On our Lists this week: The leaving town blues, Barney Desai, and Cray Mahalia

'Born into Struggle' is a touching reminder of how the personal and political are so inextricably linked, and how naive perceptions of what life in exile is really like.

'Born into Struggle' is a touching reminder of how the personal and political are so inextricably linked, and how naive perceptions of what life in exile is really like.

THE READING LIST

Honeydew’s Carnival Fever by Cray Mahalia Francis: I can’t remember where I was with the child when we came across a billboard or some type of advert with the word “Antigua” written in capitals across it. He pointed it out. “Antigua”.
“Yes, Antigua, like Honeydew,” I said. Honeydew in this case is not the suburb in northern Johannesburg but a character in Honeydew’s Carnival Fever, a children’s book by American-based teacher Cray Mahalia Francis. Although the intention was to get the kid to read it to me in its entirety, getting him to voluntarily read on his own is still a challenge. So we have been swapping, going page-for-page, a chapter at a time. Pausing over a line of dialogue once, he asked me what a “picannie” was. I paused for a second, unsure how to explain reclaimed racial slurs to a six-year-old. (KS)

THE PLAY LIST

Comedy Central presents Drunk History: A few months ago, I was put on to this Comedy Central series. I have been binge-watching, learning and laughing ever since. Here, famous events in American history are re-enacted in slurs by storytellers who have had one too many drinks. What makes it so great is that the complexities of the stories are stripped away, because the drunken narrators can’t help but keep it simple and casual. (ZH)

Born into Struggle: I spent some time with Rehad and Zivia Desai at the Durban International Film Festival this week and I got to learn about their family history in exile in small conversations between sessions. I’m now watching the 52-minute documentary on the family’s story. I had never heard of political activist Barney Desai and his family’s exiled lives in Britain. It’s a touching reminder of how the personal and political are so inextricably linked, and how naive perceptions of what life in exile is really like. The film is on YouTube. (MB)

The leaving town blues: As a goduka myself, I’m into the leaving town blues, as expressed in Hendrix’s Hear My Train A Comin’ or Raphael Saadiq’s Uptown. I’m also into the “big city is killing me blues” (because it is), as sung by Gary Clark Jnr in Bright Lights or Gil Scott-Heron in NY is Killing Me. One I’ve been avoiding for a while is probably the most potent. In Gladys Knight and the Pips’s Midnight Train to Georgia, something subtle happens as the song gathers momentum. The vocal arrangements and Knight’s slightly crescendoing fervour combine in syncopated ecstasy to create a sonic equivalent of that filmic trope of the train pulling out of the station. (KS)

The Lists were compiled by Milisuthando Bongela, Kwanele Sosibo and Zaza Hlalethwa