A
 
Web www.artsmart.co.za
A R T S M A R T
arts news from kwazulu-natal

miscellaneous news
www.artsmart.co.za
enquiries@artsmart.co.za
 A current news
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
letters to the editor
home page
archives A
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
 

NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

CONTEXTUALLY YOURS (article first published : 2002-07-14)

“What, at this moment in time, is a cliché?” The answer to the question is not as simple as it might be. We are familiar with one meaning: a cliché is a hackneyed phrase or idea. But it has another, perhaps its original one: in the terminology of traditional printing, a cliché is “a stereotype plate” or “the impression made by a die in any soft metal”. What is common to both ideas is the concept of something that can be banged out mechanically, over and over again, without the need for thought. A spoken cliché enables the speaker to utter human speech that means very little while he thinks what to say next.

In the last column in this series, I mentioned a notable outburst of cliché in the South African context. This is how it came about.

One of our more notable creative spirits, a chap called Mbongeni Ngema, wrote a song about our Indian population, saying that they exploit the black population (of which he is a member) and that something should be done about it (violence not excluded). As he is the man responsible for a spectacularly unsuccessful show about AIDS called Sarafina II, which cost the tax-payers about 14 million Local Currency Units, he tends to be listened to; here must be a man of some influence.

His song caused a considerable stir. The Broadcasting Complaints Commission identified the song as “racial hate-speech” and banned it from public broadcasting. Ngema, understandably miffed, had a statement “issued on his behalf”. It said that he “deeply regrets” the decision, and that “by their action they have declared war on the African race.” (Just in passing, there is no such thing as “the African race”.) The statement went on: “More than ever he is convinced that his entering into dialogue with the relevant stakeholders and the people on the ground to address the problem is the only way he can help his people.” A cry from the heart indeed, issued on his behalf.

To begin at the beginning of this blizzard of clichés, writing a song is not “entering into dialogue” with anybody. A song is essentially a monologue. Anyone stupid enough to respond to its message could be regarded as starting a dialogue, but not the songwriter. As for the rest of the statement, I wish to make the following appeal to writers and speakers in the world at large:

Don’t “enter into dialogue”: talk to somebody.

If you are “a stakeholder”, relevant or otherwise, do something useful with your stake, like making a fire or learning to pole-vault. If you are “a role-player”, leave the stage, wipe off your make-up and join the real people out here.

Will “the people on the ground”, especially those “at grass-roots level”, please get up, dust themselves down and do something constructive. If you wish to address a problem, resist the inclination. Solve it.

If the playing-field is not level, or the goalposts have been moved, leave the game. Go and play somewhere where the groundsman knows his job.

If you think that “at this moment in time” is an adequate substitute for “now”, it is time to think deeply about your standards, your purpose in life, and whether or not you should have been born at all.

Finally, if you think that writing a song entitles you to “help your people”, forget it. They are a figment of your imagination. Go and learn a trade.

Oh, and have a nice day, y’all. Contextually yours, Ulysses Online.




 A current news
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
letters to the editor
home page
archives A
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
a co-production by caroline smart services and .durbanet. site credits
copyright © subsists in this page. all rights reserved. [ edit ] copyright details  artsmart