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The Salon

Volume 9, 2015

Salon for What?

Gamedze and Gamedze

(The Department of Black Imagination, UCT)

I mean who actually reads this JWTC thing anyway? You know what I'm saying? Decolonisation for who? Decolonisation for what? Writing for what? Thinking for what? But here we are anyway...

We, the RMF writing and education sub- committees, were super privileged to have a session/ workshop/seminar with powerhouse Amina Mama who is, amongst many things, part of the ranks of Black intellectuals who were nearly suffocated at UCT for pursuing Black liberatory intellectual practices that challenged the conservatism, elitism and whiteness of the institution. It was a great conversation and we learnt a great deal. The session formed part of an ongoing discussion that we had been having amongst ourselves around: writing, writing as a collective or individual practice, what language to use, which forms of writings to use, deep questions concerning audience, and a lot of other important questions that seek to interrogate, and shape, the potential role of writing in a political project that attempts to challenge colonial forms of power that we, as Black people, are, to varying extents and in different ways, subjected to both in the university as well as in broader society.

One question in particular, we think, speaks directly to the core of our circumstance and some of the central issues with which we are grappling: How do we, as radical intellectuals, write and publish our writing if dominant practices of intellectual writing, and most channels for publishing/disseminating that writing, are colonised/colonial constructs? Forms of academic writing, speaking and thinking are fundamental building blocks of the ivory tower's hierarchy of knowledge that is exclusive and elitist. At an institution like UCT, these values - exclusivity and elitism - are deeply inscribed in academic practice and raises the question of ALIENATION. The alienation of African intellectuals (and intellectuals from other colonial/post-colonial/neo-colonial settings) from their people is central to this conversation and indeed our own present and future decisions as people who are on the path of academic specialisation. As we understand it, the general tendency or trend of colonial education is: the higher one climbs up the ladder, the greater the distance between the climber and those holding up the ladder. The more receipts (often referred to as degrees) one receives from universities - the more ‘qualified' one becomes, the greater the degree of alienation from one's people. This alienation takes many forms: where we live, how we live, how we speak, what we say when we do speak, how we think, and, perhaps most importantly for us, what we think, speak and write about. Prof Mama stressed that as African intellectuals, as Black people, this process of alienation is one we need to tackle, resist and subvert. To be a radical African intellectual is to challenge, on fundamentally personal, institutional and societal levels, this form of alienation that colonial education encourages.

It is rather ironic therefore that we are currently writing in a publication called ‘The Salon', referring, in one instance, to the traditional French painters of the 16th and 17th centuries who submitted their work annually, hoping to displayed amongst the art elite. This painting practice, through symbolism and subject matter, upheld the systemic French monarchial class divisions and inequality of the time, and only artists working in a specific (read sell-out) mode were therefore accepted. Our attempts to challenge this established idea of the ‘Salon' might frame us more accurately as an ‘avante-garde' (echoing the disruptions of the likes of the Realist and Impressionist painters who's aesthetic values sought to symbolically undermine established status quos) because we are working outside the established norms of what we should be saying and how we should be saying it. But that said, I think our project, while fluid, has its grounds in something far less flashy or fashionable than a purely ‘avant-garde' project. We are writing because we are here, and because, as Black people, we will continue to exist in this world. 

We write to assert our humanity as Black people, and to assert that, while the imagination that stems from this unrecognised, in-between condition is indeed flashy, exciting, ‘avant-garde'(in its un-investigated-ness) our humanity is at it's root. We write in ‘The Salon' because the status-quo prescribing Blacks as humans is the status-quo that we are interested in. Our ‘avant-garde' nature in this sense is the nuanced, detailed and complex manner in which we imagine Blackness, a manner that seeks to re-define and widen the scope of this prescribed, exclusive and aloof ‘human'. While we recognise the injustice of not being accorded this particular prescription of humanity, we have already observed the limitations of it, and we know that our humanity requires more than this. This is one reason we continue to write, and while we must navigate the inevitable ‘Salon' of western knowledge structures, we are aware that we are writing in ways that these knowledge structures have not prescribed.

So while we don't have the answers to the tough questions that we posed at the beginning of this piece, perhaps we don't need them. We just have a feeling that there is something about writing that allows us to subvert the structures that have oppressed us and continue to do so, and while this space of writing is contested- we are armed to enter this contest in ways that cannot and do not occur to our oppressors. We write different, and so we feel that writing is important. It is important to write ourselves, to write our own story. We know that many, who are not us, have BEEN writing about us and have painted us in many different ways, of which none are creative nor imaginative enough. We are here to represent ourselves and share our thoughts on our situation and on what we are up against. We are thinking about how we might create something new: how we might pursue writing in a way that represents and humanises us as energetic and hurt bodies.

We are writing collectively for instance, really investigating the collaborative nature of knowledge, using our process to deconstruct liberal ideals like individualism, which serve to uphold white patriarchy. In writing therefore, we contribute to a global project, long since underway- the radical project of decolonising our minds, our souls, our institutions and our societies.

Forward to something new...

Blue Blood, Black Pills
Introductory Poem: The Black Imagination
Rhodes Must Fall Movement
Liberating yourself from the oppressor liberating yourself from the liberator Taglines of the black imagination: “Blackness is everything” “Black pain” “We cannot breathe” Like twinsavers you’ll forget us not, Better than McDonald you’ll love it. Us, like Nike are just doing it.
Statements
Rhodes Must Fall Movement
This is an archive of the RMF statements made - Mission Statement, Bremner Occupation, Kenya Solidarity, Statue Falling Statement, Press Statement, Response to the Registrar, Avenue House Occupation.
Where to now?
Brian Kamanzi
I can’t say I’ve really felt at piece with my direction, Whether at the University or with flow of my Profession. What I do know is that for some time now the lies that have been spun to me over time, have begun to unravel. What is a “safe” life? A good life?
Little boy's got black on his skin
Kopano Maroga
little boy’s got black on his skin doesn’t know whether he’s nighttime or eyes-shut but he’s got hands made for poking in the dark for finding the unnamed thing he touches himself like something ancient and broken talks in a whisper lest he loses his words knows that the world is made for takers and he’s already given up you can find him with his dark eyes cast skyward or carving sunlight out of his wrists mining the darkness for diamonds
Untitled
Ernie Koela
It is a nickname your hatred gave to me Don't call me black stripping me of my autonomy to create my own identity Your ply is to architect my history and linages destiny Ravage my sanctity and sanity penetrating me psychologically
Letting go of the blues
Mbali Matandela
Blue-blooded minds: your thoughts are not your own. They are the thoughts of the white supremacist imagination These thoughts were infused into your mind by shedding the blood of your ancestors.
Soul-Searching in a Burning Room of Revolutionaries
Mbali Matandela
Soul searching in a burning room of revolutionaries, A place of turmoil for the old soul, the windows to the soul have seen enough to start emptying the soul. Society has stripped away the humanity of the revolutionary, Placed her in chains with her cause. The cause is in sight, but the connection between her soul and this cause is stifling. The cause is within her reach, but the window-period has passed to hold on it. The cause is no longer hers, but it is a moving, breathing person of its' own - in a hopeless place.
Photo Credit: Wandile Kasibe
On Exhaustion over a Lack of Understanding
Ameera Conrad
I am tired God Almighty, I am tired of being told that we need to move on, that we need to forget, that we need to put the past behind us, that Apartheid is over. They don't understand. We never will. Our bodies are monuments of centuries of torture, trauma terror these exist in us we live it every day. We built this country slaves whips at our backs - The Man holding the whip did not build - we built.
The Fall
Ameera Conrad
From half a world away I wait for wifi to watch tyrants toppled by the hands of those tired of shouting into the abyss. People poured libations on the monuments of men (yes, men) who drowned our ancestors with dictionary definitions of who they were.
On Afrophobia
Thembinkosi Okonko
On trial and being cross-examined Biko said that “... township life alone makes it a miracle for anyone to live up to adulthood. There will be a situation of absolute want in which black will kill black to survive. This is the basis of vandalism, rape and plunder that goes on while the real sources of evil – white society – are suntanning on exclusive beaches or relaxing in their bourgeois homes”.
White poison [en]gendering Blackness
Freedom: The Stillborn Grown Child
Mmamalema Molepo
A revolution occurs between her thighs, blood spilling and head first emerges the apple of her eye, he whom has liberated her and made her whole. Her smile, her laughter, her pain and her tears, her joy. All converged and captured into one great moment. She has given birth to a son of the soil, his name is Freedom.
Photo Credit: Wandile Kasibe
Patriarch's Empty Drawer
Ernie Koela
What is it to be a man, do we drop water from our eyes in the eyes of those who see us as pillars of their lives or soak as sponges in dirty water to drown in our own demise? Thus he cried at night silent in depression manic pain seeped in his heart-veins struggling to hold himself together his fears at the doorway.
Monsters
Mmamalema Molepo
We've created monsters out of the boys who we once hoped would father our grandchildren. We have denied them their youth and have driven them to war with each other, teaching them that the only way to ensure that you own something, it is to show your strength and authority over it, whatever way possible, whatever the outcome it may be.
The Black imagin(ed)nation
One sTab
<< isms and schisms and chasms and cleavages and fractures in the Black imagined nation populisms, recalled struggle-isms, empty marxisms and non-racialism: ideologyless African national congress-ism. Malema-ism and Mngxitamisms; nationalisations and state-led capitalisms; monopolising the pseudo-democratic space for black radicalism: EFF-until-something-better-comes-along-ism rhodes is falling: isms and schisms exceptionalism and Afro-phobism: Black self-hate finding violent outlets in who is proximate - yet somehow so distanced
There is a Civil War in my House
Ntebaleng Morake
Anxiety rests on the chipped wooden chair comfortably, looking slightly effortless even though it is wrapped in blood. Wounded, limping like a stray dog as it lays down all its brutal truths. Its confronting sight is so so draining; haunting. There’s a civil war in my house! A gathering of masses curbed like sardines, each with a neglected story to tell. A riot for space, purposefully manifesting the flawed, stretch marked side of the truth; that no one really wants to see. I hear guns! I hear guns and a severely bruised Black woman crying and the echo of her vacant Black spirit screaming for recognition; her Black folded face wondering if it will ever end.
Photo Credit: Wandile Kasibe
Why Decolonising UCT is Imperative
Ntebaleng Morake
There’s a cluster of raging emotions, slowly penetrating the layers of my shunned upon Brown skin. These raging emotions derive from yearning to be heard, to be seen and to exist freely in the land of my ancestors. And after numerously shouting, throwing feces, occupying administration buildings; hoping to be heard, my Black voices still fails to penetrate and pierce through the walls of white supremacy and white arrogance on this campus; built on blood, and dead bodies and the tears of a people whose pigmentation resembles mine.
On UCT, its orientation programmes and the reproduction of white patriarchy
oNe StAB
This paper contains some of my thoughts on orientation at the University of Cape Town (UCT). Many of these thoughts were constructed after witnessing one particular orientation activity at Kopano, an all-male UCT residence. I expand my thinking to suggest what orientation might reveal about the institution, the hegemonic culture of the institution and that culture’s dominant values. I am arguing from a departure point that the value system of the university is derived from distinctly South African expressions of white patriarchy that are largely rooted in an aggressive heterosexual masculinity in which South African white male sporting culture is steeped.
Rhodes Must Fall Photo Essay
Wandile Kasibe and Thuli Gamedze
The History of the Black Body has been Exoticised and Fetished in a Pornographic Fashion
Ernie Koela
The Black body historically and to this day has and continues to be eroticized in a violent pornographic fashion. Displayed in a crude and vulgar form, in galleries and museums - as if saying, ‘it is art’ warrants this attack on ‘the black body’. These obscured obnoxious representation of our somatic features violate our dignity. In this degrading fashion what underlies these notions is a long colonial, racist oppressive, psychologically violent and violating narrative on the ‘BLACK BODY'.
Stained Black re[imagination]
Hyperreality in the Colonised World
Brian Kamanzi
Hyperreality. The inability to differentiate. To distinguish. Reality.. From a simulation – An imitation. Hyperreality. What is real? And what is fiction? Hyperreality is the space where both collide. Making it impossible to know where one ends. And the other begins. That is Hyperreality. Now. In the Colonised world. We live in a time many have decided to called Post-Colonial. We celebrate, now timeless, tales of struggle for freedom. Remember Madiba. Nelson Mandela.
Apples of my Eye Cry Dry
Ernie Koela
Apples of my eye cry dry but fill masters cups and foreign waters whilst my native rivers run dry. Imagery Adam and Eve pigmented separate both meek - in their eyes they saw love not somatic secretion spued by satanic completion through tongues turn apples of eye’s to blasphemous seeds
Stain
Lufuno Ramadwa
Black stain, why do you mess up this perfect fabric of white? My white can only attract darkness, but you not supposed to be here You create a problem, You need to be fixed, You cannot be perfect, but you can be fixed
Photo Credit: Wandile Kasibe
The Short-Comings of the Western Gaze
Mbali Matandela
[Human – Dehumanised] This is the most destructive dichotomy; The beginning of subjugation and slavery. The moment the colonisers ‘discovered’ the land and did not see people of the land. We were invisible to western eyes – not human. It was the death of the corporeal, the death of black consciousness to imperial thought.
Azania House as a symbol of the Black Imagination
Khumo Sebambo
One night in mid-March, a friend called me and said: "You have to come down here and see." It was already around 11pm, but I got up got dressed and went to the University of Cape Town because I had heard the murmurs: “Something is stirring at UCT.” I arrived on middle campus and found the front doors of the famously aloof Bremner building open wide and a large group of people were conversing in small groups in the parking lot and in the reception area. The conversation was about the student occupation of the administration building. The occupation would continue until the University committed itself to decolonising the institution. Starting of course by unseating Rhodes.
Stagnant Debates, Stagnant Minds
Mbali Matandela
What do you think about the statue? Can you tell us how the statue will solve anything? These are some of the questions that I’ve had to answer in the past three weeks of protest that have taken place at the University of Cape Town. In my opinion, the initial group that started the Rhodes Must Fall Movement did not realise that the interpretation of the Rhodes Must Fall symbolism would reveal the state of South African consciousness as it has to this present day.
Photo Credit: Wandile Kasibe
Rhodes Must Fall Diary Entry - How I envision UCT to be like
Noluvuyo Mjoli
UCT has dismissed all the other demands the movement has made. Azania House has gotten back to being called Bremner House. They have repainted the walls and got rid of all the posters. It is as if there was never an occupation there. Everything is so clean and back it its place.
Liberals and Consciousness
Ernie Koela
The ‘specific exclusion' of white persons in black institutions sounds counter intuitive to a theory or philosophy that aims to dismantle racist ideology. For the former notion at first glance seems too imply an opposing racist or racial ideology of anti- white or reverse apartheid. What the essay will aim to do is flesh out what Steve Biko meant about the specific exclusion of white people and outlines the context of South Africa in 1970 which support this claim. Furthermore the project will discuss the justification of this claim and the possible objections to black consciousness.
Photo Credit: Wandile Kasibe
Azania House Diaries
Shabashni Moodley
How Max Price attempted to (Re) Hegemonise the UCT; #‎Rhodeshasfallen‬ historical moment - on Friday morning- less than 24 hours after the world watched the First Victory of #‎rhodesmustfall‬ Movement. The subtext of his intimidation notice, to students, staff and alumni, is;...
Photo Credit: Wandile Kasibe
The Untitled Black Imaginings
Thuli Gamedze
There is no possibility of beginning an oppressive world regime using ‘nuanced violence’. The psychological violence of colonialism today only exists as a re-enactment, or a reframing of the original physical warfare between colonialist and colonized bodies, this being the most basic kind of physical violence and theft.
Azania-House Intersectionality as a Catalyst for Black Imagination
Thuli Gamedze
If we understand oppressive powers as those that not only police our actions and place glass ceilings on our holistic potential, then we must recognize them too as powers that suppress our imaginations. Perhaps this is the most significant action of oppressive power, as it substantially inhibits oppressed bodies from enacting resistances that lead to our material and psychological liberation. It is from here that I would like to propose intersectionality as a freed thinking form that not only humanizes oppressed bodies, but allows us to imagine humanity outside of stifling white, male, heteronormative structures.