Archive | October 2012

Art reflects climate change realities

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Small pieces of plastic junk found on Cape Town’s Strandfontein beach form a snake-like shoreline in an art piece warning that paradise beaches have become wastelands.

It is a simple work, called ‘Tide Line’ by artist Simon Max Bannister, currently on show at the University of Cape Town’s Michaelis Galleries on Orange Street in the city. It is among a series of artworks that Bannister created out of plastic junk found on various beaches and in ocean waters.

Last year this Johannesburg artist travelled across the Atlantic Ocean as a volunteer to collect 42 water samples. It was part impetus on his four-year journey to create work that comments on environmental issues.

Arctic Ice

“Every one of the water samples contained some degree of micro-plastic indicating that there’s plastic throughout the ocean. What is hard to accept is that there is no way of picking that up. We see the remains of it on our shoreline. One can imagine the compounding effect of what’s happening in the ocean,” says Bannister.

His exhibition in response to this expedition’s findings is entitled ‘EKDUO’ which is ancient Greek for “to take off” or “to strip one of his garments”.

Bannister says that his exhibition is “about adapting this shedding behaviour to our own culture” and managing our plastic waste more effectively.

“It stems from a concern, a sense of responsibility to pick up litter, to do something with our excess. I find a whole lot of material and need to turn that into the message. I use the medium as the message. And that’s resulted mainly in sculpture,” he says.

The result is not mind-blowing artworks but rather “quite a lot of found objects exhibited as specimens to bring peoples attention to what’s happening”. At least a thought trail lingers via this collection of junk on display, unlike a lot of the more self-indulgent commercial junk shown on walls of some of this city’s galleries.

Of ‘Tide Line’, Bannister says the “evidence of our cumulative waste is now visible and unavoidable”.

“Brightly coloured and fascinating in form, the pristine paradise beach we now crave no longer exists, it is but a plastic dream. Dispelled from the gutters, these husks of culture now drift through the ocean.”

Bannister has interestingly also embraced plastic to form a reef sculpture, indicating that he views plastic as a life-giving material too. He says this is a “way to detach and a way to innovate, a way to recreate new forms and ideas within culture”.

“There are good and bad things about plastic. If you consider that plastic is a life-giver. Take any hospital or food scenario. You see how essential it is to our modern lifestyle. It holds water or food.

“However, once it’s given you water or food, instantly it becomes waste. Unfortunately there are not good management systems to control it,” he says.

Bannister says that his work comments also on how “nature deals with this”.

“The debris that we found in the south Atlantic had life forms grown on it. In this way, plastic is helping fish. It’s a wonderful contradiction.”

Bannister’s small exhibition runs alongside a collection of cartoons, under the banner ‘Facing the Climate’, by South African and Swedish artists. This exhibition is part of the Swedish government’s efforts to “promote critical sustainable development… (with) sustainability the Swedish way” in mind.

“The impetus behind this began in December 2009 in relation to the Copenhagen Climate Conference, when a group of 25 Nordic newspaper cartoonists provided some amusing and alarming reflections on climate change. To illustrate Sweden’s active involvement in this area, the Swedish Institute developed the exhibition,” informs the exhibition notes.

“These simultaneously critical and humorous visual devices have the potential to bring viewers and makers into more intimate and comprehensible relations with the often titanic narratives of climate change.”

Among the interesting cartoons on show are those by Independent Newspapers staffers Tony Grogan and Wilson Mgobhozi.

Grogan shows how mankind evolves from greed to extinction at the rate this specie is tormenting the earth’s resources.

Mgobhozi shows a tree, with a hand at the end of a branch, in a dry area. It reaches out to a glass and asks: “Water please”. Another one of his cartoons shows penguins spelling out the word ‘global’ in their message about global warming. They ask: “Seriously, must we spell it out to the people?”

Sweden’s Magnus Bard presents a cartoon entitled ‘Arctic Ice’. It shows a woman in an aeroplane asking, “Where did the last ice in Actis go?” as she looks out the window at the catastrophe below. A cabin crew staffer holds out bucket of ice with her drink and says: “Here.”

These exhibitions were part of a two-day symposium ‘Hot Water: Art and Climate Change’ at the end of September. The exhibitions and symposium were organised by UCT’s Gordon Institute of Performing and Creative Arts’ (GIPCA).

The exhibitions run Tuesdays to Fridays (11am to 4pm) and Saturdays (10am to 1pm) until October 13. Exhibition queries can be directed to or 021-480-7170.


This article was published in the Weekend Argus newspaper, a weekly regional publication in the Western Cape, South Africa, on October 8 2012.


Art auction in Australia to raise cash for child rights group

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

A local child rights group is heading to Australia this month to auction off South African art in a bid to overcome its financial headaches.

Patric Solomons, director of Molo Songololo based in Observatory, told Weekend Argus this week that local artists have donated paintings and photographs.

Patric Solomons, director of child rights group Molo Songololo, with children’s art to be auctioned in Australia. Photo by Yazeed Kamaldien

Angus Leendertz, an ex-pat South African living in Sydney, is organising the auction. Solomons said this is the first time that Molo Songololo, established in 1979, had an external team raising funds for it.

“Fund raising has always been done internally for the 33 years of the organisation’s existence. We have received funds from small businesses, churches, child rights NGOs abroad and government departments,” said Solomons.

“Fundraising is a big challenge. Often we don’t have a full time designated team just to do marketing and fundraising. That requires resources. We don’t have that.”

Solomons unpacked how funding cycles have changed over the last few years. The result has been a perpetual crisis for non-governmental organisations that depend on external aid.

“There are now few funders who are willing commit to funding for a few years. It’s very rare that you get commitment that would stretch over a long period of time. Most funders assist with projects. Few funders assist with salaries or administrative costs,” said Solomons.

He said that Molo Songololo needs R2,5-million annually to employ 11 full-time staff members that run projects in poor communities and at schools.

The organisation managed to raise only half of its required budget and had to discontinue some programmes. Its popular Molo Songololo monthly magazine for children could no longer be published.

“We are going through a very tough time financially. We didn’t manage to raise all the funds we need to do all our work. We want the auction to become an annual event. We want to see if this can work in South Africa and in other places,” said Solomons.

He said they needed funds to operate their victim empowerment programmes, life skills and rights workshops at schools as well as lobbying and advocacy work with government.

“Children who have been abused are referred to Molo Songololo via police, health workers, prosecutors, teachers or other children. We assist a child who needs medical assistance or needs to talk to the police. We would engage with the parents or family. We provide direct support and counselling as well,” said Solomons of their work.

“We also do rights and responsibility education at schools. This is so that children are empowered and are able to defend their rights and protect themselves better. We motivate them into taking social action in their communities and schools.”

Children are involved in all Molo Songololo’s activities, said Solomons. The NGO ran art workshops where children created paintings that would be shipped to the auction in Australia.

Leendertz said the art works would be exhibited ahead of the auction planned for October 28.

Koleka Mqulwana, the South African high commissioner in Australia, is set to open the exhibition and auction. Andrea Durbach, the director of the Australian Human Rights Centre, will be the event’s guest speaker.

Leendertz said he formed the Molo Songololo Australian Support Group after becoming aware of the “plight of women and children”.

“The global financial crisis has had a devastating effect on NGOs all over the world as donors reduce or stop their funding. Organisations like Molo Songololo are at the frontline in providing vital services to the most vulnerable children in society,” he said.

“I decided to raise money in this rich country (Australia) and collected a wide range of similar thinkers around me and together we identified Molo Songololo as the group we could work with and support.”

Leendertz has also secured Australian artworks for the auction. One of the striking photographs by Jillian Edelstein on auction is of Archbishop Desmond Tutu taking with his head rested on his hands during the tough Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings during the mid-1990s.

Leendertz said they planned to host future fundraising events, including “more exhibitions and poetry recitals”

“We will introduce Art4Molo in America and Europe next year. As South Africa enters a new phase where NGOs appear to be the losers, civil society needs to play a much bigger role in ensuring that vital support structures, like Molo Songololo, must never be allowed to stop doing their important work,” said Leendertz.

Bo-Kaap takes court action against liquor sales

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Bo-Kaap residents are seeking court action to prevent liquor sales next to a mosque in their area.

The Bo-Kaap Civic Association and the Nurul Islam Mosque want the Western Cape High Court to stop the transfer of a liquor license to Samuel Wekwete who previously ran a restaurant next to the mosque.

Their legal action has been filed against Wekwete, the Western Cape Liquor Authority, the Liquor Licensing Tribunal, provincial MEC for economic development and tourism and seven others.

Wekwete ran a restaurant – without a business license – at 59 Wale Street next to Nurul Islam Mosque. The City of Cape Town shut down his restaurant this year because the premises did not have a fire escape.

Dutch nationals who own Beekay 122 Investments, a company registered in Cape Town, own the Bo-Kaap property. Wekwete rented the building from Beekay.

Wekwete remains intent on reopening his business and has applied for the transfer of a liquor license from Beekay.

Seehaam Samaai, director of the Legal Aid Clinic representing Bo-Kaap residents, said their court application seeks an interdict to prevent Wekwete from obtaining a liquor license.

Legal Aid also alleges in its court application that Beekay dishonestly obtained a liquor license. Beekay in its successful application for a liquor license to the Western Cape Liquor Authority claimed “there are no schools or places of worship in close proximity to the premises” where the liquor license would be used.

“We have no record whether or not they appointed a permanent South African citizen to run their business. They are based in the Netherlands and South African law states that to obtain a liquor license you must have a local business partner,” said Samaai.

Samaai said that even though Muslims are forbidden to consume alcohol and Bo-Kaap has a mostly Muslim population, this “isn’t an Islamic issue”.

“This is about governance. We are questioning the validity of the process. We want to know how this license was issued because there was also no public participation. A liquor authority officer claimed that he spoke to residents but he did not. The community did not know that a liquor license was issued,” she alleged.

Nick Spencer, a liquor authority representative, said the “transfer of the liquor license would be considered in due course”.

Wekwete told the Cape Times yesterday that he had “no comment”.

“I have received notification of this court action. If there is any court case people who are going to court will go to court. As for me, I have no comment,” he said.

Marcel Hoogebeen, who manages the Beekay property in Bo-Kaap, confirmed that they had received details of the court application.

“We have not filed a responding affidavit,” he said.

Samaai’s application appealed to the court to hear the matter on October 9.

Healing hands that remembered how to pray

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

It looks something like a miracle when Father Michael Lapsley signs copies of his memoir with his two hooks instead of hands.

Lapsley meticulously holds a pen in his right hook. His left hook opens the front cover of his memoir, ‘Redeeming the Past: My Journey from Freedom Fighter to Healer’, and he leaves his mark.

Father Michael Lapsley takes a break from signing his book. Photo by Yazeed Kamaldien

In this book, he recalls how he lost both hands and one eye. It is co-written with his friend Stephen Karakashian. Struik Inspiration, a publisher focusing on Christian writing, releases the book on September 15.

Lapsley is an Anglican priest born in New Zealand. He landed in South Africa in 1973 as a missionary. He joined the African National Congress and its anti-apartheid struggle. As a result, he ended up living in exile for several years in Zimbabwe.

In 1990, a letter bomb arrived at his house in Harare. It left him without hands but not without prayer.

Lapsley writes in his book how his faith in God carried him through the hardship that followed that attack. He asserts that his personal loss proves “good comes out of evil”.

“Life comes out of death. An evil act happened to me but I became victorious and I’m saying with my book that this is what I have done with my life since then,” says Lapsley.

He says that his book reflects a story that is “personal and collective”.

“It is through my eyes and heart and it’s part of the struggle history. It is one personal account. We need to hear more stories of people’s struggles and their journeys.”

Almost a decade after losing his hands and partial sight, Lapsley established the Institute for the Healing of Memories in 1998. It is based in Cape Town.

This institute runs workshops “where individuals can tell their stories in an atmosphere of deep listening and mutual respect”.

The book informs that in post-apartheid South Africa, “Lapsley saw a whole nation in need of healing. He discovered a new vocation: drawing on his experience of trauma to promote the healing of others.”

Lapsley, described as a ‘wounded healer’, writes that his injuries connect him with others who have been injured too.

“My visible brokenness creates a bond with others whose brokenness is often less visible but just as real. The truth is that pain unites human beings,” he writes.

“In my work as a healer, many people say they can trust me because I know pain. In the end, though, what matters most is whether we are able to transform pain into a life-giving force.”

Karakashian says that Lapsley has been able to “create an environment where people see their lives in a spiritual context” via his institute.

“That becomes part of the healing process,” says the Buddhist and retired psyco-therapist.

Karakashian encouraged Lapsley to write his memoir a few years ago. A biography, ‘Priest and Partisan’, about Lapsley had been published in 1996.

“A number of reviewers and friends said that they would like to hear from me in my own voice… The memoir complements the biography because this is more self-revelatory,” says Lapsley of his motivation.

Karakashian explains the writing process that lasted for two-and-a-half years.

“We had two residencies; one of about two months and another of a month. During the first residency I prepared questions about his (Lapsley’s) life and work. We recorded our conversations and had about 24 hours of recordings,” says Karakashian.

“These were transcribed. I did some background research to provide context. At the end of certain chapters we also included pieces written by people that Father Michael has worked with around the world.”

Lapsley adds: “So it isn’t just my story. We have included the voices of a range of people that I have encountered.”

The memoir also focuses on Lapsley’s work to heal the memories of what he calls a “damaged nation” in South Africa.

“Our humanity has been damaged. We are a community of people affected by the past. But we were not all in need of long-term clinical intervention. Many people, through their resilience and inner resources, were able to lead functioning lives but still have unfinished business,” says Lapsley.

“Many still have stuff in them as a consequence of what had happened. The nation’s journey affected individuals. At the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, 23,000 persons came forward to tell their stories of human rights violations. Only 7,700 asked for amnesty.

“If you take hose figures it’s clear that for a great number of victims there was no corresponding voice saying, ‘I did it, I am responsible’. So in many cases there was no way to talk about forgiveness and reconciliation.”

Lapsley explains that the institute’s workshops have participants who tell each other their stories of suffering to create a space for reconciliation.

“We can’t think that we can be reconciled after a six-week programme but we can make a contribution to that,” he says.

“There are an immense number of good and beautiful things happening across the country. But there are very serious issues that we have not faced up to. We have the most unequal wealth distribution in the world. That is a recipe for growing violence and frustration.”

Outrage as Chris Brown heads for South Africa


Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

AMERICAN pop singer Chris Brown’s upcoming tour is a kick in the face of women who are beaten by their partners, say activists – but fans can’t wait for his show.

Tickets went on sale yesterday for Brown’s Carpe Diem tour to Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town in December. The tour starts in Sweden next month and has a few European stops before closing in the Mother City.

Brown controversially beat up ex-girlfriend singer, Rihanna, in early 2009. He has since committed to rehabilitation and community service. Rihanna has forgiven him for leaving her face with bruises.

But Kim Pillay-Constant, programme co-ordinator at New World Foundation in Lavender Hill, is among Cape Town locals who have condemned the tour. The foundation raises awareness about gender violence and offers abused women counselling.

“It’s like a kick in the face. This is a country that is already dealing with high levels of violence against women and we are promoting an artist who has been violent towards his partner. He becomes richer and we give him and the world the idea that it’s okay,” said Pillay-Constant.

“He should only be allowed into this country if he does something different in his performances or if he uses his public platform to speak out against gender violence. He needs to give a clear message that he is remorseful.”

But local fashion designer Wayne Govender plans to buy a ticket. “We know he has no respect for women. If people don’t support that then they should not go to his concert. A girl who was beaten up by her boyfriend will still be at his concert though because she likes his music.”

Nikita Williams, a business studies student at University of the Western Cape, is a young woman who will not be at Brown’s show. “I love his music but seeing that he likes beating women I think he should stay at home. People will still go to his show. They think it’s normal for a woman to be beaten, especially in South Africa,” said Williams.

Pleasure Letsoalo, managing director of local tour organiser Canoc Productions, said Brown was one of those artists that people want to see perform. “It’s not our responsibility to be judging him… The most important thing is that we are bringing in an artist that people want to see. One of the most important things is that he has admitted that he made a mistake,” said Letsoalo.