The Other Side
MAY 2018. Issue 1.
(Ir)Rational Debate Done Right
Behind ‘The Other Side’...
Inxeba’s Return Renews Cultural Debate
Africans can be gay ?
Facebook, and the challenge it poses to journalism
Baby. You Should Go and Love Yourself
The oldest debate in the book
Meet Your Makers
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Photograph by Michael Taylor
Inxeba’s return renews cultural debate By Michael Taylor
he highly acclaimed isiXhosa film ‘Inxeba: The Wound’ will be available in South African cinemas from 9 March 2018 following the removal of the X18 classification imposed by the Film and Publications Board (FPB) Appeals Tribunal in February. The film, which tells the story of a young gay Xhosa boy and his experiences as he undergoes the initiation ritual of Ulwaluko, sparked controversy in South Africa last year due to its depictions of homosexuality and Xhosa culture. Originally given an age restriction of 16 for language and sexual content, the FPB reclassified the film with an X18 rating in response to public outcry and protest action taken by the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (Contralesa) and the Man and Boy Foundation. The X18 rating, which is reserved for pornographic content, prevented the film from being screened in most South African cinemas. Contralesa argued that the film’s depiction of the ritual was “culturally insensitive, had no artistic value” and would “increase tensions” in the country. Siphelo Dyongman, a Master’s student at Rhodes University’s School of Languages, elaborated on why the film is considered offensive. Having watched the film at a screening held by the university, he explained that the film felt more like a political statement than a fair representation of Xhosa culture. Furthermore, due to Inxeba’s success overseas one can argue that people are praising the message of the film while lacking the necessary context of traditional Xhosa culture. Films that focus on sensitive issues will naturally cause controversy; in
many ways it is their intention. Series on SABC, such as the edutainment drama Intersexions, have also depicted the issue of homosexuality in African culture however was not taken off the air. Director John Trengrove’s argument that the film is protected under the right to freedom of expression was used by the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria to lift the X18 rating, allowing the film to be screened in local cinemas. Inxeba has provoked a hundred year old cultural debate to resurface at the forefront of media, cementing its place as a relevant and topical film regardless of which side of the argument you agree with. Rhodes University School of Languages student Siphelo Dyongman believes the film does not depict the issues of sexuality in Xhosa tradition in a reasonable manner.
“The film felt more like a political statement than a fair representation of Xhosa culture.”
Photo by Michael Taylor
Photograph By Robyn Sebola
Africans can be gay? By Robyn Sebola
nxeba: The Wound - a highly controversial movie which focuses on the life of a gay Xhosa boy and his journey of becoming a man through the sacred Xhosa ritual of Ulwaluko, has been widely deemed as insensitive to the isiXhosa culture for somewhat exposing what goes on during such a revered ritual. In addition to this, a debate surrounding the acceptability of homosexuality in African cultures was born. This debate as old as time has extensively argued the one sided view that homosexuality is not recognised in African cultures. According to anti-gay Ugandan politician, D-avid Bahati, it is believed to be “inconsistent with African values of procreation, of the belief in continuity of family and clan”. ‘The Big Debate’, aired on SABC, centred on the acceptability of African homosexuality and revealed the shared outlook of many people who described it as “unnatural”, insisting that homosexuals were not going to be recognised by their ancestors. From an academic point of view, Rhodes University Professor, Catriona McLeod, of Critical Studies of Sexuality and Reproduction (CSSR) spoke about how the current poor quality of education on sexuality, as seen through terming of homosexuality as ‘witchcraft’ and ‘demonic’ by certain groups, has proven to be a way of perpetuating a culture of hatred and intolerance within communities.
In light of the debate, many are still proud of their sexual orientation. Photograph By Robyn Sebola
I am an African and I am a homosexual. I would not exist as such if it wasn’t a thing.
Isaac Thamaga, a former Rhodes University student, spoke about his experience in this culture of intolerance as he has had personal difficulties in coming out as a homosexual. “African people already have preconceived notions on what being gay means”, he observed but adds that some can be tolerate, if not accepting. In regards to his thoughts on the “Africaness” of homosexuality he replied, “I am an African and I am a homosexual. I would not exist as such if it wasn’t a thing”. To Thamaga there is no debate.
Birn, Baby, Birn! Art With A Purpose By Kajal Premnath
n a recent sharply chillingly evening, sat buried deeply into the peeling couch with his long legs spread apart and a lit joint dangling in anticipation before his mouth, Alex Birns, a 4th year Bachelor of Fine Arts student at Rhodes University, spoke about his experiences with initiatives like the Ntsika Arts Project here in Grahamstown, and others undertaken back home in Cape Town. His need to show how his art can have a purpose directed towards more than just himself glared in the faces of those surrounding him. “The way in which the art world is structured traditionally one has to have capital in order to make something. I think that if you’re privileged enough to have materials, you should use that Z same privilege to help others to gain a means to express their own creativity”, Birns thought aloud with his hazel eyes seemingly looking through the flaking ceiling, showcasing his charmingly informal technique of talking about the underlying and unavoidable issues in the art world with a lazy smile and welcoming tone. Born in Sandton, Johannesburg in 1994, Birns has proved to have always been in touch with his generous creative instincts. With an extensive family background in photography and music, it is not difficult to see where Birns’ creative influences lie. Both his parents are established journalists, with his father and grandfather also being musicians with impressive connections to Warner Brother Studios and Johnny Clegg. With the many art-driven figures surrounding him, Birns knew no life except one that had to have a creative outlet present. “I would find Alex staring at the most random things, like the sky or a wall, and then he suddenly would snap out of it to paint or write music”, said his mother, Hilka Birns. The now 23-year-old, finds himself staring at the sky before completing an assignment or editing professional pictures he had taken for impatient paying clients. For Birns, Rhodes University has shown itself to be a catalyst for critical thought: “It’s made me understand the power images have. There’s a certain responsibility that comes with creating an image. It’s definitely made me conscious of that fact that I occupy a space which is occupied by others so you have to be mindful of their interpretations.”
Birns seems to possess a saltatory quality that has defined his actions thus far, materialising in his efforts to direct his art towards correcting exactly what he deems unfit for the art scene.
This consciousness has flowed into his work as a musician and photographer. Being left with multitudes
Alex Birns, 24, is a Bachelor of Fine Arts Student at Rhodes University among his many other titles such as photographer, musician & graphic designer. Photograph by Kajal Premnath
of cameras on his late grandfather’s passing in 2004, Birns was encouraged to make his interest in photography a conducive one to his other creative channels. Slim and tall with sharp features and long blonde hair, Birns has been described to have a long-footed stride filled with direction. “He’s a deep thinker and loyal friend. He may be naïve at times but he definitely has a way of pushing boundaries. Not to mention he’s a bloody great drummer”, says Michael Du Plessis, Birns’ longtime friend and current housemate. Playing drums for the afro indie pop rock band “Ben Dey and The Concrete Lions”, established in 2016 and which seeks to reflect the current mood and opinion of society regarding broad issues, Birns has used this opportunity to connect his channels of art by being the band’s unofficial graphic designer and photographer. He assimilates his photography work with his music through a digital medium. “I’ve always been fond of fiddling with technology and gadgets to create an end product that was worth putting a brand on”, says Birns in his usual relaxed tone, sounding as if it is always 2 a.m. Music and photography are both used as tools to capture and collect personal and professional memories for Birns, solidifying its importance in his identity. In addition to a significant lack of funds, another large bone of contention in the art world for Birns is the unspoken elitism surrounding necessary spaces. “The standard gallery space is problematic because it’s traditionally seen as a space that has been occupied by the elite of society. Therefore, by default, excluding people who aren’t of that superficial upper class calibre”, Birns frustratingly expresses. The challenge here, for Birns, lays in making art available in alternative spaces accessible to the general working class. Birns proposes doing this in abandoned parking lots, bars, parks, community centres, or basically almost any area that is not a white cubed gallery space. Birns seems to possess a saltatory quality that has defined his actions thus far, materialising in his efforts to direct his art towards correcting exactly what he deems unfit for the art scene. By initiating and partaking in projects that have displayed his music and photography in unconventional spaces, Birns has taken great leaps to prove Du Plessis’ assessment of him by pushing boundaries and birthing the emergence of art with a purpose.
Facebook’s new policies are a serious threat to the furture of digital journalism. A journalism student at Rhodes University expresses her concerns over Facebook. Photo by Michael Taylor.
Facebook, and the challenge it poses to journalism By Michael Taylor
he Cambridge Analytica scandal, involving the collection of personally identifiable information of up to 87 million Facebook users since 2014, is the latest story concerning the social media giant Facebook and the influence it has on our everyday lives. Recently forced to appear before the United States Congress, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has had to address concerns from government officials and the general population using the social media platform. In the wake of this data scandal, Zuckerberg has proposed some fundamental changes to the way the website operates which includes, among other things, a reduction in the support and promotion of news organisations and their content on the site. But how will this affect journalists, and indeed an industry, that have come to rely on social media to promote their work? Concerns regarding how Facebook is able to influence what we see and how we behave using our personal data have been around for years, but these concerns came to a head following the 2016 American presidential election, where it is believed
that information shared over social media had a tangible effect on the outcome. Fast forward to 2018 and we find that the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which concerns Facebook’s providing of user’s personal information to the political consulting firm in the 2016 election, is simply the latest in a long list of troubling stories concerning the power Facebook has over its users, which now consists of over two billion active accounts.
is that Facebook was always designed to be a social space, somewhere that people could communicate with friends and family, and that the company wishes to return to that mindset.
And it is precisely because Facebook offers access to the world’s largest social network, that journalists have come to rely so heavily on it. While print media such as newspapers and magazines continue to exist in the 21st century, their markets are relatively niche in comparison to the vast network of potentially untapped readers that Facebook can offer, which makes it clear to journalists that the future of the industry lies in the digital space. Which is why the changes to Facebook are such a devastating blow to journalists. According to a series of articles written by Vox, Zuckerberg’s stated reason for these changes
Michelle May, a journalism student at Rhodes University in South Africa and a current editor at Activate Student Press, believes that this mindset is ignorant of what the company has become. She explains that, whether Zuckerberg wanted it to or not, Facebook has effectively become the world’s largest public sphere – the concept in journalism that refers to a public space that effectively allows for rational debate on topics of importance, and for the dissemination of information relevant to the average citizen.
“The future of the industry lies in the digital space”
Admittedly, the company’s promotion of other
A journalism student reads up on the Cambridge Analytica Scandal. Photograph by Michael Taylor
people’s content and its advertising-based business model have always been a means of keeping the site a free service, but that does not change the fact that the social media platform has become something more than what it was originally intended for. Facebook has in fact become so big that the United States government has decided to intervene and, while it is too soon to say what the outcome of these congressional hearings may be, and what regulations governing social media may look like, it does highlight how Facebook can no longer plead ignorance with regards to what content is shown on their site, and how companies may use the information they provide – intentionally or otherwise. So, what does this mean for journalists? Kayla Roux, a lecturer at Rhodes University’s journalism department, explains that while these events may be concerning, such matters were bound to surface eventually and would need to be debated. She describes how the news industry has been, and still is, in a transitionary period – trying to balance old business models with new technology – and the issue of how social media should be regulated and have their priorities shifted was inevitable. It does not mean that there is no future for social media fuelled journalism, only that we need to come to terms with how the rules of the game may be changing. Mitchell Parker, another journalism student at Rhodes University and a former editor at Activate Student Press, takes a similar point of view, but explains that – at its core – the issues presented by Facebook’s actions relate back to the fundamental discussions around freedom of speech. “It all relates back to what we can and can’t say,” he says, “and the right to freedom of expression goes hand in hand with the right and responsibility of citizens to be informed.” Journalists are the key to informing the public, and Facebook’s new policies can have a big impact on how we get our news.
“It all relates back to what we can and can’t say, and the right to freedom of expression goes hand in hand with the right and responsibility of citizens to be informed.”
While Facebook struggles to balance the needs of its audience with the responsibilities it has attracted, journalists will still need to use social media to promote their work. It is unclear whether a change in the operating model of news firms is necessary, but we can be sure that the survival of informative journalism rests on its ability to share information to the audiences that need it.
Baby, You Should Go “Self-love looks different to everyone.” - Sydney Adams By: Annika Wium
elf-love, a term so many use in today’s day and age, but so few really take the meaning into consideration and practice. Merriam-Webster describes self love as a regard for one’s own happiness and advantage. Society has many definitions of self-love, but generally only when it suits the majority consensus of “positivity”. What is very seldom shown is that of “painful growth”; that of which includes one walking away from a person that no longer benefits them or is toxic in their life – however such situations often get deemed as selfish or vain. Self-love is about knowing YOUR worth, walking YOUR journey and knowing that where you are is where you’re meant to be in your life. Self-love is a balance between knowing when to be strong and when to be gentle. It’s the journey of learning how to love, appreciate and accept yourself. Afterall, you’re only human.
Self-love is about walking away from those who don’t like you, or who no longer benefit you or your life. It’s knowing when they have served their purpose in your life and being able to recognise when to move on. Photo Subject: Velisa Sishuba Photograph by Annika Wium
and Love Yourself
Self-love is about loving your body and embracing it; for all that it is and all that you are. Photo Subject: Amey Meyer Photograph by Annika Wium
Self-love is about standing up to your fears. Being ready to face the unknown. Leaving your past behind. Living in the present. Focusing on the future ahead of you. Itâ€™s about knowing that the unknown is out there but if you have your own back, you can go anywhere in life. Photo Subject: Jason Maseko
Self-love is about noticing the beauty in nature and your surroundings and about recognising the beauty in yourself. Photo Subject: Declan Connelly Photo by Annika Wium
Self-love is a balance between pain and positivity. The flip side is that if you donâ€™t learn to love yourself, youâ€™ll never truly allow yourself to love and appreciate another. If given the chance, self-love will light up your life. Photo Subject: Elize Toohey Photograph by Annika Wium
The oldest debate in the book By James van Niekerk
Religion has always been a hotbed for debate due to the extreme differences people tend to have about the topic. Photo by James van Niekerk
he debate on religion must be the oldest debate in the world. There will always be people who have polar opposite views when it comes to the touchy subject.
In Grahamstown that is no different! Grahamstown is home to over 50 religious buildings and has thus been given the nickname the City of Saints. Religion wields a powerful place in the hearts of the more religious folk. In Grahamstown the large drinking culture makes it tough for the more religious people to go out, going against their beliefs. There has always been the debate of pro-god vs no-god amongst many others. Being a city known for its religion there is very little influence of that on the students. Another area where the religious debate comes out in Grahamstown is the effect it’s had on the schools and other such places of education in the city. The schools are predominantly of religious belief and in that are mainly Christian beliefs. But is that right, forcing a religion on to someone is one thing that most people hate and want to eradicate. However, if it has been apart of the schools’ culture and heritage
One of the many churches dotted around Grahamstown thatt gave the town its nickname as “the City of Saints”. Photo by James van Niekerk
can it be something that really needs to change, or rather give options to those without those same views. Looking at the debate between three people on religion, there were two “extreme views”. One being for religious side and the other being on the side of atheism, a fence sitter was also present in the debate. The Christian and atheist were placed on opposite sides of a table, thus a symbol for completely opposing views on the subject matter. The views bought up in the debate sided mainly towards the factor of lack of respect by atheists to Christianity and the one-track mindedness the Christianity has the stigma of. The greatly different views can often lead to a heated discussion as it is often a subject that both parties feel passionate about. Religion is a thing that will always be a part of debate and divisions will be made on ones beliefs. One can’t force another person to follow a certain religion or belief, but that is after all what debates are for.
“Religion wields a powerful place in the hearts of the more religous folk”
Meet Your Makers Kajal Premnath “To oppress the oppostion is to assault the very foundation of democracy.” - Aung San Suu Kyi
Robyn Sebola “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it” - Voltaire
Michael Taylor “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” - George Orwell
James van Niekerk “For good ideas and true innovation, you need human interaction, conflict, argument, debate.” - Margaret Heffernan
Annika Wium “The writer wants to be understood much more than he wants to be respected or praised or even loved. And that perhaps, is what makes him different from others.” - Leo C. Rosten
Photograph By Michael Taylor
A thought provoking e-publication that looks at how rational debate is practiced when discussing controversial topics.