/ 31 October 2016

#CulturePop: Jake, Vine and the internet

Jake has become an internet sensation.
Jake has become an internet sensation.

They say the internet engendered the death of the author and broke the tradition of “the lead story” but, ironically enough, it is the agenda of imperialist white-owned media that is too often trending when I log on, alongside the bark and bite of Black Twitter granted. Storytelling has always been a loaded process. The storyteller has an agenda.

Or maybe I just have a bone to pick with the reportage of #FeesMustFall, which paints a picture of the movement as a bunch if violent students, inconsiderate of middle-class anxieties, forgetting to take pictures of cops barging into residences and firing rubber bullets at students in their rooms. Perhaps the press needs to be decolonised just as much as education does.

The drive for the government to provide free sanitary towels is growing. To lessen this burden on the girl child left out of the economy is another story that hasn’t been told enough. There is a girl as young as 15 who is put on contraception by her grandmother to halt her menstrual cycle because there simply is no money to buy her pads.

Activists and civil rights movements are hoping the president will make good on the promise he made to provide free sanitary towels during his State of the Nation Address five years ago. If only the ANC Women’s League, or Susan Shabangu, minister of women in the presidency, was even vaguely interested in helping out here. If only.

Standard Bank has announced its list of winners for the Young Artist Awards 2017. The six recognised for outstanding work in their fields include cellist Abel Selaocoe for music and bassist, composer and overall “jazzist” Benjamin Jephta for jazz. Sculptor Beth Diane Armstrong led in the visual arts category and multimedia artist and experimentalist Dineo Seshee Bopape won the award for performance art. Playwright and director Monageng “Vice” Motshabi took one for theatre, and choreographer Thandazile Radebe won the award for dance.

The Joburg Film Festival took off on Friday with the world premiere of Mandela’s Gun. In the biopic, a refreshing, proudly non-American Tumisho Masha plays Mandela and, although the portrayal is wanting in some areas, it’s historic to finally have a South African actor take on the role of the icon.

Mandela’s Gun opens us up to the untold side of his political career when, as a young revolutionary, he was tasked with building an army with no military training whatsoever.

The festival is on until November 5 with more than 50 curated global stories to tell.

The internet keeps eating itself up with the loss of another redundant social network in place of a new one. Vine became a thing of the past last Wednesday when its founders announced the mobile app will be discontinued.

A predecessor of Snapchat and Instagram Story, Vine also entailed filming and editing a short clip. In contrast, however, your Vine would live on a loop. “A six-second comedy or drama on repeat for as long as the viewer could stand it”, as it was described by Brian Raftery for Wired.

Vine was addictive in its ability to suspend time by amplifying a moment and held a sense of magic realism as a result. Tributes poured in to mark and re-mark the death of an app that was miles ahead of its time but which burned in the face of Snapchat’s endless array of filters — #RIPVine.

In the fray, however, a star was born. Although there’s been a back and forth over his real name, the boy has been named the prince of memes, the darling of social media and, finally, Jake.

The picture of the four year old, intent as ever with crayon in hand over his workbook, has been the perfect meme for every awkward moment out there for several weeks now.

There may be some missing pieces to the warm and fuzzy internet success of Jake — if we can call it that — but here’s to storytelling in the internet-age! Keeping it short, feel-good and viral.