17 August 2021

Arts staff and alumnus add their voices to new book

Two staff members and an alumnus from the Faculty of Arts and Design, Pfunzo Sidogi (Fine and Studio Arts), Dr Anna-Marie Jansen van Vuuren (Visual Communication), and Katlego Chale (actor, playwright, and former student of the Department of Performing Arts), have contributed chapters to a new book, Public Intellectuals in South Africa: Critical Voices from the Past, published by Wits University Press.

Pfunzo Sidogi.

In summarizing the book, Sidogi and Dr Jansen van Vuuren say: “This edited volume engages with the currents and histories of public intellectualism in South Africa. It uses Edward Said’s definition of a public intellectual as ‘someone who uses accessible language to address a designated public of social and political significance.’ Although the book is not limited to cultural intellectuals, many of the chapters explore the content and legacies of South African public intellectuals who focussed on the arts and cultural spheres. This list includes both well-known and marginalised figures: Magema Fuze, John Dube, Aggrey Klaaste, Mewa Ramgobin, Koos Roets, Elijah Makiwane, Mandisi Sindo, William Pretorius, and Dr Thomas Duncan Greenlees,” they add.  

In his chapter, Sidogi explores the emergence of what he has termed Black Art Criticism in The Bantu World newspaper during the 1930s. “The Bantu World newspaper was the most influential and widely circulated publication among Black people in South Africa during the mid-twentieth century. By using The Bantu World as a case study, I chronicle the early manifestation of visual arts journalism produced by Black writers who were interested in the development of art created by Black artists during the 1930s and beyond,” says Sidogi.

Dr Jansen van Vuuren, film critic and Screenwriting lecturer at the Department of Visual Communication, contributed a chapter titled ‘Kaalgat Critique’: The Public Intellectualism of Koos Roets as Afrikaans Satirist.

In this chapter, she discusses Roets who has made a mark in the South African film industry since the late 1960’s. 

“Koos Roets has been credited by the avante-garde directors Jans Rautenbach (Jannie Totsiens) and Katinka Heyns (Paljas) as playing an instrumental role in achieving the vision of their films. However, in this chapter, I specifically look at films where he was the director. Film critics often described films like Die Groen Faktor (The Green Factor, 1984), Kaalgat tussen die Daisies (Naked among the Daisies, 1997), and Paw Paw vir my Darling (Paw Paw for my Darling, 2015) as pure comic relief and escapism. However, by using satire, Roets provoked the audience in a tongue-in-the-cheek way to reconsider their notions about apartheid, hypocritical moral standards, and class distinctions. Roets has never really been fully appreciated by South African film scholars, except as background to the better-known directors named earlier. Thus, in this chapter, it is demonstrated that he made a valuable contribution to Afrikaans cultural discourse over the last four decades,” Dr Jansen van Vuuren adds.

Dr Anna-Marie Jansen van Vuuren.

Chale, who obtained a B Tech and M Tech in Drama from TUT (both cum laude) and is currently pursuing a PhD in Drama at the School of the Arts at the University of Pretoria, contributed a chapter titled The Public Intellectualism of Artivist Mandisi Sindo.

Chale says his chapter focuses on the artistic and activist practice of Cape Town-based theatre maker, Mandisi Sindo, to gain an understanding of artivism and locating this praxis as an alternative form of public intellectualism. 

“According to José María Mesías-Lema, artivism is a neologism derived from ‘art’ and ‘activism,’ where the order of words has its rationale – the term describes artists who are committed to creative processes of an activist nature but not activists who resort to art as a form of vindication,” he adds. 

Mandisi Sindo is a South African theatre maker, social entrepreneur, and artivist based in Cape Town. Writing for Lead SA, Lilford Lesabe describes Sindo as the founder, artistic director, and CEO of the Makukhanye Art Room. The Makukhanye Art Room is Khayelitsha’s first-ever shack theatre and was run by Sindo alongside technical director Bamanye Yeko, Siphosethu Runqu, Sivuwe Sigudu (maintenance), as well as Siphosethu Dyonase and Lwazi Thezaphi (operations and co-ordination). The space first came into use in 2007, when, as a shack, it served mainly as a rehearsal space for the Makukhanye Entertainment Act Group run by Thando Mpengezi and Siphosethu Runqu. The shack was also used as a shared, public space for members of the community of Khayelitsha, the second largest township in South Africa, to share knowledge and ideas on how to make life better for themselves.

Other contributors to the book include Chris Broodryk, Lesley Cowling, Luvuyo Mthimkhulu Dondolo, Rory du Plessis, Carolyn Hamilton, and Keyan Tomaselli.

Through Wits University Press’ international partners, New York University Press (in North and South America) and Eurospan (for the UK, Europe and Australia) the book will be widely distributed internationally.

For more information about the book, visit https://witspress.co.za/catalogue/public-intellectuals-in-south-africa/

Katlego Chale.

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