culture for 1997
Compiled by Charl Blignaut
The Pop Art Award for punch-ups in the art world
A steady stream of local celebrities has stepped into the limelight in 1997. Some, we have found, knock and wait for doors to be opened, while others simply moer them down. It is in honour of the latter that we have initiated this award. There is no shortage of contestants: Visiting poet Lemn Sissay, for example, threw a memorable tantrum at a poetry reading and beat up a microphone stand, a television camera and a fellow poet; Artist Tyrone Appolis got involved in a punch-up at an exhibition opening in Cape Town after he insisted that the white African artists were not African enough; and in a dazzling display of ethnic cocktail violence, film-maker Mandla Dube shocked the genteel citizens of Cannes when he punched a female film administrator at a swish do hosted by the deputy arts minister Brigitte Mabandla. Admirable though these pop feats may be, they really stand no chance against TV personality Vinoliah Mashego, who in the course of being removed from a top local soap opera, assaulted two fellow TV personalities.
Zonnebloem Design of the Year 1997
Runner-up in the M&G/Zonnebloem Design of the Year award is Pretoria artist Minette Vari, who designed slick, sexy billboards of herself and also launched a gorgeously designed new perfume. Winner, though, of this year’s award is Durban’s Orange Juice design company for their magazine iJusi5 and, in particular, Mthandeni Zama for his contribution to that edition. Vari and Zama will be pleased to know that Zonnebloem has offered a prize: Vari wins a case of red wine and Zama a case of white and a case of red. The winners should please contact the M&G arts desk as soon as possible, unless they feel comfortable with a bunch of party-starved arts reporters sitting around staring at crates of unopened wine.
Not the Design of the Year
We really are sorry to break it to the SABC but, despite their charming campaign in which uncompromising artists like QKumba Zoo say nice things about how their new logo captures the pulse of Africa and is world class and all, it really, quite simply, sucks.
Press release of the Year
Sure, we received lavish invitations to five-star hotels in exotic locations and bottles of French champagne, but the release that made us take note was the hip-as-hell new Gauteng radio station Y-FM’s invitation to their launch. It consisted of a petrol bomb and a card that read: “The struggle isn’t over ... It’s just changed.”
Exhibitionist of the Year
It really is alarming how many South Africans feel the need to take their clothes off in public. This fiercely contested category is not, incidentally, determined by physical attributes alone (if it were, Egoli star David Vlok, who appears on an internet site dedicated to nude celebrities, would have won by at least two inches). Runners-up include former K-TV presenter-turned-centrefold Candice Hillebrand and artist Tracey Rose, who sat naked with no hair in a glass booth in an art exhibition. The winner is Nelson Mandela’s typist, Lillian Arison, who shocked the nation and her husband when she appeared naked in Hustler magazine.
The just-decriminalise-it-now-for-Chrissakes Award
To artist and activist Steven Cohen, who wore an outfit caked in dagga seeds at the opening of the Johannesburg biennale. Cohen stood on a box and lit joints every few minutes. Each time he did so, he set off a shrill alarm. His work was called Dagga is an alarming problem.
The Winnie Madikizela-Mandela Award for Multiple Comebacks
* Second runner-up: Subversive anti-apartheid rock band Randy Rambo en die Roughriders made a stunning comeback in 1997 when their Eighties album Die Saai Lewe was finally unbanned. They celebrated by performing live with their backing dancers Die Yskasterte (the fridge tarts).
* First runners-up: In a fine display of loincloth nostalgia Bertha Egnos pulled off another successful revival of her musical Ipi Ntombi, while artist Barend de Wet retired from art in a hyped announcement, only to pop up on a show a few months later, and then another ...
* But none can touch our winner, who attempted several 1997 comebacks (once even piercing her face and donning some lekker techno gear): pop singer Wendy Oldfield.
Culture Diss of the Year
Runners-up in this highly prized category are:
* Visiting film-maker Mira Nair on Cape Town: “It pretends to be the Riviera ... even the vegetation is imported. It is not itself ... “
* Journalist Jani Allan on right-wing leader Eugene Terre’Blanche in a lead story in the Cape Times: “He is a political Tyrannosaurus Rex ... a henpecked husband who has to remove his boots before he is allowed to enter his wife’s pristine kitchen; a narcissist who carries a can of Fiesta hairspray in the pocket of his safari suit ... “
* Although it’s difficult to out-bitch Allan, it’s not impossible. Our unanimous winner is Western Cape cricket boss Percy Sonn who, in a fit of pique at non-South African sports commentators working in the country, lashed out at Martin Locke with his now famous line: “Just fuck off back to Rhodesia!”
Of course, while we’re extremely accomplished, bitching is not the sole preserve of South Africans. Here follow our three top international bitches of the year:
* “He is an ignorant, pompous, semi-literate unperson.” Novelist Salman Rushdie on fellow writer John le Carr=E9
* “Censors tend to do what only psychotics do ... they confuse reality with illusion.” Film-maker David Cronenberg on the renewed British banning of his film Crash this year
* “Fuck off.” Rock legend Patti Smith to U2’s Bono after he gushed about her when handing her a lifetime music achievement award at the Q Awards this year. Having said this she took the statue and returned to her seat.
Limelight Hog of the Year 1997
Although Athol Fugard was a candidate for this award for his play The Captain’s Tiger (he wrote and directed it and then played himself as a 20-year-old recalling his time on some old barge up some old river for several hours) it is with a sigh of relief that we give this coveted award to pop star Brenda Fassie. Relief, because Fassie made 1997 the year of her comeback, proving a true limelight hog by making several surprise appearances at concerts, where she pushed her way to the microphone to tell the audience of her new album. She upstaged Rebecca Malope at the Miss Soweto pageant; crashed the annual Jazz on the Lake bash and whipped up the crowds at Mzwakhe Mbuli’s bail hearing.
The Mail & Guardian Aluta Continua Award
To Ma Miriam Makeba for continuing to sing as the beer bottles thrown by drunken yobs rained down on stage at the annual Klein Karroo Arts Festival. Apparently they didn’t enjoy African music. We’d like to see how they get along at a Soweto street bash ... Runner-up is Cape Town artist and poet Jimmi Matthews, who this year resorted to having to sue the police for the return of his “subversive” work that was confiscated in the Eighties and never given back. Not yet Uhuru ...
Media Balls-ups of the Year
There can be no winner in a category as shameful as this:
* The M&G reported how colleagues of Professor Sam Nolutshungu, the United States academic tipped for the top job at Wits, did not believe Nolutshungu pulled out of the job for health reasons. Some said he had used the Wits job for a better post at Rochester University. Nolutshungu died of a rare cancer a few months later.
* On the day of the Gauteng ANC chair election, The Sunday Pravda, ag we mean Independent, enthusiastically plugged Frank Chikane as the man most likely to succeed Tokyo Sexwale. Matole Motshekga was elected in a landslide victory that day.
* e’Vibe music magazine ran a flashy interview with Brenda Fassie, but omitted to inform its readers that it had lifted the article from a Time magazine interview with Madonna—except for taking the trouble to switch Madonna’s name with that of Fassie.
* “Boom Shaka Riot” screamed the Sunday Times headline above a story of a riot at a concert held by the band in KwaZulu Natal. Sure there was a riot, but unfortunately, the band had not performed there.
The Smell of Coffee Award for 1897
Some things never change, even when they’ve changed. The “new” SABC was the source of much amusement this year when a video for the song Understand Where I’m Coming from by hip-hop stars Prophets of da City won a major award at the Cannes Midem music awards. Back home it was revealed that it was still banned from broadcast at the SABC for political reasons. When threatened with exposure, the SABC bosses hastily unbanned it.
The Mail & Guardian’s 1997 Award for Fiction
Another award just too close to find a single winner. Congratulations to:
* Katiza Cebekhulu
* Mzwakhe Mbuli
* The Olympics bid
The Mail & Guardian’s Special Transformation Award
* Runner-up in this category: The SABC news
* Winner: Talk host Felicia Mabusa-Suttle, of course, and the storm in a c-cup that greeted her recent cosmetic surgery.
Conspiracy Theory of the Year
To the 1997 Johannesburg Biennale for spreading the rumour that some of that was art.
Best Actress in a Dramatic Role 1997
The Omigod I didn’t Know They Were Still Alive Award
To the band Toto, who shocked everyone and pitched up for a tour of South Africa in 1997.
Pretentious Twat of the Year
It used to be the plain, old-fashioned Rosebank Mall Cinema, but no, that’s not good enough for those faggy, arty types who show high kuns of the European variety. They just couldn’t help themselves, could they. In a fit of pretension those in the know at Ster-Kinekor changed the cinema’s name to the retch-inducing Cinema Nouveau. Say it to yourself slowly once or twice. Cinema Nooouveau ...
The 1997 I Found Jesus and Lost my Mind Award
At around about the same time as he was out allegedly robbing banks, people’s poet Mzwakhe Mbuli was also doing time in the studio, recording a gospel album. Unlike Mbuli, we really are at a loss for words. He is currently doing time in Pretoria Central.
The Rewriting History Award
Where would we be without the SABC? They almost stole this one as well, for their astonishingly selective version of the truth in their 1997 book The Voice The Vision, which outlines the history of the corporation. They decided to skip the propaganda bit and instead focus on how they brought us the first ever outside broadcast in Africa, etc ...
The winner is the Lesedi Cultural Village in the Magaliesberg, exposed in the M&G this year for its amazing publicity stunt of having traditional Pedi villagers prance around wearing Scottish kilts. German tourists almost wet themselves when told of how the tartan was given to the tribe as part of a peace pact after the 1878 war against the British. Rot and nonsense say historians, but a charming little fireside tale nonetheless.
Special Medal for Bravery
Awarded to an artist who has shown courage above and beyond the call of duty:
Our hearts go out to our joint winners of this award: Michael Jackson and model-turned-actress Charlize Theron. Theron has recently spoken out from Hollywood about how she had to leave South Africa because she knew she wouldn’t get a job because the black people are getting all the jobs. Poor brave baby, it’s tough being a famous millionaire beauty. And Michael Jackson, hell, what fortitude, what strength. His concert HIStory that toured the country featured a potted history of his life and work. It was reminiscent of a lavish memorial service as he sobbed much of the way through and made us realise how we nearly sank him, how martyred he has been—second only to Diana, princess of wails, he said.
Fashion Criminal of the Year
Although Dali Tambo, the Simunye promotional adverts and TV presenter Angie Botoulas in a blond wig were all strong contenders for this category, the award goes to the young designer of the huge and deeply icky apple core at this year’s Smirnoff fashion awards around the theme of decadence. If this is the future of South African fashion, then best we all make like David Vlok ...
The is that the Press in Your Pocket or are You Just Pleased to See Me Award (for wanton media manipulation)
There can be only one: TV personality Saira Essa, who flew some 50 members of the media to India for a fortnight to witness her dream wedding—and write about it and do fashion spreads in magazines about=20it and make whole TV shows about it and ...
The Golden Duck Award for Speechwriter of the Year
To Prof CRM Dlamini, rector/vice-chancellor, University of Zululand, who said: “I have a dream ... A few years ago I said we need to raise an endowment fund. It shall be done. It is my dream that this endowment fund should be the biggest of all the universities in this country. While others will be struggling, and even collapsing, it shall stand firm and unshakeable. Whatever politicians may think, whatever cynics may plot, this is the university of the future. Wise men and women shall come to see this dream come true. They shall marvel at the ugly duckling that has blossomed into a huge and attractive duck.