In the spirit of checking in and checking out what libraries in the city got up to during this year’s South African Library Week which started on the 15thof March 2014 and ends tomorrow, ShowMe joined in on a book launch and what jolly great fun that was. Often left feeling nostalgic of childhood memories gathered in a circle eagerly waiting for the teacher to read for us, did you have such memories?

 

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By: Letlhogonolo Ndhlovu

Or are your memories of night stars gathered around a fire and listening to stories like Shasha Seakamela, the author of the Sepedi children’s books namely Legobu le loga maano a botlhaletranslated in English, Chameleon makes a clever plan and Neo le Lesedi ba aga mokgatlo wa tsa tlhago also translated into English, Neo and Lesedi form Nature Club.

Shasha Seakamela grew up in the rural areas of Limpopo around cows and goats, “there were no books at school so we shared one book. I remember growing up that there was a big steel box full of Northern Sotho books and English books,” he said to the young audience from Christian Progressive College. He read all the Northern Sotho books because he could not read in English as a child.

As a rural schoolboy at Kodumela Primary School, I was discouraged to read and to discuss schoolwork because of the language barrier…

An environmental rural activist, Shasha Seakamela is also one of the founders of an art movement called Rural In the Citi that promotes rural art and assists rural artists with exhibiting their work in the city. As an author he tackles issues of language, reading and learning, in an article on the Rural In the Citi website Shasha states, “As a rural schoolboy at Kodumela Primary School, I was discouraged to read and to discuss schoolwork because of the language barrier. The mission of starting Rural in the Citi Movement was to try and assist in resolving this issue.”

The Es’kia Mphahlele librarians made the book reading fun for the children by playing out the book Chameleon makes a clever plan. The kids laughed while learning all at the same time, this is the magic of the ancient art of storytelling.

Shasha was kind enough to donate his children’s literature to the Es’kia Mphahlele library for children to enjoy. Go to his website www.ruralintheciti.org and like his Facebook page Rural In The Citi Art Movement to find out more about this initiative.

For more info email; info@ruralintheciti.org

the nature clubchameleon

Although there are large numbers of learning difficulties to be found, reading difficulty seems to be the  most common. I first learned to read in Sepedi, and I believe that I transferred the skills that I acquired to my second language.

Children are known to learn English more quickly and effectively if they maintain and develop their proficiency in the mother tongue. One useful reading skill is the ability to guess the meaning of unfamiliar words from context. However growing up in rural Limpopo this reading skill was something that my peers and I struggled with as English was shoved down our throat, despite it being maybe our fourth language. Truth is we didn’t use the English anywhere at all. Not understanding this language, we lacked the ability to decide which new words in a text are important to look up in the dictionary and which words can safely be ignored. It was hopeless and discouraging.

It’s a common sense that children aren’t born with an innate knowledge that text is read from left to right, or that the words on a page are separate from the images. Essential pre-reading skills like these are among the major benefits of early reading. Therefore I’d say that early reading for children helps them to view books as an indulgence and not just a chore.

As a rural schoolboy at Kodumela Primary School, I was discouraged to read and to discuss schoolwork because of the language barrier. The mission of starting Rural in the Citi Movement was to try and assist in resolving this issue. Writing and publishing books in Sepedi is because I believe that developing mother tongue proficiency is easier since a child has lessons each week in their native language. Also rural communities contain fewer adults who could act as successful role models to children. As a result, the Movement contributes by gathering artists to conduct reading and art workshops with school children in various rural schools t.

For more information on our recent publications please visit www.ruralintheciti.org or email us at: info@ruralintheciti.org

Inspiring figure

Posted: August 11, 2013 in Uncategorized
From Left: MJ Seakamela (Author of Ke namane ya Morgao), HS Ramaila, & Rural in the Citi Movement

From Left: MJ Seakamela (Author of Ke namane ya Morgao), HS Ramaila, & Rural in the Citi Movement

Many of us may wonder if we have made a difference in this life. But not Ntate Segome Henry Ramaila. Or at least he shouldn’t wonder. The modest Sepedi author and teacher for most of his 90 years would be the last to brag about his accomplishments.

He may not be a household name but award-winning writer, HS Ramaila has long been held in high esteem by academics, critics and readers of indigenous literature. His first book Peolane – The Swallow, written in Sepedi first created waves in 1975 when it was awarded the first prize of R50 in literary competition sponsored by the Non-European library in Pretoria to encourage African children’s literature.

Although it remains relatively obscure due to lack of promotion and publicity, Peolane continues to be found on many shelves in children’s libraries. Ramaila has since featured in many other mother tongue literary competition which he often ended with the first prize. 

Meeting him in Mamelodi Township, Ntate Ramaila didn’t seem bothered that I knew so little about him. After some research about him that proved fruitless, I was left with no alternative but to meet him.

There was a time when books in the African languages were few, and yet few attempted bigger volumes to expose the fascination of life in South Africa. So the few we had were short and schools thought that it was difficult to write. When books began to increase, it was the attraction of competitions for writers that shook many into action,” he said.

Ramaila believes that lack of recognition could not discourage him. Despite his many awards and prestige, he remains humble and insists that his contribution to Sepedi literature is as a result of his duty as a senior citizen to preserve the culture and tradition for generations to come.

Over the years I have pursued writing to contribute to creating African literature without being preoccupied with winning a prize. For a very long time there was no active encouragement to get Africans to write down their history as they knew it and I consider it my responsibility as a senior citizen to preserve our heritage.

Henry Segome Ramaila remains an inspiring figure in African language literature. During this era of African Renaissance, when Africans are making earnest attempts to ensure the preservation of ancient African wisdom and to put it in modern context for development purposes, it is edifying to have writers such as Ntate Ramaila to help see through his exacting task 

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Gallery  —  Posted: April 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

Ruralinthecitimovement Exhibition

Over the years, many have expressed concerns over the lack of progress in altering the plight of rural citizens. Increasing numbers of studies and activities are being undertaken to bolster government and donor capacity to promote participation in rural development programmes. However, despite all these activities, the disturbing fact is that there is little agreement on what participation is or on its basic dimensions.

Formed in 2012, Rural in the Citi (RITC) Movement is an art consultancy movement. It was formed with the aim to help uplift rural artists and to encourage their participation as citizens through various forms of art. The movement aims to give artists a chance to showcase and sell their work in cities and to promote rural art. It also aims to encourage rural citizens to participate in matters that affect their surroundings. Challenges such as unemployment, substance abuse and lack of resources are the main issues that need to be tackled in many rural areas. Artists therefore can use this opportunity to voice their opinions through their art while at the same time conducting workshops in various schools in rural villages across South Africa and beyond.

RITC Movement is the preservation of rural culture through traditional ways of living. These ways of living are still very much practiced in many rural settings and cities as heritage. The ways of finding a platform or space for artists to prosper in the cosmopolitan cities that are built on a new global culture. When rural people come to the city, they do not necessarily need to change their ways but can just as easily fit in. The movement is therefore about ensuring that a rural artist finds life in the city easily adaptable.

This proposal describes RITC Movement objectives and operation, and requests support for the operation of our movement. It will help to fund the Art Exhibitions and workshop projects that we are currently finalising across the country. Most work we do is unpaid due to lack of funds. As a result, this hinders the full implementation and therefore the efficacy of this programme.

Art missionaries

Posted: December 31, 2012 in Uncategorized

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I’m an art missionary. I am a representative of the ever-growing movement of rural artists Rural In The Citi. I mentioned this to those who made it to the exhibition at OdLum (House of Grass) Gallery in Yala, Kenya. The same was mentioned to those who made it to Rural In The Citi’s Art Talk at Kuona Trust Gallery in Nairobi, Kenya. The movement was invited to celebrate Street Children Festival that took place in Kenya on the 10th of December 2012.

The Street Children Festival is an annual worldwide celebration. This event honours and celebrates street children who go through trying circumstances – the daily circumstances that have robbed them of the simple joy of being children, or simply lack the guidance to distinguish between right and wrong. As a result, they lack the comfort and guidance that most of us have. Through this festival and Rural In The Citi Movement’s art workshops, the aim was to redeem our societal dignity concerning our influence towards matters relating to street children.

Meanwhile Rural in the Citi as a movement brings together artists from various forms of art. Artists from rural area or focusing on rural art get to collaborate on various projects that aim to highlight rural development and participate as citizens in major debates that affects them. The movement encompasses various kinds of artists such as poets, photographers, novelists, painters, documentary filmmakers, and so on. The main aim of the movement is to give rural artists a chance to showcase their work and promote rural art. At the same time we conduct art workshops with children in schools and rural villages. We hope this platform can help put bread on the table and also help many to become active participants through art as marginalised citizens.

As a missionary through Rural in the Citi Movement, we strive to teach positive communication skills in matters that affect the marginalized living outside of the cities.  The movement believes that in extreme and difficult social circumstances, it is imperative that children in the rural space are provided with the stability of anchoring activities that keep them positively occupied and provide them with a sense of self-worth and of their democratic future. Unfortunately most public schools in many African countries have scrapped art as a subject in their classrooms. Hence many children lack creativity as well as the skills to do something outside of their school borders. Moreover, positive role models and opportunities to learn life skills are absolutely essential if these children are to break out of the cycle of poverty in which they are currently entrapped.  But it is also imperative that they know about their rights as citizens of this planet earth. Art can be utilised as the medium to transfer that message. The movement is therefore aiming to facilitate the process whereby artists as well as children in rural settings realise their worth via these discussions. In Kenya this was achieved and more has so far been anticipated in many other areas.

The trip taught me that a knife is best served when in use. Otherwise, corrosion does it in. So should funds come along, we plan to continue with more art projects similar to the recent one in Kenya. I don’t like to believe in destiny more than I believe in action. I want to believe in process more than I believe in efficiency, hence my role in this art project.

In conclusion I would like to thank all the people who made this happen. Among many others are included Miyere Ole Miyandazi, Bridgett Neumaker, Kelvin Keya, Oloo John, Tom Onyango, Odlum Gallery, and Kuona Trust Gallery. I cannot also forget to thank the two schools (Luri primary Schools and Furaha Seed Academy) that participated in the Storytelling Through Art Program.

Art-dicted!!!

Posted: September 22, 2012 in Uncategorized

A long time back I discovered that not only was art my attraction, but politics too. I was fascinated by art that was controversial, confrontational, and immediate. As a school kid growing up, I had never spent time engaged in cultural activities. My school, and many other public schools I knew around Bochum – outside Polokwane, did not offer any art lessons. However, my fascination with art and politics didn’t stop.

It was Murray’s piece, The Spear, which raised questions in my head about politicians and artists. The positive and most visible thing these days is that art is more successful in capturing the public imagination while at the same time pissing off politicians. Besides the Spear, the recent Ayanda Mabunu’s art work about the president at the AVA Gallery also elicited anger from many people around. Still both art and politics fascinates me, by what they both entails. While artists understand politics, it seems the reverse isn’t true. Politicians understand less about art. If that was the case then Pussy Riot would not have sparked such controversy, Zapiro would not have hopped in and out of the court of justice on so many occasions. I have little trouble seeing the world from both the politician’s and the artist’s viewpoints.

I share my time talking to politicians and artists. While politicians have the power to rule, art has its own unique sway in the world. Because artists possess a free spirit, our work connects us to each other and to ourselves. Some artists and social critics might think that art is useless as a tool for political change. There are many examples where artists employ art in the service of political change. During the Cold War the CIA promoted abstract expressionism.   After 1976 many South African artists responded forcefully in opposition to the apartheid system and government. A wide range of media, including painting, sculpture, photography, drama and graphic design, were used during those protests. Politics is part of the equation, and even Dante and Shakespeare were writing from a political point of view. As an artist, my art does not seek to persuade or convince, but rather to evoke emotions. Through my work I have the potential to influence the behavior of people towards one another in a constructive manner.

I honestly think art is politics but politics isn’t art. Perhaps both need to resist the lazy smugness of self-righteous sniping. As artists, our work expresses outcry, outrage, and witnesses from politics. Politicians should be looking to the arts to encourage participation and rather than to tame us. However, judging by their lack of understanding of art, I’d say politicians should be the last to tell artists that some artwork is disrespectful and should not exist in the public domain. Politicians talk about aspiration as though it was an entirely material phenomenon, but the arts are the embodiment of a different but no less valid or widely shared aspiration too.

Politicians should view art as an essential part of individual expression and not a threat to their power. As an artist I am ambitious and energetic in what I do. Hence I am seeking a like-minded community from the political side in an experimental environment. Art is politics; but we can’t have the reverse unless politicians take time to learn. I see the combined universality and power of art, ensuring the cause for a change amongst individuals and through communities. Either way, I’m Art-dicted!

 

Q&A with Jama Safari, the author of the novel ‘The great agony and pure laughter of the gods’

Many people hear about the refugees and war in Congo, the child soldiers, the human traffiking issues, but very few get to feel closer to any of this. Jamala’s novel covers this mystery very well. It doesn’t only cover the refugees and the child soldiers but also question the failing governments in our continent.

The Great Agony and Pure laughter of the gods

Q: Give us a short description of your novel.

This book tells the story of the Congo in its innocence and brutality through the eyes of a 15 year-old boy named Risto. His life is the story of thousands of young Congolese, millions of refugees, and thousands of child soldiers around the world whose dreams have been shattered by war. Whilst this book tells the heart-rending story of Risto’s journey, it is ultimate celebration of the triumph of grace in Africa’s killing fields and a testimony to the redemptive power of love.

Q: You are telling a story through a child soldier’s voice. What made you to decide that?

I wouldn’t say it’s through the child soldier’s voice. I’d rather say through the voice of a child. It came naturally. It is a story of a teenager and there was no better way of telling his story than telling it through his own eyes.  The voice had to be naïve and innocent to portray the natural view of a child towards life.

Q:Your novelis a hybrid of humour and horror—even as Risto recount the terrible things he has endured and done, he’s still less aggressive. How did you choose his tone?

Even though the story is carried through heartrending events, this is a celebration of Africa in its mysterious ways of existing. Africa is humorous and magical. There is a celebratory energy in Africans; an energy that overpowers even their pain and daily suffering. This is the energy I captured and it balanced the story perfectly, I must say.

Q: As this book is written in English, how are you going to make sure that many Congolese French speakers read your book?

Congolese in the diaspora have been interested in the book. We had many Congolese at the launch of the novel. As the book is written in English, it’s the accessibility of it that will be a problem as Congolese are French speaking. We are looking to sell translation rights which will make the book available in French and many other languages in the future.

Q: Your novel is based on truth, would you perhaps describe your journey to South Africa as similar to that at the centre of Risto?

The journey of a refugee has never been an easy one. One does not choose when, where or how to go. So, this makes everything unpredictable and stressful. My journey through East and Southern Africa was not an easy one but there are those who went through worse experiences. Risto’s journey is a journey of many refugees who have crossed boarders looking for refuge in an unknown land.

Q: Your description of the refugee camp and the journey is vivid. How did you get to those thorough details?

I have seen refugee camps in the DR Congo. I was in a refugee camp in Mozambique and I regularly hear about refugee camps whether in Kenya, Ethiopia or Botswana. The experience in a camp is very transformative in a way that it stays with you for many years. Even just seeing the image of a refugee camp, the pain and suffering, the resilient spirit of refugees that you see remain with you at a point that one can describe with slightest details.

Q: What is your taking on the state of affairs with regard  to the refugees in South Africa and  other parts of Africa?

We should remember that one is forced to be a refugee; it’s not by choice. Therefore, we should be compassionate and caring to those who have found themselves in these situations.

Q: Most novels ist written in the continent take a swipe at their government leaders. Would you say your novel also aim at that?

The aim of my novel is to tell real stories.  It is a novel about people and the context in which they live. Government may feature, which is natural as it forms part of the parameters that define a country, but it’s not my aim. My aim is to tell stories of real people and their real experiences.

Q: What would you say makes your novel more powerful and a must read?

It’s timely and relevant through topics that it covers. It’s unique in a sense that it tells a story of child soldiers through fictions (most child soldiers stories are told as non-fictions). It’s lyrical from start to end. It is metaphoric and humorous. It speaks of love and grace in a context that one can not imagine. It’s a story that will stay with the readers for many years.

Q: Would you name any of the writer/s who inspired you to write?.

Ben Okri; through his fantastical way of telling a story. I love the way the supernatural mingles with the natural. Ousmane Sembene; the subjects he covers and the way he speaks of Africa.

Zamenga Batukezenga; he sees humour in each human being and takes it at funerals and weeding. He is a man who celebrates the beliefs of Africa through simple and easy writing.

Zakes Mda, Garcia Marquez, Carlos Ruiz Zafon,…the list is long.

Q: Describe the process of writing a novel. How long did it take?

There is no process. I get a story and write it as it flows.  Well, it took me  almost three years to complete the book. I wrote while I was resuming my studies at University of the Western Cape. So, I mostly wrote on weekends and during holidays.

Q: Your novel carries a long title, how did you come to it?

Well, I wanted a title meaningful to the book. A kind of hint to the subjects covered in the book;  But I wanted it in a metaphoric way.  That’s how I came up with the title “the Great Agony and Pure Laughter of the Gods.” I don’t think there is another title that can tell this story better.

Thank you!

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Blackout was an exhibition that did not make noise but certainly raised eyebrows for those who managed to lay their eyes on it.  It told about the other life; but the life that has been left seemingly with the remains – bones. It was like telling the history of the rural folks. The exhibition which was at Main Street Life – Arts On Main, described itself as intimate, and this was certainly true: comprising just 10 images, all taken within the space of twelve months. The exhibition’s title is derived from the thought that the images would mesmerise those who lay their eyes upon it.

These images were created with the aim to blackout the audience – a metaphor. People find it difficult to travel in the blackout – darkness. It meant temporary loss of conscious. Seeing them for the first time, the images would create a mirage in their mind, but become clear as time goes and they regain their consciousness.

On seeing the breakfast nest it was not surprising that among the audiences on the opening night one commented that, “I could not imagine that the eggs in the nest could be boiled eggs. It must be the nest they are rested on. The nest is too alien in this set up. One might think there is no way you can eat those eggs with a knife …and fork. My mind raced into the idea that the picture communicates modernity delimited by its existential axioms, how modernity wreathes itself trying to extricate itself from the binds of its concrete roots into pluralistic nebulas of abstraction. For some reason you’ll think there would be something amiss in reading that the eggs have been in the same kitchen whence forth came the fork and knife. Its just that the imagery “as is” has this first striking thought effect that the sum total of the fragments on the table (eggs for food, and knife & fork for eating utensils) do not belong together. Something that goes against the grain of our “it goes without saying’ habits. Something that says, yes I know eggs; fork & knife belong in a breakfast entity set, but something in this formulation, something in this imagery has broken ranks with that logic. There is something about the picture that just doesn’t communicate the possibility of breakfast. The fragments on the table have now been made foreign to each other, and the underlying unconscious coordinates of culture in the way that culture silently carries ideology in our everyday events has been radically exposed. it has been exposed that this is not breakfast as we know it. The unconscious is radicalised and exposed in that you see an impasse where you should “naturally ‘see the logical conclusion of having eggs, say, for breakfast.”

Strangely, the artist behind the work had no art school background. The reason for starting this abstract photography was to create a book with a unique art that could also add narratives to. A book which is still on the cards aim to create a new debate on art. This work is fascinating, provocative but uniquely encompass the rural settings. It has narratives – it is educational and addresses social issues. It recognizes the constructive role that art can, and does play in the lives of young people, particularly the youth. All the images are created to accompany a voice with – the voice never been heard before.

The exhibition did however include work that marries moments of spontaneity with creative merit. Taking a journey through the exhibited images you’d have realised indeed, the images goes far beyond just simple film stills, showing the artist’s deep appreciation to communicate the scenery imagined around him. With the exhibition, small stories were indeed not only heard but shared as well.

*****To everyone including those who showed up for this exhibition, follow me as I take Blackout to Cape Town later this year.

Skel-e-Toll

Posted: May 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

For the record, I have never hidden my admiration for the government for its giant strides, especially in the area of infrastructure. But there are a number of issues, which I think it has failed to get right. . Nonsense! Who can afford to have a smile with this new policy? I’m referring to the new tax recently leashed and unleashed. The new Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project Electronic Toll Gate System … isn’t that just a mouth full.

I’d say “big-ups” to the mobilization against e-toll. Perhaps the only thing in this country that both black and white managed to protest against in unison and triumph. Anyway, as I recall, Gauteng has managed to have a highway network since the 60’s without having to resort to this so-called E-Tolls. Why the inefficient e-toll system anyway? Vehicle drivers are already strangled by the ever-rising petrol and tollgates in every corner. There’s a lot of anger. There are ghosts on the Gauteng roads. There’s lack of tolerance on the road, screaming, shouting, hooting and who knows what else. The recent suggestion for government’s e-tolling system was not only intolerable but also insane. Imagine after paying the toll at the gates one goes forward to meet congestion again. What then is one paying for? In fact e-tags for what? Even the actual highway upgrades are dismal failure.  In Gauteng the congestion problem hasn’t been solved.  The upgrades have made no difference, because all they did was add lanes without adding off-ramps, which resulted in congestion anyway.

It’s not surprising that the public do not believe that the e-toll project has been commissioned in good faith. Who voted for it? Where there any public debates about its establishment? When? After all this billions is paid off to the service provider, was the tolling going to go down?

Come on! Vehicles continue to ply routes on daily basis.  Perhaps if we do the math we’ll realize that e-toll would have come to almost billions per year. That is exclusive of the huge sum that was also to be raked in from adverts and other promotion activities on the road. To make it worse, the expensive and dull Gautrain trains stop at 9pm. In a way it makes it impossible for people to travel after hours. What many people don’t realise is that once this project in Gauteng was operational, it was going to be rolled out to other cities around the country as well.

I’m glad that the ghosts of the skel-e-tolls will not hunt the road users anymore. More especially because laying to rest the skel-e-toll was done in colourful societal unity.