By Duane Jethro. I cut in the queue to buy cigarettes. The big guy behind me approaches and says, “sorry but I was in front of you”. I let him pass. But he’s not content. He turns and says, “don’t be like the Dutch they were like that. They exterminated all the indigenous people. Just look at Holland, its all flat, indicative of the flat, all conquering mindset of the people that live there”. A short, stocky dude, he’s clutching a pack of salt, rice and milk. I wonder where he comes from. “You should be more like the Spanish” he continues, “they are nice”. “Did you know the Spanish were the first people to conquere the Cape? They liked eating babies but they didn’t like black babies that’s why there are so many black people in South Africa”, he says. He speaks in deep monotones and has that wild eyed look that I do not want to test with historical facts. I am confused but nod, and try to avoid eye contact. He pays and leaves, but the confusion and anxiety of the encounter hangs like smoke on my shoulder.
Commemorations, death and memorials. These are the things I am struggling with later that same evening. The words splashed on my computer screen seem to speak with the same accent of the guy at the counter. Dealing with my thesis, I now try avoid eye contact, nod and keep saying yes. The stairs creak as my girlfriend comes downstairs clutching her phone. “Switch on the TV, president Zuma is going to make an announcement, they say”. I close the computer and switch on the TV. The public broadcaster is preparing for something big. Jacob Zuma is wearing black, and conveys the bombshell that is Nelson Mandela’s death in his own slow muddled way. We become teary and embrace. A little later, Barack Obama splashes onto the TV screen. We’re ambivalent, but he speaks with sincerity. Tears are now streaming down our cheeks. It’s all so confusing. We’d never imagined it would be like this. Lees verder →
As in earlier years, the controversy on the significance of the figure of ‘zwarte piet’ cropped up again. On those earlier occasions, we have posted both blogs arguing in favor of the ‘tender Dutch tradition’, and blogs stating that the arguments about the ‘innocent custom’ simply won’t do. This year we again, simultaneously, publish two contributions, by Duane Jethro and Rhoda Woets, questioning the guiltless-ness of the figure of zware piet.
By Duane Jethro It is that time of year again when, slowly, the Netherlands is being invaded by those loveable effigies of dark-skinned, red-lipped ZwartePieten. From Albert Hein to the Kapsalon, Rotterdam to Maastricht, little dark Pieten are colonizing inches of display space, as all across the Netherlands children wait anxiously for their white, bearded boss-man, Sinterklaas, to arrive from Spain and steam into cities and towns this November.
In keeping with the annual celebration, I have been asked to engage with the significance of the commemoration of Sinterklaas. I hope to use this opportunity to embark on my own intocht into the tradition, with the intention of dishing out intellectual snoepjes and cadeautjes that hopefully will add to the annual Standplaatswereld debate about the significance of that mercurial of Dutch folk characters, Zwarte Piet. Lees verder →
By Duane Jethro The 24th of September marked Heritage Day in South Africa. Inaugurated in 1996, the state figured this public holiday would afford South Africans the opportunity to critically reflect on the post-apartheid nation’s rich cultural heritage and diversity. Responding to this implicit appeal, on the 24th of September 2005, the Mzansi Braai Institute initiated the idea of reframing Heritage Day as being a celebration of the braai, or barbeque. Lees verder →
By Duane Jethro Ryan Anderson, writing for the anthropology blog Savage Minds, recently raised the question of the usefulness of authenticity as a methodological tool in the social sciences. Invoking Edward Bruner’s observation that, “authenticity is a red herring, to be examined only when tourists, the locals, or the producers themselves use the term” (Culture on Tour, 2005:5), Anderson argues that authenticity can be constructive in so far as it opens up possibilities for “empirical investigation [into] how different people create and imagine what is and what is not authentic”. Drawing on the controversial case of the Damon Winter’s manipulated photos of American soldiers in the Afghan war, for which the photographer won a prestigious award, Anderson’s post asks us to think about what criteria we should use to evaluate the authenticity of images. Lees verder →
Duane JethroSunday 8 August, 2010: I am on an expedition to find an elusive Sunday Times memorial in Soweto, Johannesburg. On the way, I drive through Vilakazi Street, passing by Nelson Mandela’s former home. It has been transformed into a museum. The precinct surrounding his former domicile is teeming with tourists and a host of locals plying a range of different commercial strategies aimed at cashing in on the spoils of the heritage venture. Further along the way, I pass the monumental Hector Pieterson Memorial and Media Centre, another heritage project erected during the post-apartheid era dedicated to the memory of the first student to have died in the 1976 student uprisings. Soweto seems to be brimming with new, rich heritage ventures mapping the formerly hidden histories of its former residents. The memorial I am in search of is not very different, having been dedicated to another forgotten memorable moment in time.
I perform a radical driving manoeuvre having suddenly spotted the artwork. The wheels churn up a cloud of dust as I swerve into the open plot of ground opposite Morris Isaacson High School in Jabulani section. Lees verder →
By Duane Jethro Since the conclusion of the World Cup, questions have been raised about what could be done with the vuvuzelas accumulated during the tournament. In response, the renowned South African cartoonist Zapiro offered a few creative, novel suggestions in one of his weekly sketches for the Sunday Times. These included deafened fans using their vuvuzelas as a hearing aid, following Paris Hilton’s lead and using it as a cannabis pipe, or as the case may be with recently sacked coach Raymond Domenech, using it as a receptacle for collecting change from the public while begging on the street.
Just as the vuvuzela’s uses as a material object were open to a multiplicity of reinterpretations, the horn has also lent itself to myriad symbolic readings that connected it to notions of culture, religion and social identities. In that case, we could perhaps find another, alternate use for the vuvuzela, using it telescopically to look back and scan the uproarious terrain of the World Cup and canvass some of the things that had been overlooked and not really heard. Lees verder →
By Duane JethroThe car company Hyundai has come up with a solution for those whom the expression “Feel It. It Is Here” has no real emotive purchase. In support of their slogan for the World Cup, “We bring the Gees”, the company has erected a 37 metre long vuvuzela on an abandoned flyover in Cape Town’s city centre. To affirm their commitment to pumping up the World Cup spirit, the instrument is not merely a striking piece of visual advertising, but sonically brings the company slogan to life as a fully operational noise making instrument.
Intended to be sounded off every time a goal was scored during the tournament, the giant trumpet’s sonic booms have, however, been curtailed by the city council on the grounds that it would seriously disrupt traffic at the major intersection below. While the project has been a failure in this sense, it has succeeded in promoting the notion of gees and linking it with vuvuzelas. Lees verder →
By Duane Jethro Culture is on everybody’s lips. Another game at the fan park: Spain vs Switzerland, if I remember correctly. Cold beer in hand, I am engaging in conversation with a middle-aged gentleman about the World Cup vibe. It’s a chilly, grey day and the sparse crowd is quiet, subdued, passively absorbing Spain’s demise. Minutes later, a group of about 10 or so excited Bafana Bafana supporters congregate in my vicinity and start generating some gees. They sing popular local songs in isiXhosa, and blow their vuvuzelas in time to the tune, all the while drawing foreign bystanders into the enticing rhythm.
The scene is priceless and I remark that once people get hold of vuvuzelas they go mad. “Ja, ma wat kan jy doen is os culture”, [Yes, but what can you do, it’s our culture], he replies curtly. “A culture van geraas maak en tekeere gaan?” [A culture of making a noise and showing off], I cheekily quip. “En Party” [And partying], he adds, and we both laugh.
By Duane JethroKe Nako is a Sotho phrase that roughly translates into “it is here” or “it is time”. Playing on this traditional term, the South African Broadcasting Corporation sought to tap into the charged feelings of anticipation and excitement with the prospect of the looming World Cup, with its own slogan, Feel It is Here. On June 11th, 2010, it arrived. The day marked a watershed moment in South Africa’s history, as the nation celebrated the opening of the highly anticipated FIFA 2010 World Cup™, to be staged on home soil. World Cup day, as it may be termed, was not only eagerly anticipated, it was also raucously celebrated. Lees verder →
In our new series on the Football World Cup, Duane Jethro will regularly report from South Africa. Duane is currently doing his PhD research in his home-country, looking at cultural heritage initiatives in the post-apartheid era. The World Cup, with its articulations of a (putative) South African authentic culture, has become an important site of Duane’s investigations. In this first part of the series we’ll reproduce Duane’s report on the festivities in the context of the World Cup’s final draw, in which he discusses an object that has recently become somewhat controversial in the Netherlands: the vuvuzela. What does the vuvuzela stand for and where does it come from? Lees verder →
The FIFA Fan Fest™, a locally organised public festival celebrating the FIFA 2010 World Cup™ final draw, was the watershed event marking South Africa’s official role as host of the 2010 World Cup tournament. Held in Long Street Cape Town, the magnanimous celebration stretched from the Convention Centre on the east, through the heart of the city to its western boundary. Attended by revellers, officials and, celebrities from across the globe, it represented the first major occasion for the local organising committee and the South African public to welcome the global football loving audience to South Africa. Significantly, amongst many nations represented at the event, there seemed to be a large contingent of Dutch supporters present, celebrating the Netherlands’ berth, and indulging in the general festivities. Lees verder →