Peter Horn on Censorship, 1979

23 November 2011, 2:39 pm

Peter Horn, 1979, “The right of the people to censor the arts”,  In National Union of South African Students (Ed.), Dead in One’s Lifetime, Cape Town: NUSAS (1979) pp.92-105

The state which does not censor the arts, does not take the arts seriously. The state which does censor the arts, regards its citizens as minors, incapable of making rational choices. Any discussion of censorship and the relation of the state to the arts, which does not deal with both horns of this dilemma, will not come to grips with the complexity of the subject, and will end up with the irreconcilable dichotomy between the liberal stance of laissez faire and the authoritarian imposition of censorship.

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Peter Horn on Censorship, 1989

23 November 2011, 2:25 pm

Peter Horn, 1989, “Censorship: Creating pockets of ignorance”, in South, 22 June 1989, p.18

(South [Weekly] was an independent newspaper generally aligned with the UDF and ANC, edited by Moegsien Williams, 1988-1991.)

Any form of censorship assumes that there is one group – usually a minority – which is wiser, more intelligent, more moral than another, which protects another group which is prone to be seduced, led astray, outraged or insulted by some form of writing, painting, music or other form of self-expression. Any form of censorship therefore denies the full equality of all the members of a society. The censors depict themselves as adult and responsible, and insinuate patronisingly that the rest of humanity, the majority, is in a childlike state of irresponsibility.

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Edrees

1 June 2011, 4:03 pm


Our friendship must have started before we were teenagers because one of my earliest memories of Edrees is of him and my brother teaching me to ride Edrees’s bicycle, one of those intermediate ones – mid size, freewheel, back-pedal brakes – and from which Edrees had already removed the training wheels. They let go, I fell and was angry with them for a long time. But bicycles would remain central to our friendship.

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Waar die kranse antwoord gee

11 April 2010, 2:06 pm

Following is the English version of a column published in Rapport today, 11 April. This is a translation of the submitted original, thus prior to sub-editing. There are minor variations in expression and a few editorial additions (for the sake of nuance or precision) to the English translation.

Every now and then I fall down a rabbit hole on the internet. A few months ago, I wandered through a maze of broadly white right-wing South African blogs and forums. Some present a dry, professional political image with historical and constitutional analyses, seeking legal precedent and constitutional justification for a white Afrikaans volkstaat. Some factions seek an all-white volkstaat, other factions feel anyone who speaks Afrikaans as mother tongue might be welcome.

There are many factions amongst this broad movement of white dissatisfaction with the New South Africa. Some talk about armed resistance, while others caution against such ‘irresponsible’ talk. Some blogs focus on recording violent crime statistics, especially where crime victims are white. However, some blogs have now started to include all violent crime, irrespective of the victim’s race, so as to avoid accusations of racism.

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Review: Notes from the Middle World, Breyten Breytenbach

17 March 2010, 10:45 am

[Original in Afrikaans at Rapport.]

Breyten Breytenbach, Notes From the Middle World, Haymarket Books, 2009, 978-1-931859-91-2

Once gathered into English liberal bosoms for his cultural and armed opposition to the ideology of his tribe, Breytenbach has of late received controversial coverage, especially in the English press. (But I do remember a cartoon in the Afrikaans press – was it in Vrye Weekblad? -, which showed Breytenbach standing in Paris and pissing on SA.) In 2008, a lot of this centred around A Veil of Footsteps (see the coverage at BookSA). His new book of essays, Notes From the Middle World (it includes two beautiful but scorching poems), has now already received a critical review at the Sunday Independent.

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The Literature Police

24 March 2009, 1:17 pm

THE LITERATURE Police is an interesting website that accompanies Peter D. McDonald’s book, The Literature Police: Apartheid Censorship and its Cultural Consequences (2009, reviewed by Michael Titlestad at the Times). The site contains all manner of material related to the history of censorship in apartheid South Africa and is worth a visit.

Update: A good review of the book by Shaun de Waal over at the M&G. I’m hoping to get my grubby paws on a review copy.


Dagga- Part Four

13 December 2008, 10:07 am

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

I did start smoking dagga. Details evade me, but the first time would have been on that large veld where die dam was, the farmhouse now abandoned. It would have been at some point during the last three years of high school, with Bokkie, Hare and MC, who had all already tried dope a few times.

By Std. 9 or 10, an obligatory drinking culture had developed among many of our peers, some of them friends. At an older friend’s flat or in Orleans Park with friends who were already at university, and who thus had bursary money to burn and were of legal age, some of my friends drank away their weekends. ‘n Kis biere, ‘n bottel hardehout (hard tack). Four people. One evening’s drinking. Or these were friends from school who were now already at university (I failed Std 8 in 1981 and thus had old class mates a year ahead of me). I didn’t drink. While I may have been intrigued by alcohol (advertising, or from seeing an uncle from my mother’s side lean on a fence on a hot day, a chilled can of Black Label in hand), as a good Muslim boy I stayed away from it, having developed the appropriate distaste towards it and its consumers. Even had I had the interest, I would not have been able to disappear from home for two days, which was needed for my drinking friends, ‘sleeping over’ at an older, independent friend, drinking, passing out, sobering up. Read the rest of this entry »


Dagga – Part Three

6 December 2008, 2:48 pm

Part One

Part Two

Mervin Morkel, a classmate, introduced me to reggae at some point during the long months that we were out on national school boycotts in 1980. Deep in winter, and bored with the ‘alternative education’ programme – listening to speeches, singing ‘freedom songs’ that were mostly old spirituals or hymns – or wary that police action may be imminent, we stayed home. Mervin would visit, carrying his sought-after army knapsack brimming with vinyl records: Linton Kwesi Johnson’s Forces of Victory, Peter Tosh’s Equal Rights, Jimmy Cliff’s Follow my Mind, “Remake the world” from the latter featuring as a freedom song sung at ‘mass meetings’ at school:

Too many people are suffering
Too many people are sad
Too little people got everything
While too many people got nothing

Remake the world
With love and happiness
Remake the world
Put your conscience to the test…

Bob Marley in there also, of course. Kaya, Natty Dread, Rastaman Vibration, Zimbabwe, later Uprising. Read the rest of this entry »


The muezzin and I

4 December 2008, 4:28 pm

The following are two excerpts from “The Muezzin and I”, forthcoming in a collection of essays, Kitaab of the World: Writing Islam in South Africa, edited by Gabeba Baderoon and Louise Green.

The piece is written in the form of an autobiographical lexicon and entries range from the earnest to the quirky. It has no pretensions towards the encyclopedic and is based rather on the fragmentary, the idiosyncratic, the half-assimilated and half-understood. Some are purely autobiographical, others are about versions (South African, Paarl’s, my father’s) of the Islamic.

Muezzin

The male voice in Islam finds its apotheosis in the muezzin (mu’atthin, also bilal) – the person who performs the call to prayer and who interacts in a loose call-and-response format with the imam during Friday’s sermon – or in recognised recitors who have turned recitation from the Quran into an art form by following a set of rules both aesthetic and spiritual, and known as Tajwid. One such legend was Abdul Basit (1927-1988), an Egyptian who had apparently memorised the Quran by age ten. Basit made recordings of his work commercially available, and he garnered a huge following, pulling large crowds at recitals. Video recordings of his work may now even be found on the web.

While there were several muezzins in my hometown, one of them had a sublime voice which could draw tears from the men in mosque. He was a lanky, gentle, and unassuming man, often dressed in a light blue robe, which complemented eyes that were either light grey or light blue. Quiet, and a loner not typically drawn to stand and chat and joke in groups outside the mosque after evening prayers in Ramadan, he had the manner of an ascetic. Read the rest of this entry »


Dagga – Part Two

2 December 2008, 4:18 pm

Part One

Chewing a handful of raw peanuts now, I find only the faintest smell, and not quite of dagga. Perhaps the peanuts are stale.

The first time I tasted raw peanuts was when I was four. My family were on a road trip that took us along the east coast up to Durban, from there to Johannesburg and then back through the Karoo to Paarl. In Durban we stayed for a few weeks with family friends, a Hindu household that had bought new pots and stocked their fridge with Halaal meat; and a wife, mother and cook who was very happy to indulge my four-year old’s love of curry, a dish not frequently cooked in our own household. But perhaps they also indulged my taste for curry for the benefit of collective comedy. At four years old (and until I was twelve or so), my tongue struggled to find the English middle-ground between a rhotic R and palatal L, so curry and rootie, my favourite dish, became cully and loottie. One of my childhood nicknames was Cully-and-loottie, much to my growing irritation a few years later, when I cussed and threw a knife at another family friend for persisting in teasing me with this. Adults delighted in asking me what I wanted for lunch or supper. In Durban, I was asked this for breakfast too. Cully. Durban was a magical place where one could get curry for breakfast as well.

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