Cul­ture scandal of the year

CityPress - - Trending - – Charl Blig­naut

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.

HLAUDI MOT­SOE­NENG

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