Category Archives: Africa

The Unbearable Whiteness Of Being (Part I)

FACT: All Asian Americans are Asian by definition, but not all Asians are Asian Americans. The truth is that most Asians aren’t. While they may share an ethnic heritage, as well as many cultural similarities, Asian people who were born and raised in and reside in an Asian country have vastly different wants and needs and priorities than those who were born and raised in and reside in North America [and other non-Asian countries].

I wanted to start out with that quote for two reasons.

First, because it’s stolen from my co-writer’s post last Friday, which was a really good post you should read.

Second, because I think it does a good job of establishing the complicated and sometimes uncomfortable nuance that goes into addressing identity politics. Which is what we’re going to be talking about today and in the weeks to follow.

More specifically, we’re gonna be talking about White people.

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We’ll probably cover my use of this specific gif sometime later…

Before we dive in, I just wanna make something clear.

Race is a social construct – a series of categories that we’ve made up and ones we’ve made up only very recently in the scope of history. The fact of the matter is that there’s no actual place you can draw a dividing line when it comes to human beings and there’s no good reason you’d want to.

Not that it’s ever stopped us.

For better or worse, we have divided the world up into so many arbitrary categories, and those divisions have played and continue to play a major role in today’s culture. In spite of what some folks might suggest, ignoring racism doesn’t make it go away, and if we want to end the unspeakable hassle that is identity politics, we’re going to need to start by actually addressing them.

And here at Culture War Reporters, I think we’ve done a decent job. Continue reading

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Overwatch‘s Doomfist, Terry Crews, and Fan Culture

This blog isn’t even supposed to be back on until next week but you know what they say: strike while the iron’s hot. For some of you at least the first two parts of this title have been flitting back and forth across the internet. “Terry Crews!” whispers one corner excitedly, “wants to play Doomfist!” murmurs another. Because of my search history and their All Seeing Eye Facebook even brought to my attention that thousands of their users were discussing that very subject.

So here I am on a Saturday morning, sitting in front of my laptop determined to bring you literally every piece of information I can find about Terry Crews, Overwatch, and the yet-to-be-released hero Doomfist. Oh, and I’m also going to discussing fan culture so if you want to stick around for that as well that’d be cool.

Who Is Doomfist?

So before I even get into that you should know that Overwatch is a team-based multiplayer FPS [first-person shooter] by Blizzard Entertainment that has a lot of playable female characters [and has been snapping up awards like they’re a limited resource]. Doomfist, as I mentioned in the last paragraph, is predicted to be the newest hero in the game, bringing the roster up to a full 24.

That character has also been hinted at as early as the Overwatch cinematic trailer, which came out November 2014. That’s roughly nine months before the ill-fated ARG [alternate reality game] that Blizzard used to hint at and lead up to the release of Sombra, their 23rd hero.

If you don’t want to watch the whole thing, which is ridiculous because it’s only six minutes long and painfully good, the trailer revolves around two kids witnessing a villainous duo [Reaper and Widowmaker] try to steal an artifact only to be thwarted by ex-Overwatch agents [Tracer and Winston]. The item in question is, like the younger one says, “Doomfist’s gauntlet”. Apparently by wearing it the user “could level a skyscraper.” Continue reading

Free State of Mind: Andrew Govender Discusses Acting, Tradition, and Religion

Free-State-Updated-PosterThis is the third and final installment of “Free State of Mind”, a series of Q&As with the cast and crew of a South African film currently making the rounds at film festivals. You can read my review here, find out more about its creation from producer Terwadkar Rajiv here, and get some insight on how co-lead Nicola Breytenbach’s prepared for her role here.

Today’s interview is with Andrew Govender, who plays Ravi, the other half of the couple at Free State‘s core. Another former model like his co-star, he began his career at just sixteen-years-old. Being crowned Mr. South Africa in 2012 is only one of his many achievements, which include creating the Andrew Govender Book Club with the Nelson Mandela Foundation and being involved in various awareness campaigns.

Given that their characters share a few interesting parallels Govender answers a number of the same questions that Breytenbach did, with a few that are unique to Ravi himself.


An arranged marriage is the biggest barrier that Ravi faces in his relationship with Jeanette. How would you say he views that tradition and what it means for his future?

I think he respects it and accepts it. He was brought up in a traditional Indian family and those are Indian traditions. However, when he gets to meet his arranged wife he realises that he doesn’t have much in common with her. That’s when he meets Jeanette and falls madly in love. He knows that he shouldn’t be pursuing a relationship with her because it’s illegal during that time for inter-racial relationships. However, he can’t help himself and that results in detrimental consequences.

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Ravi makes it clear that he’s concerned about his sister’s safety, but what does he ultimately think about what his family does under cover of darkness?

He understands that they are doing it for a greater cause and he respects that. However, he does care deeply for them and doesn’t want anything to happen to them when they go on these missions. He’s close to his family and wants to protect them.

From what I can tell this is your first role in a feature film. How was that experience, especially with it being a South African production instead of a big Hollywood movie?

It was an incredible experience. I got the opportunity to work with some really talented South African actors. I learnt a lot by being on set and having these actors mentor me throughout the filming process.

Our director Sallas de Jager was also really supportive and helped me to give the best performance I could. Even though this was a South African film, the production standards on the movie were really high. That can be attested to with all the international awards that the movie has won. I really hope that I will have the opportunity to work on more films both in South Africa and Hollywood. Acting is really something that I enjoy immensely.

How much did you know about South Africa’s Immorality Acts before signing on to this film?

Not a lot. I grew up post Apartheid, so most of what I knew was from what I heard, not what I could have experienced. It was quite eyeopening to learn more about that time in South Africa’s history and how Indian people were treated. I gathered as much information as I could from my parents about their experiences during that time. I also was really fortunate that my acting teacher had been in an inter-racial relationship and she was able to help me understand my character better.

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Religion plays a large part in Free State for both Ravi and Jeanette’s families. Did you come from a religious background, and did this have any affect on how you played the role?

Yes, I did. I grew up in a conservative traditional Indian family so religion was important to us. My character was also brought up with the same core values and so religion would have been important to him too. There’s a scene in the movie where my character meditates and also seeks relationship advice from a guru. So we are aware that he relies on religion to guide him in the choices that he makes.

Free State of Mind: Actress Nicola Breytenbach on Getting in Character

Free-State-Updated-PosterThis is the second installment of “Free State of Mind”, a series of Q&As with the cast and crew of a South African film currently making the rounds at film festivals. You can read my review here, and find out more about its creation from producer Terwadkar Rajiv here.

Today’s interview is with Nicola Breytenbach, who plays Jeanette, one of the two romantic leads. While she has spent the past several years as a successful model, with her career taking her to runways across the world, Free State marks the beginning of her acting career. Just last month The Blue Mauritius began filming in Montreal, with the US and German co-production being her second ever silver screen role.


Jeanette is first introduced returning home to her father after finishing law school. While it isn’t heavily covered in the film, what kind of impact do you think that education had on how she views life, especially after she meets with Ravi [co-lead and love interest]? 

As Jeanette went to Wits University, which was a more liberal university than many others, it would have changed the way she viewed and felt about apartheid and the immorality act. She pursued higher education as it was instilled upon her by Maria and her father, but her true desire was to be a wife and mother.

Jeanette was raised in the very small remote town of Memel and even though it was a Christian white community it was very sheltered, and as she says in the beginning of the film that’s why she was a real ‘political innocent’. She wasn’t exposed to the reality of it much, except for a few remote incidents which completely shocked her. As her mother also passed away at such a young age and her father had a difficult time reaching out to her because of his grief, she was raised almost solely by Maria who is black South African Zulu.

Hence when she met Ravi, she didn’t think about his race and it didn’t deter her from seeing a friendly man who went out of his way to help her in this traumatic incident of a near accident. She only saw his compassion and how selflessly he had helped her. As time goes on, they both come to the realize the severity of the situation they are in, as well as the fact that they are engaged to others, but at this point it is too late, they have already fallen in love. Continue reading

Free State of Mind: Behind the Scenes with Producer Terwadkar Rajiv

Free-State-Updated-PosterLast month I was offered the amazing opportunity to watch a screener of Free State, and published my review at the beginning of this one. Set in mid-70s South Africa the film revolves around an interracial relationship that would have been illegal due to anti-miscegenation laws of that time.

In addition to that I was also able to interview members of the cast and crew via email, with consequent installments of “Free State of Mind” being released in the following days. Up first is a Q&A with Terwadkar Rajiv, who produced the film alongside Piet De Jager and Sallas De Jager.


When many people think of South Africa and racism their minds immediately go to Nelson Mandela and apartheid. What do you think their reaction will be to Free State, which focuses on relations between White people and South Asians, instead of Black people?

Apartheid was one of the dark patches of South Africa, no doubt about that! When South Africa got independence and Nelson Mandela became the President most of the people were thinking – what will be the future of South Africa? Will whites be kicked out of the country? The way things happened clearly shows that all ethnic groups started living towards one nation, South Africa!

Although there are stories during Apartheid where Indians and blacks were tortured, beaten up or even killed by the Police or Army; some whites used to treat Indians & Blacks respectfully! There are so many stories from Apartheid which prove that inter-racial relationships and friendships existed before 1994.

­Free State is a film which focuses on the relationship between Jeanette (Afrikaans White Girl) and Ravi (Handsome Indian man). This also beautifully shows the motherly relationship between Zulu maid Maria and Jeanette, who she raised as her own daughter, ­­making it truly cross cultural and crossing ethnic boundaries. Continue reading

Free State: A Film Review

Free-State-Updated-PosterA film covering “a pair of star-cross’d lovers” is certainly nothing new, and for centuries creators have strived to honour the trope by putting their own distinct spin on it. As a film by South Africans set in their very own country Free State sets itself apart from the crowd at its outset, in particular because it neglects the assumed Black and White mixed couple [and all of the baggage that comes with it] in favour of an Afrikaans woman and an Indian man.

Jeanette, South African model Nicola Breytenbach’s first role, is a law student in the mid-70s returning home to Memel and her father. Ravi, played by Andrew Govender, another model, is a man whose family is currently working out the specifics of his upcoming arranged marriage.

The reason they can never be together is spelled out in the first few minutes of the film in which Jeanette, describing her childhood, relates the story of a man arrested for being Indian in the Free State province after dark. She also shares the details of South Africa’s Immorality Acts that she learned about while in school, which explicitly prohibit sexual intercourse between White and non-White people. It’s racism, plain and simple, and while not the freshest romantic deterrent it’s nonetheless framed in way most viewers won’t be familiar with. Continue reading

Why I Can’t Wait to be a Teacher

John and I recently found out we were accepted into the education program we’d applied to. I wasn’t exactly surprised that we were accepted (since we both have a great deal of experience working with kids), but I was surprised at just how ecstatic the news made me. Maybe I’m feeling motivated by my student loans, since they’ve just been there, looming. Maybe I’m just excited to move beyond the academic world of writing essays for affirmation. Then again, maybe I’m just excited to start a job that I love doing.

As I head towards my new career I feel a little torn by the stigma the profession carries. Here in Canada, many people accuse teachers of being overpaid for a job they don’t consider very difficult. Then there are the teachers who have worked for years only to be burned up and spit out by the system they dedicated their lives to. Some of them have asked me if this is really the route I think is best. There’s also the general sentiment that “those who can’t do, teach,” so despite my own excitement over my career path, I often feel the need to defend my choice or explain that “I might explore other options later.” Not to mention that, as a woman, it feels like I’m giving in to that traditional cliche of finding the kind of job that people can classify as “women’s work”.

Yet in spite of all the ideas about teaching that I’ve internalized, or at least had thrown my way, I keep feeling drawn back towards the profession. Finally, I’ve allowed myself to recognize what an amazing and rewarding career path it is. Don’t believe me? Well, let me explain.

You get to be creative

Last summer I got a job running a kids’ program at the local library. My role consisted of reading books to kids, encouraging them to read at home, and doing a few crafts with them. Basically I was babysitting them for an hour so that their parents could have a break.

While I knew I would enjoy entertaining the kids and reading children’s books (who doesn’t love reading children’s books?), I had no idea I would become obsessed with crafting and building forts. After a year of focusing my attention on a computer screen, I was suddenly able to make stuff by hand. It was bizarrely exhilarating.

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A few things I made out of old fridge boxes for the kids to play in. The Minecraft creeper is a little worse for wear, but that’s because the kids were throwing beanbags into his eyes and mouth. The fishing poles that the kids would drop into the fishing pond also became thoroughly destroyed.

Continue reading