On a night in 2006, a Cape Town’s night club, its floor littered with cigarette butts, plays host to an Afrikaner (sub)cultural gathering. Guys with seventies’ glam rock hairstyles, wearing old school uniform-like blazers decorated with a collection of pins and buttons and teamed up with tight jeans, sneakers and loose shoelaces keep one eagerly awaiting eye on the set stage and another on the short skirted girls. Before taking to the stage, the band, Fokofpolisiekar, entices the audience with the projection of their latest music video for the acoustic version of their debut hit single released two years before and entitled ‘Hemel op die platteland’.
In tune with the melancholy sound of an acoustic guitar, the music video kicks off with the winding of an old film reel revealing nostalgic stock footage of a long gone era. Well-known images make the audience feel a sense of estrangement by means of ironic disillusionment: the sun is setting in the Cape Town suburb of Bellville. Seemingly bored, the five members of Fokofpolisiekar hang around the Afrikaans Language Monument. Against the backdrop of a blue-grey sky, the well-known image of a Dutch Reformed church tower flashes in blinding sunlight. Smiling white children play next to swimming pools in the backyards of well-to-do suburbs and on white beaches while the voice of the lead singer asks:
can you tighten my bolts for me? / can you find my marbles for me? / can you stick your idea of normal up your ass? / can you spell apathy? can someone maybe phone a god / and tell him we don’t need him anymore / can you spell apathy? (kan jy my skroewe vir my vasdraai? / kan jy my albasters vir my vind? / kan jy jou idee van normaal by jou gat opdruk? / kan jy apatie spel? kan iemand dalk ’n god bel / en vir hom sê ons het hom nie meer nodig nie / kan jy apatie spel?)
And whilst the home video footage of a family eating supper in a green acred backyard is sharply contrasted with images of broken garden chairs in an otherwise empty run-down backyard, the theme of the song resonates ironically in the chorus: ‘it’s heaven on the platteland’ (‘dis hemel op die platteland’). On the dirty floor of the night club, a young white Afrikaans guy kills his Malboro cigarette and takes a sip of his lukewarm Black Label beer, watching more video images of morally grounded suburb, school and church and relates to the angry words of the vocalist:
‘regulate me […] place me in a box and mark it safe / then send me to where all the boxes/idiots go / send me to heaven I think it’s on the platteland’ (‘reguleer my, roetineer my / plaas my in ’n boks en merk dit veilig / stuur my dan waarheen al die dose gaan / stuur my hemel toe ek dink dis in die platteland / dis hemel op die platteland’).
As the video draws to a close, the young man sees the ironic use of the partly exposed motto engraved on the path to the Language Monument: ‘This is us’. He has never visited the Language Monument, but he agrees with what he just saw and because he feels as though he just paged through old photo albums (only to come to the disillusioned conclusion that everything has been all too burlesque) he puts his hands in the air when the band takes to the stage with the lead singer commanding:
‘Lift your hands to the burlesque […] We want the attention / of the brainless crowd / We want the famine the urgent lack of energy / We are in search of the search for something / We are empty, because we want to be’ (‘Rys jou hande vir die klug […] Ons soek die aandag / van die breinlose gehoor / Ons soek die hongersnood die dringende gebrek aan energie / Ons is op soek na die soeke na iets / Ons is leeg, want ons wil wees’. Read more
“I don’t know if this is part of your research, but since you ask, I’ll answer you very honestly. I’m a lot of things, son, I’m a Zulu and a Xhosa, a God and a Devil, I’m a valley and a mountain, a jungle and a desert, I’m the rain and the drought, but above everything else I am anamaZulu man.”
“Because I was born in Zululand, I lived in Zululand and I’ll die in Zululand. I haven’t been to school, but I’ve been a cleaner in one place for 40 years. When I walk to the bottle store I touch the ground of the heroes and the ghosts, when I pick up a mango I touch the hand of God, when I jump the hill with my grandson I can see the deep valleys of Africa, and when I dream I am a warrior in Shaka’s army. I learned to speak and think here, I drank from the river of wisdom of my grandfather. I herded cattle here and I spoke to my ancestors hiding behind the clouds when they bring rain. That’s why I’m a Zulu, son.”
“Do you tell these things to your grandchildren?”
Evan Mantzaris’ The Ndundulu Invasion calls to mind certain moments from Brilliant Orange matches. Suddenly everything clicks. A move, a look. And then minutes of exceptionally beautiful gameplay. Insight, grace and elegance, and a foul if necessary.
A book is like a soccer match. One chapter shows the build-up, the strategy, while in the next you’re overwhelmed by a Van der Vaart move or a Bergkamp back heel volley. But then you run into Neeskens and you’re right back down to earth. And every now and then you lose track. You wonder where it’s going. The match demands an editor at those times.
The Ndundulu Invasion has all the trademarks of an extraordinary game from the Cruyff era. Insight, enthusiasm, commitment, a certain kind of laziness, chaotic, but with a clear goal.
It’s with pleasure that we publish this Great South African Novel online. Each chapter is followed by a link to the next.
Chapter 1: Jesus Cristos (next post)
Evan Mantzaris’ blog : http://evanmantzaris.wordpress.com/
Bongi realised that now he had the time and the appetite to start and finish something, a novel, an African novel full of love, passion, tradition and soccer, not necessarily in that order.
Something that could push young people open a book, escape poverty and Playstation 2 and read. He now remembered vividly when he accompanied his 15 year old nephew to Gauteng. He bought Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist and passed it to the young boy.
The boy looked at him with a giant question mark in his eyes:
“What do I suppose to do with this, malume (uncle)”?
“It’s a book, son.”
“I can see, it’s a thin book.”
“It’s a thin brilliant book, so.”
“Is it available at Kalahari.net?”
“I’m sure it is, why you ask?”
“It will be cheaper there.”
“It does not matter now, I bought it.”
“Have you read it?”
“Some years ago.”
“So why did you buy it again?”
“To do what with it.”
“To read it.”
“I don’t read books on holidays, uncle.”
“I do Playstation and go to the mall.” Read more
Not many people probably know that The National Art Gallery (The NAG) in Nyanza is since 2006 a contemporary arts museum in Rwanda. It is even the only one in the great lakes district. The classical building hosting this museum has been constructed at the end of the fifties of the past century and is beautifully located in the scenic hills, just outside Nyanza. It was built for Rwanda’s last king Matara III Rudahigwa, who died in 1959, just before he would move into his modern palace.. Since Mutara’s death, the palace has hosted several judicial institutes, like the High Court and the Supreme Court. The late archeologist and visionair prof. dr. Celestin Kanimba, former DG of INMR, regarded contemporary art as one of the healing means to recover from the1994 genocide. The NAG is part of the Institute of National Museums of Rwanda, which includes 5 various national museums.
Architecture and location
The building, designed by Belgian architect Robert Quintet, has been constructed at the end of the 1950’s. It is beautifully located on top of Rwesero hill. The building and location itself can be experienced as an excellent typical Rwandese attraction, as a masterly mixture of landscape, colonial architecture and royal history.
It turned out to be a lucky shot to change the destiny of the palace into a museum.
In the first place because of the architecture and its surroundings. But even more important is its location in the city of Nyanza, were in former ‘royal’ days Rwandan culture was flourishing. The King’s Palace Museum is near and both museums are located far away from noisy cities like Kigali and Huye. Read more
Hunter S. Thompson, the counter culture ‘gonzo’ journalist, died on February 20, 2005 by a weapon of his choice. The inventor of Shotgun Art and Shotgun Golf fatally shot himself at his Owl Creek farm in Woody Creek, Colorado. He was 67.
‘Prince of Gonzo’ he called himself, ‘Doctor Gonzo’, ‘Doctor of Journalism’, ‘Outlaw Journalist’, ‘Doc’, ‘The Duke': Hunter Stockton Thompson (Louisville, Kentucky, 1939).
Rock star of the written word.
And as with rock stars meeting one is never an easy task. But we managed, once, after endless waiting and drinking our way into the local bar, The Woody Creek tavern. The sun was already sinking behind the Rocky Mountains, bathing the area around the Tavern in a chill and cheerless light, when finally the great Doctor made his appearance. Five in the morning would have been a more approriate time.
Word had it that Thompson was burned out. That, battle weary, he’d given up on the Gonzo cause. Gonzo comes from the French-Canadian word gonzeaux which means something along the lines of shining path. Hunter Thompson was that path; the only fully fledged grand master of Gonzo. His Gonzo style was often confused with New Journalism, made famous by Tom Wolfe and Gay Talese. But that is quite incorrect. Wolfe and the like attack the truth with the techniques of the novelist. They lose themselves in the minds of their subjects. Thompson lost himself in his own mind, and traced only his own madcap, hallucinatory journey through the many events in his stories. “It’s essentially a ‘what if’,” as P. J. O’Rourke, another Rolling Stone celebrity, quoted Thompson. Read more
Magnolia Pictures – HDNet Films
Directed by Alex Gibney. Produced by Alex Gibney, Graydon Carter, Jason Kliot, Joanna Vicente, Allison Ellwood, Eva Orner.
Narrated by Johnny Depp.