The mining industry has always been the backbone of the South African economy, and it still is. A healthy and sustainable mining sector should accordingly form part of the focus of our efforts to heal this country and its people. Nevertheless, the history of mining in South Africa has been and continues to be characterised by the oppression and exploitation of workers under the policy of the migratory system. The new dispensation of 1994, rule under the African National Congress, did not assist much in changing the conditions at the mines. It continues to turn a blind eye to the unjust wages and living and working conditions of miners.
Six years after the Marikana massacre we have still seen minimal change for mineworkers and mining communities. Although much has been written about the days leading up to 16 August 2012 and how little has been done, few have analysed the policies and system that make such a tragedy possible. Lonmin Platinum Mine and the events of 16 August are a microcosm of the mining sector and how things can go wrong when society leaves everything to government and “big business”.
Business as Usual after Marikana is a comprehensive analysis of mining in South Africa. Written by respected academics and practitioners in the field, it looks into the history, policies and business practices that brought us to this point. It also examines how bigger global companies like BASF were directly or indirectly responsible, and yet nothing is done to keep them accountable.
“This publication, which starts by examining the long-term business relations between BASF and Lonmin, goes on to drill deeper into the hard rock of the persistent structures of inequality. By doing so we will understand that Marikana is not the tragic failure of an otherwise improving economic system but rather a calculated form of collateral damage.” – Bishop Jo Seoka, former president of the South African Council of Churches
I have an essay in this book – if you’re interested, you can get hold of a copy via Jacana. The book also appears in German as Zum Beispiel BASF. Über Konzernmacht und Menschenrechte, published by Mandelbaum.
Live non-verbal improvisation performed in absolute darkness, interacting with a cellphone recording from the day before, at The Window, an evening of experimental music, performance and visual art at the Theatre Arts Admin Collective, Observatory, Cape Town, 29 January 2017.
“It’s not easy to improvise… It’s the most difficult thing to do. Even when one improvises in front of a camera or microphone, one ventriloquizes or leaves another to speak in one’s place the schemas and languages that are already there. There are already a great number of prescriptions that are prescribed in our memory and in our culture. All the names are already pre-programmed. It’s already the names that inhibit our ability to ever really improvise. One can’t say what ever one wants, one is obliged more or less to reproduce the stereotypical discourse. And so I believe in improvisation and I fight for improvisation. But always with the belief that it’s impossible. And there where there is improvisation I am not able to see myself. I am blind to myself. And it’s what I will see, no, I won’t see it. It’s for others to see. The one who is improvised here… no, I won’t ever see him.”
— Jacques Derrida, unpublished interview, 1982, reproduced in David Toop’s Into the Maelstrom: Music, Improvisation and the Dream of Freedom: Before 1970, Bloomsbury, 2016, pg 21.
Gonna get otherworldly at The Window tonight with these creatures, and many others. Darkness and light @TheatreArtsAdminCollective, Methodist Church, cnr Wesley & Milton Rds, Observatory. The portal opens at 7:30.
We will be at The Window on Sunday. You have been warned.
“I’m an insatiable explorer. I’ll find music via any route I can, but vinyl is my favourite medium for its wonderful tactility. I’ve been collecting records since I was about 14. My pocket money didn’t stretch to buying CDs regularly, so I turned to second-hand LPs because I could buy speculatively and get a rush of novelty for R2 or R5 a pop. Every great record holds a slice of adventure – as it spins, thin air is transformed by sound into a tangible place you inhabit. You can take listeners anywhere your imagination and collection will stretch, and I think this can really expand your capacity for empathy.”
Read it in The Lake, and listen below.
Kate Bush – Hounds of Love/The Ninth Wave (EMI, 1985)
Choosing only six records to feature here was an ordeal because the span of what has shaped me is just so wide. I decided to restrict contenders to female artists, who are often under-represented in these kinds of list. I got down to about 20 possibilities but then had to shuffle and pick randomly with my eyes closed. So, for starters, what’s there to say that hasn’t already been said about the brilliance of Kate Bush? This album is a perennial go-to for me on grey, melancholy-drenched days – the second side, beginning with “And Dream of Sheep”, in particular. It’s also something of a litmus test. I’ve realised over the years that if someone new I meet loves this record deeply, it’s almost a given that we’re going to click alchemically.
Nina Simone – Little Girl Blue (Bethlehem, 1958)
This was Nina Simone’s first album, recorded when she was just 25. Despite her youth, her mastery of expression is already consummate here. I often listen to music medicinally, and this is one of those records I turn to when I’m really over the world in general. Nina’s voice and piano carry all the bittersweet weight of living. “All you can ever count on are the raindrops…” The notes spill out exquisitely, painting cathedrals where my spirit can shelter, smoky bars where my soul can dance. Any morning I’m struggling to pull myself together, if I drop the needle on “Good Bait”, by the time it’s resolutely swinging, two minutes in, the kettle will be on the boil and I’ll be thinking of what to wear.
Sathima Bea Benjamin – Windsong (Ekapa, 1985)
Windsong was recorded in New York in June 1985 and released on Ekapa RPM, the label launched by Sathima in 1979 to publish her own music and that of her then-husband Abdullah Ibrahim. A meditation on exile, displacement and yearning, the album opens with a haunting rendition of “Sometimes I Feel like a Motherless Child”, alongside Sathima’s own compositions. Windsong is dedicated to “the resilient, remarkable, and courageous mothers and daughters of the struggle for peace and liberation in my homeland, South Africa, to the heroines both sung and unsung”. My copy is extra precious to me because Sathima signed it for me just a couple of weeks before she passed away in 2013.
Forces Favourites – Eleven Songs by South Africans Supporting the End Conscription Campaign (Shifty Records/Rounder Records, 1986)
This compilation was released by legendary South African label Shifty Records in support of the movement for conscientious objectors against compulsory military service in the apartheid army. Jennifer Ferguson’s chillingly honest exploration of white privilege and paranoia, “Suburban Hum”, still feels relevant right now. It’s a highlight on this record for me, along with “Shot Down” by James Phillips’s Cherry-Faced Lurchers and the Kalahari Surfers’ “Don’t Dance”. I’ve owned the South African release for a long time, but last year, while living in a small university town in Sweden for a semester, I also picked up a US pressing with a different cover. While there, I was also privileged to meet Jennifer herself. She happens to live in the very same town, and is doing inspiring creative work with refugees.
Julia Holter – Ekstasis (Rvng Intl., 2012)
Los Angeles-based composer Julia Holter makes music which is conceptually dense, yet spacious and eminently listenable – hummable even. I saw her give a phenomenal performance last year in Stockholm. I already had three of her albums on mp3, including Ekstasis, so that night I grabbed this, which the merch guy told me was one of the last copies of the out-of-print 12” 45rpm double vinyl release. By drawing on archetypes from Greek tragedy, this album simultaneously abstracts personal narrative and renders the emotional content conveyed universal. It’s a clever conceit, but one you don’t need to be aware of in order to appreciate the music. An obvious comparison to draw would be with the work of Laurie Anderson (whose ground-breaking 1982 debut, Big Science, was also on my shortlist for this article).
The Raincoats – Odyshape (Rough Trade, 1981)
I read somewhere that following the release of their eponymous first album in 1979, the Raincoats were one of the first bands to be called “post-punk”. John Lydon said they were the best band in the world. Kurt Cobain wrote the liner notes for their first album’s 1993 re-release. None of this hype really prepares one for the shambolic assemblage of punk, folk and lo-fi that is the Raincoats’ second album, Odyshape, though. A wildly experimental departure into unmapped territory, the melodies float loosely over an assortment of unusually textured percussive instruments, including kalimba and balafon. This record still sounds extraordinary 35 years on: intimate and vulnerable, uncompromisingly feminine. I can definitely hear its influence on later artists such as Micachu and the Shapes, and Tune-Yards.
This profile was published HERE.
A poem by Louise Westerhout, accompanied by Lliezel Ellick (cello) and Rosemary Lombard (autoharp), performed on 28 July 2016 at the Blah Blah Bar’s Open Mouth night.
Next time we’ll make sure we find a venue where rude men at the bar are not entitled to talk through performances…
A version of the Rezsö Seress classic that we performed on 28 July 2016 as part of a collective which included Louise Westerhout, Lliezel Ellick, Rosemary Lombard, Debra Pryor and Roxanne de Freitas, at Blah Blah Bar’s “Open Mouth” night. We had had just two rehearsals, and I feel like this has the potential to go a lot further… Watch this space!
The Dears – Summer of Protest
Siri Karlsson – När Mörkret Faller
Triakel – Torspar-julaftas-våggvisa
Istapp – Snö
16 Blåsare Utan Hjärna – Instrumental
Vaaralliset Lelut – Katselen Hiukan Ympärilleni
BLK JKS – Summertime
Blackmilk – Summer Eye
Sambassadeur – Ice and Snow
The Cardigans – Slowdown Town
Hello Saferide – I thought you said summer is going to take the pain away
Carolina Wallin Pérez – Pärlor [Kent cover]
Säkert! – Isarna
Sofia Jannok – Snölejoninna
Die See – Somersdag
Johannes Kerkorrel – Somer
The Knife – Reindeer
Vacum – Den Sista Vintern
Detektivbyrån – Om Du Möter Varg
Anna Von Hausswolff – The Hope Only of Empty Men
Arne Domnérus & Gustaf Sjökvist – Largo
Ghost – Here Comes The Sun (Beatles Cover)
Chris Letcher – The Sun! The Sun!
Jessica Lea Mayfield – Standing in the Sun
The Cure – Hot! Hot! Hot!
The Brother Moves On – Shiyanomayini
Karen O – Indian Summer
Hosts: Botha Kruger & Rosemary Lombard