Imaging Africa: Gorillas, Actors And Characters

Africa is defined in the popular imagination by images of wild animals, savage dancing, witchcraft, the Noble Savage, and the Great White Hunter. These images typify the majority of Western and even some South African film fare on Africa.
Although there was much negative representation in these films I will discuss how films set in Africa provided opportunities for black American actors to redefine the way that Africans are imaged in international cinema. I conclude this essay with a discussion of the process of revitalisation of South African cinema after apartheid.

The study of post-apartheid cinema requires a revisionist history that brings us back to pre-apartheid periods, as argued by Isabel Balseiro and Ntongela Masilela (2003) in their book’s title, To Change Reels. The reel that needs changing is the one that most of us were using until Masilela’s New African Movement interventions (2000a/b;2003). This historical recovery has nothing to do with Afrocentricism, essentialism or African nationalisms. Rather, it involved the identification of neglected areas of analysis of how blacks themselves engaged, used and subverted film culture as South Africa lurched towards modernity at the turn of the century. Names already familiar to scholars in early South African history not surprisingly recur in this recovery, Solomon T. Plaatje being the most notable.

It is incorrect that ‘modernity denies history, as the contrast with the past – a constantly changing entity – remains a necessary point of reference’ (Outhwaite 2003: 404). Similarly, Masilela’s (2002b: 232) notion that ‘consciousness of precedent has become very nearly the condition and definition of major artistic works’ calls for a reflection on past intellectual movements in South Africa for a democratic modernity after apartheid. He draws on Thelma Gutsche’s (1972) assumption that film practice is one of the quintessential forms of modernity. However, there could be no such thing as a South African cinema under the modernist conditions of apartheid. This is where modernity’s constant pull towards the future comes into play (Outhwaite 2003). Simultaneous with the necessary break from white domination in film production, or a pull towards the future away from the conditions of apartheid, South Africans will need to re-acquire the ‘consciousness of precedent’, of the intellectual and cultural heritage of the New African Movement, such as is done in Come See the Bioscope (1997) which images Plaatjes’s mobile distribution initiative in the teens of the century. The Movement’s intellectual and cultural accomplishments in establishing a national culture in the context of modernity is a necessary point of reference for the African Renaissance to establish a national cinema in the context of the New South Africa (Masilela 2000b). Following Masilela (ibid.: 235), debates and practices that are of relevance within the New African Movement include:
1. the different structures of portrayal of Shaka in history by Thomas Mofolo and Mazisi Kunene across generic forms and in the context of nationalism and modernity;
2. the discussion and dialogue between Solomon T. Plaatje, H.I.E. Dhlomo, R.V. Selope Thema, H. Selby Msimang and Lewis Nkosi about the construction of the idea of the New African, concerning national identity and cultural identity;
3. the lessons facilitated by Charlotte Manye Maxeke and James Kwegyir Aggrey in making possible the connection between the New Negro modernity and New African modernity;
4. the discourse on the relationship between Marxism and modernity within the context of the Trotskyism of Ben Kies and I.B. Tabata and the Stalinism of Michael Harmel, Albert Nzula and Yusuf Mohammed Dadoo; and
5. the feminist political practices of Helen Joseph, Lilian Ngoyi, Phyllis Ntanatala and others.
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Claire Mookerjee ~ Five Urban Design Mistakes That Create Unhealthy And Inactive Communities

We all want to be fit, healthy and happy but the best intentions – whether it’s to jog to the shops, eat a balanced diet or strike a better work-life balance – can often elude us.
At least some of the blame can be laid at the feet of those who design the city spaces some of us call home. Many aspects of city living discourage the kinds of lifestyles that can contribute to our health and wellbeing. We know that car-dependent, city suburbs struggle to create neighbourhoods that encourage walking, but they’re not the only ones.

Here are five mistakes that are often made when designing new developments in urban areas — and suggestions for how to create healthier communities.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/urban-design-mistakes

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Marielle Mondon ~ Designing A Future Of Plastic Roads

Ills.: VolkerWessels

Ills.: VolkerWessels

No more potholes? No more worrying about woefully underfunded crumbling highways? That’s the future European construction company VolkerWessels sees in its plans for recycled plastic roads.

VolkerWessels’ concept, aptly named PlasticRoad, is a lightweight streets material made entirely of recycled material. The firm stresses the design would take a fraction of the time to construct and last about three times longer than typical road asphalt. Maintenance, too, would come cheap (or even free) because of the plastic’s increased durability.

Read more: https://nextcity.org/designing-a-future-of-plastic-roads

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Reinier de Graaf ~ The Smart City Blinds Us To The Possibility Of Political Action

DezeencampaignUrbanisation was supposed to be the world’s quick ticket to prosperity. The average urban dweller (on paper) represents five times the economy of the rural dweller. If a rural nation becomes urban in the space of a decade, its economy – at least in theory – doubles every two years. That statistic, however, can hardly conceal the more grim reality. Over the last few decades we have seen that the spectacular growth of cities by no means entails greater and more widely shared prosperity.

What we refer to as “megacities” are mostly cities with the common feature that their development is outpaced by their growth. A lot of these cities exist in a state of almost permanent crisis, where “urbanisation” (literally: the step towards the urbane) has come to signify the exact opposite. In the absence of even the most basic infrastructure and provisions, many of its inhabitants find a decent urban life beyond their reach.

Read more: http://www.dezeen.com/reinier-de-graaf

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Barcelona, Medellín And The Right To Housing

Pilot Project pop-up studio hosted at the same time in Barcelona and Medellín.

Pilot Project pop-up studio hosted at the same time in Barcelona and Medellín.

Barcelona and Medellín are miles away from each other. You might think there is little in common between them. But the truth is there are plenty of similitudes; they are both cities of comparable sizes that have been cooperating mutually for a long time and have been acknowledged for promoting an inclusive urban planning strategy that puts public spaces at the heart of social redistribution.

Nonetheless, both cities suffer from the same problem of guaranteeing the right to housing. And this is exactly what is presented in the exhibition called Piso Piloto, or Pilot Project, hosted at the same time in both cities: Barcelona and Medellín.

Barcelona City Council and the Mayor’s office of Medellín, in association with The Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB) and the Museo de Antioquia launched the exhibition last month, which will be displayed until October 2015 in both cities.

Read more: http://www.sustainablecitiescollective.com/barcelona-medell-n-and-right-housing?

 

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Joseph Erbentraut ~ Groups Bring 10,000 Affordable Toilets To Rural India So Women Can Relieve Themselves Safely

An Indian woman walks in a field after relieving herself in the open, on World Toilet Day on the outskirts of Jammu, India, Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014. U.N. figures show of India's 1.2 billion people, 665 million, mostly those in the countryside, don't have access to a private toilet or latrine, something taken for granted in developed nations. Some villages have public bathrooms, but many women avoid using them because they are usually in a state of disrepair and because men often hang around and harass the women. (AP Photo/Channi Anand)

An Indian woman walks in a field after relieving herself in the open, on World Toilet Day on the outskirts of Jammu, India, Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014. U.N. figures show of India’s 1.2 billion people, 665 million, mostly those in the countryside, don’t have access to a private toilet or latrine, something taken for granted in developed nations. Some villages have public bathrooms, but many women avoid using them because they are usually in a state of disrepair and because men often hang around and harass the women. (AP Photo/Channi Anand)

For many women in poor, rural parts of the world, a lack of access to a private toilet is not just a matter of inconvenience, it also puts her at risk of diseases, sexual assault and ridicule.

But in the poverty-stricken Bihar region of India, a unique partnership between non-governmental organizations and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has resulted in the construction of 10,000 new toilets allowing women to relieve themselves in a more secure and healthy way.

To kick off the project, Population Services International, a global network of locally-based groups, worked with partners including PATH, a global health organization, and Water for People, a water access group, in order to design a toilet that low-income people in the area would be able to buy and install in their homes.

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/toilet-initiative

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