flightcollageThis page is in honour of Dr Ray Miller and his team of actors, designers and technicians and Professor Kevin Warner, Chairman of the Theatre and Dance Department at Appalachian State University (ASU).
From April 26 to April 29, 2017, I was at ASU in Boone, North Carolina, attending the Theatre and Dance Department’s production of my play, Flight from the Mahabharath. Dr Ray Miller, director and choreographer of the play, had invited me to attend the performances and I was there as guest of the Department.

I had written Flight from the Mahabharath sometime in the early 1990s, after I had watched the Chopra brothers’ television dramatization of the epic, the Mahabharata. At the time I was also reading the works of the radical feminist author, Mary Daly, Professor at Boston College, whom I greatly admired. And as I watched the televised serial, Mahabharat, I was appalled at the way in which women are portrayed in the epic and felt impelled to counter such a portrayal. So I wrote Flight from the Mahabharath, in which women abandon the epic and create a play in which they free themselves of stultifying traditions and redefine themselves in terms of their individual understandings of who they are.

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 Determined to dedicate myself to writing after I retired from teaching in 2000, my first thought was to capture the history of Marabastad (The Asiatic Bazaar), the location in which I had lived as a child.  I immediately set about interviewing people who had lived in the location.  During my interviews with Sinthumbi Naidoo, he made me aware of his concern that Tamil religious practices were losing their meaning for Tamil South Africans and suggested that I work with his son, Ronnie, a poosari, to put together a manual that explained the meaning of the rites. That is what we did and A Little Book of Tamil Religious Rituals was published in October 2004.  In between interviews for my book on Marabastad, I began recording my experiences as a teacher in Limpopo Province and day-to-day happenings, my friendships, my hijacking, a wedding in the family, among other things and compiled a book of short stories, Jail Birds and Others , which was published in December 2004.  Soon afterwards, I completed Stories from the Asiatic Bazaar and it was published in 2007.

 In 1994, South Africa became a democratic country but the racism into which we had been socialised did not disappear at the stroke of a pen and writers continue to reflect experiences gained through racial and cultural balkanisation. Consequently, varying racial, ethnic and cultural experiences, do not find affinity across the board.  And publishers, concerned only with markets, are unwilling to takes risks with unknown writers. They told me time and again that there was no market for my work so I decided to go into publishing. I have published A Little Book of Tamil Religious Rituals, Stories from the Asiatic Bazaar, Monkey Business by my sister, Seetha Ray, and am working on a book of children’s plays by my brother Seeni Naidoo, a short story that he has written, more short stories, a novel and three novellas and children’s stories that I have written.

 I spent the years 1977 to 1983, involved in Anti-SAIC and UDF campaigns, which inspired me to write a number of plays:  We 3 Kings, a farce about ‘Indian’ elections, Ikhayalethu, about dispossession, Masks, the search for African identity.  One of my revues, The Masterplan, a comic interpretation of separate development and the Tricameral Parliament, was banned in September 1983.   My last play Flight from the Mahabarath, written sometime in the 1990s, is a feminist critique of the epic.
All my plays have now been published under the title WIP Theatre Plays. (WIP = Work-in-Progress)
Going through my papers, I discovered a number of articles written over the years so I revised them and put them all together with new articles.  They include reflections on drama, reactions to apartheid, reflections on writing, my joy at discovering Milan Kundera and my attempt to understand the functions of religion and democracy in a society.

RAPE UNIVERSAL

RAPE UNIVERSAL

“rape” 
the word automatically connects
with brutalising acts of prurient sex
and we focus on the physical violation
images of blood, murder, mutilation
pierce our eyes with shame and horror
at the act of love turned to torture;
act essential for all life – perverted; 
all are sullied; all defiled;
all protest and demonstrate
against their vulnerability
against the depravity
against the hordes of men
for whom the penis is a weapon

but eyes wide shut, and in silence,
we give ourselves to raping violence  
everywhere, every minute of every day;
not individual, sexual, obvious rape;
but pervasive rape, persuasive rape
rape of the mind, rape of the soul
by those to whom we give control                                         

they smile at us from television sets
catching us in their commercial nets
conditioning us to getting and spending;
and in co-operation with big businesses,
assist in the economic rape of masses

politicians with smiling promises
once elected, forget their pledges
in the race to rake in the takings
of their positions of power;
corruption: the gang rape of voters
by political-industrial leaders 

all wars of invasion–intervention
nothing more than rapist abduction;
slavery, holocaust, foreign domination –
rapist signatures of power perversion;
war lords, militias, soldiers, celebrate
conquest and victory in subjugating rape;

powerful multi-national forces
plundering natural resources
raping the environment
decimating whale, rhino, elephant,
deforesting in wild abandonment
ruthless international plutocrats
shutting down earth’s thermostat

rapists of the upperworld
no different
from rapists in the underworld
abducting and trafficking
men, women, and children
to use, abuse and abandon

rape,
nurtured in all aspects of culture
produces
rabid rapists in every sector;
rape-murder predominant feature
of any country’s history –
making all of history,
primarily,
a record of rape and murder

penile rape
blatant expression
of truth in repression

 



 

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WHY SCHOOL IS FAILING

Why School is Failing.

We must open our eyes to the bigger picture. School is failing, and it is failing all over the world, because it has not kept up with the changing needs of society. The type of school that most of us attend comes out of the Industrial Age and is based on the factory model.

We must understand that the factory model with its standardised curricula provides generalised skills that lead to certification of individuals to seek work not create their own employment. It does not provide entrepreneurial skills because people’s ambitions are being moulded towards dependency, finding work, getting a job. The factory-type school turns out units for labour.

School-leavers look to others for employment: in private sector and government institutions, They are dependent and helpless because they have been brainwashed to believe that with a matriculation certificate they can get employment.

But we have moved into a different world, a computerised world. Today factory-type labour is becoming increasingly irrelevant. 
Machines are rapidly replacing human labour. One day we may not even need a military – with the development of unmanned weaponry, robot bombs and drones, we will not need soldiers. So the kind of mass employment that emanated from industrialisation is becoming antiquated. And because a matriculation certificate does not equip one for self-employment, there will be increasing joblessness and unemployment. And our rape statistics, the highest in the world, and our crime statics, will grow out of control because we have a society of disempowered people.

We have to be realistic. What the society needs are people with specialised skills not a generalised education with a Matriculation/General Education Certificate that is an affirmation of a lack of skills and a statement that further education and training is needed.

Why are we wasting twelve years of schooling on education for DEPENDENCY. A standardized academic curriculum is not the answer. Schools should become smaller and cater for specialised interests and skills, entrepreneurship and on-the-job training.  And specialization should begin once children have acquired high competency in reading, writing and numeracy. Then their particular talents and interests should be identified and they should be sent to specialised schools, where in addition to their specialization which must be accompanied by on-the-job training, they need to become computer literate and also be inducted into entrepreneurship.

We have to get rid of the factory school because it is preparation for dependence. And societies need enterprising, independent individuals who will build the society and its economy. Factory-type schools turn the majority of students into beggars; people begging for employment and when they cannot find work, literally become beggars.

And we have to stop inculcating snobbery. We have to rid ourselves of elitist notions of work. The society does not need people waving matriculation certificates, it needs people with skills: technical and technological skills. We need technicians, plumbers, electricians, mechanics, carpenters, painters, far more than we need corrupt politicians. If we truly believed in equality, we would not relegate any form of work to inferior status. Democracy means respect for all and that includes every individual’s skills, from the skills of a domestic worker to the skills of a scientist.

The schooling system needs radical change. But we are so inured to the idea of the factory-type school that we are terrified of change; instead we cook the books to produce better matric results and continue to deny children an education for independence.

If we haven’t read Alvin Toffler’s books, we need to read them. Future Shock, The Third Wave and Power Shift provide us with analyses of human development and contexts for understanding the upheavals that we are experiencing.

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STEPHEN PRICE : LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT

Bergvliet High School
principal, Stephen Price's open letter to South African president Jacob Zuma



Dear President Zuma



It’s two years to the day when Gareth Cliff, a local media celebrity, wrote an open letter to you. It caused quite a stir at the time. And as I was thinking about what I was going to say to the Class of 2012 of my school, his letter came to mind. As I re-read it I realised it was about time for another one. Not quite as controversial perhaps but nevertheless another
open letter borne out of my desire to see the 200 matrics that we’re about to send you, fulfil their dreams in a positive, dynamic South Africa.



My name is Stephen Price. I am the Principal of Bergvliet High School here in the Western Cape. Some would describe this school as a ‘former Model C school’... a description generally used to justify why other schools are underperforming. But that is another discussion.


You see, right now I am addressing close on 1000 teachers, parents and pupils at the Valedictory Service of the Class of 2012 of my school. It is a special occasion, full of excitement and expectation, of joy and sadness, of hope and trepidation, and it will be a day for them to remember. Their last official day of school. I’d like to tell you a little bit about them. But, before I do, consider this.



For the past 12 years or so every single person in this hall has been working towards this one goal. Their educators, their families and themselves. And in the past 5 years it has been our mission at Bergvliet High to develop in these young people, a revival of respect, a unity of purpose, a spirit of participation and more importantly, a sense of hope. Values we believe that will stand them in good stead in the ‘big wide world’ out there. Values that we should be seeing in the leaders of our country.



In Gareth’s letter he outlined various suggestions that he believed you needed to pay urgent attention to. Sadly you, and our Government, have not responded with anything resembling leadership and we have lurched from one crisis to another over the past 24 months. I believe that many of Gareth’s suggestions are still valid notwithstanding the crudity of his delivery at times. But I share his deep sense of frustration because, like him, I believe in the future of this country and our youth.


What follows is what my staff and I have taught our 200 matrics at Bergvliet High and I would venture you and our Government could do with a few lessons in this regard. Let me tell you what we have done.


A Revival of Respect – we have taught these youngsters about our shared heritage, about our country, about each other, about the value of treating others with respect, about being proud of who they are and about loyalty and integrity. But this is what we were up against from you and our Government, our elected leaders – continuing rampant corruption, fraud, self enrichment, misuse of public funds, the appointment of family and supporters regardless of ability, the manipulation of the justice system by convicted criminals - Shaik, Selebi come to mind and finally the massacre at Marikana. You let us down at every turn. You did not care. You lacked leadership. But most importantly you
have undermined everything we tried to teach our young charges. Our Government
has not, under your leadership, develop a revival of respect. Well, we are sending you 200 young South Africans who know what respect is, who know the value of others, who are proud of where they come from, who are proud of this country and who are loyal, passionate and honest. My request to you is that you show them the respect they deserve. They might be young but they are citizens of this country and they will be our leaders one day. Take them but don’t mess them around. Provide them with opportunity – they will create the jobs you need – we taught them how. Respect them sir. I do.


A Unity of Purpose - my staff have taught our matrics to work together, to understand that each of them has a different and unique role to play in achieving the common goal, that without a vision people will perish, that if we all pull in different directions we will never achieve anything and that our strength is in the whole not the individual. Again you and our Government have let us down. We have watched in dismay as the unions, the factions within the Government, the personal agenda’s of our elected leaders and influential individuals, have dragged the people of this country further apart, ever deeper
into a pit of despair and ever backward and away from the vision that we all bought into in 1994. Why did you do that? Is the Alliance more important than the future of our matrics? Is Mr Malema so important that he can do and say what he wants and, by doing so, undermines any unity of purpose? Is it all ‘just politics’? Is the culture of entitlement that prevails amongst our people and fostered by union, alliance and populist leaders, worth more than the value of hard work? Again we are sending you 200 young South Africans who know the value of hard work, of having a vision and working towards it and who
understand that in order to achieve the vision they have to work side by side, shoulder to shoulder with each other. We are giving you 200 young South African eager to be a part of the solution. Please use every single one of them. I personally recommend them. They won’t let you down. They will work hard. I know.


A Spirit of Participation – my staff have worked above and beyond the call of duty to provide every opportunity for our children. Clubs, societies, community service, sport, art, music, drama, endurance, debating, quizzes, National Olympiads, culture, recycling, continuing education, incoming and outgoing tours, exposure to exchange students from Germany, USA, Reunion, Canada, Australia, China and the UK, refugees from French speaking Africa and a myriad of extracurricular courses on project management, philosophy, engineering, design, music and art to name but a few. Every one of our students has had equal opportunity to be part of a vibrant 21st century South African school and the benefits have been incredible. Sportsmanship, empathy, understanding,
comradeship, connection, health and wellness, competition, talent, strength, intellectual growth, stamina, love of learning, service to others, understanding the needs of others over self, leadership, courage, passion....I could go on and on.


But what example do you set? Instead of building up, you break down. Lack of school sport structures, bureaucratic interference in performing schools, constant changes to curriculum, lack of text books, lack of community infrastructure and your lip service to policy that outlines wonderful aims and objectives. We couldn’t wait for you to deliver. So we did it ourselves. Our parents got involved, paid their school fees, supported our teachers, gave them benefits that you should have provided and this allowed my staff to give more and more. Do I hear the hadedas shouting ‘former Model C school’ at this point? Probably....but that’s your fault I’m afraid. You’ve not done enough to raise the level of involvement in education. We witness the collapse of the Eastern Cape Education dept, Limpopo and instead of solutions we have officials avoiding accountability, scurrying for cover and making excuses.


But here’s a thought. We have just produced 200 hundred young South Africans that are not afraid of rolling up their sleeves and getting involved. We’ve taught then the value of participation. Put them into work programmes.... Helen might be able to help you in this regard...... into learnerships.... we have 6 trainee teachers permanently stationed at our school..... into sport and teaching, into apprenticeships, into corporate South Africa and I can guarantee you things will start to happen. But don’t delay as many of them are looking to opportunities across the ocean and we need them here, you need them here. Tell them you want them to stay. I would.


And finally Mr President -I’ve always wanted to say that - A Sense of Hope.  Hope – not in the sense of wishful thinking, not simply in the sense of a positive attitude, of being optimistic without reason but rather hope in the sense of confident expectation based on a solid foundation. That’s what we’ve given our children at Bergvliet High. We’ve given them something to strive for, to look forward to, a vision, a better life for all....sound familiar? Why then does my DUX scholar, scoring over 90% in all her subjects, not get accepted into UCT or Stellenbosch for medicine? Why are her hopes being dashed? They should be knocking down the door to enrol her. Not your fault I hear you say .... nothing to do with you. I’m sorry sir but it has everything to do with you.


Gareth Cliff said “India and China are churning out new, brilliant, qualified people at a rate that makes us look like losers. South Africa has a proud history of innovation, pioneering and genius. This is the only way we can advance our society and economy beyond merely coping.” She IS one of these people that Gareth is describing…..and, believe it or not, we have 199 more like her. We are giving them all to you. Give them HOPE ... because my staff have nurtured, grown and developed this hope in our youngsters. Do everything in your power to make it happen. They are ready and waiting and keen as mustard.

Stop focusing on Mangaung. We have 200 matrics that deserve your attention. And

they deserve it now….not after Mangaung.



Thank you for reading this (I hope you do) and I quote Gareth again to end off.



“We know who we are now, we care about our future – and so should you.”



Kind regards



Stephen Price



Principal

 

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Social Cohesion Conference

This is a response to the SABC 1programme Sunday Live, 8 July 2012 Social Cohesion Conference

I agree with Andile Mngxitama that such conferences are about myth making. One can tell that by the crowded agendas. Instead of trying to tackle all the problems that one can derive from such a topic, it is much better to choose one clearly defined problem and find solutions to it. One could, for instance, concentrate on how to improve living conditions in squatter camps (the use of the term ‘informal settlements’ is part of the myth making process) and that would lead to all kinds of practical considerations: housing, water, sewerage, electrification, unemployment and resettlement.

Conferences, however, are only talk shops and people become high on words and reach a catharsis in talk that is not connected to practical application. Discussions on racism are just such an exercise. They are a complete waste of time: people become bogged down in personal perceptions of wrong and are carried away into the world of words without action.

The land issue is a very complex problem. What should be recognised is that large agricultural estates need to be left intact as they provide sustenance for the whole society. What needs to be considered is how to turn these large estates into communally held enterprises from which all those who work in them benefit as shareholders. These estates should also become training grounds for the workers in all aspects of production and management so that they have opportunities for promotion where they work.

 

 

 

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Brett Murray's painting "The Spear."

Brett Murray’s Painting “The Spear”

 

 

In the last two weeks, South Africans have been in an uproar over Brett Murray’s painting “The Spear” which presents the figure of President Jacob Zuma in a Lenin-style pose with his genitals exposed.

 

The artist who painted the portrait, the Goodman Gallery which exhibited the painting and the City Press which published a photograph of the painting have all been accused of racism, and a lack of respect for human dignity. There were protests outside the Goodman Gallery; the painting was defaced; the matter was taken to court where an advocate was reduced to tears at the insult to the President and black people in general; the ANC led a formal protest march to the gallery; and demands have been made that the painting be taken down and photographs of it be removed from websites.

Barend la Grange and Louis Mabokela were arrested for defacing the painting at the Goodman Gallery. La Grange a white man and Mabokela, a black man, worked on the painting at the same time, but independently of each other. Strangely, it seems they were hardly aware of each other, did not even speak to each other. When they were arrested, the white man was treated with dignity but the black man was pushed around and handled very roughly by black policemen. This little noted complex of racist behaviour continued into the media. La Grange was invited to appear on TV programmes to explain his motive in defacing the painting. He said that he wanted to demonstrate that not all white people are racist. As far as I can tell, no one interviewed Mabokela, who was as intent on restoring human dignity. Why? Because he is black and not a prominent citizen? The complexity of racist attitudes that is implied in the treatment of these two men has been overlooked. Such subtleties cannot compete with exposed genitalia, but they are indicative of ingrained racism. As long as we take for granted that whites and blacks are to be treated differently, we will never be rid of racism

Andile Mngxitama, criticises the ANC for allowing such a situation to prevail. In his article,   “Murray's 'Spear' exposed ANC's inability to deal with racism,” (Sowetan, 29 May 2012) he writes: “Murray's painting is racist from beginning to end. The fact that the ANC has no language to explain and speak back to white arrogance speaks volumes about its state of mind as a party in power.” This statement unwittingly echoes Brett Murray’s view of the impotence of the ANC. Where Murray depicts it visually, Mngxitama depicts it verbally.

Puleng Mmila of Seokodibeng in an article “Painting is not racist” (Sowetan, 29 May 2012) writes:   “... it is a fallacy to claim, as Mantashe and others seem to suggest, that the painting is an insult to all black people.    ...                                                                                                   To label all whites racist because of Murray's action is no different than labelling all blacks corrupt because they are in charge of the government, where graft is rife. What an iniquitous generalisation.”

It is too easy, but very common in South Africa, to label racist that with which we do not agree. This tendency to label things racist diverts us from real issues and makes it difficult to solve actual problems. Mmila reminds us that the tendency to use the race card is in itself racist because it denies individual freedom, confines us to group-think and leads to racial stereotyping.  Individual freedom is the cornerstone of democracy.

In news24 (Internet) article, “ I Am Not A Racist”, Brett Murray explains:

The Spear had a dual purpose: it was a work of protest or resistance art, and a satirical piece.          

"For me, The Spear has a far broader meaning.... It is a metaphor for power, greed and patriarchy,"

"From my perspective as an artist, I felt a sense of betrayal, where heroes of the struggle now appeared to be corrupt, power-hungry and greedy, or where ideals that many had died or made sacrifices for were abandoned on the altar of expedience."

"For me, satire is critical entertainment. While I might be attacking and ridiculing specific targets, what I am actually doing is articulating my vision of an ideal world in which I want to live."

Many people in South Africa, Black and White, identify with these views. It is unfortunate that the real meaning of the painting was lost in the furore over human dignity and the witch hunt for racism. The penis was more compelling in itself rather than as “a metaphor for power, greed and patriarchy." The symbolism of the painting was completely lost. No one could see that the figure in the painting was symbolic.

It is time to recognise that we live in conflicting paradigms: tradition versus democracy.

We have consciously chosen democracy as a way of life. Our traditions are what we are born into and traditions are conservative. There can be no democracy without freedom of expression and that means the freedom to criticise. Democracy does not recognise sacred cows; everyone lives under scrutiny and is subject to criticism, even presidents. So we have to make up our minds. Do we have the courage for democracy? Or do we want the security of restricting social conventions? Do we want to live under authoritarianism again?

Muthal Naidoo

30 May 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

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