eoan was in
decline. Though it retained the quality of its performances, a mix of
factors contributed to its eventual decline.

Manca (who could be ornery, but was admired by Eoan performers for his
high quality of coaching) dueled with Eoan’s coloured administrator,
Ismail Sydow, over who should manage the group’s affairs and
direction. Sydow was a local coloured grocer whose wife sewed the
group’s costumes. Sydow eventually won out over Manca and soured
inter-group relations in the process. But as race politics in
Apartheid South Africa went, that was an inconsequential victory since
both men shared Southern-Holt’s vision. In fact, such rivalries and
minor coups happen in performance companies everywhere.

More important to Eoan’s fortunes were the group’s choice of political
patrons and its compromises over racism and Apartheid.

Perhaps, it is only in hindsight that we can see how much racial
politics and the changing laws affected the group’s dynamics. But at
some level, the Eoan Group appeared doomed to controversy and
political compromise right from the onset. It originated in
Southern-Holt’s white, Conservative, Christian-based rhetoric, with
its disavowal of any “politics.” However, as the National Party came
into power in 1948 and made law out of already discriminatory social
practices, Eoan members couldn’t escape being politicized. (Remember
this was the period of the “Defiance Campaign,” when resistance to
Apartheid increasingly took a mass form.) Group members had always
vowed to not perform to segregated audiences. However, by the late
1950s, they had given in and were performing to audiences that were
divided by a rope: two rows of coloured patrons and eight rows of
mostly rich whites. Members rationalized—or so Manca made them
think—that they needed the money.

Before long, Eoan applied for money from the Department of Coloured
Affairs, a very unpopular arm of the state set up to “govern” coloured
education, social welfare and housing similar to “Native Affairs” and
the Bantustans. Manca also encouraged them to play concerts for white
Cabinet ministers. Soon Eoan was going on overseas publicity tours for
the Apartheid state. Ada Jansen, one of the senior coloured
administrators of Eoan, went to the United Nations on a visit arranged
by the regime and its defenders to try and break the cultural boycott
and weaken international solidarity in opposition to apartheid. The
company went on tours of Western Europe. (Eoan was certainly not the
only group used by the South African regime in this way, of course.)

For Eoan’s critics, the group had gone too far with compromises. The
middle classes, whose best qualities Eoan claimed to represent, now
despised the group: Most coloureds that cared or noticed (especially
the literary elites, political activists, andthe professional classes)
now openly resented Eoan.

In 1956, the writer Alex la Guma (charged with treason that same year
in a mass trial which included Nelson Mandela) wrote a letter to Eoan
about receiving government funding to perform to segregated audiences:

People can … conclude, therefore, that the Eoan Group supports
Apartheid. In fact, the whole idea remains one of the slave period
when the farmers hired Coloureds to perform for them, their masters.
Today in the 20th century we do not recognize the white man as our
master. This is the land of our birth and we demand government support
for ALL cultural movements. BUT WITHOUT APARTHEID STRINGS (La Guma’s

By the late 1970s, most patrons had deserting Eoan’s shows. Opponents
like the South African Council on Sports (they concerned themselves
with more than games), was openly calling on people to boycott Eoan.
In 1979, SACOS, in a piece of Gramscian theater, declared Eoan a
“banned organization.”

La Guma and SACOS—which between them represented competing strands of
antiapartheid organization—had a point. During Apartheid, the National
Party worked hard to court moderate coloureds as a buffer against
African demands. Some coloureds were willing participants in these
schemes. The belief among some coloureds to see white people as their
natural allies and patrons, of course date back further and implicates
slavery, colonialism, mission Christianity, and various government
“reforms.” However, throughout South African history, this hardly paid
off: social conditions for the majority of coloureds approximated
those of their African neighbors. Nevertheless, this paternalism stuck
and may also explain why most coloured voters relate to white parties
in the city and the Western Cape province. By the late 1950s, Eoan
were charter members of divide-and-conquer policies.

It can be very difficult for someone with little or no time or even
any understanding of the nuances of race, politics and identity in
Cape Town to fully grasp the conundrum of groups like Eoan Group and
its achievements and controversies. It also doesn’t help that Eoan is
a part of a past that few want to revisit in South Africa.

This is why the appearance of a book (Eoan: Our Story) and a film (An
Inconsolable Memory) about Eoan is a significant event. “An
Inconsolable Memory” and “Eoan: Our Story” both trace their origins to
the Eoan Board donating about 100 odd containers and 75 folders filled
with documents and information to Stellenbosch University. From these
documents, the university created an Eoan Archive in its Documentation
Centre for Music (DOMUS). A group of mostly white researchers sifted
through the documents and looked into the prospect of publishing a
book out of all this. DOMUS staff were joined on a steering committee
by Ronald Samaai, the brother of a former Eoan Group member, and Ruth
Viljoen, the widow of Eoan baritone, Lionel Fourie. The filmmaker
Aryan Kaganof was invited to film the proceedings and go along on

The film and book set out to tell the story of the surviving Eoan group members.

The material in the book and film often overlap, with the book
sometimes serving as a written transcript for the film.

“Eoan: Our Story” (the book) is organized into themed sections
(“Beginnings,” “In Rehearsal,” “Playing Roles,” “Final Curtain,”
etcetera). Conversations jump back and forth over time. Much of it is
verbatim testimony by Eoan members compiled during interviews (45 in
total). However, there’s little context, except for brief
descriptions by the editors. This may be consistent with the book’s
stated objective to let the Eoan members speak (“our story”), but
leaves the reader in the dark about the weight of certain decisions or
events. Everything is important and we just have to trust the editors
and the Eoan Group members.

Most Eoan members insist they only wanted to practice their art and
could care less for “politics” (whether for or against Apartheid).
They want to remember a time of glamorous costumes, triumphs and the
occasional stage mishap. In general they are proud of the groups
legacy. Some read a progressive legacy. There they could stop being,
say factory- or dockworkers. Talent was what mattered.

Not surprisingly, the resistance and condemnation they faced for
taking Apartheid’s money or playing to segregated audiences, still
hurt. They want recognition for their efforts. They want people to
see that they could perform and that they could create art regardless.
For them, being black or coloured, had nothing to do with their
abilities or talents. They were also acutely aware of the limitations
of Apartheid. They don’t remember their involvement as transgression
or collaboration.

Occasionally, some of them recognize the charged environment within
which they operated, including within the group itself. Many of them
point to slights at the hands of the conductor Manca and other white
teachers at Eoan. Manca, for example, discouraged coloured chorus
members from learning how to read music, and one of the Eoan trainers,
the soprano Emma Renzi, to this day disparages Joseph Gabriels as a
“little Cape coloured” who only got invited to sing at the Met in New
York City because of connections his likeness to the more famous
Enrico Caruso. That Gabriels enjoyed a fairly stable and successful
career in Europe escapes her.

But what seems to hurt (and rankle) surviving Eoan Group members more
was the criticism they got from other coloureds. Eoan members relied
on the “community” to reinforce their sense of themselves; to validate
them and when that validation was withdrawn—slowly from the 1950s
onwards, they suffered.

The effects of the “testimonies” in the book and the film are that it
is hard to deny the coloured members of Eoan the pleasure of wanting
to produce and practice their art given the oppression of their daily
lives. It wasn’t like they had the pick of opera companies; and until
the mid-1980s, they could not perform in whites-only opera houses and
theaters. By the time political freedom arrived in 1994 many of them
were retired or had died (Gordon Jephtas died in New York City in
1992). They were too old to enjoy freedom.

Between the book and the film, it’s Kaganof’s approach that points to
more promising possibilities for getting at some of the unease and
murk associated with Eoan. The Stellenbosch researchers probably felt
the same way as they indicate in the front of the book. (“And then
there was (Kaganof’s) presence behind the camera: filming, moving,
filming, winking, filming, laughing soundlessly. How much of what
transpired was directed by Aryan Kaganof? I suspect more than we
think.”) Kaganof’s film makes you wonder whether documentary film is
better suited at getting at our fragmented, complicated pasts. In an
interview, Kaganof told me that “… the film permits itself certain
territory that is forbidden to the book. The nature of the academic
contract locks the book into the terms of the release form. The film
operates outside of that contract and hence shows us that, perhaps,
‘official’ history is only part of the story, and perhaps the least
interesting part.”

Kaganof’s film opens with this message: “Let us not begin at the
beginning, nor even at the archive, but rather at the word memory…”
The emphasis in the film will thus be on fragmented memories. The pace
is deliberately slow and long, uninterrupted, shots dwell on
interviewees as they read the release form for example or offer him
tea in mostly overstuffed living rooms (the film also gives a sense of
the class politics of Eoan; most of the members appear to be members
of the coloured middle class). Kaganof is always present in the film.
You see or hear him occasionally as he prompts interviews and in the
editing choices he makes.

Then there are the lengthy archival sequences of District Six—mostly
street scenes, people milling about, hanging over balconies of
run-down tenements, and of children playing among ruins. The
overriding sense is one of poverty and neglect. These scenes are
overlaid with original recordings by Eoan’s opera company. I counted a
total of about 30 minutes worth of these scenes. Some elements in
these scenes are often repeated. Three shots in particular: the first
is of a (white?) man, probably a security policeman, who loafing
around a street, looks straight the camera; and the second, footage,
Kaganof shot of a white homeless man lingering outside the Cape Town
City Hall (where Eoan performed during Apartheid) as well-dressed
patrons arrive for some performance. These shots are jarring—as they
are the only shots of whites in the film—and you can’t help noticing
them. Finally, there’s a slowed-down sequence of a bulldozer about to
demolish a house. The sense of loss, anger and disorientation produced
by these scenes stays with the viewer for a while after.

There’s a moment in the film, right at the end, where Ada Jansen, a
key organizer for the Eoan Group, asks Kaganof to put off the camera
and he doesn’t and she gives her most honest answer about how people
felt about Eoan: “They (other coloured people) hated us for being
collaborators.” In this moment, Jansen comes across as proud of what
she did, unrepentant and resigned about her position. It is quite
revealing. One can debate Kaganof’s ethics and whether it was justified
to reveal the truth, but it gets at some of the questions any person
interested in Eoan may want to broach or is fascinated by.

Sean Jacobs
Africa Is A Country

An Inconsolable Memory | 99min | 2013 | south africa
produced by Stephanus Muller for DOMUS
directed by Aryan Kaganof

There must be a more productive way to write or think about black
people whose lives or work were compromised by colonialism or
Apartheid in South Africa. The popular, default position is usually to
label the most disgraced amongst them as traitors or quislings. Some
within the ANC and the United Democratic Front publicly promoted
singling out and shaming collaborators. In extreme forms,
collaborators were executed (e.g. municipal policemen, Askaris,
informants) or their houses firebombed or burned down. Sometimes they
or their families were shunned or worse physically attacked or
murdered. Of course, some black people compromised by Apartheid, were
“rehabilitated,” with a number turning up as later as ANC MPs in a
postapartheid parliament. But in general, the compromised have been
written out of history through a mix of shame and a tendency to focus
only on those who individually resisted the system. Curiously, the
tainted ones end up in a worse place than that reserved for whites,
the beneficiaries of those systems.

In a new article in The American Historical Review, the U.S. historian
Dan Magaziner (he has previously written a book about South Africa’s
black consciousness movement) tackles some of the puzzles thrown up by
this history. Specifically Magaziner writes about a group of black
South African art teachers (products of Ndaleni, a legendary all-black
art institution in Kwazulu-Natal) who worked in racially segregated
schools after the imposition of Apartheid.

In Magaziner’s telling these teachers attempted to carve out their
independence, producing art that went against state directives, while
in the process training generations of black artists and art teachers.
Yet by the 1980s, many of them were ostracized, and in extreme cases
paid with their lives (one of them, working in the Ciskei Bantustan in
1980, was murdered by his own students who identified him as a direct
representative of the oppressive state).

Magaziner concludes that for historians it is important to recognize
what kinds of lives were possible for these art teachers. “The state,
its educationists and their racialist ideologies were (the) reality
(of these teachers) and limited the form of their lives. So they
chiseled that reality and tried to make something beautiful of it.”

Yet Magaziner argues that to reduce these art teachers, and others in
their position, to history’s victims—“to dwell on such cold, objective
facts”—also denies them “the dialogue with reality that constituted
the art of their lives.” Magaziner’s solution is to pursue the “echo”
of Ndaleni: “a distortion in time, voices that do not say exactly what
we expect to hear and whose sense we struggle to discern.” As
Magaziner writes about one of his subjects: the challenge is to see
“the complexity of his experience, the fine-grained, everyday
negotiations of satisfaction and struggle that doubtlessly marked his

Changes are appreciation, and a more critical understanding of Eoan
will probably grow if this book and film gets a wider distribution
(though the latter is unlikely) and historians revisit the social life
of black people under colonialism and Apartheid.

The best contrast to Eoan’s fate is how African American performers of
the Jim Crow and segregation eras are viewed now than when they played
for segregated audiences in America’s clubs and theaters, donned
blackface or performed humiliating sketches on radio, television and
in film. For example, later generations of civil rights campaigners
despised the jazz trumpeter and bandleader Louis Armstrong, for his
bug-eyed performances in front of white audiences and trips on behalf
of the US State Department in the 1960s to counter Soviet criticism of
persistent racism in the United States against blacks. (Armstrong,
also controversially, performed in blackface as “King of the Zulus” in
the 1949 New Orleans Mardi Gras.) Malcolm X said of Butterfly McQueen,
a black actress who played a servile maid in “Gone with the Wind”:
“When Butterfly McQueen went into her act, I felt like crawling under
the rug.”

However, with time, some of these same critics have been kinder to
performers like Armstrong, 1920s singer Bert Williams (he performed in
blackface in minstrel shows) or Butterfly McQueen. Armstrong, for
example, it turns out often veered off script during those State
Department trips and quietly supported the legal defenses of civil
rights campaigners.

Yet, for all this, we can’t help but feel uncomfortable with groups
like Eoan that made major compromises with Apartheid. At the same time
we have to recognize that there weren’t any easy good choices for
blacks living under Apartheid who wanted to be creative. Yes, there
were artists who resisted heroically and who suffered greatly for it.
But as someone who doesn’t want to suffer in his own life, I find it
hard to expect anyone else to do it. The fact that the choices were
either martyrdom or compromise was part of the injustice of Apartheid.
Why should blacks always have to be so much better than everybody

published in chimurenga chronic

February 25, 2014

The valleys of broken thongs By HEINRICH BOHMKE

Filed under: Heinrich Böhmke — ABRAXAS @ 1:41 pm

I’ve just returned from the Eastern Cape, from dirt roads that dwindle into two spur tracks and then just impressions in the grass, around clefts in mountains that open into sublime valleys, each with a few foregone sandstone farmhouses, with stoeps and overgrown gardens and subsiding kraals. Among the dilapidation, one can still see the homestead and the footpaths of work that took place within it. And for me, I imagine I can still see the places where lovers pressed into each other, by the leaking dam with the cool moss, in that outbuilding whose thick, warped glass slants light through the motes. And there, far by the river, where willows hang and a spinney makes a yonic circle of silver and green. On an autumn blanket. Definitely there.

Just beyond the homestead, the windpumps of a previous generation lean and miss rusty pieces. The voice of these metal creatures is the thing most gone. Not only their own whirring murmurs but the sounds they roused from unliveable plains: flapping crops, yapping dogs and watered furrows.

Every two or three valleys produce an abandoned little church. These have mottled walls like the pages of a very old book and spires sticking out like a bookmark. There are long rows of stone fence posts too, hewn from god knows what quarry, transported in god knows what vehicle over vast rises of blazing veld. It brings a pleasing order to the scene. You can see ancient fields and camps. It speaks of Mesopotamian knowledge of things like crop rotation and breeding herds and irrigation; of steady betterment, made possible by handy objects like wheels and pliers.

The history of the white man’s settlement in South Africa, how much emptiness he encountered, how many chiefs he hoodwinked, how many he charmed, allied with, plundered and conquered, and the proportion of each activity that produced his spread up into valleys like this, is debatable. Right now, the academic (that is also to say, liberal) consensus is that he was almost entirely a bloodthirsty rogue and unremittingly supremacist in his attitudes and conduct.

Whatever the case, I am looking at what these trekking white men laid out and I find that it is also my way of living in a valley like this one I see, on my own earth, in my own time on it. There certainly are other ways a valley like this could be inhabited. It could be a bustling ethnic scene like the prints you buy at airports. But I find I don’t like experiencing the casual squalor of a profusion of huts and thin dogs and chafed horses, and men on their haunches drinking from a shared pot and the slow and tragic overgrazing of the unimproving commons, and much (but not all) else in the “native” style. I also know what I do like. I like views, even if in ruin, of the imagination, pride, grimacing work, canniness, thrift, jealousy, sharp-shooting, bull-voiced cowing and laying out of these homesteads so aloof.

Indeed, I am laying out my own patch of valley pretty much as those of my stock have done before. I am amazed by my foray into the turgid comradeship of klipgooiery (stone-throwing) against ‘my people’. But I recognise also that I effectively purchased my present reactionary stances and tastes. It’s like a lover of Wagner, listening at full blast, as he sheltered Jews during the War. What’s more, I realise that klipgooiery and the South African constitutional order it produced, bought my people further time in the blue-craned valleys they love. The treaty favoured us.

And so I must have the guts to defend the economy that allows such an aesthetic to exist, even if only in abandoned folds of mountain and stream. An economy based on a certain amount of exclusion of the merely needy and the merely many, incapable of – or unmoved to – raise these square buildings up to eyes like mine. I must invest in a politics where mere superiority in numbers and urgency of need does not define the distribution of social good. In point, good land in good valleys does not simply go to the most needy but to those who are able to “have it well”.

In having it well, I am not naïve about the subjectivity of my position, nor the incursions of others whose eyes survey things differently and consider me to be the ever-present “dexterous marauder”, not them. I recognise these women and men as worthy adversaries. That is the liberating thing about the present political language released in our country by the new freedom fighters. In their politics, a chunk of the Black poor have jettisoned claims to an overarching national identity. They have consequently freed all settlers too from having to cast their possessiveness in “objective” legal and civic terms. Those cords of simunye are slashed. The 12th frontier war is on, not by spear or cavalry, mind you, and neither are the Boers all white, nor the Blacks all poor, but nevertheless two sanguinary groups line up to renew an ancient squabble.

It is not all exclusion and privilege. This valley economy has a broad anti-capitalist theme. The mere locking up of a title deed or money in the bank is not the final word on possession. There is a place for conquest (and resistance) still, but conquest to what purpose, to produce what kind of scene, what kind of lay of the land?

And so I stand, on the most temporary ledge, with Kaganof and Mngxitama (authors of From A Place of Blackness) so that an ill-bred Grey College, my-dad-is-an-advocate-with-10000-hectares scion, who scares passing kwedins on his quadbike, deserves a Christmas thumping from a roused Xhosa. And, I stand with Mr Soga, the gainful black farmer, with the neat lands, and the concertina, against the louts who break bottles in the road because they will never own a bakkie or make music, and together we get someone to inform on them and someone else to terrify them into good behaviour, for some time at least, they are not from here anyway.

With Mr Soga I know I stand with a man who can look at all that is strong and orderly in his fences, and “who feels that his doing so adds to his pleasure.”

I spent some time with Tannie Hettie and her unmarried son of 68, Simeon. Her granddad settled here in the 1870s. He built a house on Torven, a prized and now isolated farm. Torven had yellowwood ceilings, sandstone blocks he hammered wedges into himself and transported by wagon, lead oxen, Bladiyi Ful and Rooius. In 2002, a land speculator bought Torven from under the family, from a swaksinninge uncle, gutted the house, carted beams away and then sold the farm, on the inside track, to the government at a premium for land redistribution. Ten years on, there are only two huts there now, the tractor and pipes are sold and the only crop is pensions, unless you also count children, sent down to a gogo to bring up on grants.

The point is that the enduring violence of white settlement is essentially the imposition, jointly, of an economy and an aesthetic. (I would like to believe that an ethics is universal and just as universally over-ridden by power in all societies). Anyone wishing to undo the economic effect of whiteness in South Africa is confronted with globalisation, the dearth of alternative economies and the death of the autarchy as a viable political base of operations. So, in the end, change becomes a game of aesthetics, names of streets being a good example, but also all the palace intrigues. Mbeki was replaced by someone who had another feel to him, their policies and class projects exactly the same.

As for land, even its redistribution will only meaningfully be a question of aesthetics. Squatter camps will arise between farm stalls, with big black or white agribusinesses unaffected. The Angry Men’s talk of nationalisation does not originate in honest principle. Overwhelmingly not. It is a generational overture from the ranks of the vanquished and excluded, feeling restored and betrayed, who wish to trade their demographic capacity for overrun for the entry of their commanders to the state. It’s thus classic democracy.

But this is the trouble with unmonied democracy. Squatter camps are not sandstone homesteads. Nor do lifelong idlers, no matter how indignant they are at the enforced sufferings of this condition, have the industry to reap their own fruits. They sprawl into elaborately worked valleys. And they sprawl not in search of arable land but in search of Boers. Boers, black or white, whose outer encampments they may join, to labour or otherwise partake of spilt wealth.

Now that’s a theme for ethnography. Mfenguism. Settlements around Cape Province towns, filled not by displaced or defeated tribesmen forced into menial labour but rather collections of camp-followers, summoned from ethnic wars afar to scavenge for a living, because a living is endemically difficult in Africa, white man or not. And if history is a guide, the real bulwark or reserve army against the Angry Men will be black workers, those who can get more from the Boers than they can hope for going to war under heedless chiefs.

Which, all of it, would make calculating the cost of the appeasement of these Angry Men and the decent reward of our Mfengu regiments nothing less than a matter of survival. Soon constitutional Kei Rivers will be crossed. And rivers run through valleys.

I think of the gogo at Torven. Last time I saw her, she was bent double on the road, fiddling with a broken thong used to keep the infant in the blanket on her back. She refused the lift I offered. I think of those fighting idlers who would prefer the joint ruin of all, if there is to be no equality in their lifetime. And I wonder whether the flailing windpump, neither repaired nor torn down, or the needlessly squalid shack or smashed bottle in the road may not in fact be, at some level, a desired symbol, a flag of a sort of coming, stubborn Pyrrhic victory.

Heinrich Böhmke is a writer based in South Africa

first published here: http://mondediplo.com/2014/03/15southafrica

February 24, 2014

it was all a metacritique

Filed under: kaganof — ABRAXAS @ 10:32 pm

Screen shot 2014-02-24 at 10.31.12 PMDrone Commander Tom was the Mad Hatter. His girlfriend said “You look like Juju with your helmet on, you Mad Hatter you.” Drone Commander Tom went to the Consulate of Crimeria in order to get a visa in his pasport. he was easier to control with a visa in his passport. it glowed in the dark and made this incessant cricket sound. the sound of whistleblowing in a dark room in brussels, late eighties-early nineties. the soundtrack is electronic body machine music. “you don’t have to beautiful” (but it helps).

February 3, 2014


Filed under: Ahmedabad,politics — ABRAXAS @ 2:34 am

The week of 23rd to 30th January this year and every year comes with special promise. It is a promise of courage, democracy and dedication of truth. It is a promise of bravery, constitution and truth. It is a promise of global vision, virtues of unity and power of dedication to self-criticism. Yes, in India this is a special week.

23rd January is a birthday of freedom fighter Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, founder of Indian National Army. He united patriotic soldiers from Indian subcontinent through coalition with Germany and Japan to overthrow British imperialism. Though, he failed to do so—because British were successful in stopping advancing Japanese forces (ally of Bose) at the north-east borders of India and also subsequently his tragic death in air-crash later in August 1945. The day of 26th January is historically very special to India. On this day in 1929 at Lahore Congress Convention, India as a nation resolved to make this day as symbol of Free India. On this day in 1950 India became republic via adoption of Constitution on 26th November 1949. The day of 30th January 1948 holds unique position in Indian history as it is dedicated to tribute for sacrifice Mahatma Gandhi made. He was assassinated on this day in New Delhi`s Birla House.

In many senses, the spirit of these three days is epitomized in one persona i.e. Nelson Mandela. Mandela, popularly known as Madiba; who lived life as revolutionary, true humble democratic leader, a pioneer of non-violent transfer of power without bloody armed struggle and a great humanist who stood for human rights of not only ‘blacks’ in South Africa and African sub-continent but also across the world.

In the 1960s, Mandela joined left wing revolutionary movement well after he completed is legal education and practiced for a while. Because of his consistent involvement in revolutionary struggles he was soon imprisoned and due to consistent denial for compromise in combat against apartheid, he was forced to suffer in prison for 27 long years. Imagine, that can be anybody`s half life time. Like radioactivity, where half life period of any element can be hundred and thousand years; Madiba represented millions and millions lives across the world in his prison life; reflecting in a sense a true torch-bearer of struggle against exploitation, segregation and butchering done by imperialists in African, American, European, Asian subcontinents. His education in English, anthropology, politics, native administration, and Roman Dutch law is testimony to how he viewed humanity and world at large. His interest in dancing and drama reflect how deeply he was in a position to understand the liberal passions of life.
One can be surprised with multiple-diverse and intrinsically opposite traits of same personality leading in different ideological processes. But Mandela was no ordinary leader.


At the same time, when world was mourning passing away of Madiba, India was also witnessing passing of an era represented by Literary Twister named Namdev Dhasal. His last poem – on Nelson Mandela – was published on January 11. A underground poet, a rebellious political leader, a social revolutionist against power, caste and religion, doyen of subversive language in contemporary India and philosopher of understated marginalized classes in regions beyond centers of wealth. Born to outcaste family, in his younger days he drove taxi for livelihood. His movement started from foundation of ‘Dalit Panther’ inspired from American Black Panther Movement.


He was largely responsible for creating consciousness in regional language literature in India about need to break all norms, project life upside down, reverse aesthetics of appreciation of writings and thus day to day happenings and imagine possibility of making evaluation of expression more democratic, respecting plurality and authentic. He was the only person to be awarded by Lifetime Achievement Award by India`s highest Literary Body ‘Sahitya Acadamy’. In 2001 he made presentation to International Literature Festival in Berlin.

If Mandela mobilized people on the basis of urge of self-respect, fight for justice and struggle for rights; Dhasal marshaled weapons of words to destroy the citadels of prejudice, stigma of outcastes and vaccume of socio-political alliances. Manela-Dhasal may be separated by continents but they spoke same language through different ways in parallel times—times of transition, times of retrospectively realizing that coloniasm is yet to finish, times when 90% of the world was yet to taste the fruits of modernity in true sense, times of experiencing endless agony for asking for own dignity. If language was the custodian of indigenous culture of communities, Dhasal proudly navigated through powerful corridors of established literature carrying this native culture which has it own beauty—like dark side of the moon. Mandela—empowered courage of people who had no way of knowing how to express their silent protests through gentle conversations on the streets, schools and social gatherings.

Mandela`s realization of inhuman conditions in Robben Island prison (where he was for 27 years), made him more sensitive person before by each passing day. Dhasal`s experiences of humiliation, atrocities and exclusion made his poetry more angry, firebrand and penetrating. Together they showed power of expression and conversation, determination and pursuit of righteousness, leadership across spectrums of social life and engineered new alliances, ability to connect to every subaltern group around, contextualizing the fight as per the times they lived in and living to their own ideals of life without getting unnecessarily influenced by idols of those times, in a sense retaining their originality. When another great Indian writer Dilip Chitre says, that mere word Criticism fails when we reflect on Dhasal`s writing. This irony was also felt about Mandela when US Government honored him with President`s Medal for Freedom while at the same time, his name was there in terrorists list. Dhasal`s style decorated by surrealistic expressionism which was ignorant to average outcaste reader and even distant for upper-middle class educated people. Mandela`s tactics were totally new for imperial forces as they were not ready to deal with phenomena which does not get wither away by 27 years of displacement from daily lives in the harshest conditions of prison. It was as if Mandela lived on another plant just like outcasts in India did for centuries to which Dhasal gave first socio-cultural shock after founder of India`s constitution Dr. B. R. Ambedkar.


This is not just an effort to eulogize Dhasal, but putting his personality in correct historical context. At the time when established legal-political system and institutional forces were continuously failing to acknowledge, let alone address, the plight of outcastes, Dhasal—through his sheer creativity with realistic arrangements of words—bulldozed agenda of cultural-political bias against community to which he born to.

These were also the times when by blending of words and music, Bob Marley travelled around the world by singing for freedom, justice, and equality. His tracks in 1979 titled ‘Zimbabwe’, ‘Africa Unite’, ‘Wake Up and Live’, ‘Survival’ were highly popular in a sense—they changed the moods of the youths across the continents creating a moral pressure buffer in the media, democratic movements and literary-music circles. I wish to close the tribute to seamless relationship in legacy of ‘Madiba-Dhasal’. Let us listen to these lines of Marley to at least start understanding for what Mandela-Dhasal stood for, lived for and died for !!!

“…Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery
None but ourselves can free our minds
Have no fear for atomic energy
‘Cause none of them can stop the time…
Won’t you help to sing
These songs of freedom?
‘Cause all I ever had
Redemption songs
All I ever had
Redemption songs
These songs of freedom
Songs of freedom…”

Screen shot 2014-02-03 at 2.51.23 AM

January 28, 2014

luzuko elvis bekwa on an inconsolable memory


grand master

the opening prayer in the documentary ‘ inconsolable memory’ when this old lady is summoning the higher being to give truth to the project, the plight of the eoan group is quite touching. the documentary soundtrack, the japanese pianist tomoko mulaiyama, gives the documentary a majestic and haunting elegance.

on the subject itself i should say i find the film to be quite enlightening . it kind of want to say we are all on the same page when it comes to prejudice. the visuals of the yesteryear district six, the children playing in the street, a jolly good drunk fellow who is teased by the bunch of kids in the street kind of set the film tone towards the path of truth . to console your memories you have to drown your self to alcohol..the struggles of the eoan group is a struggle that almost all of us in sa have experienced. the beauty though of the documentary is that it is not only highlighting the struggles of the eoan group as the coloured race but deeper it pins and pierces through the struggles of the arts in both past and present south africa. it is only through the arts that we can , or begin to understand the ways of a society.

the eoan group it seems were the force to be reckon with when it comes to opera music but because of a cruel system that deprived them of the free expression they were instead labelled as collaborators , a stigma that everyone is afraid to be associated with.it is unfortunate that the colour card has to go to extremes as to even create hatred amongst the community itself , perhaps the divide and rule system.

memory has no colour , as i contemplate on this idea i am reminded by the plight of the white people (perhaps very few) who were also caught in this race fracas . those who were deprived of free movement in their “own” country and by their own elected “government” . maybe it is because unknowingly they collaborated in voting for that oppressive and fascist rule. the inconsolable memory is telling us how to destroy arts entirely . arts is the reflection of a society and as such it evokes many feelings such as envy, pride , discipline etc and those are the qualities that shape society’s political expression.disdaining of the eoan group can be reminiscent of the nazi rule in germany . in order to survive in an evil idea one has to build clandestine of a token privilegded. of which those would be the oppressed.therefore i find it very hard to classify the eoan group contribution in shaping this country’s socio-politics nor towards the upliftment and advancement of the arts . were they collaborators (i don’t know) were they cultural activists ( i don’t know). whatever the case here is a tell tale of a heritage almost forgotten and erased from the archives of our cultural thoughts

memory is cost. perhaps this one area that we all fail to look at when we come to archiving . it was an alarming distress to learn that during the making of this documentary nfvf refused funding of this project with reasons that we can not understand . maybe it is because of what coloured people often lament and i can quote them clearly ,’ during the apartheid times we were not white enough to be classified as white people but now is the black rule and still we are not black enough to be classified as black people’. this is a sad and painful remark to think of . it is even more sad when you see it happening practically even in times of democratic rule.in 1996 during the acceptance of the first post-apartheid constitution mr tm mbeki on behalf of the anc made a powerful and oratory speech . in his speech he laid bear the hardships and struggles of the coloured race(the khoi and the san descendants) and how they were the first to suffer under colonial rule and ultimately lost their dignity . but now with this nfvf action it kind of inflicting on that wound.

memory is legacy – having been following the works of aryan kaganof from his previous projects it is clear that we are dealing with someone who is in state of hysteria , someone who is helplessly distressed by the erosion of arts in south africa , someone who is constantly and consistently banging on the doors of those who claim to be the custodians of arts but regrettably get no answer.his works are about preservation of legacies to reclaim our human dignity and to contribute an authentic, original and geniune gift to world cultures.

the photographic memories of ian bruce huntley on his recently launched book keeping times further emphasis of the importance of memory produces a perfect parallel and suitably vindicates the case of aryan kaganof.

as sometimes painful as the circumstances may be, memory heals. at times hidden, memory builds. controversial at points , it leads to healthy debates.whatever the case

memory is GOOD

January 12, 2014

F.J. Ossang: The Grand Insurrectionary Style

Filed under: film as subversive art — ABRAXAS @ 9:56 pm

Nicole Brenez

Cinematographer, writer, singer, messenger: F.J. Ossang, born in the Cantal on 7 August 1956. Practices poetry in all its forms. Subject of a retrospective at International Film Festival Rotterdam, 25 January – 5 February 2011.

He makes music – nine albums with his band MKB (Messageros Killer Boys) Fraction Provisoire; he writes prose – some twenty books, including De la destruction pure (1977), Corpus d’octobre (1980), Descente aux tombeaux (1992), Unité 101 (2006) and the emblematic Génération néant (1993); he makes films – ten movies and as many visual poems, if poetry means a violent outburst of vitality.

Ossang pretends not to concern himself with painting and drawing, but he has created sublimely beautiful tones of grey in Silencio (2007), and always gives carte blanche to his outstanding cameramen: Darius Khondji for Le trésor des îles chiennes (1990), Remi Chevrin for Docteur Chance (1997) and Gleb Teleshov for Dharma Guns (2011), making it possible for them to create radiant images without equal on any silver screen in the world. Joe Strummer said (after Docteur Chance) that Ossang is the only filmmaker he would immediately work with again. Ossang’s work belongs to the grand insurrectionary style that runs throughout the history of anti-art, from Richard Huelsenbeck to the films of Holger Meins. (1)

Ossang’s aesthetic has the singular capacity of displaying his expressive, narrative and rhythmic inventions in the context of an iconography of the most popular kind – in such a way that their poetic intensity transforms archetypes (bad guys, social groups, femmes fatales, warriors) back into prototypes, and facile effigies into fascinating creatures distraught with love, emotions, flux and space. He is a great filmmaker of adventure: bold images and scenarios in the form of expressive epic poems; the psychological vicissitudes of characters who move from rapture to ecstasy until they evaporate in the upper atmosphere because they can never again descend – like, for instance, at the end of Docteur Chance.

The story does not present events in the dreary manner of the average film, but allows room for visual developments, like Jean Epstein or the Soviet masters, including the Mikhail Kalatozov of I Am Cuba (1964). Instead of showing the chase or the race, Ossang films the world that produces such velocity, plunging into the substance of colours and the experience of sensations. Whatever the story may be, it springs from a love of words: not so much the dialogue but the formulation, the insert, the slogan, the point – giving rise to the monumental handwriting that so characterises his work.

(1) Other publications by Ossang: Le Berlinterne (1976), Revue CEE (1977-79), Alcôve clinique (1981), L’Ode à Pronto Rushtonsky (1994), Au bord de l’aurore (1994), les 59 jours (1999), Landscape et silence (2000), Tasman Orient (2001), Ténèbre sur les planètes (2006), WS Burroughs/Formule mort (2007).

Most influential MKB Fraction Provisoire albums: Terminal Toxique (1982), L’affaire des divisions Morituri (1984), Hôtel du Labrador (1988), Le Trésor des îles chiennes (soundtrack, 1991), Docteur Chance 93 (1993), Feu! (1994), Frenchies Bad Indians White Trash (1994), MKB – Live (1996), Docteur Chance (soundtrack, 1998), Baader Meinhof Wagen! (2006). For extracts from many of these works, see here.

But, most of all, Ossang’s cinema involves bringing back epic gestures to popular visual culture, tearing things apart until they become inconceivably beautiful. In Dharma Guns (2010), he creates a poetry of the ‘final images’, fits of giddiness, psychological account-settling that invade our brains as death approaches – the gleams and flashes he has still to extract from his much-loved argentic.

Generation Nothing: On Poetry in a Control Society

The best introduction to Ossang’s spirit is the film-portrait by Gérard Courant in his Cinématon series. It is portrait 52: ‘Made in Perpignan on 10 April 1975, at three o’clock in the afternoon’. At that time, Ossang was presented as follows: ‘Profession: singer, writer, publisher’. He was living in Toulouse , where he had started the magazine CEE, and had not yet made any films. Anyone who has seen a Cinématon is familiar with the principle: a fixed camera position, one roll of film, complete freedom for the subject. Ossang chooses to move nearer and nearer to the camera and, when he shouts into it, he is so close that it seems as if he is going to swallow it, like in James Williamson’s famous film The Big Swallow (1901). He then takes hold of the camera and runs away with it, transforming Courant’s quiet dispositif into a visual and gymnastic outburst.

This gargantuan appetite for cinema also comes to the fore in his first published texts. Issue number 7 of CEE, which was published by Christian Bourgois in 1979 and whose contributors included W.S. Burroughs, Pierre Molinier, André Masson, Bernard Noël, Christian Prigent, Claude Pélieu, and a key figure in Ossang’s universe, poet Stanislas Rodanski (a meteor from the twilight days of surrealism), contains the text ‘Video Scripts and Tribal Song’, a wild mix of manifesto, diary, screenplay, meditation and pamphlet which, in retrospect, reveals itself as an aesthetic platform for his films yet to be made.

In this text we can read, with the manoeuvres of a global civil war as background music and punctuated frames as visual montage, like so many frames and future film inserts (including one borrowed from Raoul Haussmann):

Moreover, there has never been art, only an incessant war of abuses against social time, in favour of the diversity of the real. There are only – and especially – actions to liberate what is always open!

Following the example of his riotous prose, Ossang’s romantic, apocalyptic punk films are part of a guerrilla ethos in which everything serves as a weapon: an exclamation mark, a capital letter, an iris, a fade out, a homage to Murnau’s Sunrise (1927), the description of an unconditional love. So many salvos in the thick, electronic fog that makes up the world. For Ossang, everything is a struggle: the raging energy of an endless and futile battle against the order of things. As soon as he embarks on directing La dernière énigme (1982), loosely based on Gianfranco Sanguinetti’s Situationist treatise On Terrorism and the State which had just been published in French, Ossang combines the strength of constructivism (poetry of the factory), Gil Wolman (a tribute to The Anticoncept) (2) and W.S. Burroughs (freedom of montage). A film has to be an attack: against common sense, against sadness, against all forms of control, such as allocation and identification.

(2) For the text of Wolman’s 1952 film The Anticoncept, see here.

Dada Rock ‘n’ Roll Guerrillas. The driving force of the guerrilla is the absolute rejection of a demarcated battleground. For the mental guerrilla, it is absolute rejection of any fixed cultural register. (3)
(3) Ossang, ‘Video Scripts and Tribal Song’, CEE, no. 7 (1979).

Some great poets, such as Epstein or José Val del Omar, were of the opinion that cinema – an intelligent machine – had the power to reveal the harmonies according to which the world is structured. In contrast, a film by Ossang the musician lays claim to chaos, intoxication, pure and inescapable disorder. He does not manage anything, especially not the emotions of some drummed-up viewer; he does not tell a story, but only shows how we are at the mercy of history, bombarding us with sensations and splendour. He styles himself like a conspiracy in which, to survive, no one should understand anything; he invents a different language and codes akin to a secret society or unflinching prisoners preparing their escape; he creates an explosion in the course of the world, an illuminated opening through which one can perhaps escape or die – or probably both at once.


In such an undertaking, speed becomes the crucial element. Here, nothing happens the way it does in the normal course of the world, nothing conforms to the usual order of things. The diction of the actors, as singular and autonomous as that invented by Robert Bresson, inclines towards the complementary and feverish register of the agitato; the gestures of the characters, whose bodies are changed by speed; the sequence of actions which, instead of quietly articulating cause and effect, are caught up in a vortex; the images’ relationship to their present which, instead of providing simple reflection, searches for the secrets of the future among earlier icons (often Expressionist), as if the truth of their collective history lies hidden in files that we know should be made public in the next century, but which by then will have probably already been falsified or destroyed.

Cinema is the last chance, it is unitarian and collective art. Cinema is the great critical force of other forms of expression, it reinterprets literature. I think that in the 20th Century cinema has disrupted literature, that the silent film was the upheaval of storytelling by means of a network that rises above a linear storyline. Specific to cinema is not travelling outside of time, but the creation of a kind of disruption between time and space that corresponds to the acceleration of time in society. We can jump forward and then back again, although memory only works relatively. Going back results in a loss of time, and in the end about the only thing left to remember is the light – to create a future. (4)

(4) Ossang, La Gazette des scénaristes, no. 15 (Winter 2001).

Lux Fecit

F.J. Ossang, dark light of intelligence and love. His heroes are named Ezra Pound, Roger-Gilbert Lecomte, Josef von Sternberg, Orson Welles, Glauber Rocha and Georg Trakl. In passing, we also discover that, in his eyes, the French geniuses are Arthur Cravan, Jacques Vaché, Jacques Rigaut and Guy Debord. Yet it is Hegel, the great inventor of negation, who provides the formula for the vertiginous routes to the unbound embarked upon by Ossang’s characters, and for the passionate spirit that runs through this body of work: ‘Being free is nothing. Becoming free is everything’.


La dernière énigme (The Last Enigma, 1982)

In-between essay and fiction, La dernière énigme established Ossang’s formal territory: a contemporary mythology. Inspired by the book On Terrorism and the State by Gianfranco Sanguinetti, it evokes visual echoes of political events, where a generation forfeits all revolutionary aspirations due to state terrorism. Shot using two cans of Kodak XX 16mm film.

Zona inquinata (1983)

La Zone: the poor, dangerous quarters of Paris (George Lacombe, 1928); the administrative zone where Orpheus looks for his lost Eurydice (Jean Cocteau, 1950); Interzone – the working title for William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch (1959). In 1983, Ossang created a synthesis of all these territories of unrest under a banner of dead colours.

L’affaire des divisions Morituri (The Case of the Morituri Divisions, 1984)

‘A story of gladiators against the background of the German question. The men sell their life rather than let themselves waste away in a territory controlled by the European middle class. One of them has become a star to the underworld, but eventually cracks up. There is but one way out: spill the beans to the press … ’ (Ossang).Played as a futuristic epic, L’affaire des divisions Morituri concerns the rebellion brewing amongst European youth after members of the Red Army Faction (most of whom were filmmakers) died in prison. The imagery harks back to the original revolt by Spartacus, but suddenly the black and white curtain is torn down and we are faced with the naked oppression of ‘sensory deprivation’ and State crimes. A mythical soundtrack consists of musical fragments from the most radical bands of the time: MKB Fraction Provisoire, Cabaret Voltaire, Tuxedomoon, Throbbing Grisle, Lucrate Milk. An emblem of French punk cinema.

Le trésor des îles chiennes (Treasure of the Bitch Islands, 1990)

The soundtrack to Le trésor des îles chiennes has memorable songs like ‘Pièces du sommeil’, ‘Descente sur la Cisteria ’, ‘Désastre des escorte’, ‘Passe des destitués’, ‘Le chant des hyènes’ and the original ‘Soleil trahi’. They accelerate the psychological journey of characters lost in hallucinations full of intrigue. Against contemporary consumerism are posed the expressive wealth, pugnacious energy and experimental sincerity of Ossang’s island inhabitants. Against a backdrop of ash and ancient lava, they flee for the darkness in their jeeps, and perpetuate the art of drug use: a legacy from centuries of black Romanticism. This is their real treasure, gathered by poets addicted to their craft. Their arsenal is not so much Kalashnikovs but ‘le prince cutter’ (as FJ will later sing in ‘Claude Pélieu was here’). That is to say, the strength to cut beyond the dotted lines, the instinct to avoid all deterrents to abandonment in intoxication.

Docteur Chance (Doctor Chance, 1997)

Before finding several rolls of colour film from the German army and realising twenty minutes of pure chromatic genius in Ivan the Terrible (1944), Sergei Eisenstein had dedicated some pages to colour in film. In a story about fugitive lovers, Docteur Chance, the first colour film by an expert in black-and-white cinema, issues from the same experimental excitement: how do you bring a film to the level of the chromatic initiatives in painting, as in certain medieval altarpieces, engravings by William Blake or paintings by Asger Jorn? In his Notes de travail (1996), Ossang elucidates: ‘This film should have the razor-sharp and vaguely coloured purity of a poem by Georg Trakl – no to a cinema more miserable than misery, more sexual than sex, heavier than the lead it paraphrases. Detail: a black-and-white close-up doesn’t have the same effect as a close-up in colour (why?). Why do the scripts of contemporary films seem “comatised” by emanations? Defilement of colour by structures. Deterritorialisation’.

Silencio (2007)

Silencio, Vladivostok and Ciel etient!: three silver pearls that together form the Trilogie du paysage or Landscape Trilogy. The visual poem Silencio follows in the tradition of documentary elegies that began with the films of Rudy Burckhardt and Charles Sheeler. But in the era of Throbbing Gristle, poetry must measure itself against industrial disasters, invisible nuclear apocalypses, a travel report, an optical meditation, an overwhelming array of black and white tones, a love song, a progression of dim phantoms in the terrifying caverns of hope … strike!

Vladivostok (2008)

‘Between word and worlds, teeming with mysteries’, wrote the psychedelic poet Claude Pélieu about Ossang. The fragmentary Vladivostok cultivates the wealth of such in-between places. A concentration of Ossangian poetry, the outcome of his happy collaboration with director of photography Gleb Teleschov.

Ciel étient! (Sky’s Blackout!, 2008)

Before this, Ossang films were not comparable to other films. But Ciel éteint! calls to mind early films by Philippe Garrel (Marie pour mémoire [1967], Le révélateur [1968]), closely related to anarchist filmmaker Jean-Pierre Lajournade. With the mythological everydayness of the young, destitute lovers Philémon and Baucis live in their cottage (made of reed in Ovid, made of wood in Ossang). At the end of the credits, we find the most beautiful visual declaration of love ever.

Dharma Guns (2010)

The fable: a young man – poet, scriptwriter and warrior – dies. How do you reconstruct the images in his brain? What do we see in our moment of death? Can the spirit understand the causes of death and clear a path for itself to another life? In what kind of form do these these final images manifest? Will they dazzle? A feast of lights? An invasion? As memories, hypotheses, assumptions? The magisterial expressiveness of Dharma Guns allows us to experience the impulses of optical nerves and synapses. Ossang has grafted the film onto the central nervous system, the very place where mental images are born. ‘My eyes have drunk’, we hear in this worthy treatment of Antonin Artaud’s expectations of cinema. Dharma Guns is constantly airborne, buzzing, pushing its way towards the isle of the dead. A masterpiece that slowly moves before our eyes, in the staggering slow motion of certainty, into the company of Nosferatu (1922) and Vampyr (1932).

first published here: http://www.lolajournal.com/1/ossang.html

November 14, 2013

Helgé Olle Jassen is an Artist with SouthAfricanArtists.com based in South Africa.

Filed under: helgé janssen — ABRAXAS @ 12:56 pm

This is a self portrait 09/05/13

I had a novel published 2005 by Pine Slopes Publications called “TELL TALE” ISBN 0-9684874-1-3. This novel deals with the ‘alternative (music) scene of the ’80’s and ’90’s. TELL TALE has just been republished as an e-book: lulu.com/spotlight/ll3322. Get YOUR copy today and READ ALL ABOUT IT!

Art was not an option for study at High School. During my Biology teacher training, drawing those microscopic details began to stir something within my creative urge. However, I only began painting when I later studied fine art at PMB University. During this year there were disagreements with some of my lecturers. I then left for Europe on a one way ticket! HUGE changes occurred in my ‘psyche’ during my travels. However travelling made me realise how ‘African’ I was and I returned to South Africa at the end of 1975.

Back in this country, I had a driving need to transform my “European experiences” into a particularly South African CONTEXT and began to pursue whatever creative opportunity presented itself to me. There were absolutely NO formal structures in place that could meet my needs, so I subsequently formed my own dance groups, or worked entirely on my own. My novel has documented much of what life was like during this time. It is a mixture of docu-reality and histro-practicality, the deeply personal and the utterly insane!


I have written and performed in 5 “avant-garde” plays. In 1984 I founded an avant-garde performance group (together with Gisele Turner, Gisele Stafford, David Mulvey, Peter Hart-Davis, Simon Stengel) called the Body of Despondent Artists and we were active as a group until David’s departure for Ireland in 1987. Joining the group in performance and/or creative energy/classes were Collen Castelijn (Seer in ‘I Have No!’), Ruby Bogaard (Dark Corners of a New Mind), Andrew Yates (photography), Aryan Kaganof (Ian Kirkhof), Rosemary Jones (Through a Lens),Ilse Biel, Mikhail Peppas, Andre Oosthuizen, Jessica Ramsden, Eldon Swallow. I gave classes free of charge, directed, made costumes and masks for the group, choreographed, experimented with performance/dance styles. This was a period of INTENSE growth and experimentation and research into theatrical techniques. I subsequently pursued a solo career performing in two self penned plays “BLOOD” (1988 – 90) and “The Come-Uppance of Punch” (1995 first performed at the Windybrow Festival, then 1998 and ’99 Bat Centre). “Punch” featured a prologue and epilogue based on the NEMESIS archetype written by Eldon Swallow.


I spearheaded the ‘alternative’ music scene through the ’80’s and mid ’90’s (15 years) djing in various clubs in Durban (starting out at Rumours which eventually became Faces) under the title of “PLAY”. I introduced fashion shows, performances into the night club scene. People dressed up and fantasized with their garments on a weekly basis, without having to resort to quick fix solutions by hiring costumes. I produced a fanzine entitled “Facet” in which the focus and direction of the ‘alternative movement’ had a ‘voice’. The criteria was essentially non racist, non homophobic, non sexist. I, together with BODA, became a member of the ECC in 1985.

Between ’82 and ’88 in particular, the club was a target of the security forces, where harassment and police raids were the order of the day. These were extremely trying times to put it mildly!

I see my paintings as PSYCHEreal or SUPRAreal as opposed to surreal.

I have been influenced by JUNG – particularly with the discovery of various ARCHETYPE IMAGES which have recurred in my paintings. I was a member of the Jungian Society and attended regular monthly lectures/meetings/workshops under the guidance of Gloria Gearing. This was indeed a privilege. My work has been concerned with the PSYCHIC state of apartheid (with specific reference to the ‘collective unconscious’) and the ravages of this UNSUSTAINABLE political/social/cultural state. These paintings therefore represent a particularly dark phase of South African history from a completely unique perception, and serves as a telling document of the time.
I have not painted since 1996.

I re-entered the teaching profession in 1997. Looking back now in 2013, all I can say is that I have learnt much. In 2009, experiences at a High School in the Umbilo area have left me devastated. Malema was in full cry! I stepped into a ‘pocket of insanity’. The turmoil within the school was unprecedented. I was given classes to teach where a teacher already existed in that post – Grade 10, 11 and 12 Life Science – the post advertised in the press. I found the teaching situation within the school untenable. At least one teacher that I know of was caning pupils. The Headmaster was suspended pending an investigation, so the GB, parents, some teachers and eventually the learners held sit-ins and strikes to have him re-instated. To my knowledge there is no workable POLICY either via the Ed. Dept. or via the UNIONS to address Educator concerns. The Headmaster had offered me a permanent post. After six months of daily abuse my sanity was about to collapse and I was placed on sick leave. I refused to return to that school and submitted reasons to relevant authorities. The headmaster ‘invoked’ a ‘fixed term contract’ to have me dismissed, yet this contract is NON EXISTENT!! I had an arbitration hearing. The ELRC issued TWO AWARDS! ONE in my favour, and (15 minutes later via fax) one in their favour….without informing me. I discovered this wonderful adjustment to justice three weeks later when I enquired as to why I had not been paid! I have taken the matter to the Labour Courts. The Ed. Dept. have failed to prove that I was on a fixed term contract. In fact they printed out a contract in May of 2010 claiming that I had not signed it and that was why it was not in my files! However, they forgot that the computer printout was DATED and that the ‘contract’ had my UPDATED salary scale! Legal procedure in this country is criminal in itself. No wonder so many criminals get away with their crimes as many people cannot be bothered to report them. These experiences with the Ed. Dpt. (who should have stepped in a long long time ago) simply emphasises their sad state of affairs, and the contempt with which they treat their employees.

UPDATE: The lawyer who has taken up my case 9 months ago has been joined by another lawyer. It is truly a blessing to have found such considerate individuals, working on contingency. My faith in human nature and in the ‘long arm of the law’ has been given a huge boost! We had a very positive meeting last week. And now, another 9 months later? Still no nearer a court date. The oponents are pulling every trick in the book to delay, delay, delay! Draw your own conclusions!

My latest art project – a 48:48 minute documentary on Americana songstress Jaspar Lepak – has been rejected by Encounters Documentary Film Festival in CT. I am currently preparing for a retrospective exhibition opening 15th June at Chilliplum Bistro 3 Abrey Road, Kloof. The Bistro is not open Saturdays or Sundays. However, I will be giving a walkabout this coming Saturday 29 June 11:30 for 12 noon. On view will be a selection of paintings between 1983 and 1991, fashion garments, hand made fabric wallets (which I currently sell at Shongweni Farmer’s Market on Saturdays (weather permitting), and a series of slogans called ‘Shooting from the hip’. The exhibition will close on 19th July 2013. Good news: this exhibition was reviewed by Aryan Kaganof (artist, film maker, poet, novelist) and was published in the September issue of ART SA! Yay! :-)

October 30, 2013

mamta sagar – hide and seek

Filed under: mamta sagar,poetry — ABRAXAS @ 9:28 am


About ‘Hide and Seek: Selected Poems’ by Mamta Sagar

‘Hide and Seek’ is a collection of selected poems by Mamta Sagar, written over the last two decades. The book has poems in English with the source text in Kannada language. The nineties saw a vibrant juncture in the Indian socio-cultural context, that opened ways to new thoughts, new identities and enabled the voicing of resistance for many marginalised groups and communities. The dalit, women’s movement and the movements of the marginalised marked the era. Mamta Sagar’s poetic trail is nurtured with this background. Since then until now, Indian societies have seen transformations reiterating ideologies and political stances. These poems gather nuances of this period; narrate tales of love and affection, benevolence and blasphemy. They are the epitome of mystical and magical moments. Adding to this is a rich Kannada poetic tradition that gives immense strength to her poetry. Musicality intrinsic to Mamta’s poetry has taken her poems into languages beyond oceans and terrain far from reach. In her poems cliched metaphors imbibe new meanings as the words sound, silence speaks, letters leap out of the pages to become a poem. Here everything is familiar, unambiguous and at the same time very personal. ‘Hide and Seek’ is a discovery of the hidden and sought from within and without.

Hide and Seek: Selected Poems
Author: Mamta Sagar

Translator: Chitra Panikkar with Mamta Sagar
Publisher: Kadalu
ISBN: 9781907219641, 224 pages
Format: Paperback | ebook
Price: £ 8.99
Publication: January 2014

About Mamta Sagar
Mamta Sagar, an Indian poet, translator and playwright writing in the Kannada language has three collections of poems, four plays, an anthology of column writing, a collection of essays in Kannada and English on gender, language, literature and culture and a book on Slovenian-Kannada Literature Interactions to her credit. She has translated poetry and prose into Kannada and English, collaborated with the translation activity in many Indian and foreign languages. She has presented poems at international poetry festivals including STRUGA in Macedonia, Poetry Africa in South Africa, Granada Poetry Festival in Nicaragua, Medelline International Poetry Festival in Colombia, Cuba, Serbia, Slovenia, Vietnam and Sri Lanka. She was invited as ‘Poet in Residence’ to Belgrade, Serbia by AUROPOLIS, an Association of Multimedia Artists. She has conducted poetry workshops for underprivileged children in schools in South Africa and India. Mamta has curated poetry events in Bangalore and Hyderabad in collaboration with Alliance Franchise, Goethe Zentrum, Central Sahithya Academy, Rangashankara and is presently engaged with ‘Kaavya Sanje/An Evening of Poetry’, an event she curates at the Rangoli Metro Art Centre, Bangalore. She has invited and organised poetry events in India for poets from Senegal, UK, Malta and Slovenia. She has participated in many Indian literary and poetry festivals. Her poems are translated into Indian and many foreign languages including Sinhalese, Vietnamese, Galician, Maltese, Spanish, French, Slovenian, Serbian, Macedonian, Estonian, Romanian, Chinese, Japanese, Cebuano, etc. and are published in those respective languages. She has collaborated and performed in ‘MOTHERLAND’, with artists N.Pushpamala (India), ‘Emily Dickenson project’ with Jannet and Jennifer (Australia), with poets Marjorie Evasco (Philippines) and Que Mai (Vietnam) and musicians Manja Ristic, Igor Stangliczky and Marko Jevtic (Belgrade). Her poems and interviews are showcased in the documentary ‘Cultures of Resistance’ by Lara Lee and in ‘Los Chicos de Manana’, a film by Spanish director Javier Monero from Spain. Dr. Mamta G Sagar teaches at the Centre for Kannada Studies, Bangalore University and lives in Bangalore.

Visit Blog:


Dr. Mamta G. Sagar
Res: 619, 7th Cross, 1st Main,
BEML Layout – 4th Stage.
Raja Rajeshwari Nagar,
Bangalore 560098, India

Mobile: 00 91 94 80 58 44 64
Ph (Res): 00 91 80 28 60 87 00

October 26, 2013


Filed under: kagapoems — ABRAXAS @ 11:58 pm

On the phone
from across the
world she said “I feel
nothing for you.”. I asked
her to say it again. she said
it again. laughed. added “I’m
listening to cool music.” put the
receiver next to the speaker. It was


October 19, 2013

sean jacobs interviews aryan kaganof about an inconsolable memory

Filed under: 2013 - An Inconsolable Memory — ABRAXAS @ 7:35 am


excerpts from an interview for africa is a country

6. Can you talk about the text you use at the start of the film: “Let us not begin at the beginning, nor even at the archive, but rather at the word memory…” What were you trying to say with that?

Regarding the text that I used next to the Eoan emblem. It is of course, a very deliberate play on the opening sentence of Derrida’s famous essay Archive Fever. The use of the sentence in this way explains, albeit in a codified way, how I will approach the material that I am editing, it is a clue towards understanding the methodology as well as being as close to a statement of intent as I probably ever will allow myself to come. It also clearly distances the film from the literary – ie. in the original sentence it is the “word archive” that becomes the source of play, etymologically and this etymological seeking is medium specific, it belongs to the realm of words and writing. But my substitution of the word “memory” for “archive” isn’t merely playful (although play is always enough, in itself for me, it always justifies itself as itself); it also is medium-specific – which is to say i am claiming that film is ontologically a medium concerned with memory, that memory is the stuff of film, its very nature, in the way that etymologies are the stuff of words (hence, of writing). And therefore, by association, that this film, which is about the memories of the Eoan Group, about their remembering of a period in their lives, is also always, and perhaps more importantly (for me) about what it is I do (film making) and what it is that films do and that only films can do. So it is informed by a high modernist understanding of self-reflexivity and how this reflexivity replicates itself in my film/s and filming that is ultimately what is played out, or at stake, in the play with Derrida’s quote.

7. There’s a certain logic to “An Inconsolable Memory”. In an interview you said something about giving yourself over to the material to guide you. Could you expand on that?

Every film I have ever worked on asks its own questions and determines its own answers. My role is always to determine which questions are relevant and which answers. Therefore each film is a beginning again, a learning how to edit, how to shoot, and that learning is always very specific. There are no general answers or routines. I always allow the material to guide me.

10. Let’s talk about your use of repetition. We notice that you often use repetition as a device in other films as well. In this film you keep returning to the white “hobo” (homeless man) as well as to the shot, taken from archival footage of District Six, of a man looking directly into the camera. Most filmmakers never return to the same shot, in fact in a documentary edit filmmakers often say: “We used that shot already, we need to find something else.” Yet, you find meaning in returning to shots already used. Why do you use repetition and what does it achieve as a device?

Heraclitus said “you can’t step into the river twice”. So in the strictly Heraclitean sense the repetitions aren’t repetitions at all. Because the film happens in time, works in time, when one sees images again, for a second or third time, what happens is that one’s memory begins to work within the film, it becomes highly experiential, highly charged with the possibility of revelation and explication. Basically one bores deeper into the subconscious of the image. This is when cinema becomes interesting, when we use moving images not to tell us what tv can tell us; that something happened, but rather, to allow us to feel from within, what it must have felt like when that something happened. Repetitions internalize the psyche of the film for the viewer to engage with as part of his or her own life experience, own recollection. There is a marvellous interfacing with the ostensible subject matter of the film. The film becomes a film about the person watching it, it becomes a mirror of his/her experience of watching it. This self reflexive tendency is one I appreciate very much.

11. Can you talk about the pace of the film: long uninterrupted shots of interviewees reading the release form, long archival sequences (especially footage of District Six both when it was thriving and when it was demolished) with music, etcetera.

Ah the pace! It can never be slow enough for me. Larghissimo please!

12. There’s a comment posted on your blog by Howard Smith which captures well part of what you’ve accomplished: “The re-exhibition of the District Six footage that your film provides is perhaps its greatest value to me: What a tragedy that that part of our city, the part that actually defined the uniqueness of Cape Town, was destroyed and with it the character nature and dignity of a people that made Cape Town what it was. All we have now is fragments and squabbles and—I fondly hope but sadly am not confident—the wisdom, learnt after the events: Never again to engage in social engineering.”

Perhaps you could send Howard’s quote through to the DA goons who thought up Blikkiesdorp?

13. There’s a moment, right at the end, where Ada Jansen, a key organizer for the Eoan Group mentioned earlier, asks you to put off the camera and you don’t and she gives her most honest answer about how people felt about Eoan: “They (other coloured people) hated us for being collaborators.” It is quite revealing. Can you talk about the ethics around that and whether it was justified to reveal the truth?

14. Finally, there is also a book–made up of interviews published roughly around the same time as your film came out. There is clearly a different tone and conclusion to the two. Both do historical memory, but differently. What would you say are the most obvious differences between the book and the film and what are the parallels?

Both these questions are intimately related. In a nutshell I can say that the film permits itself certain territory that is forbidden to the book. The nature of the Academic contract locks the book in to the terms of the release form (which is why those shots last so long!). The film operates outside of that contract and hence shows us that, perhaps, “official” history is only part of the story, and perhaps the least interesting part.

October 18, 2013

kgomotso moncho interviews aryan kaganof

Filed under: 2013 - An Inconsolable Memory,kaganof — ABRAXAS @ 8:47 am


1. Kwame Dawes is associated with the saying, ‘All Memory Is Fiction’, but memory is a big part of your latest film. What did you set out to achieve with An Inconsolable Memory and did you achieve it?

The Dawes quote resonates very strongly with me. In fact there is a title card in the film that says MEMORY IS ALWAYS FICTION, which is a quote from the French philosopher Jaques Ranciere. So Jaques and Kwame are clearly both onto something. An Inconsolable Memory is an attempt to convey in the film medium a sense of loss that is so great that language as we know it entirely fails at encompassing, at describing, the feeling. Only song can measure this kind of grief. Song and film. So the film has an elegeiac quality, it is pitched as an elegy, for the wounded, fractured, traumatised people of this country who were forcibly removed from their dwellings, their homes, by the apartheid regime and who, for the large part, have had no redress or restitution in this so-called “post-apartheid” period.

2. How did you get involved with the SU project?

I was contacted by Professor Stephanus Muller of the Music Department who had seen a couple of films I had made about the obscure South African “new music” composer Michael Blake and thought I would be the right person to film the story of South Africa’s first opera company, the Eoan Group.

3. What has the experience of making this film given you?

I fell deeply in love with many of the people I interviewed and I fell in love with the complexity of their story and the utter indifference that real life has to political ideologies. There really are no good guys and bad guys in life. The gross simplification we do in movies, the need for heroes and villains, is a terrible reduction of the medium’s possibilities. An Inconsolable Memory is about people whose lives were not easily described as heroic in the bald political sense, and yet, nonetheless, every one of them earned a kind of impossible heroicism when they performed on the stage singing those Italian operas. Once the show was over they returned to a world where they enjoyed less than second class status. To retain dignity under those conditions is an immense task, The Cubans call it “dignidad” and it is everything. The people I interviewed all managed to retain their dignidad under apartheid, extraordinary.

4. History and its effects on the present, is a prevalent theme in some of your works. What place does your content come from?

I was born at a particular time in a particular place, there’s no escaping that. I thought for a while, when I was in my teens and my early twenties, that I would be able to escape my roots. But when I returned to South Africa in 1999 I felt an immense sense of home and of duty. I wanted to do my National Service, not for an apartheid army but for a free country and a free people. The films are my own personal National Service. Unfortunately Marikana has brutally exposed what the likes of Andile Mngxitama has been telling us all for years – ’94 changed vokol.


5. You have a knack for creating or being involved in groundbreaking stuff: SMS Sugarman was the first of its kind; Elelwani which you edited was the first Venda feature; and An Inconsolable Memory is about the first Opera Group in Africa. What drives your creative choices?

I have a very foolish and quite ignorant tendency to want NOT to copy other people. For this reason I have made very little money out of all these films.


6. What was working on Elelwani like?

That was pure joy from beginning to end. Florence Masebe is one of the greatest actresses this country has ever produced. Elelewani is a once in a lifetime role for her. Ntshavheni wa Luruli is of course not the easiest man to work with, he can be as stubborn as one of those Boer trek wagon oxes, but I have to say begrudgingly, I really admire that quality in him, he really sticks to what he believes is right for a film. In that sense he might well be South Africa’s only real auteur director.


7. What legacy has SMS Sugar Man left you as a filmmaker?

I had a very difficult time finishing that film and fought bitterly with the producer. It left me very depressed and battle-scarred. Then my daughter was born and changed everything and I realised it is not worth getting so steamed up about a movie. So in the long run I have become a more relaxed and gentle person. There was a morning I woke up and loaded my Glock and was busy tying my shoe laces on my way to put an end to my dispute with the producer when my wife rolled over in bed, looked at me, realised what I was doing and said “He’s not worth going to jail for.” Then she rolled over and continued sleeping. She is a very wise woman and I have learned a lot from her.

8. For me the use of the mobile phone in SMS Sugar Man provided a poetic theatricality in its intimacy, among other things. And from the press release I see you continue to work with a phone. What are the pros and cons of filming with a mobile phone?

Nowadays I work with a NOKIA Lumia 920. This phone is incredible, both sound and image. broadcast quality. Full HD, just amazing, I carry it around with me wherever I go, am constantly filming, my life is my art and my art is my life. Technology caught up with my fantasies. “Poetic theatricality” by the way, is a wonderful description of the mood of that film, thank you.

9. What colour are your eyes? I can’t quite make it out from your website, I see grey and brown?

My eyes are crying. I am watching over and over again images of the Marikana Massacre. I am busy editing a new experimental documentary called MARIKANA SYMPHONY. I am ashamed to be represented by a police force that could do this to citizens, by a government that does not resign en masse in shame and horror at what has happened here. I am crying because this Farlam Commission is day by day revealing to us what we have suspected and known, we are not being protected by the police, they are in fact the problem. The roll back feels complete. These are dark days.

10. Any other projects in the pipeline or anything you’d like to add?

An Inconsolable Memory will have its International Premiere in November during the IDFA – International Documentary Festival Amsterdam and I am sending MARIKANA SYMPHONY to the berlin Film Festival – if they select it – for world premiere in February. I think it is time that SAMSUNG supllied me with their best phone so that I can compare it to the Nokia. This is the era of mobile film making!

October 12, 2013

Le Regard d’Autrui by Carl Weissner

Filed under: literature — ABRAXAS @ 12:48 pm

Dear friends,

New in our catalogue is the latest Cold Turkey Press edition Le Regard d’Autrui by Carl Weissner. This exquisite book was put together and published in a limited edition of 36 copies by Gerard Bellaart and Jan Herman, who – in doing so – paid a loving tribute to their friend Carl Weissner, who died unexpectedly at the age of 71 last year. Jan Herman writes about this edition:

“Le Regard d’Autrui”, now published for the first time, posthumously, by Cold Turkey Press, was written in English. Why in English and why with a French title is unclear. What is clear, however, is that the tale shows Carl Weissner to have been a master storyteller as good as any of the celebrated writers who were beneficiaries of his masterly translations. Told in the first person, “Le Regard d’Autrui” sounds as though it is autobiographical. The casual voice is dryly funny and smart, the tone full of ironic asides, the language rich with clever slang, and the references – literary and wide-ranging – always apt. It’s the way Carl spoke. Carl was an expert at making things up and bending facts to his purpose. So if you think for a minute that Le Regard d’Autrui is strictly autobiographical rather than a piece of fiction, you’d be wrong. Still, the blend he came up with this time has a confessional quality I’d not seen before in his writing, something touching and personal even when it’s down-and-dirty. “Le Regard” turns out to be an elegiac memorial to an old lover from the narrator’s youth. I can’t help feeling that “Le Regard d’Autrui”, although complete in itself as published, might have been part of a larger work – perhaps a bildungsroman – that Carl had in mind…
(for Jan Herman’s full text follow this link: http://www.artsjournal.com/herman/2013/10/new-from-cold-turkey-pricelessly-outrageous.html)

Carl Weissner (1940-2012) was a German writer, translator, publisher, cut-up artist and musician. As a student of English Language and Literature he founded the literary magazine “Klactoveedsedsteen”, which introduced poets and writers such as Charles Bukowski, Allen Ginsberg, Jeff Nuttall and William Burroughs to a German audience. While still a student, Weissner travelled to the US in 1966 on a prestigious grant and recorded readings by Beat poets, which he released on vinyl a couple of years later in collaboration with Gerard Bellaart’s Cold Turkey Press. Weissner translated works by William Burroughs, Charles Bukowski, Andy Warhol, J.G. Ballard, Bob Dylan, Frank Zappa and others. After “Klactoveedsedsteen” he founded the literary magazines “UFO” and “Gasolin 23” and saw several of his masterly written cut-up works published, such as “The Braille Film” and “Death In Paris”.

Le Regard d’Autrui also contains photos of Carl Weissner. The front cover shows a collage by Norman O. Mustill. Only a few copies are available. Order yours here:

September 25, 2013

born to be black

Filed under: music,niklas zimmer — ABRAXAS @ 11:34 pm

Born To Be Black Big Band Celebration of the Conscious Soul playing the music of the great Bra Louis Tebogo Moholo Moholo:

A Big Band Celebration of the Conscious Soul.

Veteran South African drummer Louis Tebogo Moholo-Moholo and his newly formed South African ensemble vows to capture the essence and vitality of the rampaging spirit of his old band The Blue Notes.

As the last surviving member of the fabled Blue Notes, whose unyielding, exhilarating, and revolutionary music struck a deep and resounding chord with European audiences that was both pure and original in its spirit.

Moholo-Moholo, now in his 70s, will conduct from within the walls of the characteristically quirky TRUE ITALICS (formally known as Friedas on no 15 Bree St, Cape Town). His beats comprise a sparse chatter of ebb and flow dynamics, combined with raucous fills on bass drum and tom. Combining sweet melodrama and old-style dexterity, Moholo-Moholo will lead an ensemble of some of Cape Town’s youngest and brightest musicians, such as Mandisi Dyantis, Mandla Mlangeni, Bhekumuzi Mkwane, and Sebastian Schuster (Germany). The performance will be expanded by an eight horn section, a rhythm section featuring piano, bass, drums, with Moholo-Moholo as soloist and conductor.

Performance commences at 21h00, tickets will be sold at the door (R80). Bookings and inquiries contact CJ Carol at 021 418 7655 or 072 141 5359, or italic86@gmail.com

Band line up is as follows:
Bra Louis Tebogo Moholo Moholo – composer, bandleader, conductor and drums
Trumpets: Mandisi Dyantis, Joe Kunnuje and Mandla Mlangeni
Trombones: Jazzmatic Charles,Jason Smythe
Saxophones: Bhekumuzi Mkwane, Mpumelelo Mnyamana
Piano: Andreas Loven
Bass: Sebastian Shuster
Drums: Niklas Zimmer
Vocals: Spha Mdlalose, Masello Motanapitsi Ya Legola

September 18, 2013

some forms of noise sensitivity

Filed under: african noise foundation — ABRAXAS @ 11:30 am

Auditory Defensiveness

Extreme sensitivity/over sensitivity to sound

Many different sounds can trigger irritation, anxiety and aggression

A tendency to react negatively or with alarm to sensory input which is generally considered harmless or non-irritating to others

Impacts day-to-day life

Intolerance of chewing sounds & overhead lights, especially fluorescent lighting

Distracted by sounds not normally noticed by others; i.e. humming of lights or refrigerators, fans, heaters or clocks ticking

Bothered/distracted by background environmental sounds, e.g. lawn mowing or outside construction

Frequently asks people to be quiet: stop making noise, talking, humming, singing

Runs away, cries, and/or covers ears with loud or unexpected sounds

Avoids movie theatres, musical concerts, etc.

May decide whether they like certain people by the sound of their voice


Overly sensitive to sound

When you complain about noise, people often ask you, what noise?

Trouble tolerating everyday sounds, some of which seem unpleasantly loud to that person but not to others standing right next to them

Annoyance and general intolerance to any sounds that most people don’t notice or consider unpleasant

Sounds and vibrations from a neighbour’s stereo or noise from cars half way down the block can be torture

Use of earplugs fails to bring relief

Tries to avoid stressful sound situations

Seeks isolation / controlled sound environments

Interprets all daily events in terms of the noise that might potentially be produced

Quality of life compromised


Annoyed, or even enraged, by the sound of other people eating, chewing, breathing, coughing or other ordinary sounds

Annoyed by other people’s repetitive movements, such as leg-tapping, nail-biting and typing

Sensitivity to the offending sounds are often far more severe when the origin of the sound comes from a person that is emotionally connected to the sufferer

Can make life unbearable

Some people even feel boiling rage whenever they hear ‘that sound’

Certain sounds trigger emotional responses of irritation and anger to an everyday sound that would seem insignificant to most people

Exacerbated by stress or feeling tired/run-down

An adverse response to sound no matter what volume the sound is

Sometimes is further triggered by seeing the source of the offending sound


Adverse emotional response to sound

Not only fear the sound of the environment they are experiencing in real time (right now), they worry about the sound that future events of the day or in the near future will produce

Can take over one’s life and make one feel they need to isolate themselves to survive

September 7, 2013


Filed under: music — ABRAXAS @ 10:06 pm

I started Retrobution Records in 2013 as an outlet for my music from both then and now. The label releases low run editions (usually 250) of 7 inch vinyl. I take a lot of care in control of the quality of mastering, pressing and cover art. Being a small label it is not a money earner and I am lucky to have had the help of people worldwide who have assisted on the project.
The label is distributed through Ace but the records are also available direct from Rough Trade shops and from me.

The releases to date are as follows:

RB01 All Messed Up

RB01 Wild Youth – All Messed Up (Six Of The Best version) / So Messed Up (demo)
Recorded in 1979
“The revelatory tracks are “So Messed Up” which sounds like a lost Buzzcocks classic, with an almost-too-stoned-to-play James Williamson wailing away on an out-of-tune guitar”. (Ugly Things)
“The band’s name and looks reference snotty glam punk but the best tracks (All Messed Up) are more akin to Fun House era Stooges”. (Record Collector)

RB02 Fork Tongue

RB02 Gay Marines – Fork Tongue / Blue Light (dub)
The Gay Marines are collaboration with Franco Rogantin.
Recorded in 1987
“Forked Tongue”, post punk, African jive crossover written about apartheid era South Africa.
Blue Light (dub) is about the erotic narcotic effects of blue light, reminiscent of the album “Screamadelica” by Primal Scream which was released 4 years later.

RB03 Trash City

RB03 Gay Marines – Trash City / The Retros – Wild Girl
“Two sides of rockin’ retro garage punk. The Gay Marines’ ‘Trash City’ sounds like Detroit in the early 70’s whilst the flip ‘Wild Girl’ is harder sounding.” (Rough Trade)

RB04 Fuck The Future

RB04 SFMA – Fuck The Future / What About Me?
A social commentary on modern day Britain in this era of recession and worldwide terrorism
SFMA is collaboration with Fly Garrikk who was in Dirty Stop Out.
“Two electro punk reinventions of the song ‘Wot ’bout Me’ originally by Wild Youth. It comes across sounding like a mix of Suicide, The Normal and a minimal synth demo from the early 80’s. It’s minimal and very authentic sounding.” (Rough Trade)
“Mystery men SFMA create an electroclash scary Dub version of a punk classic” (NBT Radio)


RB05 Gay Marines – Suspended Animation / Dark Love
Two dark post punk songs written in 1981 recorded in 2013. “Suspended Animation” reflects the paranoia and alienation of living in Durban in the early eighties.
Future releases:
SFMA – Step Into The Sun. A song about South Africa in 2013 from an outsider’s perspective
Wild Youth – Wot ‘bout me? Reissue
The emphasis has changed. Back in the day we were a live band who did very little recording. Now I am concentrating on recording and documenting.

Another poem of gifts – Jorge Luis Borges

Filed under: hearing landscape critically,poetry — ABRAXAS @ 4:24 pm

I want to give thanks to the divine
Labyrinth of causes and effects
For the diversity of beings
That form this singular universe,
For Reason, that will never give up its dream
Of a map of the labyrinth,
For Helen’s face and the perseverence of Ulysses,
For love, which lets us see others
As God sees them,
For the solid diamond and the flowing water,
For Algebra, a palace of exact crystals,
For the mystic coins of Angelus Silesius,
For Schopenhauer,
Who perhaps deciphered the universe,
For the blazing of fire,
That no man can look at without an ancient wonder,
For mahogany, cedar, and sandalwood,
For bread and salt,
For the mystery of the rose
That spends all its color and can not see it,
For certain eves and days of 1955,
For the hard riders who, on the plains,
Drive on the catttle and the dawn,
For mornings in Motevideo,
For the art of friendship,
For Socrates’ last day,
For the words spoken one twilight,
For that dream of Islam that embraced
A thousand nights and a night,
For that other dream of Hell,
Of the tower of cleansing fire
And of the celestial spheres,
For Swedenborg,
Who talked with the angels in London streets
For the secret and immemorial rivers
That converge in me,
For the language that, centuries ago, I spoke in Northumberland,
For the sword and harp of the Saxons,
For the sea, which is a shining desert
And a secret code for things we do not know
And an epitaph for the Norsemen,
For the word music of England,
For the word music of Germany,
For gold, that shines in verses,
For epic winter,
For the title of a book I have not read: Gesta Dei per Francos,
For Verlaine, innocent as the birds,
For crystal prisms and bronze weights,
For the tiger’s stripes,
For the high towers of San Francisco and Manhattan Island,
For mornings in Texas,
For that Sevillian who composed the Moral Epistle
And whose name, as he would have wished, we do not know,
For Seneca and Lucan, both of Cordova,
Who, before there was Spanish, had written
All Spanish literature,
For gallant, noble, geometric chess,
For Zeno’s tortoise and Royce’s map,
For the medicinal smell of eucalyptus trees,
For speech, which can be taken for wisdom,
For forgetfulness, which annuls or modifies the past,
For habits,
Which repeat us and confirm us in our image like a mirror,
For morning, that gives us the illusion of a new beginning,
For night, its darkness and its astronomy,
For the bravery and happiness of others,
For my country, sensed in jasmine flowers
For Whitman and Francis of Assisi, who already wrote this poem,
For the fact that the poem is inexhaustible
And becomes one with the sum of all created things
And will never reach its last verse
And varies according to its writers
For Frances Haslam, who begged her children’s pardon
For dying so slowly,
For the minutes that precede sleep,
For sleep and death,
Those two hidden treasures,
For the intimate gifts I do not mention,
For music, that mysterious form of time.

hearing landscape critically conference, stellenbosch 8-11 september

Filed under: hearing landscape critically — ABRAXAS @ 1:55 pm

some exciting news for September 8-11: the ‘Hearing Landscape Critically’ conference LOC have confirmed that all concerts and the film event (in the Fismer Hall) and sound installations (in the Endler Hall) are open to the general public and presented free of charge, due to the generous support from Leverhulme Trust. Donations at the door (proceeds to ConCourt art collection) are welcomed, and no amounts are pre-specified. This gesture is to acknowledge audience self-esteem, and register appreciation of fellow artists’ work.

Full programme: see musiclandscapeconference.wordpress.com

Summary of programme free events, below:

Screen shot 2013-08-06 at 12.36.32 PM
justice edwin cameron

8 September, Sunday afternoon 5:15pm: Film: ‘The Exhibition of Vandalizim’ (Aryan Kaganof), and Justice Edwin Cameron (ConCourt) to respond;

Screen shot 2013-08-06 at 12.31.49 PM
marietjie pauw

9 September, Monday lunch 12:15: Solo flute and chamber compositions which address a dwelled-in landscape in music, as expressed by South African composers Fiona Tozer, Hans Huyssen, Stanley Glasser and Bongani Ndodana-Breen. This concert is presented by Marietjie Pauw (flute), Fiona Tozer (guitar), Hans Huyssen (cello) and Benjamin van Eeden (piano).

kyle shepherd

9 September, Monday evening 20:30: Kyle Shepherd improvises on ‘District 6’ 1960s film footage while the silent movie is screened;

neo muyanga

10 September, Tuesday lunch 14:00: Neo Muyanga performs ‘Songs of soil and water: An exploration of music of protest, love and transformation’.

hans huyssen

11 September, Wed lunch 14:00: ‘Silence where a Song Would Ring’ (for baritone, violin and percussion) by Hans Huyssen, and ‘Sand, was daar’ (an electronic composition) by Theo Herbst.

9-11 September: The two sound installations (all day) in the Endler are open to the public. Please visit ‘Klei-Klank (Clay-Sound): The Hearing of a Kla’ Landscape’ (Olivier/ Du Toit, until Tuesday lunchtime); and ‘Translating Cultural Soundscapes to Virtual Spaces in UNESCO Biosphere Reserves’ (Barclay, until Wednesday afternoon).

Thank you for inviting persons in your communities and on your contact lists to join in these events.

From the office of Louise Howlett
With LOC: HLC conference, 8-11 September, Stellenbosch.
Further enquiries: Marietjie Pauw empauw@gmail.com

September 5, 2013

Hendrik Hofmeyr – PARTITA AFRICANA – Sylvia Sze-Hua Jen (piano)

Filed under: hearing landscape critically,music — ABRAXAS @ 6:53 pm

Hendrik Pienaar Hofmeyr (born 1957) is among the younger generation of South African composers. Born in Cape Town, he furthered his studies in Italy during 10 years of self-imposed exile as a conscientious objector. Partita africana (Preludio, Umsindo, River of Sorrow, Kalunga), 19992006
Sylvia Sze-Hua Jen – piano. Recorded during the XXXth Music Days in Zamosc “Zamojskie Dni Muzyki” in Poland in October

panel discussion: dan grimley with composers hans huyssen and theo herbst

Filed under: 2014 - Marikana Symphony,hearing landscape critically,music — ABRAXAS @ 12:08 pm

One can hardly think of two South African artists who have aesthetically less in common than Theo Herbst and Hans Huyssen. The differences in their music are extraordinary and can be made explicit with reference to arbitrary scores from their oeuvre. It therefore comes as a surprise that the notion of ‘African landscape’ is a source of inspiration for both composers. This group presentation aims to gain better understanding of the relevance of the category of African landscape as aesthetic object. The round table discussion will focus firstly on Sand, was daar (2012 to 2013), an acousmatic sound track composition for installation art work by Stellenbosch artist Hentie van der Merwe.This work was composed for sampled voice, piano, metal, skin, wood, percussion objects and field recordings. It is inspired by a highly subjective notion of the Namibian landscapes. The second part of the discussion is dedicated to Huyssen’s Silence where a song would ring for baritone, violin and percussion. Huyssen has based his composition on /Xam texts collected in the Bleek archive in Cape Town. Huyssen will explain the various contexts and the multi-layered references of his work of art.

Huyssen CTO web

Hans Huyssen (Stellenbosch) studied in Stellenbosch, Salzburg and Munich, and took up a professional career as cellist and composer in Europe. He has performed and toured extensively with various period instrument ensembles, and continues to do so as artistic director of the Munich based early music ensemble così facciamo and the local Cape Consort. Research into indigenous African music prompted him to return to South Africa in 2000. Since then he has been engaged in numerous interculturally collaborative projects, resulting in a variety of new ‘African’ compositions, performances, CD and stage productions. His compositional output comprises more than 50 performed works to date, covering all genres, including an opera. In 1997 he won a SAMRO Special Merit Award and in 2010 he was the recipient of the Helgaard Steyn Award, South Africa’s most prestigious composition prize, for his Proteus Variations. He holds a NRF research rating for his body of work facilitating an intercultural musical dialogue in the context of South Africa’s culturally heterogeneous makeup. Since 2005 Huyssen is a senior lecturer at the Music Department of the University of the Free State. From 2009 to 2101 he held a fellowship as artist in residence at STIAS (Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Studies). He is currently reading for a practical PhD in composition at the University of Stellenbosch.


Theo Herbst (University of Cape Town) was born in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, where he underwent his early schooling and received initial tuition in violin, piano and music theory. During this time he was active as an orchestral and chamber music performer and sang in a number of choirs. He graduated from Stellenbosch University in 1986 with a BMus and returned to the University of KwaZulu-Natal to complete an MMus in composition in 1988. Prof Erhard Karkoschka was a visiting lecturer at that University and Herbst continued his composition studies under him and Prof Süße at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst in Stuttgart. Here he was also active as choir conductor and orchestral performer, graduating in June 1993. From 1994 to 2012 Herbst held a position as lecturer at the Music Department of Stellenbosch University. He taught a range of modules covering nineteenth- and twentieth-century music theory, composition and orchestration as well as aural training. He was instrumental in establishing a music technology programme at under- and postgraduate level. He also served a term as musical director of the KEMUS Ensemble. In October 2012 Herbst was appointed at the South African College of Music, University of Cape Town, as senior secturer. He has been tasked with expanding the existing music technology courses and infrastructure. He composes, and his doctoral research explore musical acculturation.

September 3, 2013

giacinto scelsi – Manto I, II, III (for viola and female voice) – (1967)

Filed under: Giacinto Scelsi,music — ABRAXAS @ 8:22 pm

Giacinto Scelsi: Manto for Solo Viola and Voice
Music For Food: December 19, 2011
Brown Hall, New England Conservatory

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