Wednesday, April 19, 2017

SOUTH AFRICA Johannesburg aka Joburg


Whenever I travel I have to remind myself of where I am and where I’m not. In Martinique I had to remember that I wasn’t in France—well technically I was.  In Cuba and parts of Colombia I had to remind myself that I was not in Africa. Now in South Africa I have to constantly tell myself that I am not in Europe. Yes, Europe with a lot more Black and ‘coloured’ faces. 

Apartheid Museum
I arrived in South Africa via London to a rainy and ‘cold’ day—not what I call cold but what they feel is cold. I was tired and the 7 hour time difference did not help, so I slept, went out for pizza and slept some more.  The next morning I felt refreshed and ready for some adventure.  First stop, the Apartheid Museum.

The Apartheid Museum is a beautiful building filled with the most disturbing things. When you first come in you are given a white or non-white ticket and you enter the door of your ticket. This is more unsettling than you would think. As I learned the history of the “founding” of South Africa by whites, about the gold rush, the slaves brought in from Malaysia by the Dutch and India by the British, the Boer Wars, the land settlement and finally in 1948 apartheid I was shocked that I didn’t know nor was taught this world history.  Then the look inside of apartheid and what it really meant and what it did to all the peoples of South Africa. I felt myself getting hot with anger and grief. Luckily it was a rainy day that helped cooled down my burning rage. There was also a few leaks in a section of the ceiling by the door and buckets were strategically place to catch the rain water as we maneuvered around then.

The pictures and video of apartheid from 1948 on was shocking.  I’d never seen the videos of women, Black and white, in the 50’s fighting against wearing ID card. There was film of marches in 1955-56. I was surprised because I’d only ever seen bits of the late 1970’s student marches where they were attacked and killed. A lot of what I knew was from movies like BIKO starring Denzel Washington and other anti-apartheid movies---but these were no movies, this was real footage, real people fighting a corrupt, immoral system and dying on their feet. I was so pissed looking at it and kept thinking that they should all burn in hell.  

I saw Mandela as a young man being asked about violence. It’s funny how the most violent people always want reassurance from those that they abuse that there will be no violent reaction from them. I saw Mandela growing older in jail and still being told to condemn any violence and he would be set free. It was all too much for me, but I finally reached a wall of monitors that showed Mandela being freed and all the celebrations around the world. Everyone cheering his release, celebrities, politicians, clergy, the common man. As I watched I felt water dropping down on me and looked up at the ceiling to see where it was coming from. Seeing nothing above me, I was shocked to realize that I was crying. No not crying but weeping uncontrollably. I never made it to the reconciliation part of the museum, it was late and it was just too much. I’ll have to go back again for that. It was also late in the day, the museum was closing and I was starving.

I met up with an artist friend and her young daughter at an Indian restaurant. The food was very good and the company was better.  Afterwards they kidnapped me and took me to a musician’s studio where they worked out some music for her poetry. They were to perform it at a festival. What fun!

Lenin Vodka Bar

By now I need a drink. They drop me off and I meet up with a filmmaker friend at Lenin’s Vodka Bar in Maboneng, a hip fun gentrified area. He is teaching film and directing at the university and invites one of his co-workers who is also his writing partner to join us. She is a cool looking white female hipster. We have a great time drinking and smoking (they were smoking cigarettes) and talking film. We start talking about the aesthetics’ of African cinema. I talk about the beautiful African films I saw at the African Film Festival, FESPACO.  She starts talking about Nollywood films and how they can make films quickly and cheaply and make a profit. I say they are like Tyler Perry films, they make money but that doesn’t mean they are good. They all have basically the same plot—good Christian girl falls for bad boy and is saved by good Christian boy. Hallelujah, the end. She then tells me that I am a colonialist and that my colonial thinking won’t allow me to see how good these films are.

(Ok, all my good white friends reading this, you should stop NOW cause I will not be sparing your feelings.)

After I jumped across the table and choked the shit out of her—Wait no, no. I just thought about jumping across the table and choking the shit out of her. I then reminded this colonial descendant that I was not, nor could I be, a colonialist or a racist or any of the things she sees when she looks in the mirror. What I am is a filmmaker with high standards and I refuse to accept that making a profit means something is great. And the shitty bootlegged videos played in hair salons, American and African, do not constitute great filmmaking for me no matter who does it or how much money it makes. Don’t come for me today bitch, not after a day of apartheid!

To her credit she did apologize (before my foot colonized her ass) and explained that there was a 2nd wave of Nollywood films that were much better than the ones in the hair salons. And to my credit, I accepted her apology, without throwing her out the window, and we continued to have a good time.

(Ok, all my good white friends, you can start reading again.)

We all danced the night away.  Hung out at her place partying and listening to great music & I didn’t get home until 6am. Hallelujah, the end.

On to Durban…

is Barbara Allen, known as B.A.  I am a filmmaker from Chicago and am good friends with

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