Schlagwort-Archive: opinion

Exklusive Interview with Zapiro

4000 Cartoons and 15 books. Johnathan Shapiro about his life, freedom of opinion and politics

(Editor: Annalisa Wellhäuser)

Open any South African newspaper today and you will most probably find a cartoon that comments South African politics drawn by the artist Zapiro. Who doesn‘t know the famous sketch picturing the current South African president Jacob Zuma with a shower above his head alluding to his statement that he took a shower after having had sex with an HIV-positive woman. Zapiro, born 1958 as Jonathan Shapiro in Cape Town, is the most famous cartoonist of these days in South Africa. His drawings appear in the Mail and the Guardian,Sunday Times and The Times. Moreover his art has been published in exhibitions all over the world and he has won numerous awards.

© Cartoon by Zapiro: President Jacob Zuma is taking a shower after having sex with a HIV infected woman.

© Cartoon by Zapiro: Lady Justice in danger.

© Cartoon by Zapiro: Whites have benefited from Apartheid.

„SÜDAFRIKA – Land der Kontraste“, the German Gateway to South Africa, met Zapiro in his office in Cape Town to find out more about this artist who is not afraid to say what he thinks with if it comes to politics.

Zapiro already discovered his passion for art as a child. Back then he used to have nightmares about frightening monsters and in order to deal with those scary dreams, he started drawing about them. Indeed that kind of self-therapy did help him to overcome his nightmares. And not only that; He enjoyed the drawing a lot. It was his dream to become an artist. He entered drawing competitions and also was active for the school newspaper. He invented the little character “Prepi“, who commented on what‘s going on in preparatory school.

Soon ,he was also confronted with the politics happening in his country. His mum made him aware already at a very young age that they were living in a society “that was wrong“; his very first “kind of political experience“ was when Verwoerd 1 was assassinated in 1966. In school they were asked to pray for the “architect of apartheid“ and Zapiro remembers being confused and thinking“ Hey, this was not a good guy!“. Throughout his school time he was “at odds” with the general trend of supporting Apartheid amongst even English speaking white people, but he was not yet involved in any political actions at that time. After school he started studying architecture; not because he was passionate about it, but in order for him to stay out of the army. When he decided to change to graphic design and try to become a cartoonist, they „got him„, he had to enter the army. In the army Zapiro refused to carry a gun, so they made him carry a heavy wooden dummy and made fun of him. Once a colleague made him stand guard with it, „which was ridiculous, I became a bit of a laughing stock but in a funny way, like a clown thing„, Zapiro says.

However, the joke actually backfired, because he showed the other conscripts that he could handle this heavy arm very well as by doing exactly everything that they were doing with it. This was his way of rebelling against this and spreading his political message. He was regarded as a political consciousness non-commitant, as a communist, as dangerous. At that time he was not yet involved in any political organization, the UDF (United Democratic Front) formed just over a year after he was conscripted. But when it was formed in 1983, it was absolutely clear for him that he would join. Same appealed to his mum, his sister and a lot of his friends. Suddenly there was this non-racial grouping that felt right for them: much more elegentarian, much more open and much more connected to national politics. It was also connected to the ANC-but he didn’t want to be involved into nor speak about it, because that was dangerous when they found out they were linked. Him and some of his family members even got detained at some point.

However, Zapiro has never wanted to be a politician. He sees a big difference between being enormously involved as an activist and becoming a politician. ,,Professional politics are very different from being a political activist.” In his opinion only a few people managed to retain this integrity and those principles that guided them and made them passionate. Other people do things now out of personal gain or party political aims; they have become corrupt, comfortable and a bit apathetic compared to what they used to be. Also there are those who are within a party and are against those who are outside the party and maybe doing good things. „All those things I would hate„, he states. He has seen people he knew who have made this trancession- only a few managed it successfully. According to him the country needs people who become politicians and remain focussed, altruistic and incorruptible. But the country also needs civil society and media-so in his opinion his best role is to be a visual columnist- and still to a little extend an activist. To produce his drawings, he obviously needs to do a lot of research on politics. For that Zapiro listens to the radio a lot, reads many different newspapers and consults the internet in order to look at the same sort of issue dealt with in different ways. Also he records some things broadcasted on television.

© Johnathan Shaprio alias Zapiro, South Africa´s most influential and provocative cartoonist. He has been in conflict several times with the government.

Zapiro explains that cartoons are primarily about thinking and communication; about finding a device to say something that one believes in. „They are 80% idea and 20% drawing.„ According to him there are cartoonists out there, who are good, but not necessarily the best cartoonist in the world -however they are really able to communicate by their art. On the other hand it would not be possible to carry weak ideas with good drawings. „It`s about thoughts. „ To give an example, Zapiro speaks about one cartoon that he did, which displayed a little line of text on top saying „Whites who never benefited from Apartheid„ and a blank page underneath he states that at the time of the release of the cartoon, there were people denying to have known about Apartheid. There were white people avoiding responsibility for the benefits that they were given while living under Apartheid.

Zapiro was irritated by that attitude and got inspired to create this „cartoon„. This cartoon did not even have a picture, but still, so Zapiro, „ This cartoon was conceptually really good and really powerful, one of the best cartoons I have ever done.„ It is Zapiro`s intention to trigger strong reactions with his drawings amongst the people. He wants to make people think. Maybe some people say „That’s exactly how I feel, I didn’t know how to express it.„ But he is not only addressing the people who think exactly like him- which, in his opinion, would not make any sense. He knows that there are people, who might agree and as well disagree on his thoughts on certain issues. However it is not his intention to convince the people, who think completely different. According to him it is all those people in the middle-he can make them see something in a new way by being a little bit persuasive to them.

When asking him what subject he would like to draw a sketch on, that he is not allowed to draw one on, he replies that there is nobody who can tell him not to do a cartoon on a certain topic. It is rather him who holds himself back. When he started as a political activist he used to be quite constrained by political correctness, whereas these days he is ready to accept those rules. „ I don’t like to gratuisly insult people in a hurtful way, who are in a way vulnerable.„ Still, even then his feeling of what is acceptable to draw a cartoon on would be way further down the line than that of others. If he felt that people are the aggressors, he wouldn`t care about them. For instance, if it comes to religion. In his view religion has done a huge amount of harm with regard to gay people and women and it has even promoted spread of HIV. Concerning this topic he would go really hard for the people in power.

Zapiro says he has done things that people would consider totally insulting. He states that some things around traditional culture are quite difficult to deal with in cartoons, because people treat them in a way religion is treated. According to him there exists some kind of communality. And at the moment there would be plenty of times when cartoons can be misinterpreted on purpose to make people out as racists even though they are not.

After the feedback that Zapiro is receiving is not always positive; president Jacob Zuma has pressed charges against him already for doing certain drawings on him. Zapiro says that he believes in the South African institutions, in the constitution , and he feels that these are strong enough to keep up freedom of speech -which he supports and which is part of what gives him resolve. Zapiro explains that his politics haven`t changed a lot, but politics of some people in power have changed and he considers himself lucky to not have as much constraints as people in power. If he believes in something he will go for it.

Further I ask him about his opinion concerning voices in this country saying that some kind of reversed apartheid is arising, where it is now black South African people against the other cultures. Zapiro responds that this is one of the topics, where he will get either into one form of discourse or another depending on who he is speaking to. On the one hand, if he would be speaking to his old political comrades he would be mouthing off at the death of non racialism and at the rise of a certain form of nationalism and elitism. On the other hand, if those amongst the white South Africans, who have never had “political bone„ in their body during apartheid era come and complain in an uninformed way to him about how bad things are and so called „reversed racism„, he gets into a whole different conversation. He would try to explain how much better things are now than they were then. And after all it is still white people who are at the top of the power in many important fields. He says that there is a certain kind of racism that still exists very strongly in the white community of South Africa. He continues saying that there are some absurdities in the way that affirmative action has been taking place; not the way it should be. And that he is the last person to say that all is ok. But to claim that things are the same way as they used to be in Apartheid, simply reversed, was not true, but absolute rubbish.

Then we speak about Julius Malema singing the old song „Kill the boers„. Zapiro calls Malema`s behaviour „crass and wrong„, he could not sing that song in the context of the new South Africa. He explains that the song was an apartheid era song, which had a metaphorical reason. It was about killing the system of apartheid, to fight those police men and farmers, who really were brutally assaulting and killed people .„And that was all understood then.„ Zapiro states that it is wrong to sing that song today, because its purpose is essentially to try „to mobilize disaffected youth, because the ANC is not delivering properly to them and try to make them focus some of their anger on people, who these days are not necessarily aggressing, at least not the same extent as before.”However, he thinks that one cannot ban a song and that the high court`s decision to try to prevent him from singing the song was wrong. As a supporter of freedom of express he does not agree on it. „You can call somebody a political opportunist without saying you are not allowed to sing that song. It is a lot more nuanced and complicated than saying: Julius Malema is the equivilant of what Terre Blanche2 was…it doesn’t work like that.„ Zapiro has done cartoons criticizing that decision of the court. I support the human rights commission and the UN`s determination on the definition of hate speech and that it should be prevented. He explains that that would be hate speech where you could make a connection between something that was said, such as a speech, a song or a piece of writing, and the active going out and killing somebody. However, he doesn`t think that “ people went out killing people because of what Julius said…. “3 “If you can make that connection, that because of that song that person was killed..that`s where you can draw the line. But that’s very far down the line of speech before you can make that decision.”

Zapiro says that there was a complaint about his cartoon „Lady justice„ and that the human rights commission exonerated him for doing the drawing and its publication, because of their determination that it is not inciting anyone to do anything to anybody else. „It was a metaphor about what Zuma was doing to the judiciary.„ „Freedom of express is very important to me.„ So if he started saying ,they should ban that song, then he could as well allow somebody to say to ban his cartoon, because both of them could be interpreted in a way that they could be objectionable.„There has to be consistency.„

Zapiro is producing with his cartoons political messages

Before the interview comes to an end I would like to find out from Zapiro what are his wishes for the new South Africa, what kind of development he thinks is necessary for it to become the peaceful rainbow nation everybody is longing for. Zapiro answers, „I remember when Tutu came up with the rainbow nation idea during the meeting of the inconscription campaign in 1985.It was always a bit idealistic. „ According to Zapiro, Tutu wished for rainbow coalition of different groupings in the political movement fighting for the same aim: freedom, non racialism, democracy. However, Zapiro believes that South Africa has only had a few rainbow-moments since democracy. As an example he names the rugby world cup in 1995. “I`m afraid to say now, that unlike before, where I thought the white community was hugely responsible for not apologizing and not taking responsibility, I still say that ,I think now a lot more could have been done if the ANC had not become fat, comfortable and corrupt, and if say the people at the top were not promoting this narrow elite and not just paying lip service to delivery, but really were delivering and trying to bridge the wealth gap. That is where is should go.„ Zapiro believes that only then people can have some real reconciliation, because so far there are a lot of unresolved matters after truth reconciliation commission hearings. According to Zapiro, it is most important to close the inaquity in this society.„ South Africa has become the most inequal society in the world , we are even behind Brazil. And for that to be the state almost after 17 years of democracy is outrageous.„

Finally I would like to find out what Zapiro`s personal plans and dreams are for the future. „For the medium term I want to continue what I`m doing, but want to make sure I`m still feeling like I`m relevant and got something to say, because if I do not- I want to pull out and go for something in the long term.„ He has managed to produce over 4000 cartoons and 15 books , but he doesn`t want to do the same thing for ever, he also wants to do other things. In the long term Zapiro would like to move into some other genres of cartooning and storytelling, which he loves. He would like to become a bit more balanced person, because the intensity he has with the cartooning does tend to overwhelm a great part of his life. He wants to spend more time with his family.

HIER FINDEST DU DAS INTERVIEW IN DEUTSCH.

1   He was the 3rd national party prime minister after DF Malan and Jacob Strijdom
2   Formed the Afrikaaner Resistence Movement during Apartheid< was seen as white supremacist
3   Discussion in South Africa about a possible connection between Malema singing the song,,Kill the boers“ and the murder of Terre Blanche

Interview with Lesego Rampolokeng

A poet, irresistibly fighting for „a world in which all can breath“

(Editor: Annalisa Wellhäuser)

An exceptional and critical thinking poet who doesn`t mince words when talking about politics and society –especially the degradation of human dignity. Lesego Rampolokeng was born on 27th July 1965 in Orlando West, Soweto, Johannesburg in South Africa. Growing up under the Apartheid system and raised by a catholic family, he formed his very own view on political and social problems in South Africa. He studied Law at the University of the North in the Limpopo Province, but has not followed this path any further. He focused on his poetry which included poems, novels as well as writings for the theatre. He is travelling the world to perform and while doing so he has already worked together with different artists such as Günther Sommer, Julian Bahula, Louis Mhlanga and Souleman Toure. [A list of his work can be found at the end of the interview.]

© Poet and writer Lesego Rampolokeng

Deutsch: If you are interested to read this interview in German, please click on following link: https://2010sdafrika.wordpress.com/2011/02/08/schriftsteller-lesego-rampolokeng-im-interview/.

2010sdafrika-editorial staff: We would like to welcome on „SÜDAFRIKA – Land der Kontraste“, the German gateway to South Africa,  the writer and poet Lesego Rampolokeng. Mr. Rampolokeng, as an artist you have performed and written texts in different ways-you have been doing political rap, poetry and you have also contributed writings to the theatre as for Faustus in Africa in 1995 or the Fanons children in 2001. How would you describe the kind of art you are performing these days?

Answer: Ok, first of all it`s a semantic issue. I don’t perform, I hardly ever see myself performing anything, because for me that presupposes either an extension of yourself or alienation from yourself, an occupation of another space outside of something. There`s never been a line of demarcation between myself and my art. I am my art. I hope that makes sense.

And I wouldn`t actually say that I´ve ever done „political rap„ or even rap itself as a genre. For me what rap is is what we are doing right now. The flowing and floating of lines, thoughts, ideas, communication of multi-ear, mind to mind, you know, these things that swim from the one individual and rattle the brain cells of the other. That for me is being rap. If you put dub or hip-hop break beat to this, it is rap.

So essentially I`ve always seen myself as being a creature of the world and as a social being that I am, I`m also of my society, of my community. Like everybody else I was not hatched ,I was born. I guess some people just spin out of the air, they get dropped from the moon or whatever. So what it means is-if I want to define my reality- that necessarily means I have to engage with the reality of my society.

And there are certain things that stand between me and the celebration of my being, of my humanity. I have to deal with dehumanization, the oppression of one being by another and all of those things: social economic factors, why I could only be born where I was born and not in another place, why I need a visa in order to come to Berlin, why I get pulled out of a queue at Tegel airport, because I got more melanin than anyone else. And I get asked how much money I`m carrying, if I`m carrying drugs……and all of those factors conspire to make me a specific kind of creature-I will suppose distinct to other creatures, but not necessarily more important or less important.

I just hold my own space within the sphere of human light and try to define that .And you cannot truly define your space except in terms that make sense to you, which are political and other things.

When birth is itself a political issue, when death is a matter of politics. If I die here what happens to me is terribly political. If I drop dead here, I hope I don`t, I might very well do that…..every single breath I take is itself defined for me in political terms.

I don’t wave banners, I don’t say vote for XYZ ,because first of all I don’t even believe in the voting box, I don’t believe in voting. I don’t think voting has ever changed anything. I don’t mean politics in terms of party political waves, just the way which we communicate this-human traffic, human flux, the coming and going of human beings

2010sdafrika-editorial staff: Let`s come to my second question: You were born in 1965 in Soweto, Johannesburg….

Answer: Unfortuately…

2010sdafrika-editorial staff: …. during that time it was the Apartheid system that was ruling in South Africa. The oppression by that racist system appears to be one of the major topics you are dealing with in your poetry. Can you tell me something about this?

Answer: Well, I mentioned before I was born into a specific set of circumstances, so my being was dictated by all those factors you just mentioned now.

One thing that I`d like to clarify would be….I was not born in that time of Apartheid, because I think this is the time of Apartheid too. I can define it differently- but Apartheid as legislated racism, as defined by law-as founding the „statue books„ –that`s actually the only thing that made racism in South Africa different from anywhere else. Because it was legislated, it was legal.

People had met, very intelligent supposedly, together and decided that by the eventual effect that they lacked x-amount of melanin that made them superior to other people. Therefore „blabla„ and they set and raised a systematic devaluation and dehumanization of another sector of society for economic and other reasons.

And so from the moment that-I think even before I was born, from the moment I was conceived-Apartheid had already been at work on my being, on my senses. I guess that is why I`m going through life having one nervous breakdown after another-it`s because of, I would suppose, the measure of racism and religion-because I was brought up catholic and all those other things.

So my writing can only be in terms of the politics and religion that worked on me, the economic factors etc. … And I`m still trying to define myself. You see the thing is I don’t go into writing as a way of explaining myself. For me it`s a quest, ,it`s an attempt to get my world to speak to me and thereby allowing me I guess to understand myself better ,to understand my own shortcomings, perhaps my own prejudices.

Because I am definitely prejudiced against certain kind of human creatures, absolutely.

But I think I wasn’t caught in a time war so I cannot write today like I did 10,15,20 years ago .I`m a social communicator and I will be until I die.

So today I deal with issues that of course came down with Apartheid where we created some kind of buffer zone between the people of real power in the country and the rest of oppressed society in South Africa. I would suppose„ non-white„ all of them.

I won`t necessarily say ,,black„, because ,,black„ comes with a political definition for me. The old man I drew my inspiration from, Mafika Pascal Gwala, my father- well in a matter of speaking he is-said „Black is an energetic release from the shackles of Kaffir, Bantu, non-white.„ That`s what it is.

My friend Lemn Sissay said :´„Black is not what white is not-black is black. That`s it. I`m not defined in my „blackness „in the fact that you are not „black„. Your „being white„ does not make me„ black„. I defined myself as „black„ before.

Anyways. I use all these quotations as part of my piece, at the beginning of my piece „Bantu ghost„ , which I read last year. Steve Biko said:„ The fact that we are all not white does not necessarily mean we`re all black.„ Non-whites exist and are continuing to exist for a long time-but within that world of humanity that was oppressed some of them are black and some are not-even though they might look similar, even though they might have x-amount of melanin all of them-not all of them are ,,black„. The ones who are black are the ones who define themselves…Its an attempt of coming to consciousness of where one is being placed and where one should he going.

2010sdafrika-editorial staff: You just said that Apartheid is basically not over, it`s just a different form of Apartheid. What do you mean by that?

Answer:  I`m saying there was a specific system of government, it was an ideology that was in place that was referred to as Apartheid. It`s an Afrikaans concept meaning- what they later tried to define as separate development, but a literal translation of it, the one on one translation of it would be „Apart-ness„ ,meaning there is this line of demarcation between these people and those people, this sector of society and that sector of society and it was a „ legal system„.

What I`m saying is while the books might have been scrapped- we might say technically because the constitution has been overturned- then Apartheid does not exist, but Apartheid was not paper. Tearing up paper doesn’t change anything.

The fact that then you have some kind of creation set up in place that is celebrated all over the world and you call that, you make a symbol of it, an icon of it and you get all hypocrites to celebrate it. The same hypocrites that used to insult it ,that fought for it to be kept in place, in jail.

Now out of a sudden these celebrate it and they built monuments to it in England and they knight it and they call it Nelson Mandela. And it goes around waving at all old ladies and the babies etc.

What does that change beyond it being a measure scam perpetrated on the world.

You go to South Africa today and you will see the following: Now they call them informal settlements ,it`s just „shacklands„, supposed what people called derogatorily „squatters„ have proliferated in South Africa. There are more of them now than prior to 1994.There is more human misery and debasement today than there was in South Africa before.

Now when you see such things-some very„ perverted sick minded„ people start accusing you , of wishing to return to Apartheid and I would have to be truly sick to my soul to want something like that. It’s a system of dehumanization-why would I want, why would I wish for my own dehumanization , no. But again that is yet another scan that is meant like the bible to keep people weak.

But ok we are supposed to keep quiet , because now here is this government that was supposedly voted into place by the majority of the people. Well, the majority is not always right. Actually more often than not the majority is wrong. That`s why there are people like us in the world, I guess we are happy, well we celebrate our right to be wrong also. I might be wrong, but I`m happy to be wrong. It is my opinion, however wrong it might be to anybody else.

So essentially the economics of the „thing of state in place„, the power is remained in the hands of the people who held it before. They created this vile concept called Black Economic Empowerment ( „BEE„ )and on the surface this thing is set up as being a system out of which the previously, as they put it, „disadvantaged„ can have access to the sources of the land,. They call them that-and it makes me feel like you are crippled or something like that .

But anyways it’s a major lie, because this first of all this BEE- thing was created by multinationals, by multi corporations, by big capital, which was „white„, big capital. And they created this thing in as a kind of escape route for themselves. They set up this thing and the people who got to believe it were the ones who supposedly had these struggle potentials. They are the ones who`ve become the millionaires today, who are part of this ruling system .And they set all those people up and then the jackals and the hyenas came out to bite and eat and whatever. And I will present these crawlers` face to the world of these supposed darker than grey creatures.

So the system of Apartheid, it is actually more obscene today than it was before. Because before there was no need to lie, the lines were well drawn.

2010sdafrika-editorial staff: You`ve also studied law….

Answer: …Unfortunately haha…

2010sdafrika-editorial staff: What was the reason for you to decide its poetry you want to focus on instead of maybe becoming a successful lawyer?

Answer: Have you ever seen a lawyer who looks like me in the world? I`d be a very unlikely lawyer.

First of all, at no point in my life did I decide to become a poet. This comes without any romanticization –I`m not romantic about it.

At times I wish that I hadn’t walked this path, it was a lone part and i`ve made myself more enemies walking down this path than I would have if I had just become a jackal , a vulture feeding on human misfortune-called a lawyer. I would have made less enemies that way „bloating „myself up

I don’t think that anybody at any point decides to become a poet, you either are one or you are not. Nobody can teach you to write. I don’t believe that writing or poetry can be taught. You got all these professors with 15 degrees, but they themselves cannot write a poem to save their lives.

This is an old image i`ve been using for years and it makes me want to fall asleep whenever I`m saying it.But the truth of it is that I do believe that if my mother falls dead today and they cut her up, they are likely to find my poetry. I`ve created a „mural„,a „uteral mural „which I think is the best kind of poetry anybody could possibly write.

So where I was attempting to study this law thing and even before that I was poet. What you are asking is , I think, is taking a definite break from then when I attempted this ,for me „fake existence„.

You see the thing is when I wrote my very last paper, my final year of university, it was during the times of state of emergency in South Africa. In the mid 80ies, I was becoming a rather frequent visitor to the houses of bondage that I call prisons, detention centers and I wrote my paper and I stood up and walked and never looked back. What I was supposed to have done subsequent to that was to serving another lawyer, learning the trickery roads and then sitting for that final examination. I would have been your Mr. lawyer with maybe a Porsche.

I thought to myself „ok look, you don’t go to look for justice in a court of law, there is no justice in the court of law. If you want the law ok you go to court, if you want justice they take you to the streets. „The court, this is not a place for the acquisition of justice, this is where we interpret the law, it`s not even about truth at all .Or it is not about justice and not about truth , which are the things that define me. I`m in this world to search for it—if neither justice nor truth are to be found in a court of law, what would have I been doing there?!It didn’t make sense for me. I could have lied to myself and said „No, I do this thing„ and I can begin represent my people and sound glorious or whatever.

You know what happened, a few years ago I was proved right anyways in my decision not do law. I was invited to Holland and there was this festival, a beautiful festival in Den Haag. And I think it was 51 poets from 51 different countries…every poet had to read at his embassy. But then I found out that the ambassador of South Africa did not want me to be there…the reason why she had to have me there was because her predecessor had invited me. She listened to half of my reading and then ran away .The worst thing about this is that this woman was during Apartheid times South Africa` s leading human rights lawyer, Priscilla Jana. You get what I`m saying……

You know now I`m hungry, I`m poor ,but I`m cool, I think my conscience is at rest.

However I could only be happy the day the things I`ve set myself against are eliminated. The things that make me wake up in the morning in a perverse, in an ugly ,in an obscene way actually .Because the sun ,the love should be getting you out of bed. I`m woken up by demons and ugly things, the day they seize up to be then I will say i`m happy.

2010sdafrika-editorial staff: While doing research about you in preparation for the interview, I read on the internet page ,,www.culturebase.net„ that you ,correct me if i`m wrong, said the following statement about young South Africans in an interview with the Swiss weekly paper 2002 : „Political hip-hop is no longer important to young people in South Africa„. Are young South Africans really not interested anymore in political rap?

Answer: You know that thing makes me so angry, because at no point in my life , unless I`m ready to be locked up in some psychiatric institution, would I say that the young people of South Africa are not interested in political rap. Because it goes further than that thing I think. To give the suggestion that I`m saying supposed political rap is redundant. I would „never ever ever„ say that. First of all, people when it started out did not set itself up as being political, it was party music, young people hijack lighting„ fictures „, you know these street lamps or whatever, and run the electricity from their turntables. As soon as the police comes, they take their stuff and go. In that sense it was subversive-yes. But it did not come out with a political program. It was just young people having fun.

Later you had supposed conscious people coming out like Poor righteous teachers, Public enemy, Boogie down production,KRS1,they came on following the lead of course of the lives of Jill Scott Hanna before them …grabbing the microphone dealing with issues of oppression, of economic, political themes.

Hip Hop is not homogeneous, there are various and different strands of Hip Hop, lots and lots of them. I like the Ghetto-Boys, I love the stories they created there: trying to pull their little ghosts out of the wall..something that one would find in heavy metal, maybe, but they were running it on this „5th ward texas lies„, you know black boys dealing with that stuff.

It is not homogeneous. You got girly Hip Hop, you got Salt and Pepper celebrating their sexuality as females, you know, all of those put together you could say that’s a political broom. That is a political broom. People celebrating their humanity in the midst of „Squalla „.

So at what point could I say the contrary? I, father of generation of MCs, underground MCs, basemental platform in South Africa, I could introduce you to a lot of them, they are very political creatures.

How could I say something else? I never said something like that. This quotation is very misleading.

Unless this person wanted to say that I meant that in this world today you get more people celebrating 50cent,Eminem,LilWayne,Jay-Z as supposed to celebrating Poor righteous teachers, if that’s what they mean, yes, that is very true.

This world celebrates a Lady Gaga. I mean I`m not in the position to judge. I`m not in this world to judge or be judged. If that’s what they want, maybe Lady Gaga fulfills some of their fantasies, I don’t know.

But the fact of it is that more people will celebrate Lady Gaga than they would celebrate Jaco Pastorius, my all time greatest bass player. Very few people know him.

2010sdafrika-editorial staff: How do you see the current political situation of South Africa? What do you think about Zuma?

Answer: I`m sorry to depersonalize people like that, but essentially this is what is happening. The point is, you just give Zuma a lot of women and music to make him dance. That is what he does. He just wants to dance .He is very very problematic, if you trace down his history to the ANC-camps, in exile…there is a whole lot of intrigues involved, people dying…and these people being mashed on forward.

And the indignity of having Thabo Mbeki, who I don’t have any respect for, but in my opinion he was still cleverer than Zuma. But the indecency of the way which those guys flipped the switched one inn was really embarrassing, it was disgraceful.

And now there is Zuma and Julius Malema, who is president of the ANC Youth League. The sad part of this is that we laugh at this person, but it`s the same story as with Idi Amin. Idi Amin started somewhere, people laughed „Haha„ at him saying he is an idiot….But 500.000 deaths later, nobody is laughing. Nobody is laughing. That is the state of South Africa right now.

2010sdafrika-editorial staff: You have already been several times to Germany. In 1998 you even stayed for a few months at the Solitude Castle in Stuttgart. How do you like Germany and what is the reason for you of coming back so often? Did or do the experiences you make here influence you or your poetry in some way?

Answer: Obviously every single moment of my life influences me, every moment leads onto the other, whatever kind of engagement, whatever kind of contact I have with human beings. Not just even people only, every single creature on this planet, in this universe influences how I view.

First of all, having been to South Africa, you will know that however established South Africa might be ,that before Joseph Cotton, Bounty killer, whoever, …before they dream of coming to South Africa, they come to Germany first. They will definitely perform in Berlin, they will perform 20 times in Berlin, before they even imagining going down to South Africa.

So my engagement with the things that I celebrate ,that I love…books …South Africa got a few literature outlets, but in the whole of Johannesburg you can actually count the book shops in the entire city. How many millions of people live in the west of Johannesburg, well it`s east towards the airport, but the only book shop would have to be „exclusive books„ which is a capitalist set up, they will have Dan Brown books, they won`t have any of the people I celebrate, they won`t even have Pasolini. It`s not even a euro-centric kind of set up, no, they won`t have any seriously engaging literature for me there. So if I want something like that I have to come to Germany. In South Africa what do I do?

When I go around the world I pick up whatever it is, I engage with it, I battle with the world`s realities, I go back and I share it with the people I love, I celebrate, the people I want to help push forward along with me. I`m no leader, no, I`m part of a pack, but I`m hoping that whatever experience it is I can share with my people, they can share with me their experiences and together we can move forward.

That’s why I came back. I got invited. I came to Humboldt-University, it is a fine place to come to. I get to read at my embassy. I want to see if they will also behave like the dutch counterpart.

In 1998 I came to Solitude Castle in Stuttgart, because I needed time and space to write. It was a residency, it was a writer`s set up. You got composers there, video artists, graphic artists. It`s an annual thing.

But it made me realize one thing. Namely that I maybe need to hear somebody screaming at some point, I need to hear a car screeching around…before I can create.

I had a nervous breakdown there. It was so quiet there. Even the birds seemed to be uneasy about chatting in the morning: „ Oh, let`s not disturb the artists„. They call it solitude for a reason, really. I felt like Alice in Wonderland there. It`s a castle, every Saturday people come to get married there. You never see anybody.

If I wanted to be in a bar and check out the local talent or get myself checked out, if anybody bothers… I had to take the bus for about 25 minutes to get to the city of Stuttgart, just to have a beer. And then take the bus back. But at eleven the bus is run out.

2010sdafrika-editorial staff: You have travelled the world and performed in many countries. Plus you have worked together with various artists like Julian Bahula, Soulman Toure, Loius Mhlanga and Günther Sommer. Have you ever expected to become that successful and what are your aims and dreams for the future?

Answer: You know Bob Dylan explains the issue of success very well, he says a successful person is one who wakes up in the morning, is able to wake up in the morning and is able to go to bed at night, and in between that the person does what it wants to do, it chooses to do. That`s success. It has nothing to do with money or whatever. It has nothing to do with striking silly poses in front of a thousand cameras. For me that`s not the measure of success.

I will say I`m successful the day whatever it is that stands for the dehumanization and oppression of one sector of humanity by another, one person getting oppressed by the rest of humanity, the day no child, no child dies of malnutrition or preventable diseases ,the day no American can say:„ Oh ,oh this apple fell on my head, how can it fall on my head, I`m American! No this can`t happen to me, I`m American„ ,the day there is an end to that stupid stuff, the day it makes the same, the same kind of sense or non sense to get a child`s head exploded in Gaza ,a child getting its brain „packed out„ in Somalia, the day things fall in line like that, the day it is as wrong ,as wrong to brutalize somebody, because their sexuality is not yours, the day nobody is downtroddened, because they choose to bow in front of a different god to those who have got power, that’s where I will say: I`m successful, I helped create a world in which all can breathe. That`s it.

2010sdafrika-editorial staff: We would like to thank to writer Lesego Rampolokeng, one of the most socio-critical voices of South Africa, for this interesting interview on „SÜDAFRIKA – Land der Kontraste“. We wish you much success for the future and only the best!

List of writings/Liste der Werke of/von Lesego Rampolokeng

– Horns for Hondo (COSAW, 1990)

  • Talking Rain (COSAW, 1993)
  • End Beginnings (Shifty CD with the Kalahari Surfers, 1993)
  • Writing for the play:„ Faustus in Africa„(1995)
  • Rap Master Supreme – Word Bomber in the Extreme (1997)
  • End Beginnings (German Translations) (Marino, 1998)
  • Blue V’s (German Translations with CD) (Edition Solitude, 1998)
  • The Bavino Sermons (Gecko Poetry, 1999)
  • Fanons children in 2001
  • The h.a.l.f. ranthology (CD with various musicians, 2002)
  • Blackheart (Pine Slopes Publications, 2004)
  • Whiteheart (deep south publishing, 2005)
  • Participation in the documentary „Giant Steps„ about revoloutionary poets ,
  • directed by Geoff Mphakati and Aryan Kaganof (2005)

Quellen/Sources:

Interview mit/with Lesego Rampolokeng 09.11.2010

http://www.culturebase.net/artist.php?279

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lesego_Rampolokeng