Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Why I named my new scooter Shaka

I don’t know how you and yours got down, but when I came up we had copies of the ANC papers framed on the walls. I was told to tell my third grade teacher that I couldn’t salute the flag until the U.S.A. divested all investments from south Africa. I was raised to think of South Africans as a homogeneous rebel fighting group that was in constant struggle with the reality and concept of Apartheid. This kid I knew, with a family like mine, named his favorite pitbull Shaka. I don’t know about you all, but I grew up with South Africa on the mind.
That, in part, is what motivated me to pick up Red on Black: The story of the South African poster movement. The other part was that I wanted to go around putting up posters, reminiscent of those Apartheid posters but with a more contemporary feel. I wanted to show people what happens when the art and the message are devoid of the quest for profit but instead focused on expressing a vitally important point.

And it was in this deeply insightful, artistically focused place that I decided to watch, what is for me the ultimate movie about South Africa, Shaka Zulu.
If you were alive in the 80’s don’t act like you didn’t watch every single episode of Shaka Zulu. Unless you were one of those prep for prep kids or something. Shaka Zulu, as a tv watching experience was AWESOME! For my adolescent boy self. First and foremost, with a nod to Martha Warfield, there were titties everywhere! I mean, I honestly don’t understand how it was shown on network tv, but there were African titties and nipples and sex and everything. And it was just out there. I mentioned Marsha Warfield because she has this awesome joke that goes alone lines of “How come when white women show their breasts its pornography, but when black women show their breasts in anthropology?” All I can say is God bless Anthropology!

But aside from that, you’ve got this dude Shaka coming through like a straight savage. I mean before Braveheart, before revisions of everyone from Christopher Columbus to Caesar, there was presented, for popular enjoyment, an extremely buff dark skinned military captain who wasn’t afraid to fuck with white people. Hell Shaka wasn’t afraid of anything. Plus he had that voice; it never rushed and was never loud, only powerful and slow. I know that the tv series has issues and it was generated in part to help keep Zulus from joining with other tribes during apartheid, and I know that the story doesn’t accurately portray what the Zulu kings life was really like, but as a piece of tele-visual drama, it was a narrative that a dark skinned black boy like myself could get into. As I look around at the media landscape I find less and less material that speaks to me on that Shaka Level. All this to say, I bought a scooter. And his name is Shaka. Don’t trip, my car’s name is Puttanesca.

As for the posters…Well I’m not a visual artist. I’m a writer. So over the summer I’ll be posting podcasts of a previously unpublished book here. Maybe it will change the world. Maybe people will just like it. We’ll see.


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