Monthly Archives: March 2010

Using Media All the Time

We’ve been busy…
I am falling in love with Jozi (Joberg)

Today we were welcome in by Khulumani Support Group East Rand in Katlehong- about 45 minutes outside of the city. Khulumani is a nationally organized community defense council, with 55,000 members in South Africa. In Katlehong specifically the community is doing amazing organizing work to address decades of exploitation by IMB, Mercedes Benz, Daimer, and a fourth company I can not presently recall and the South African government. Currently Khulumani has filed a class action law suit in the New York courts USA, against this group of corporations. The South African government has joined the case on the side of the corporations. Recently the New York courts ruled that Khulmani’s legal team could open certain South African government files. The group asked that we spread the word about their struggle and their victory. Khulumani is actively demanding reparations for the communities effected by exploitation, state violence, and apartheid.

This amazing sharing of purpose, victories and struggles was arranged by Judy Seidman.
Judy Seidman, it has been one of the greatest honors of my life to meet this remarkable woman.
It is because of the book, Red on Black, which Judy researched, editing and composed that we first gained access to the breath and power of the South African poster movement. We have both poured over this book the past two years. To get to talk in person with Judy about her life, her experiences as an artists and printer during the struggle her, her role with Medu Art Ensemble, her friendship and creative relationship with Thami Mnyele, her current projects and her convictions has been such a pleasure and an honor. To travel half way around the world and find individuals and groups who are thinking about the worlds problems in similar ways and designing responses to these quandries with ideas and solutions that resonate so specifically with the work we do, is humbling, inspiring and mind-blowing.

People here have lived through extreme state repression and the stories we have heard are the extraordinary acts of people who lived their lives with the conviction that apartheid had to end.
Listening and talking with folks, it becomes clear that everyone used media all the time.
And groups who are experiencing successes today are also employing media to accomplish their goals.

Print shops, radio stations, alternative advertising, community events, community art processes, libraries, computer labs, photography, newspapers, all these tools were and still remain essential resources.

Last night I stayed with the Keleketla crew who have gained access to this amazing old Drill Hall in the center of Jozi. They have a book library, programs for youth, an internet cafe, art studios, dj equipment, print shop, and a mission to live in Jozi and build a community center of arts and culture. They are hustling big time to put organizational infrastructures in place, to grow their resources and programs, to make beautiful art and keep shit moving. It was beautiful to be in Jozi at night, the crazy buzz of the day time taxis and street venders melts to quite. The Drill Hall is an impressive old building, the library is beautifully organized. I am so honored to have met these feirce individuals and to spend the night talking talking talking. The artists there are turning out incredible incredible art- stencils, drawing/photographs, silkscreens. I will eventually include photos and video. Wanna give a shout out to Keleketla, keeping it real Jozi.

We leave for Cape Town tomorrow. We have been hustling on the ground to connect with folks who were part of organizing or teaching at the Community Arts Project(CAP) in Capetown. This was one of the major community print shops during the struggle and an impressive collection of posters and tee shirts were produced there. I am excited for the road trip, to see the Cape and the penguins and to keep unpacking personal narrative about how silk screen shops and the art they produced were crucial to the anti-apartheid struggle.

One of the Keleketla crew, Tshepo who is from Soweto was telling me about stories he was told…
To announce meetings, which had to be at churches, that was the only safe place, the posters would get printed and hung at night. The police would have them down by 10 am but by then everyone would know where to go.

Huge love from SA.
Thinking of you all all the time.
This struggle is global- we in this together.

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South Africa: Feet Touch Ground

I have been trying to upload photographs for some time.
It is late, I sit in a suburb of Jozi (J-berg).
I want to give you pictures more than words, but for now
words seem to be all this technology will allow.

It has been years of dreaming of this journey.
I remember first talking with Tracy about this project,
waiting for grants that may or may not come, dancing
around work schedules, holding our breath and finally
leaping.

We followed our planes trajectory on a monitor in front of
Tracy’s seat. From Atlanta to Johannesburg without refueling.
Through the airplane window the landscape rose to meet us,
South Africa.

I am farther from home than I have ever been, in a
country that twists and turns, that seeps with a pain and
and a strength that is both completely new and yet
somehow familiar. The country heads towards autumn and
we drive through neighborhoods behind walls and gates
and barb wire. We smell eucalyptus trees, drive on the other side
of the road and eat delicious home cooked food.

There are twelve official languages here, words and meaning
slip and sway over and around this amazing pool of sounds and vocabulary.
My mind cannot wander far from the injustice of race and racism, the same
thoughts that ride with me through the streets of Philadelphia. Different
but familiar.

Since landing our countless questions about the struggle, print shops, posters and t-shirts,
the details, and the spelling of names have been received with patience again
and again, at table after table, with a generosity that is humbling and liberating.

Julia Grey is our local connection, providing information and strategic advise,
while also driving us about. An old-school journalist
and a Jozi local her participation and wisdom are invaluable pieces
to this trip, making it possible for us to cover so much of ground.

We have been granted this amazing opportunity to explore together the role that
silk screen posters and t-shirts played in the anti-apartheid movement and to connect
with arts and culture organizations working inside the legacy of post apartheid South Africa.
History books and art books have sprung to life as the authors of South Africa’s
anti- apartheid struggle have sat in dinning rooms and cafes sharing the facts of their lives.

Julia’s partner and our other gracious hosts, Rehana Rossouw, a brilliant journalist has shared and continues to share her involvement in building a youth movement in Cape Town, her role as a collective member of Grassroots newspaper, and her participation in the ANC. She speaks to the role media played in her organizing work, “What is the point of a protest if no one comes… We all used media all the time.”

From Rehana we have heard of giant banners painted through the night, each hour passing bringing them closer morning and to the event. Huge banners draped and tied over mini-buses drying in the wind, arriving to the event on time. We have heard about door to door with petitions, silk screened tee shirts, pamphlets dropped illegally at factories, late nights spinning the linoleum press, late nights, all night, graffiti and painted placards on the side of the highway, waking up each morning, “Freedom or Death” burning in the stomach.

Tomorrow another post- and hopefully pictures.

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Two days before departure.

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Spiral Q is going to South Africa!

From March 20 until April 7th !

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