Culture scandal of the year
There’s never a dull moment in South African culture. We know this from how hotly contested this category is every year. Our finalists rose between the fire of decolonisation sweeping the country’s campuses and cultural institutions, the horrible truth of the alleged corruption of the country’s radio and TV stations over at the public broadcaster, and the pervasive stench of toxic masculinity in the cultural space. This isn’t pretty stuff and no petty plagiarism, ranting rapper or Black Coffee klap even made the shortlist. And no, we’re not going to dwell on the over-hyped love lives of Bonang, DJ Zinhle and AKA. There are more serious issues out there, such as rapper Okmalumkoolkat, who admitted he was guilty of indecent assault in an Australian court; photographer Sipho Mpongo, found guilty of sexual assault by the University of Cape Town; and actor Tumisho Masha, arrested and charged with assaulting his wife, who continue to be celebrated in the cultural space.
City Press was at the heart of reporting on the three cultural scandals that are vying for our award this year.
The first was initiated when our art critic covered an exhibition called Black Modernisms in South Africa (1940 to 1990) and questioned why white curators continue to control the presentation of black art histories. Letters, radio shows and public debates ensued around the crucial subject. But it’s the Durban International Film Festival that comes in second. Programmers at the festival resigned after the University of KwaZuluNatal’s Cheryl Potgieter – later removed from the job – reportedly interfered with the selection of the opening-night film. She opted to allow Shepherds and Butchers the honour after a complaint from the film’s producers when they weren’t given the slot. The debate around editorial independence of festival selection committees was further fanned when the new festival organiser chose a documentary titled The Journeymen to open the festival instead. Starring Mpongo, it led to an awkward opening night, to say the least. Mpongo, who apologised for his behaviour on campus, later took to Facebook to threaten our writer who exposed him.
But there can be only one winner, and that’s the once proud cultural institution that is the public broadcaster under the iron fist of Hlaudi Motsoeneng. As accusation after accusation was made against him, he has racked up more scandalous headlines and court cases than all the other contenders this year combined.
He’s also hijacked more funerals and called more press conferences than anyone else. And his repeated use of his favourite word to describe the noise made by his critics has earned him a second nod.