Tag: slider

Tata ma chance love in Jozi

Long before P Square and Akon had made that risqué endorsement of gold-digging, insisting that “she must chop my money!”, and even before Ridge Forrester had gone down on his knees for the umpteenth time to propose to Brooke in The Bold and the Beautiful, the Johannesburg Casanova had already reconfigured the flirting game. Thanks to this change of rules, most women in South Africa have had the displeasure of having The Question popped at least a few times, often from the most ‘unlikely’ quarters. It is not the most affirming experience and in fact, the other extreme of this trend manifests in horrendous ways. But that is a conversation for another day.

My friends and I have christened this trend tata ma chance love, in honour of a long-running lottery advert which encourages people to ‘take a chance’ because ‘one day is one day’. In a similar vein, these men try their luck ‘just because’. It is a democracy mos. Unlike mainstream lotto players though, these men have neither the expectation nor the desire to win. In fact, ‘winning’ this Casanova lotto would be rather like Lucky Kunene (Rapulana Seiphemo) getting shot with real bullets by Blakkie Swart during the making of the movie Jerusalema. It would attract the same degree of scandalised shock as Taffy’s in Caribbean author Earl Lovelace’s novel The Dragon Can’t Dance.

One day, Taffy, a man from a slum suggestively called Calvary Hill, declared himself to be Christ and, put himself up on a cross, and told his followers: “Crucify me! Let me die for my people. Stone me with stones as you stone Jesus, I will love you still.” And when they started to stone him, he got vexed and started to cuss: “Get me down! Get me down! Let every sinnerman bear his own blasted burden! Who is I to die for people who ain’t have sense enough to know they can’t pelt a man with big stones when so much little pebbles lying on the ground.” You see, like Taffy’s flirtation with the crucifixion, the Casanova lotto winnings lie in the make-believe rewards of a chuckle, a smile, a laugh, a playful friendliness from a familiar-stranger. The Freedom Charter neglected to put it in writing, but the people shall flirt.

I have had The Question popped countless times. Very unceremoniously. No bent knees. No rings. No ridiculously perfect bouquet of flowers. No candlelit dinner. No Enrique Iglessias crooning syrupy songs dripping with sticky sweet Spanish love like wild honey. Nothing cliché. No. All my roadside proposals have been simple, point-blank, no-frills affairs, in true tata ma chance tradition; whose vocabulary ranges from variations of “Ngiyakuthanda sweetness” (I love you) to the Twitter-compliant “Ushadile?” (Are you married?), which stays safely under 140 characters, to “Fanele si’shade s’thandwa sam” (We should get married, my love). Often without preamble, often from strangers who have known me for all of fourteen seconds. These amorous grooms are men of few words. They have stuff to do and proposals to make. So they have long dispensed with such bourgeoisie niceties like greetings and getting to know their bride-never-to-be.

'The Freedom Charter neglected to put it in writing, but the people shall flirt.' (Graphic: Kenny Leung/M&G)
‘The Freedom Charter neglected to put it in writing, but the people shall flirt.’ (Graphic: Kenny Leung/M&G)

My strangest tata ma chance proposal came from a parking attendant at the corner of Jorrisen and Henri Streets, in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, across the road from the Senate House entrance into Wits University. It happened on a sunny October morning, as I walked from my flat a few metres away to campus, like I did every morning just after 8am. I often saw this parking attendant, whose name I never got to know; and we often exchanged polite greetings – a quiet nod, a wave of the hand, sometimes a “hi” or “hello” (me) “Sawubona sisi” (him on a formal note), “Hello ma’darl’in” (him on a playful note).

On this October morning, I nod at him from across the road as I walk past, and he says, “Hey, my sister! Linda kancinci!” I stop, and wait a bit as requested, slightly puzzled at what I imagine is an unprecedented request for some coins; a request which will most likely involve a complicated tale of an urgent trip to Krugersdorp, inadequate money for the taxi and a sick child. I have heard infinite versions of this tale before. For me, the bottom line is that the narrator needs the money. Whether the story is convincing or even true at all, is immaterial. I mentally check my purse to see if I have any money to share. I know there will be no trip to Krugersdorp, and in fact, my coins are likely to make a welcome contribution towards a nice cold Black Label dumpie at that shebeen down the road. By now he has walked across the road to my side. He stops in front of me, looks me straight in the eye, and says, “Asishade sisi.” A confused “Mmmh?” is all I manage. He repeats: “Ngithe asishade.” (I said let’s get married.) Straight-faced. Not a smile in sight.

Now, there must be many possible responses to a slightly unexpected marriage proposal from a parking attendant (whose name you don’t know) at 8:06am on a sunny Wednesday morning in October; when your mind is busy trying to figure how to fix that chapter in your dissertation which, your supervisor declared, has no argument. When you are in the middle of pondering whether you are so clever or so domkop that you can write 46 pages of argument-free waffle, it is hard to give the correct answer to a parking-lot proposal, with only the Johannesburg morning traffic for a soundtrack. There is something to be said for the inspiring power of Enrique Iglesias promising to “be your hero baby” or Linda Ronstadt declaring “I don’t know much, but I know I love you…” after all, syrupy or not.

But as they say, when in doubt, keep it simple. So, I return his unsmiling gaze and say, as straight-facedly, “Yes. Let’s get married. Today.” His turn to be briefly scandalised, a la Taffy. I’ve just shot Lucky Kunene with real bullets. “Yes” is clearly not the answer he had in mind. I was supposed to play the usual script of “No, I have a boyfriend” to which he would reply “It is fine, I don’t mind” in true Casanova-lotto player spirit.

“Yes; today” was clearly a possibility he hadn’t considered. But he quickly bounces back from my humorous subversion of the official script and bursts out laughing. Hard. So hard, he bends over and slaps his thighs, too amused. Then he straightens up and waves me off. “Hayi, suka! Khaugqibe isikolo kuqala, then ngizokushada,” he says as he walks off, shaking his head, amused at this ridiculous student. (Get off! Go and finish school first then I will marry you.)

Where do you find a comeback to that? As I walk into campus, one useful Nollywood phrase comes to mind: “It is so bad, it is worse.”

Grace A. Musila is a Kenyan who studied in South Africa.

Sudanese fashion: The Darfur Sartorialist

When I came to Darfur in 2009 to work with a United Nations agency that supports internally displaced people (IDPs), I spent a long time in IDP camps. There I grew increasingly intrigued by the incredible variety of colours and patterns of women’s clothes. Like many westerners, I had a preconceived idea of Darfur and Muslim women in general, and was amazed at how different reality turned out to be. I started photographing their fashion to show my friends back home. Eventually, it became apparent that this was a story waiting to be told from an angle the media rarely shows, and so I created The Darfur Sartorialist.

In Sudan, men’s fashion mostly consists of a white jalabiya (arab tunic) with or without a turban, and white or sometimes leopard-patterned shoes. Urban Sudanese men will often wear westernised outfits with pressed trousers and un-tucked shirts in soft colours.

Women’s clothing is much more diverse (as is often the case!). There is a mix of the traditional abaya (arab tunic), the toub (many metres of colourful cloth wrapped around the body and head), and western-influenced fashion such as long dresses with tight shirts underneath to cover the skin, or denim jackets and skirts to match the headscarves. You often see cheap versions of designer clothes, even in IDP camps, like this fake Chanel belt on a young woman.


Most of the photos I take are of either internally displaced people living in IDP camps, or Darfuris working with humanitarian agencies to assist them. It’s not always easy to distinguish between the two. I know most of the people in the photos, either because they were working with me or because I spent a long time in the camps and became friends with some of the residents.

Culture plays a big role in the expected behaviour from women, so if you ask someone you don’t know directly for a photograph, their natural reaction is to refuse. Curiously, if I photograph children, it’s the mothers that come and ask enthusiastically to be photographed as well! For the most part, though, I have not encountered any problems – people are often flattered that a foreigner wants to photograph their clothes. It’s true that government is often suspicious of foreigners, and I was indeed questioned a couple of times for taking photos. However, most of my photos were taken in the camps where I worked side-by-side with security officials who were fine with it.


I did not expect The Darfur Sartorialist to be a success. I thought it would be a short-lived curiosity; people would see it and then move on to the next novelty. The fact that there has been constant media interest since its inception in June 2012 has come as quite a surprise. I’d say the highlights of the project so far have been the four-metre-tall exhibits of my photos at the Sines World Music Festival in Portugal in 2012, and a recent feature in the Guardian.

The fact is that my photos do not fit at all with the image most of us have of Darfuri African Muslims. I hope this will launch a discussion within us about whether the reality most media convey about the world is correct or complete. I hope the project gets people to question the reality they know. When we assimilate entire countries to one single idea (of Sudan, of Afghanistan, of Africa), we lose a lot of the complexity and paradoxes that exist in those societies. We forget that Burkina Faso, a poor country, has a thriving cultural scene with some of the best jazz and film festivals in Africa, or that Somalia and South Sudan have produced world-class rap musicians.

Click on the first image below to view the gallery. Pics: Pedro Matos

[nggallery id=5]

Oya: Rise of the Orisha

An upcoming action-packed feature film takes a pantheon of ancient West African deities known as Orishas and resurrects them as modern-day superheroes. The lead character in Oya: Rise of the Orisha is a young woman named Adesuwa who has the unique ability to transform into the fearsome warrior goddess, Oya, the Orisha of change. When she does, she gains amazing powers.

latest oya

The film will be presented in a visually unique style, drawing inspiration from related genres including sci-fi, action and martial arts, and aims to be a truly phenomenal spectacle in the art of film. London-based writer and director Nosa Igbinedion hopes it will do for African folklore and oral tradition what 300 and Thor did: they took Greek and Norse mythology and made it fresh and exciting.

This is a synopsis:

For centuries the doorway between the world of the Orishas and our world has remained closed, until now. Our hero, Ade, is one of the few people with a connection to one of the gods, Oya. She has been tasked with the job of protecting the innocent and that means keeping the door to the gods shut. If the doorway to the gods is opened, they will wreak chaos upon us as retribution for our abandonment of them.

To keep the door shut, she must find ‘the key’, a young girl with the potential to open the doorway, and keep her safe. The adventure unfolds with a host of memorable characters and a string of unexpected twists, Ade, goes in search of the key, battling against those who wish to open portal and unleashing a horde of forgotten gods and goddesses into the world, with powers and skills beyond our comprehensive and supernatural gifts which will change the course of history for mankind, forever.

According to the Yoruba religion, which developed in Nigeria and Benin, Orishas are a collective of charismatic deities with specialised supernatural gifts, powers and responsibilities. They are comparable to the gods of the ancient Egyptians and Greeks, and Roman civilisation. Tradition has it that these supernatural beings once walked the earth with humanity. The reverence and worship that was shown to them by the ordinary Yoruba people elevated their status and increased their power.

Orishas are followed in various religions by an estimated 100-million people worldwide (5-million in the US). The fact that they have been left out of popular media is a travesty. Igbinedion’s film is a retelling of black cultural experience that has not been attempted on this scale before, and it’s being done independently.

oya2 poster

He and his team plan to shoot a short taster film this April, using money raised through crowd funding. The short film will serve as a visual appetiser to attract more traditional film investors for the feature film. Follow their progress on Twitter and help support this incredible project.

Other African folklore projects include Akosua Adoma Owusu’s short film Kwaku Ananse and Central City Tower’s Spider Stories. These are influenced by the West African fable of Anansi, a trickster who appears as both spider and man.

Fashion to dye for

Christie Brown is a Ghanaian-based luxury women’s fashion label aimed at the contemporary African woman. It was founded in March 2008 by creative director Aisha Obuobi and named after her grandmother Christie Brown, a talented seamstress.

Obuobi’s creations extend from bespoke gowns to statement pieces to accessories, all inspired by African culture and art.

They’ve featured on the runways of Africa Fashion Week and Paris Fashion Week, and in the pages of Vogue Italia, Harper’s Bazaar, Black Hair and Glamour.

Obuobi worked with tie-dye and batik for her latest collection, Resort 2013. It’s flirtatious, whimsical and part of a collaboration with Grace of Grazia Fabrics, who has built a 20-year-old batik/tie-dye business.

Click on an image below to view the collection.

[nggallery id=resort-2013]

New Mad Max movie sparks fury over Namib desert damage claims

The filming of the latest Mad Max action feature in the world’s oldest desert has caused a major outcry, with environmentalists accusing filmmakers of damaging Namibia’s sensitive ecosystem.

The Namibian government was delighted when the director George Miller chose to shoot his post-apocalyptic sequel, Mad Max: Fury Road, starring Charlize Theron, in its country, bringing in 370-million Namibian dollars (£27m) to the economy, employing about 900 local staff, and paying 150-million Namibian dollars in taxes.

The film, the fourth Mad Max feature, was shot in the Dorob national park, in the Namib desert, along southern Africa’s Atlantic coast. Scientists estimate the area to be between 50-million and 80-million years old.

A leaked environmental report claims film crew damaged sensitive areas meant to be protected, endangering reptiles and rare cacti.

The independent researcher appointed to write the report, the ecological scientist Joh Henschel, says public consultation prior to filming was insufficient.

“It all happened without an environmental impact assessment,” he said, “so it’s difficult to assess the extent of the impact without a baseline.”

Henschel said the decision to grant permission to film was made before the country’s newest enviromental legislation was promulgated. This, he says, would have prohibited it.

He said the film crews had driven over untouched areas of the desert, and then tried to erase their tracks by sweeping the area smooth.

“They are doing the best of what they can do under the circumstances, but they can’t undo the damage done, to the environment and their reputation,” he said.

Henschel said the film studio had hired a scientific team of its own to deal with the situation.

The government-run Namibia Film Commission is concerned the negative publicity will damage its lucrative film industry.

Florence Haifene, the commission’s executive secretary, said all the environmental requirements had been met. “We don’t want a bad image painted of our country, especially when the allegations are unverified and untrue,” she said.

In response to reports about the alleged damage, the commission placed a full-page advertisement in a state-owned newspaper denying the claims.

The coastal watchdog Nacoma (the Namibian Coast Conservation and Management Project) said the leaked report had been commissioned by the government in response to complaints during filming, but that it was just a draft that still needed to be finalised.

“[The leak] has been a bit of an embarrassment. It’s difficult and premature to make judgments,” said the co-ordinator Rob Brady. “It’s still being reviewed by other scientists.”

Brady said other films had been filmed in the same area before it was designated a national park. “But unfortunately,” he added, “this is a type of film that is quite destructive, racing vehicles and such over different sites.”

Nastasya Tay for the Guardian Africa Network.