Tough Pill To Swallow

So, I came across this interesting fact today while surfing the interwebs and couldn’t resist the urge to write something about it as it is quite pertinent to, what seems to be THE hot topic at the moment, the debate about the statues being vandalised and defaced.

Most mornings, I like to check out Today In History SA to educate myself on South Africa’s history. Both of my parents were teachers and they worked so freakin’ hard to make sure that me and my 3 siblings would get the best possible education, so I have a real soft spot for education initiatives, causes or facts on education in SA’s history, so imagine my excitement when I see that today, 17 April, in history was when the “first formal school opens at the Cape”. I had to click the link and read more. This is what it read:

Date: 17 April, 1658 – Jan van Riebeeck, commander at the Cape, wrote in his diary that a school for slaves has been started. Sick-comforter Pieter van der Stael was the first teacher. To reward pupils (mainly adults) for their presence, they each daily received a glass of brandy and two inches of tobacco. The aim of the school was to increase the usefulness of the slaves to their owners. This school was founded by Commander Jan van Riebeeck for the slave children brought to the Cape in the Dutch ship, the Amersfoort, which had captured them off a Portuguese slaver. A second school, attended by 12 White children, four slaves and one Khoi-Khoi, was opened in 1661.”

As you can imagine, I went from excited to flabbergasted very quickly. I was so stoked that today (hundreds of years back) was the first school started in the Cape but then taken aback when I found out that the first school was to educate slaves on how to be more “useful” to their owners. To top it all off, the were “rewarded” (only the adults) with alcohol and tobacco. This fact alone should make anyone who wants to defend Jan Van Riebeeck’s legacy, think twice about how they acknowledge someone’s contribution to history.

Yes, he made a settlement at the Cape of Good Hope but he also initiated structures of gross discrimination that set into motion a mentality that still plagues us today. I don’t want to get into all of the gory details about slavery and how a basis of slavery can lead to things like the American Civil War and even Apartheid. What I really want to address is how dangerous the right kind of education is to the wrong kind of person.

Jan Van Riebeeck was smart enough, knowledgeable enough or educated enough to know that if you are going to take over a new territory (and you are outnumbered by the locals) you first need to find out a way to divide the locals (unless they are already divided, in which case it’s easier), then they need to break the spirits of the indigenous people, then build them back up in a way that makes them subservient, build institutions with the guise of progress for the indigenous people (but in actual fact are a facade for masking more sinister and selfish intentions) and then the cherry on top is to create a structure of law that supposedly protects the rights of all inhabitants but in actual fact restructures any system that existed before into a white label of the colonizer’s country of origin and purely in their favour.

The system of colonization had been so fined tuned over the years that the structures that were put in place, in the Cape of Good Hope, were so successful that, even, 357 years later, so many people who live in this country are fighting with each other about things that were implemented so long ago by individuals who were not even born of this land. Jan Van Riebeeck did not “become” South African. He was Dutch. He setup the Cape of Good Hope to make it easier for the Dutch to get to the East. His reason for living was to help his own ambitions within Dutch society and to be fair to him, anyone who loves the country they come from will do whatever they can to make things better for their people or makes things better for themselves within their country.

Colonization is very sneaky in this regard because colonizers make the colonies pledge allegiance and loyalty to them and not to themselves, so even if the stronghold of the colonizers is loosened, the residue of the colonizer’s footprint  will mean that it will take a very long time for the colonies to take back their own country, while the colonizer’s still make profit from said colony.

I think a much more interesting and worthwhile discussion should be centered around a more patriotic outlook on the whole scenario. We should not quarrel internally about Jan Van Riebeeck’s statue (unless, of course, you are a direct blood line of Jan Van Riebeeck, in which case, you are probably rich enough from the blood and sweat of slaves that the debate wouldn’t even phase you in the least) we should rather be asking questions about how we get reparations from Holland for what their countrymen were responsible for.

Realistically that would not go down very well and would be a shift from civil war to war with another country. It would be unfair to try to hold the current Dutch government responsible for what a previous government did to South Africa but if actuarial scientists  can come up with metrics and algorithms that can accurately predict a countries future GDP, they can definitely work out a value of how much resources and money a former colonizing country owes it’s previous colony or colonies.

Would the juice be worth the squeeze? I don’t know. It will bring up all kinds of unnecessary debates about current laws versus previous laws of both countries, it would cause a rift between Holland and South Africa (and realistically, there are so many South Africans who are connected to the Dutch and vice verse that this would cause more harm than good), it would be a jurisdictional nightmare (considering that, ironically, The International Criminal Court, ICC, which is the court of last resort for prosecution of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, is located in The Hague, Holland) and it would just take too damn long before anything was concluded or any attempt to find a solution took place.

So what can we do? I personally think that we all have to accept that what happened in the past, happened and that life is too precious to be wasted on beef. It’s good to have these discussions but it must not be the sole reason for living. I still have so many countries to visit, cultures to explore, children to raise, meals to enjoy, new things to try out, companies to start (of which some will fail and others will be successful), friends to make, arguments to have and people to forgive, that I do not have time to pick a fight over the past. I would rather spend my time taking advantage of the opportunities available to me and making the best out of them.

The world is moving very quickly into a class-ist  way of thinking. I think class is a combination of manners, etiquette, consideration for others and a successful state of mind. There are many people in the world who have pulled up their socks, built an empire from scratch and have elevated themselves and the social status of their families to a place where they are offered and afforded even more opportunities. I would rather be judged by my manners, etiquette and personality rather then the colour of my skin, the country I was born in and the tribe of my forefathers. I cannot change my birthplace, skin colour (let’s leave Michael Jackson out of this one) or my forefathers but I can very easily change my personailty, my manners and my etiquette. Have the serenity to accept the things you can’t change and the courage to change the things you can and stay classy.

Cure your ails with laughter

Schalk Bezuidenhout dishing out some laughter medicne to the audience at Iconic Lounge. Comedy At Iconic proudly sponsored by Roman's Pizza. Part of the Cape Town Comedy Strip.
Schalk Bezuidenhout dishing out some laughter medicne to the audience at Iconic Lounge. Comedy At Iconic proudly sponsored by Roman’s Pizza. Part of the Cape Town Comedy Strip.

By Joey Lee – Nocturnal Affairs Correspondent

They say laughter is the best medicine. Really? Well sign me up, because the Cape Town Comic Strip family of clubs on Long Street are dosing it out like prescription marijuana. They are serving up shows almost every night of the week with five different comics every show. These mixed cocktails of comedians are sure to cure whatever ailments you . The whole idea is to get out of your daily rut and explore Long Street and see what she has grown into. That is why the comedy venues have been spread out in a few different locations. If one club doesn’t completely cure you, double up, another one of them surely will. So I recommend you find the place you like best and have two drinks and a lot of laughs and check back here next week at www.capetowncomedystrip.co.za to see what comedians are filling your comedy prescription.

A funny storm is brewing

Left to right back row: Joey Lee, Angel Campey, KG, Peter Sserwanga. Front Row Left to right: Paul Snodgrass and Mum-z
Left to right back row: Joey Lee, Angel Campey, KG, Peter Sserwanga. Front Row Left to right: Paul Snodgrass and Mum-z

By Joey Lee – Nocturnal affairs correspondent

Comedy is storming the shores of Cape Town like Nelson Mandela upon his release from Robben Island. It seems to be everywhere you look. The comedy boom in post Apartheid South Africa is growing faster then Jacob Zuma’s Swiss bank account. Capetonians like to relax but some times a Braai just wont do. So they are flocking to these new pop up comedy clubs to laugh, lounge and let loose.
Hard working Capetonians in need of a break from the day to day grind of hiking up Table Mountain or picnicking in the vineyards and dancing naked in the woods for three days on E, listening to techno trance music pulsing through their veins like heroin injected via a wall of Marshal stack amplifiers, finally have some where to go unwind. The Cape Town Comedy Strip is leading this cultural comedy revolution with four different venues all on Long street.
The last Tuesday of every month at Kennedy’s above the Dubliner, kicks the week off. Then every first and last Wednesday night of the month, the funny continues at The Beerhouse and every Thursday night at Iconic Lounge. All doors open at 8pm and shows start at 8.30pm. Coming soon, Bazinga, on Green street off Long just behind the Dubliner will host a Saturday night comedy variety show.
 The few open nights of the week left are sure to be filled with more venues for the comedic voices of a new generation to be heard. The comics performing come from all over the world and some as far as Muizenberg. These comic gladiators come in a rainbow of race, colour, and cultural convictions and consciousness. So don’t sit home by yourself. Winter’s coming and you can always record Game of Thrones.

F*** Black and White

This post is probably going to piss some people off but it needs to be said. When I was at Madame Tussauds in Germany, no one was allowed to take any pictures with the Hitler waxwork. I can’t remember the exact writing on the plaque that justified why you could not take pictures but it had roughly to do with the fact that they wanted to be sensitive to those who had been adversely affected by his regime and it’s aftermath. Saddam Hussein’s statue in Firdos Square was toppled after the 2003 Invasion of Iraq and marked the symbolic end of the Battle of Bagdad. Serious emotions have to be boiling up for people to actually feel the need to topple statues of past leaders / oppressors / dictators / states of head.

The issue that I see is that South Africa is only 21 years old. Our flag was re-designed, the national anthem was made more inclusive, street names have been adapted (to some degree) but it doesn’t make sense that so many people get so emotionally angry about phasing out public statues of colonial “heroes”. It is a new time for South Africa but the scariest thing is that I feel at the core of all of this statue debate lies a much deeper and more dangerous level of racism – far greater than that experienced during Apartheid.

During Apartheid, people were forced to behave in certain ways and more often then not, their racist actions were not a product of the individual themselves but of forces that they thought they could not control. Now that we are not living in a regime that doesn’t force us to have any kind of racial segregation, it saddens me that most of the people in support of the destruction of the statues are black and that the majority of people not supporting the destruction of these statues are white.

There is no SINGLE person responsible for Apartheid or colonialism so there is no need to try to destroy that part of South Africa’s history… because in all honesty, there are millions and millions and millions of South African’s who are responsible for how long Apartheid and colonialism had a stronghold on the country from the companies that funded the Apartheid and colonial regimes, some of their families and their friends, to those too scared to say “this is wrong”, to those who didn’t fight in the struggle, to those who benefited from segregation and land reforms to those who simply let it happen.

If we want to heal this country, we must, all of us, admit that as a country we were involved in something bad and the few heroes who stood to make things better (like Joe Slovo, Nelson mandela, Kader Asmal, Bram Fischer, Breyten Bretenbach, Beyers Naude) should be the real symbols of what our country is made of. I hate to have to put it like this but there were blacks, whites, Indians, Coloured, Afrikaners, Zulus, Sothos, Xhosa, Asians and foreigners who fought against Apartheid.

Let us rather put our time into honouring these people because trying to defend the destruction of the statues is almost stating that their imprint of history in South Africa was more important that those who fought against oppression. No race is responsible for any of history’s oppressive regimes. We can’t blame all Germans for the Holocaust, in the same way as we can’t blame all white Afrikaners for Apartheid or all European whites for slavery and colonialism. Slavery, technology, war, love, crime, progress, education and oppression all existed in Africa, Europe, Asia and the Americas before the idea of “colonialism” was even coined. I find it so sad that after so many FUCKING years of education about the past, educated people (of all races) can still, somehow reduce the actions of few to a whole race. It is sickening. It’s sad and it only makes that individual look as idiotic as their words. For every amazing white person there is an equally amazing black, coloured, Indian person… for every souless corrupt white man, there is an equally soleless corrupt black, coloured, Indian person…

The only colour that should matter in the 21st century is red. Red is blood, that everyone bleeds when they are hurt, shot or beaten. Red is anger and war but ironically red is also the colour of the heart and of love and companionship. We have spent so much time focusing on the definition of black and white that we have spent too little time trying to focus on differentiating the type of red we are. Black people are actually brown and white people are actually pink. If you think of black as a shadow and white as a ghost, both colours are equally as lifeless as the other. Both shadows and ghosts require a human being to exist and even then, they cannot be heard. Let us stiffle the voices of black / white racism and leave those discussions as shadows and ghosts of our history. Let us focus on the blood that keeps us all alive and keeps us all human and let’s move the FUCK forward.

Trevor Noah at the Justin Bieber Roast

Now I know a lot of people have very different ideas about Trevor Noah and his meteoric rise to stardom. I first realised how famous he was going to be when people started to make fake profiles of Trevor on facebook. Then he went on to get an official Facebook approved page (it’s Facebook’s version of “knighthood”), he then hosted the Roast of Steve Hofmeyer, he then went on the Jay Leno Show, Daily Show and now is taking over from Jon Stewart, but the moment when I really realised how big a star he is becoming was at about 12.15 (midnight-ish) when I caught a glimpse of Trevor Noah in the audience for the Justin Bieber Roast on Comedy Central. Check out the clip below and fast forward to about 6min40sec and catch Trevor chuckling with the stars. He does look like he’s having an awkward laugh, but he is rubbing shoulders with legends non-the-less.

The Cape Town Comedy Landscape

The Comedy industry in Cape Town is as fragile as the beating heart of my soon-to-be-born daughter, Aleah Lebo Mokoena (meaning “we are thankful for the exalted crocodile”. While on the one hand there is an increase in comedy gigs that are being added to the Cape Town Comedy Circuit, on the other hand there is a lack of investment put into the marketing of these events which means the long term sustainability is at risk.

Cape town gave birth to many of South Africa’s top comedians but instinctively all successful Cape Town comedians move to Joburg to further their careers commercially and professionally. This means that the pool of strong Cape Town based comedians decreases the more successful they get and thus the quality of comedians gets diluted due to the increase of comedy events being thrown. This has an adverse effect on the perception of comedians in Cape Town, and as you know, comedy is an industry that is fueled almost entirely by the perception that audiences have of the industry and of the comedians themselves.

Comedy is not as main stream in Cape Town as it is in Joburg, so there is also a lack of established brands willing to invest in the development of comedy in Cape Town and the development of the most important pillars of growth, being infrastructure and sustainability. Although trends in marketing dictate that brands need to start providing more value for their consumers, most brands do not want to invest in comedy because there is a perception that the Return On Investment is not enough.

It is very hard to ascertain the ROI on laughter. Laughter is, after all, the best medicine, and last time I checked, there is a lot of money in pharmaceuticals. The value of pharmaceutical products is based primarily on the question “What price would you pay for your health?”. It can be debated that laughter is as stress relieving as cupping a pair of breasts in your hand (with permission, of course), going to gym or even gardening (depending how old or rural you may be…) which means that the health benefits of laughter can naturally relieve stress more than Novapalm (which claims to be 100% natural) but laughter is more natural, has less side effects (except for the occasional pee-in-the-pants or tears-in-the-eyes side effects) and it’s effects last longer.

For most brands, their investment negotiations for events basically revolves around “how many people will be at the event and can we get them to buy our products”. Comedy is a much more powerful vehicle than most brands realise. A single, influential comedian with a unique and genuine voice can make or break the perception of a brand with one 90 minute one man show, syndicated onto SABC, etv, DSTV Box Office, DVD or better yet, the internet.

In this very exciting time for South African comedy, I urge brands to be more co-operative with well conceived comedy concepts, events or shows and I urge comedians in cape Town to step up their own game by performing more, writing more, learning more about how to further their interests in the industry and working harder.

I don’t know if I am lucky or unlucky that I come from a generation of comedians who believed that you had to earn your place in the industry. With 3 SAFTA Awards under my comedy belt, I believe that even more than ever. The Cape Town Comedy Circuit is very fragile but if brands, loyal to the success of Cape Town, and comedians, who are willing to go above and beyond to prove their worth, work together, then we can move forward in the right direction.

Thank goodness for The Cape Town Comedy Club and The Cape Town Comedy Circuit which are providing a bit of hope that stability in the Cape Town comedy circuit can be reached, which will in turn inspire more hopeful comedians to overcome their fears of getting into an industry that has very little promise of stability but the idea of high reward if the talent, dedication and hard work is there.

Joke: Trevor Noah and Barrack Obama

These are the puppets of Trevor Noah and Barrack Obama for the Award winning SA satire comedy TV show ZA News.
These are the puppets of Trevor Noah and Barrack Obama for the Award winning SA satire comedy TV show ZA News.

America really is the land of opportunity. The president is half African half American, the host of it’s most popular political TV comedy show is half African half Swiss. The president is a real example of a REAL African-American and the African-Swiss host’s dream’s were fulfilled after he performed his one man show entitled “African American”. So what I have taken from all of this is that if the ethnicity of a country’s president matches the title of your one man show, your dreams will come true. Now all I need to do is start my comedy career in a country with a female president who is half Brazilian half billionaire and call my show “The President’s Man”…