As Greek as It Gets with Stavvie and Inge

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Perdfect foodie partners Stavvie and Inge

DIANE DE BEER

The stars were aligned when chef supreme Stavros Vladislavic and fanatical foodie Inge Pretorius decided the time was right to start their Tshwane culinary venture. They had been talking for years.

He is an old favourite in the capital city but left in 2003 for neighbouring Cullinan where he has been pulling the crowds, especially for lazy weekend lunches. And that is still an on-going enterprise with wife Vonni keeping those fires stoked.

Now he’s back and for Pretorius, a woman with a strong entrepreneurial spirit, it is a dream that she has been nurturing for many years. She has always wanted to run a restaurant. Her head is filled with food from the moment she wakes up, when she starts planning the family’s evening meal.

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As Greek as it Gets

“It’s been a huge learning curve,” she says of the restaurant enterprise, but the two partners knew from the start how it would work. Stavros is the chef-patron and the one who makes all the food decisions, while Inge does the admin and the management. She but also worked her butt off to get the place looking the way it does – with a little help from many friends, starting with her husband and Vonni, who has an artistic eye.

They wanted to keep it relaxed, a typical Greek taverna, no frills, yet bursting with charm. How to do the dining side wasn’t a stretch. Chef Vladislavic has been doing his spectacular kitchen wizardry for many years and his customers wouldn’t want any of that to change. Why mess with something that works?

Meze platters with Spanakopita, kebabs, Haloumi and Keftedes
Meze platters with Spanakopita, kebabs, Haloumi and Keftedes

The big man with the booming voice knows better than that. His food is as generous as his heart and Inge, who is left doing the sums, had to accept his wisdom and better judgement. “It was tough for me to relinquish control, but I knew I had to listen to him,” she says.

And that’s their strength. She has allowed the chef who knows how to feed his people to take the lead while she gets stuck into making it all work. It’s a winning recipe and the way she likes it. All the while she’s also improving her cooking skills and knowledge, something she’s passionate about. Sampling food from the kitchen is what she loves best. That’s how she got to know Stavros, eating at his different restaurants.

On the night, we went, the chef had prepared a feast. It’s all about produce and passion. It started with a light fresh salad of asparagus, avo, coz lettuce, and spring onion with a rocket pesto dressing. This had to counterbalance the meat dishes to follow; a Cajun burnt pepper fillet and a chilli, garlic and ginger chicken succulent and perfectly cooked with beetroot and spinach as a tasty accompaniment.

Stavvie's Greek Burger
Stavvie’s Greek Burger

No Stavvie meal would be complete without some seafood. This time it was a platter generously packed with a selection of kingklip and hake loins, prawns, mussels done in white wine garlic and cream, calamari in a light chilli sauce, rice salad, pita bread and tzatziki.

These were his choices for a welcome feast from his state-of-the-art kitchen, from where a kiddie’s size moussaka, some freshly made pita and a few dips were as complete at a later lunch meeting.

From his meze menu (including artichokes, dolmades, melitzana, tiropita, spanakopita, saganaki, calamari and beef  slouvaki chicken boerekia or keftedes) to the Greek national dishes ranging from brizoles, moussaka (traditional and a veg option), pastitio and the melt-in-the-mouth kleftiko, there’s the whole other side of the menu to explore. Or you could feast on a starter of squid heads (a personal favourite) or sardines. Prawns, snails or chicken livers are also an alternative sensation and along the way, the chef will be cheering you on.

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The Colourful interiors of As Greek As It Gets

Even in today’s coffee crazy world, restaurants aren’t always reliable but finding themselves in the heart of Tshwane’s cuisine culture (in the centre of Greenlyn), they tick all the boxes. And the sweet side offers halva, baklava and Greek biscuits, Kourabiedes or Melomakarona or you could simply finish the night off with Ouzo and dates – there’s no better choice.

As with many of the city’s restaurants where the chef-patron is such a large part of the success, with Prinsloo in tow (sometimes quietly in the background), they pack a punch. It’s not often that someone who doesn’t need looking after is set free simply to make magic with the food and on the floor with the patrons.

On the wine side, the choice is as sassy as the food with different needs and pockets catered for. Under each section, there are options with Hermanuspietersfontein Kaalvoet Meisie Sauvignon Blanc tough to resist for the name alone; a prosecco at R230 also an option on a celebratory night; wine served by the glass which means carafe; and then you’re yet to dip into the cocktails (Stavvie’s special of vodka, lemon, mint and lime would be my choice) or even one of their special gins or whiskeys – you’re spoilt for choice.

As Greek as It Gets is as much about Stavvie as it is about the food. You could just slip in quietly and have a meal, you might even get away with it. But if you’re one of those diners who likes talking food, prefers someone guiding you with the menu, or perhaps wants to try something extraordinary, this is your place.

He will talk the talk but also walk the walk. And now he has someone there to keep everything running sweetly, deal with administrative hassles (we all have those) and just keeping an eye and checking on the sidelines whether the night is playing out as gently as it should for everyone involved.

*First published in Sunday Times Lifestyle Food, 16/6/2019.

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*Details:

As Greek As It Gets

Greenlyn Village Centre

Thomas Edison & 13th Avenue

Menlopark,

Pretoria

Tel: 0844 55 55 88

Open: Tuesday to Saturday 11am to 10pm

Sunday 11 am to 4pm

Sima Mashazi Makes Whoopee with the Music of Mama Africa – Miriam Makeba

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Simangele Mashazi celebrating the life and music of the legendary Miriam Makeba

A show celebrating the life and music of the legendary Miriam Makeba, My Miriam Makeba Story, will be presented in Gauteng this weekend by Sima Mashazi accompanied by Cape Jazz pianist/composer and musical director, Ramon Alexander. Having seen the show and encouraging you to go, DIANE DE BEER gives some background on the performer:

Her first interpretation of Miriam Makeba was  in the first musical about Mama Africa  a few years back (touring US and SA), which deepened Sima’s admiration for Makeba’s music and the woman behind it.

Sharing the themes in her music and life that touched her and bear similarities to her own journey, this first solo show followed. She includes songs of her own that relate to Makeba’s story and pays tribute to an historical figure who spoke truth through her lyrics and gave hope to so many, amidst her own struggles.

Rising star, says the press release and because I had first experienced her and this solo show at this year’s Klein Karoo Arts Festival, I asked her about this particular status.

She is better known in the Cape, that’s where she lives and performs now, but is hoping to change all that with these two Gauteng performances (see dates and venues below).

“That’s an interesting label. I’ve been at this for some time so in that sense I’m not brand new to music. However, to say I’m not rising, might means that I have arrived and I’m far from that. There are so many milestones to reach still, so much growth still happen, so much work to still be done. I really do hope to keep rising, “ is how the singer who was nominated as Best Solo Artist (US Woordfees 2018) for her performance in this show and then walked off with the Kanna Award for Best Music Production earlier this year.

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When you look at the list of festivals she performed this show, she worked the circuit and must have made her mark with those audiences. And she certainly is worth listening to.

Aside from having heard her music growing up, her journey with Makeba began when she got the role of the young Miriam Makeba in a musical about her life called Mama Africa  – The Musical in 2016-2017.  “I rediscovered some of my favourite music and discovered music I hadn’t heard before. I also understood her life better and a whole new appreciation of her and her work grew in me,” she says.

“It has been an amazing experience portraying her and I have learned so much about her that I didn’t know,” Sima says. “I love how she used her voice to speak the truth of her reality and instigate change”.

While their life journeys are not similar, there are some things that she, like many others, can relate to. “A journey as a young black woman in music, a journey made possible because people like her paved the way,” she says.

“Experiences of loss in my own life that hit me hard and reverberated when I had to portray hers in the musical,” she explains. “I found it overwhelming to imagine how she endured it all on top of the grief of being exiled from her country.”

In her research, she read more about Makeba’s life and connected to her as a person with aspirations, fears and everything else that makes us human. “Instead of only seeing the formidable icon I was inspired to believe that I can be extraordinary in spite of what I experience as my human inadequacies.”

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Sima Mashazi

Sima’s childhood was filled with music. She grew up in Newcastle and was born into a family that sings. “Singing together as a family is one of the experiences in life I hold the dearest. Throughout my preschool, primary and high school life I could consistently be described as the girl who sings.”

She later moved to Stellenbosch to join a small music school . “I’m not sure what I thought my plan was but in Stellenbosch I met some of the people I work with even today, like Ramon (a jazz phenomenon) and started what I now call a career in music.”

Since that initial start, she has grown from the young, inexperienced girl who first met her accompanist/director who she regards as her mentor, to someone who is richer, more versatile.

“He is one of those people who believes in me even when I don’t see my own potential. When I met him, I was this young girl with talent and very little experience. He introduced me to jazz among other things. He opened my eyes to what’s out there and taught me so much and after roughly 10 years, I’m still learning from him,” she says with obvious admiration – as she should.

They complement each other in astonishing ways which gives the performance a wonderful edge.

“I came to recognise that I too have things to say, and I started and continue to grow my identity as a songwriter. I released two singles in 2017 (Bashadile and I still miss you) available on I-tunes and other online platforms. I also perform these two songs in the show.” As well as some of Makeba’s more familiar and perhaps less well known songs.

“While doing this particular show, there are other aspects of myself as performer that I’ve discovered, like storytelling, and I would like to grow further into that as well,” she says.

And exploring her future she explains that one of her passions is academia, linguistics in particular.

“I look at different aspects of language in society and factors like multilingualism. Music was my gateway and attempting to engage with people in their own language is a special gift we can all offer to each other. Even in the smallest gesture like a greeting, it means a lot to people. It says ‘I see you and you matter’”

“My next thoughts are towards making these two worlds merge in a complementary way (don’t’ ask me how just yet). These are messages that the arts convey better than even the best academic paper I could write.”

Amen – as long as it keeps her performing, telling her stories and singing with that magnificent voice. She’s a real force.

 

 

Performances in Gauteng on the weekend:

July 13: Pierneef Teater, Mogg Avenue, Villiera, Pretoria

Doors Open: 6pm; Show Starts: 7pm

Ticket Price: R140 (Adults), R130 (Pensioners & Children)

Bookings: 012 329 0709 / Info@Pierneefteater.Co.Za

 

July 14: Foxwood Theatre @ Foxwood House, 13 5th Street, Houghton Estate, Johannesburg

Doors Open: 2.30pm; Show Starts: 3pm

Ticket Price: R150

Bookings: 082 712 5680 / Theatre@Foxwood.Co.Za

Lunch Available at additional R180pp. Booking Essential

 

Art on the Move at This Year’s RMB Turbine Art Fair from July 12 to 14

RMB Turbine Art Fair (RMB TAF) is on the move to a new and bigger venue for the 7th edition of the Fair. Since its inception in 2013, RMB TAF has grown extensively year on year and 2019 will see the most substantial Fair yet in a new location – 10 Fricker Rd, Illovo from July 12 – 14 with a preview evening on July 11.

DIANE DE BEER looks more closely:

Hannalie Taute with her work
Hannalie Taute with her work

One of the exciting art prospects is an artist who has developed her art with a view of speaking her mind – loudly – and she does that with valour.

Hannalie Taute describes her work as in a constant state of evolution, which in itself mirrors many of the ideas behind her art.  One central theme or unifying characteristic, she says, is the repeated exploration of identity and/or relationships within what she calls her paracosmic fantasy.

If all of this sounds a little out there, it is, and it isn’t. This is an artist who doesn’t shy away from putting her heart and mind out there. She often addresses gender issues – but uses both her harsher instincts as well as a sense of humour to speak her mind visually. Shock and laughter often come together when exploring her work.

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Hannalie Taute’s She Never Promised You A Rose Garden

She examines identity and relationships in a way that probes the duality and conflict people often have with many or even conflicting identities to which they answer to.

This kind of thinking is most striking in the work that Taute will be bringing to the Turbine Art Fair, ranging from figurative toy-like creatures to altered portraits as well as large embroideries.

Characteristic of the work of this Still Bay-based artist is the use of the traditionally black recycled rubber inner tractor tubes with embroidered thread with which she is continuing to create her paracosmos as a way of orienting herself in reality.

The coarseness of the rubber is counteracted by the delicacy of the thread, but this is subverted, as often the stitching and composition of the rubber inner tubes are delicate and the thread seems almost rough in its arrangement. Taute wants the medium of the piece to interact with the subject matter in a way that forces the viewer to engage and question her art. This is an artist in conversation with her prospective viewers.

She is perhaps best known for her strong showings at local art festivals where she received the Kanna award for best visual presentation at the 2014 Klein Karoo Art Festival (KKNK) as well as several nominations throughout the years. In 2017 she also gloriously represented South Africa at the Museum Rijswijk Yextile Biennale in the Netherlands.

Her work will be presented by Tshwane’s Millenium Gallery and the artist will also be present at the Fair.  Just remember before you start talking, she never promised you a rose garden, or that is what her art says.

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Berco Wilsenach’s Star Box

Other artists shown by Ronel van der Vyver’s Groenkloof gallery include Berco Wilsenach, currently part time lecturer at the University of Pretoria as well as presenting workshops on a regular basis at the Kunstakademie, Düsseldorf while also completing a PhD in Visual Studies. He won the PPC Young Sculpture’s Award (1997) and the ABSA L’Atelier (2005).

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Cobert Mashile

 

Classics like Norman Catherine, Colbert Mashile and Anton Karstel will also feature.

Think Art on the Move, says TAF:  “Our vision has always been to develop young artists and grow the market for African art and elevate art collecting across a wider market. Visitors will be able to view exciting installations, larger gallery spaces and a more conceptually curated Fair but in the relaxed environment that has always been the signature of Turbine Art Fair ” says Fair Founder, Glynis Hyslop.

Proudly partnered for a second year by RMB, TAF is a unique South African art collaboration that brings together galleries and artists from around the country to present and sell works.

RMB TAF, they promise, is not just an art fair but an all-encompassing cultural experience for visitors, with artisanal food and beverages and vibrant entertainment programme. It also differentiates itself from other South African art fairs through its accessible pricing strategy. The selling price of artworks generally falls between R1 000 and R50 000, which presents opportunities to savvy investors and new buyers.

They present a series of special projects for visitors to view during the Fair as well as a multidisciplinary public programme curated by Kefiloe Siwisa and Nomvuyo Horwitz – titled The Year of the mirror which will include performance art, music, screenings, masterclasses and a children’s programme, talks and walkabout series. The talks and walkbaouts are offerd to the public for free and on a first come first serve basis.  The full list of talks, speakers panelists and talk times can be found at http://www.turbineartfair.co.za.

 Radio partner Kaya FM will be broadcasting live from the Fair on Saturday 13th July.

 

Dates:            12 – 14 July 2019

Venue:          10 Fricker Rd Illovo, JHB

Tickets:          R120 via Webtickets or R150 at door

Weekend pass: R250 via webtickets or R300 at door

Children R100: 4 years & older Includes access to children’s arts area and children’s walkabout on a first come first serve basis

Students & Pensioners: R100 at door and R80 via Webtickets (Friday only)

VIP opening night (11th July): R750 via Webtickets only and will include Performances by Gregory Maqoma (founder & executive  director of Vuyani Dance Group) and Mabuta

 

 

FAIR HIGHLIGHTS & SPECIAL PROJECTS

 

  • RMB Talent Unlocked is an emerging artist and curator mentorship program that started in 2014 under the name Fresh Produce. The workshop programme culminates with a curated booth by Fulufhelo Mobadi at the RMB Turbine Art Fair.

 

  • A Meeting of Minds: Louis Khehla Maqhubela and Douglas Portway Presented by Strauss & Co

 

  • Market Photo Workshop alumni exhibition 

 

  • Dumisani Mabaso benefit exhibition – as an artist and printmaker, Dumisani’s life and work is inextricably linked to the history of South African Art.

 

  • The Graduate Exhibition curated by Kefiloe Siwisa in collaboration with Maja Marx  for some fabulous work of artists who are at the beginning of their artistic careers.

 

  • The new space lends itself perfectly to installations and visitors will see the likes of Nkhensani Rihlampfu presented by M Studio Community and Jake Singer.

 

  • Gerard Sekoto Foundation will be presenting an exhibition.

The Sorrow of the Same Train: Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us and James Baldwin’s Tell Me How Long …

True stories of the persecution of black boys and men in the United States have, perhaps, never been as raw as in Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us. Her four-part miniseries about the Central Park (Exonerated) Five is breaking viewing records on Netflix. But when DIANE DE BEER read James Baldwin’s Tell Me How Long The Train’s Been Gone (1968) at the same time as watching the miniseries, the 50 years between the two explorations of the same agonising topic burned away, into the same history of hate:

 

 

When two brothers, Caleb (17) and Leo (10) are stopped by the police in James Baldwin’s Tell Me How Long The Train’s Been Gone (1968)

I’m glad you were with me, because if it hadn’t been for you, they’d have given me licking …

What for?

Because I’m black, Caleb said. Because I’m black and they paid to beat on black asses. But with a kid your size, they just might get into trouble. So they let us go.

 

Anything changed? That was written more than 30 years before the last century ended and we are almost 20 years into the new one.

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A scene from Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us

And yet horror is still being expressed by the events (1989) of the exonerated Central Park Five. The story has suddenly been given life again by the expressive Ava DuVernay’s evocative and brilliantly blunt When They See Us, recently released on Netflix.

You just need to focus on the name of the four-episode dramatised version of five black and brown teenagers wrongly accused of the assault and rape of a woman jogger in new York’s most iconic public park – hence the name, the Central Park Five. The men were exonerated years later, in 2002, but this series is a reminder once again of the horrific racism of the American justice department including the police and the prosecutors as well as the wrongful rage of the media at the time. Property magnate Donald Trump further exacerbated and fuelled the fire of an already baying white citizenry with full-page ads (at the cost of $85 000) in the New York Times and other papers. He called for New York State to adopt the death penalty.

What DuVernay does in this particular series is focus on the young boys (from 14 to 16 at the time of their arrest), the way they were mistreated, the absence of any rights for the young boys and their parents and how far and wide the damage spreads in a community when this kind of devastatingly wrongful act is taken to its conclusion – one of the young men, 16 at the time, was tried as an adult and sent directly to Rykers, one of America’s most notorious prisons.

Ava DuVernay at work
Ava DuVernay at work on When They See Us

 

To witness only his story which unfolds in harrowing detail in episode 4, is devastating. I cried from start to finish. To see a life destroyed in such a wilful manner is impossibly sad. But DuVernay knows exactly what she is doing and she doesn’t hold back.

In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour for example, when talking about Donald Trump (now president of course) she explains why she included particular clips of him and a television interview: “What he said at the time contributed to the air of criminal bias pointing to black and brown boys and girls as animals, a wolfpack, dehumanising black people.”

The Trump interview itself is also packaged in a way that is both screamingly funny yet shows the contempt of  the two women when they hear him speak.

As he talks about black people (in 1989), he says he would like to be a “well educated black because I do believe they have an actual advantage today”. The real interview is played on a television screen in the room with two of the mothers of the accused boys watching. The one turns to the other and says:

“What is a black?”

“I don’t know,” says the friend, “but when is the white man going to get a break in this country?”

A retort follows sharply: “They have to keep that bigot off TV.”

“Don’t worry about it, his 15 minutes is almost up!”

And knowing what we know now, that’s no longer funny.

 

James Baldwin writes further in his book about his white fellow Americans: I did not want to leave this fire, leave this room, but I wanted to get out of this country. I had had it amongst all these deadly and dangerous people, who made their own lives, and all the lives they touched, so flat and stale and joyless.

My countrymen impressed me, simply as being the emptiest and most unattractive people in the world. It seemed a great waste of one’s only lifetime to be condemned to their chattering, vicious, pathetic, hysterically dishonest company.

For these people would not change, they could not, they had no energy for change: the very word caused their eyes to unfocus, their lips to loosen or to tighten, and sent them scurrying into their various bombshelters.

 

What is so astonishing about DuVernay’s stubborn spotlight on issues and people who have never had a voice, is that she has obviously decided to take a stand and speak her mind on issues that people have been pussyfooting around to the consternation or confusion of the rest of the world watching.

When referring to Trump, there’s no hesitation when she points to his “racist supremacist views and opportunist buffoonery of the time”.

She’s equally blunt when speaking about the US prison system, something she has invested in keenly with her Academy Award winning documentary 13th which exposed the historical racial bias in the system.

Answering a question by Amanpour about the broken system, she again approached it head-on: “I don’t believe the system is broken. It’s working exactly as it was meant to work.”

And that’s exactly what she focussed on in 13th: “How the system came to be, the historical context of a criminal justice system that overindexes on the criminalisation of people of colour in the US.”

“It can’t be reformed,” she tells Amanpour. ”It has to be completely overhauled.” And then she adds, “We need massive work to reframe how we think of criminality in the US.”

That is precisely why the five young men (Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, Korey Wise, Raymond Santana, and Kevin Richardson) turned to her as their saviour, the one they wanted and willed to tell their story.

They knew she had the insight and would get it right. For her it was about showing their innocence destroyed as they were ripped from their youth in a matter of moments. They didn’t stand a chance. The prosecutor of the case is heard saying: “Every black man who was in the park that night is a suspect. I need all of them.”

She got what she asked for and more. Corey Wise wasn’t in the park, he simply accompanied a friend to the police station as support. He was sentenced for 15 years and because he was unwilling to confess to a crime he didn’t commit, he wasn’t allowed parole.

 

A final note from James Baldwin: People become frightened in many different ways – the ways in which they become frightened may sometimes determine how long they live. Here I was, in the country, and on a country road, alone, facing two armed white men who had legal sanction to kill me; and if killing me should prove to be an error, it would not matter very much, it would not for them be a serious error. It would not cost them their badges or their pensions, for the only people who would care about my death could certainly never reach them Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone.

Watch both 13th and When They See Us on Netflix if you haven’t done that already.

 

  • The details are easy to look up on the internet, but in case you want to know: The case was heard in two 1990 trials. In one, Salaam, McCray, and Santana were found guilty of rape, assault, robbery, and riot, and sentenced to the maximum, 5 to 10 years in a youth facility. Richardson was convicted of attempted murder, rape, sodomy, and robbery and was also sentenced to 5 to 10 years. Wise, at 16, tried as an adult and convicted of sexual abuse, assault, and riot was sentenced to 5 to 15 years. Santana, Richardson, McCray, and Salaam went to juvenile detention for five to seven years but when they were released, they were required to register as sex offenders, which limited their ability to find work. Finally they were all exonerated when a man already in prison, came forward with a guilty plea.

Theatrerocket goes on Theatrical March in This Festival Season with Debut Shows

Pictures: The Sjokoladeshow and Koekeloer: Wendy van Heerden

 

Kamphoer
Sandra Prinsloo in Kamphoer.

With Theatrerocket in panic mode as three national festivals run almost at the same time, Rudi Sadler and Johan van der Merwe have all their theatre ducks in a row – as they always have. DIANE DE BEER checks their many productions in debut seasons at Innibos in Mbombela and at the Free State Festival in Bloemfontein starting this week:

 

 

The names of actress Sandra Prinsloo and director Lara Foot in the same sentence? That’s already a coup!

Then you give them a text adapted by Cecilia du Toit from Francois Smith’s fictionalised Kamphoer and Nico Moolman’s non- fiction Camp Whore, dealing with the life of Susan Nell – and you have fireworks.

Kamphoer which debuts in the Free State plays out against the backdrop of the South African War (Anglo Boer War, 1899 – 1902) where Susan Nell is raped in the Winburg concentration camp and left for dead. She is found by a black couple who gently nurse her back to life and from there she travels to the Cape and finds her way to Europe where she is trained as a psychologist. That’s in broad brush strokes.

During World War 1, she works at a psychiatric institution in England where she crosses paths with one of her rapists, who is suffering from a post-war condition that was then labelled as shellshock.

This year, 2019, is the 120th anniversary of the South African War and the production is about honouring that devastating period.

It is produced by Theatrerocket whose first solo production Die Reuk Van Appels (starring Gideon Lombard and directed by Lara Bye) was showered with awards for everyone involved. The anticipation for this one is quite something – and it is perhaps with some gentle breathing that they welcome this Free State debut.

For those not visiting the festival, this is a production that will travel. Make a note.

But with much more laughter in mind, their other two productions offer much lighter fare with debuts at Innibos (from June 26 to 29) before racing to the Free State Festival (July 1 – 7).

Moulin Rouge sjok plakkaat Innibos en Vryfees-s (002)Die Sjokoladeshow is something Johan van der Merwe came up with while visiting the Drakensberg, eating chocolate fondue and thinking that they had never done a chocolate show. It can absolutely be as random as that.

In conversation with author Riana Scheepers, they decided to invite a clutch of writers to come up with some sketches which would be selected for a show – which after much whittling down was exactly what happened.

Into the picture step a quartet of artists: director/writer Henriëtta Gryffenberg, actors Lizz Meiring and Jak de Priester and musical director Heinrich Pelser.

“I love the different stories,” says Gryffenberg. They range from drama, to comedy, monologues, storytelling and two songs that celebrate the sweet- and sadness of love. “Each item has its own colour and scent and leaves me with food for thought,” she reminisces.

Die Sjokoladeshow 2 (002)

“I wanted to do an escapist show as balm to these tough times. I didn’t want politics of the day to intrude. I wanted to work with themes of relationships between parents and children as well as men and women. I also wanted to explore the exile of the outsider because these are all issues that I believe are currently neglected.”

Talking about her team, she praises Meiring as the theatrical trooper. “Her enthusiasm and energy are catching. She eats, lives and breathes theatre and her interpretations stretch from a 20-something nun to a 60-year plus woman who rants about her mother’s moral messages.”

Situated on the opposite end of the acting spectrum, this is De Priester’s debut as actor. A successful singer and performer, the stage is also his home, but this has a different slant. “We had to turn him into an actor in 15 rehearsal sessions,” explains Gryffenberg. “He pulled it off and I didn’t think it would be possible! I think many of his admirers will be amazed at his performance.”

She also has high praise for her music man. “He is musical magic,” she says. His understanding of her needs was spot-on and his live soundtrack extraordinary without being overpowering in a theatre landscape. He also performs with aplomb.

For Gryffenberg, from putting together the text to ensure a dramatic arc, to the Johan Engelbrecht set to getting stuck into a stage production, was both tough and thrilling. In conclusion she celebrates that Die Sjokoladeshow is a confluence of many talents which will now be revealed at the two art festivals.

And last (but not least), it was time for Theatrerocket to dip their toe into farce territory with a production titled Koekeloer! And for this first effort, they were determined to get all the pieces of the puzzle to fit perfectly.

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The cast of Koekeloer

The story deals with the popular kykNET cooking show Koekedoor, familiar territory for audiences. Playwright Braam van der Vyver, familiar with farce, got together with the two producers and together they believe they have concocted the perfect comedy plot.

Two finalists, Marié Coleské, a spinster from Koekenaap and Marié Kok, a lingerie model from Ruimsig have to battle this particular baking bulge with cunning conniving and some half-baked plans.

Also introduce a clumsy crook and a private detective, a jealous boxing champion, a lingerie designer (of course!), a dominee, a controversial book and an upside-down cake. That’s farce.

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Ben Pienaar and Gavin van den Berg

The cast includes many of the more experienced players from DEURnis with the bonus of veteran actor Gavin van den Berg as the fallible preacher.

This is one dish which they are determined will deliver in all its deliciousness. Fingers crossed for no load shedding in case the cake flops!

So get thee to the theatre at either Innibos in Mbombela or at the Free State Festival in Bloemfontein. If you’re in Grahamstown, see the DEURnis/Uzwelo season.

DEURnis/Uzwelo is One-On-One Theatre that Debuts at National Arts Festival

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The Afrikaans Festivals have for a couple of years enjoyed the expansive embrace of performance the Theatrerocket way. The production company has found innovative ways of appealing to theatre audiences as well as making the more seasoned theatre followers pay attention to DEURnis. Now they have collaborated with Windybrow Art Centre for the National Arts Festival (June 27 to July 7). DIANE DE BEER explores the concept:

No one would have given much of a thumbs up to this first and probably edgy concept dubbed DEURnis. It just sounds silly – one-on-one theatre!

But Rudi Sadler and Johan van der Merwe who a few years back formed a production company Theatrerocket had an idea and they were determined. DEURnis is a one-on-one site-specific theatrical production with a very intimate yet cutting-edge and experimental approach. It involves a single audience member who views three separate dramatic pieces per package (there are four different ones to choose from at the National Arts Festival for the first time this year), with each of these having one performer and one audience member.

Each piece is approximately 20 minutes long and written for a particular room/space in a house/building, so as a viewer, you move from one room or even caravan to the next to see your three chosen plays.

It is the social issues that permeate the different works that affect individuals in different ways depending who you are. And for those who aren’t interested in gimmicky theatre, that’s exactly the trap they have avoided by aiming for excellence and substance in the texts. Some will suit specific individuals better than others.

Personally I’m not too excited by the more confrontational ones (there’s usually one that’s slightly more out there in a package), but then other audience members might feel differently. “We have been inundated by people interested in writing for this venture,” says Van der Merwe.

The duo are theatre fanatics of a kind, they know and understand the pitfalls and what audiences want.

Deurnis poster

Part of why DEURnis works so well is because it is such a well-executed concept. They understood from the beginning that the control had to be constant to see that everything works superbly. And as they have had many plays to choose from, they have managed to execute their strict code of excellence.

It’s a fascinating experience, being the only one in the room in situations with a stranger telling a story that is often inclusive rather than intrusive but affects you as the viewer in very specific ways. For many it might also be uncomfortable to be this intimate with someone you’re not familiar with. But that’s part of the experience.

This is not a financial venture for the company. With only single actors and audience members, the numbers simply don’t add up. But because of the way it has been done, the performance-experience the mostly young actors accumulate, can’t be calculated.

And chatting to a few of them in-between performances, they are thrilled by how much they are learning in the process. “Each performance is different because of the reaction of the individual viewing,” says one performer. Many of them are already in their second or third play and the growth is obvious in their performances as well as a play’s toughness, a second time round.

Deurnis Poster3

Prospective directors are also excited about the challenge and safety of testing their skills on such a small and intimate stage. “It’s a safe environment in which to experiment and push your own boundaries,” says Van der Merwe.

Having sat through two nights of 12 plays (even a dance with Ignatius van Heerden, Droom, with multi-media included), it doesn’t matter which package you choose. They’re all extremely well crafted and in sometimes scary ways, fun to experience. Following the earliest season, I was excited because of the great potential – and they keep delivering.

They keep on adding to the concept with interesting twists. The latest will be seen at the National Arts Festival later this week. It all began when the head of the Windybrow Arts Centre, Keituletse Gwanga, came to see the production in Tshwane a while back. Six Market Lab graduates, Kwasha! Theatre Company, who work with Windybrow as an introduction to the professional world, have joined Theatrerocket for DEURnis/Uzwelo (a Zulu translation of deurnis which means empathy/compassion) on this year’s main programme.

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It’s been an amazing learning curve explains Van der Merwe because they started with expanded workshops with Windybrow where they explained, explored and taught the concept, with end results that deliver a diverse and rich programme.

“The stories they came with are fascinating,” says Sadler which meant that both groups benefitted from this collaborative effort. Each programme has been put together to showcase the diversity with the first, for example, presenting Koud (Afrikaans: a schoolboy with a secret, forbidden love, that should be kept secret at all costs); Khogo/Chicken (Sesotho: a man sells chickens in the basement of his building and is at pains to prove his compassion to the SPCA) and Kwas (Afrikaans: Esther loves posing for artists but has problems staying still).

Other languages included are English, Sepedi, Greek, IsiXhosa and even Tsotsi taal. Because many of the pieces feature the actor’s first language, it has been constructed to be played for audiences who might not understand but should follow the story which is another interesting addition to this already exploratory work.

A work titled Womb, for example, places the audience member in the womb, the language (in this instance English) shouldn’t matter, while Gone by Renos Spanoudes deals with death which expands on the Becket quote: “We are born astride a grave”. Even though he includes some Greek, the meaning is never lost.

DEURnis has won many different theatre prizes, most of them national and there have been a few acting awards as well. Two years into this project, the growth has been impressive. And while this latest innovation can be seen at Makhanda from June 27 to July 1 (at 11am, 3pm and 4.30pm daily at PJ Olivier), they already have exciting new plans which they will pull from their theatrical hat at the right moment.

 

 

Spirited Curator is Celebrated with Glorious Exhibition at UJ Art Gallery

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The Wildebeest and the swarm of African Migratory locusts by artist Hannelie Coetzee (see more info below)

It’s a rare honour when a curator is celebrated with an exhibition. DIANE DE BEER went to the launch and spoke to many involved in  this luminous exhibition:

 

 

During her two decades of curatorship at the University of Johannesburg Art Gallery, Annali Cabano-Dempsey has attempted to reach as far and wide as possible presenting a spectrum which would interest the public but also the students – one of the benefits of having an art gallery on a university campus is this potential audience which can be nurtured.

In acknowledging the dedication and passion Cabano-Dempsey has brought to the gallery, 21 Years of Curating the Cube (currently running until June 26) celebrates UJ’s continued role in supporting and embracing the diversity of art in South Africa.

The Keiskamma Guernica by members of the Keiskamma Art Project
The Keiskamma Guernica by members of the Keiskamma Art Project

 As the gallery’s 6th curator, Cabano-Dempsey has seen the gallery emerge as one of Johannesburg’s foremost art centres. The UJ Art Gallery (originally known as Rand Afrikaans University – RAU) opened in the 1960s and has since hosted numerous temporary exhibitions and acted as custodian of a large collection of artworks.

“My style of curatorship is collaborative.  I interact with artists on a regular basis before an exhibition, advise and shape a bit – and then I allow the artists to project their own voices.   I also hand over the reins to guest curators from time to time.  In the case of the 21 years exhibition, I felt too close to the artists, and called upon Johan Myburg to curate the show.  We worked through all the exhibitions of the past two decades and it was surprising that he found a golden thread of text, signs, signals, semiotics unveiling itself – something I never intentionally brought into my curatorship.”

Gordon Froud sculpture
Gordon Froud sculpture

In his opening address at the exhibition, artist Gordon Froud remarked on the amazing space designed by the architect, the late Jeremy Rose, which embraced and encouraged exciting exhibitions. He also praised Cabano-Dempsey for her detailed curation and the way she kept artists informed about specific exhibitions. They would know exactly how their work did, and who came to see it during the exhibition. “That’s rare,” he remarked.

He also spoke lyrically about her opening up the space to students and facilitating gallery training, for example, that would benefit them as artists in the future when they stepped into the real world. He described 21 Years of Curating the Cube as a meeting of old friends.

And fortunately for this remarkable sculptor, UJ also has an outdoor exhibition space which allows for large works to be displayed at their best (see picture).

Although she has been closely involved with a wide spectrum of artists forming part of the annual exhibition’s programmes for more than two decades, she chose to hand over the curatorship of 21 Years of Curating the Cube to respected arts writer and author Johan Myburg. They worked closely together in choosing the 38 works which was much more difficult than they expected, but the final decisions rested with him.

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Triple Goddess: Maiden, Mother and Crone: Artist Majak Bredell deconstructs issues of religion, women and the body and her works are strongly informed by the African continent and the Black Madonnas of Europe.

“My brief was to curate a show as a celebration of Annali’s 21 years at the UJ Gallery, something like paging through her ‘exhibition album’, so to speak. You can imagine the amount of shows, artists and individual artworks we are talking about,” explains Myburg.

That was the context he had to operate within and that formed the scope of the exhibition as well.

Panorama of Franschhoek by Titus Matiyane
Panorama of Franschhoek by Titus Matiyane

“I made a selection based on a thread I detected in a number of the exhibitions/works of the past 21 years – the thread being manifestations of messages or mark makings in the form of signals/codes/text – in its widest sense of communication.”

He offers an example as explanation: On entering the gallery the first salient piece of sculpture is Marco Cianfanelli’s text-based work, referencing the quote by Desmond Tutu that truth, knowledge and beauty will triumph. “Whatever you want to understand under ‘truth, knowledge and beauty’ is subjective, but the basis, I think, is that of triumph. The message will live on. And art as carrier of message will triumph,” he says.

“I think the tweet (Jan’s Last Tweet, a work by the genial Jan van der Merwe – pictured) is a poignant little amplification of this triumph.”

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The Last Tweet refers to technology (twitter), a method of disseminating very quickly whereby a message could be conveyed on a global scale, also enabling misuse of power.

Anyone familiar with Myburg’s work and processes will witness the thought he puts into this kind of effort. “My intention was to highlight this notion (of triumph) in a subtle way. Not in your face. Should the viewer miss it, so be it. There is, right at the back of the gallery, a clue to my curatorial thinking,” he says. (And for those who like puzzles, this is like a challenge in treasure hunt!)

The artists included are the ones that had a link with the gallery in the last 21 years (to start with) but then also the ones whose artworks comment on the named “thread”.

It includes existing work (as per UJ Collection) and work on loan, but also recent work, i.e. Hannelie Coetzee, Diane Victor, Michael Meyersfeld, Angus Taylor, Mark Swart.

“My intention was a show as ‘unintrusive’ as possible in order for the work to speak. My approach was less rather than more, since the works all have an inner strength. I did not want to tamper with that. Hence a quiet show.

Bohlale-bja-mathome by Colbert Mashile
Bohlale-bja-mathome by Colbert Mashile

“Favourites? All of them. Being able to work so closely with these gorgeous works is a privilege. And I realised how limited my understanding of these works were. Perhaps still superficial. But that is the beauty of art: You cannot see too much of a particular piece. There is always something that you miss.”

All of these elements can be found in this remarkable snapshot of South African art in a specific period of time.

Do yourself a favour. If you’ve never visited the gallery, that’s an added bonus.

 A last word from the curator who is being honoured: “The next decade of my art journey (or what is left of it) will focus on two things:  To make the gallery accessible to wider audiences.  It has been my mission over the past few years to break down the ivory tower, to create a more informal atmosphere and to invite a younger generation to interact with the gallery programme on an interdisciplinary level. And then to recognise established and revered artists, but to also bring in younger promising artists into the fold.  I found that collaborations with corporate partners, artists’ collectives and joint exhibitions (the established with the emerging) allow for this approach.”

 

 

  • 21 Years of Curating the Cube runs until  26 June 2019 at the UJ Art Gallery. FREE OF CHARGE. Open Times: Mon to Fri from 9am to 3.30pm. Address: University of Johannesburg, Corner of Kingsway Ave and University Rd, Auckland Park, Johannesburg

Phone011 559 4674

 

  • More info on Hannelie Coetzee’s featured artwork: She did a succession study of humanity’s relationship with nature. Locusts eat the same amount of grass per body weight as wildebeest. A swarm consumes as much of a crop as a fire does. Disclosure: This swarm was bred and studied by Wits Scientists in the 1960s. The current curator of the AP&ES Museum, James Harrison made it available to the artist to repurpose into an artwork

 

 

 

Two Young Art Activists, Herschelle Benjamin and Jeremeo Le Cordeur, Shine their Creative Light with Flair

Pictures: Jeremeo Le Cordeur

 

Jeremeo and Herschelle
Jeremeo Le Cordeur and Herschelle Benjamin

In a world where the arts are no longer a priority, two young art activists caught DIANE DE BEER’S eye in the way they were forging ahead and establishing their careers in a space which would nourish their own creativity but where they also wanted to promote that of others:

 

Two young Capetonians Herschelle Benjamin and Jeremeo Le Cordeur are proof that artists often don’t have a choice. Once those creative genes kick in, they have to listen.

Benjamin, an only child, when choosing a career knew that law would be a wiser bet, but he enrolled for that as well as a drama degree – just to make sure.

“After one week of depressing law lectures, knowing that I will fail because I had no real interest or passion for it and seeing all of my drama friends at the library or at the drama department living their dreams, I changed courses without consulting my parents.”

With bursaries for Stellenbosch University studies, when switching lanes he knew he had to succeed and show his parents that he would still be a star pupil.

Jeremeo Le Cordeur
Jeremeo Le Cordeur with his award from the Suidoosterfees

Independently, Jeremeo Le Cordeur who describes himself as a creative soul, is a performer, theatre-maker and arts photographer who graduated from City Varsity, a school of media and creative arts in 2008.

Since then he has been working the arts in any way he knew how. In 2009, he joined Fresh Theatre Company, a community theatre group specialising in musical theatre, where he performed in musicals such as, Life is Rock N Roll, Love in Cyberspace, and Pinocchio.

In the following year, he created Vulture Productions, a platform to support and create new work. Since then, he has been at the helm of many successful productions such as Pizza’s Here (2011), I Know How You Screamed Last Scary Movie (2011), and Risk for the 2012 and 2013 National Arts Fringe Festival in Grahamstown and in 2013, he directed a play at Artscape titled, February 14th, which received excellent reviews.

In 2014, he directed Tannie Dora Goes Bos, which was included as part of Artscape’s 8th Women’s Humanity Arts Festival. The following year he directed John, which explored the controversial world of sex workers, working alongside SWEAT (Sex Workers Education & Advocacy Taskforce).

In the meantime, in 2016, a photography project was introduced to Vulture Productions. It was aimed at showcasing the work of South African theatre practitioners through arts journalism. In 2018, he was selected to represent Artscape Theatre in an arts-residency program called EVS (European Volunteer Service), based in Liverpool in the UK – which led to the creation of Mama, with performances at The Unity Theatre, Woordfees and Artscape.

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Jeremeo Le Cordeur starring in his own production Dude, Wa’s My Bakkie? Picture: Warren Meyer

And this year, he wrote and performed in two mono-dramas and collaborated with directors Ian van der Westhuizen and Dan van der Ventel to present Jerry An Unconventional Hero and Dude, Wa’s My Bakkie? (A Double Feature). These productions performed at Alexander Bar, Woordfees Fringe and Suidoosterfees, where he was the recipient of the NATi (Nationale Afrikanse Teater-inisiatief) Rising Star award for his vibrant storytelling.

As a youngster, Benjamin’s mom would tell him that a “pencil should never be left untouched”. “I didn’t think I was the best artist or writer but was forced to become friends with pencils, pens, paper and books. They were always there. Through all the phases and changes, my relationship to words and language is one constant one that has helped me in some of the darkest times of my life,” he explains.

The writing became more frequent and across different mediums. “Poetry still remains my secret love, dramas entice and challenge me, journalism makes me feel I don’t know enough and that I want to know more… It’s not the medium or genre that resonates but the power or ability of words, the imagination and the truth always being at the forefront of it all.”

Completing his initial studies, he received an internship at Media24 as an arts journalist. He also won the international Elizabeth McLennan Scholarship for Theatre & Performance from the Scottish Universities’ International Summerschool in Edinburgh. “This year, I’m going back after being picked as the first student host/tutor from Africa to the summer school.”

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Herschelle Benjamin’s Slavenhuis 39 performed at the US Woordfees

Last year he won the Teksmark Writers Bursary, was also picked as one of Artscape’s New Voices and had a play produced and performed in the Arena Theatre under direction of Sandra Temmingh. Another play, In Slavenhuis 39, was also produced this year for the US Woordfees where it was well received and won the award for Best Upcoming Artist(s).

“I’ve written pieces for the Die Student on Netwerk24 and the new Vrye Weekblad. I am also working on my M degree. And I’m partnering on a few other projects for the future.”

Just a glance at their work and one can see these two artists were destined to meet. “We first met at Teksmark in 2017 and started working together,” explains Le Cordeur.

“He told me about his media production company, Vulture Productions, and that he needed a writer for the US Woordfees, because the company was invited as media. I was busy with my Honours degree and had time to help him during the festival. The rest is history…”

Herschelle
Herschelle Benjamin

“With Herschelle’s creative writing and my arts photography, we reported on many productions in Cape Town and at the Stellenbosch Woordfees. Our work was later recognized by Hugo Theart, artistic director of KKNK, who invited us to join Kritiek, a critical writing project to nurture new arts writers in 2018.”

This year they moved into the marketing departments at arts festivals. At the US Woordfees Benjamin ran the social media for the festival and at the KKNK, Vulture Productions were represented by the two of them as part of the social media marketing team.

“It’s all about building our industry, becoming well-rounded business-like artists and creating a career that span decades,” explains Benjamin.

Le Cordeur believes that Vulture Productions has shown the importance and value of support within the arts. “It’s provided opportunities for myself and so many others and it continues to have a significant impact on my own artistic development. I would love to have an exhibition of my photographs in the future,” he concludes.

As a performer, he’d like to sink his teeth into as many characters as he can, which is exactly why he collaborated with two directors to bring his own creations to life. He was rewarded richly for the effort. He will also be presenting three plays at the Free State arts festival from July 1 to 7.

Watching them operate at festivals is hectic, but these two youngsters understand that they have to grab every opportunity to make their way – especially in these early days. From reporting on and photographing the arts, to writing, performing and directing usually their own material, they have individually and collectively created a brand.

They deliver, are often over-used to a point of exhaustion because of the quality of their work, but this is their way of becoming fully fledged artists. Who says it’s easy? But if you’re Jeremeo Le Cordeur and Herschelle Benjamin, you have found a way. It’s hard work, but that’s how they keep those creative juices pumping – for themselves and their community.

For more information visit www.vulture-productions.com

Make Time for the Lives of Others: It Alternatively Shakes and Makes the World a Better Place for Everyone

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A heartbreaking scene from Capernaum

When filmmakers take issues of the day and shine a glaring light on them – smartly – it can shake your world in the best possible sense. DIANE DE BEER highlights two of the best:

Living in South Africa, we all know what it means to read about something and the horror of living it. For too long we lived in a country where it was a matter of law to keep things separate and in the dark. Evil needs to be shouted from the mountain tops.

Two films (one currently on circuit) currently making the rounds in cinemas and available out there to stream, tell stories that are as close to living it as is possible on screen.

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Nadine Labaki, the writer,director and actor.

The first is Capernaum, a film by Nadine Labaki, a Lebanese filmmaker whose previous two movies (Caramel, Where Do We Go Now?) were screened locally with this one, Oscar nominated, currently on circuit.

She truly believes in the power of cinema and her latest, Capernaum, which in this context means chaos, deals with refugees, people who are stateless and as she says, “become invisible.”

The story she picked to tell was specifically that of the children trapped in these lives.  “We’re talking about children not receiving their fundamental rights,” is how she describes it in an interview.

With a script in hand, she started to look for the actors and smartly turned to the very people whose stories she wanted to tell. And then she listened to their lives and adapted her screenplay to reflect their reality.

Capernaum Poster

Most important in this equation is Syrian refugee child actor Zain Al Rafeea as Zain El Hajj, a 12-year- old living in the slums of Beirut. In yet another interview the director explained that in real life he is that age, but because of their lives, the children are all smaller because of malnutrition. (He and his family have since moved to Sweden where he is going to school for the first time.)

It’s a world of pain but those living there are simply trying to survive. When landing up in prison simply because he’s fighting for others in his life, a 12-year-old boy sues his parents for neglect. “Being born,” is how he says it.

If you want to see what survival looks like, this is it. It is done with compassion but without shying away from the harsh realities that many people – in this instance children – find themselves in. The number of refugees in the world at this specific time is horrifying with many countries and world leaders fighting to keep them from safety – that is, their countries.

The film reflects the lives of the children who had to flee Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, Venezuela, Honduras, and the list goes on and keeps expanding daily.

“I need proof you’re a human being?” A sentence that might not be familiar to any of us, but in this world you need papers to say who you are and where you belong. Without them, as the director says, you become invisible.

And when one child is left caring for another because the mother has gone missing, your heart breaks. Even towards the young in that harshest of worlds, having nothing isn’t enough to change anything. Survival means exactly that, a drop of water, a crust of bread and no one to turn to because everyone is hustling – some more cunningly than others.

The ingenuity of children who have to look after themselves is astonishing. A car-wash, for example, will clean both bodies and clothes. When feeding a baby ice because there’s nothing else, he says: “Seriously, isn’t this better than a shawarma  sandwich?” And your heart shatters as it should because we all need to understand the lives of others.

And the parents? Can you judge them? Have you walked in their shoes? They believe that more children is their way out.

But when one child dies, another is born and the young son tells his mother, “My heart aches”.

This 12-year-old is tired of those who can’t care for their children. “That kid in your belly will be just like me,” he tells his mother.

Indiewire, Canada Goose and YouTube Dinner, Sundance Film Festival, Park City, USA - 21 Jan 2018
Reinaldo Marcus Green, director of Monsters and Men

In a similar vein, Monsters and Men deals with the scourge of African American men dying at the hands of police, publicly and visibly, yet nothing happens to change the situation. We from afar watch in horror.

But here are some answers as the movie follows the rise of tensions in the neighbourhood and how it affects the bystanders, one of whom filmed the scene as it unfolds – something that often happens.

It is the dilemma of the innocent, how to react and what to do. How to be a man when you’re living among monsters. That’s the story director Reinaldo Marcus Green tells with such honesty and clarity. There’s no way you don’t get this one.

When a black policeman asks his white female colleague how often she has been stopped that year, her response is that she drives too well not understanding the nuanced question. “I have been stopped six times,” he says, “and it’s only June.” That sentence captures his life and that of every black man living in America (and of course elsewhere). Skin has always mattered, no matter where you live – even in Africa.

But how does he go about his life and building a career when his chosen calling is policing in a force where he is regarded as the monster. To share his insights on the officer who was fast to draw his gun, means the end of his career, his livelihood and his “normal” family life that we all expect when we live in a certain way. But not here.

Monsters And Men DVD Cover

The young man who captures the event on his phone finds himself compelled to send it and his life turns into the nightmare he knew it would.

And then there’s the young sport star on the verge of making the big league – a new life not only for himself but also for his long-suffering father. How are you expected to make these life decisions about doing the right thing in a world that won’t take even your best word? Not even being caught on camera will seal the fate of those who go around terrorising African American men because they can.

What both these films do so majestically yet with illuminating simplicity is take you for a walk in the other’s shoes.

These stories need to be told and to be seen so that we all understand how the world works and what is at stake with every choice we make.

 

Choices Choices Choices: Entertainment In Style – Out On The Town Or At Home

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Cinema in style at Cine Prestige The Grove

There’s a world of entertainment out there for you to tap into whatever your interests. DIANE DE BEER explores some of the options and the way it stretches your mind:

 

 

If your movie-going days seem to have dwindled, The Grove Ster-Kinekor recently launched its revamped Cine Prestige theatre with a screening of action thriller John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum – and all of Cine Prestige’s signature comfort.

If you are one of those people who are reluctant to leave the comfort of their home because cinemas have become rowdy places with cell phone interruptions and blinding screen lights that detract from the experience, then this might be a way to entice you back.

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Cocktails at Cine Prestige

It reminded me of business or first class flying with seats that move and change into comfortable sofas with you and your partner sweetly ensconced into your own private space.

The experience also includes a cosy private lounge, and a full bar offering with a range of drinks from wine, beer, cocktails, and hot drinks.

You are no longer reliant on popcorn and coke, although those are also available for those die-hard movie memories. Guests can also enjoy gourmet snack platters, and a selection of desserts, all served in the comfort of a fully reclining leather seat. It’s a great way of watching a movie.

All of this comes at a price, naturally (R161 a ticket without refreshments) but assuming you want to watch movies on a big screen in extreme comfort, this certainly is that.

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Fight or flight in John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum

Personally, I realise that I’m not the target audience of the John Wick franchise which we were invited to see yet fortunately this was my first experience of this particular Keanu Reeves strongman, which meant there was an element of novelty involved.

But not for too long. These films are simply a series of flight and fight scenes in various guises, with little happening in-between.

Their next offering, Longshot, is a love story that tracks the life of a free-spirited journalist who keeps running into trouble. Played by Seth Rogen, Fred unexpectedly charms Charlotte (Charlize Theron), who is smart, sophisticated and sassy. The combo of the silly and the serious should be fun and our girl is always someone to watch.

This will be followed by Godzilla: King of the Monsters, which won’t be diarised, and Rocket Man, which is described as an epic musical fantasy which makes sense if you’re told it is based on the unfiltered story of Elton John’s breakthrough years. It nevertheless is not an unauthorised version, Sir Elton was a big part of the process.

Cine Prestige, it seems, is about a fun experience rather than movies that might seriously engage your mind, but we need these escapist adventures as well. And seeing the whole adventure as a bit of a fantasy, the movie itself might just as well fall in that genre too.

But while on the subject of entertainment and keeping up with the latest out there in a way that’s easy – and perhaps not putting you out of pocket, I was recently watching a Christiane Amanpour programme on CNN. This is one of the few that cover politics but also the arts with authors, filmmakers, directors and the like all making an appearance. (Check it out on CNN, currently at 7pm on weeknights and again repeated at 5am in the morning. She keeps you in touch.)

But this particular segment featured two extraordinary women who are both tasked with introducing us to a new world fast emerging out there.

Radhika Jones
Radhika Jones

The first was Radhika Jones, the first mixed race editor of the pop culture magazine Vanity Fair, which immediately impacts their cover and story choices to reflect the world we live in – all of it – not just from a certain vantage. She makes some brave decisions for the future of the magazine, and this is where you get to play around for a while. She recently opened up the Vanity Fair archives, free of charge for now.

Vanity Fair archive
From the Vanity Fair archives

That means you can sit endlessly scrolling through issues from the beginning of time depending on your interest. Vanity Fair has always been a magazine that homes in on the zeitgeist which is what makes it of interest internationally.

As Jones explained to Amanpour, her cover choices weren’t really the result of who she is but rather of what is happening in the world around us, with the success for example of Black Panther and Get Out and she wants to capture the spirit of the times. To allow readers into this world through the archives is a treat. Go and have a look. Just make sure that you are in the archives, not the magazine itself which is limited to four articles a month, of Vanity Fair and then have fun with your reading choices.

 

And on that note, if you have a Netflix account, don’t miss the Rachel Lears documentary Knock Down The House. It looks at the primary campaigns of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Amy Vilela, Cori Bush and Paula Jean Swearengin, four Democrats endorsed by Justice Democrats and Brand New Congress (the names say it all) who ran for Congress in last year’s US midterm elections.

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The four women competing in the Midterm Elections

It premiered at Sundance 2019 in January, was voted an audience favourite and was bought by Netflix for the most money ever paid for a documentary.

These women were running together on a grassroots level and what the filmmaker wanted to explore was power now and what it looked like, how representatives and money converge and what happens when people who don’t have the money, are brought into the process. Because of the large amounts of money required to run, usually only certain kinds of people can access the process, but this is changing with Ocasio-Cortez and her particular brand (and charisma)  turned into hot currency with the current crop of Democratic Presidential hopefuls whenever they have a stage.

She was the only one elected and has already challenged the status quo in a country where a largely white male Alabama senate recently passed the most restrictive abortion bill in the US deciding about the rights of women and their bodies, “the only thing men cannot control,” argues Gloria Steinem.

All of the above are “entertainment” options in our new world of access, streaming and many other avenues that keep popping up.

It’s time to play and stretch the mind – and that’s the best way.