Cry the beloved country

VANESSA SMEETS

“Educating the mind without educating the heart, is no education at all,” Aristotle.

It has taken months to find the energy or a story worth writing, but watching these students burn, destroy and steal has ravished my soul…

Don’t get me wrong, the “born-frees” of South Africa have the right to be angry. They are experiencing high-cost of living like no one before. A loaf of bread is R15, a two-litre bottle of milk is R30, rent on average is R5 000 for a one-bedroom flat near campus, a BA degree is about R20 000 with registration fees soaring at R5 000 – R15 000, depending on you being a citizen or not.

However, is burning the varsities a solution? No.
There will be no education there tomorrow.

Is looting shops nearby a solution? No.
No one will take your cause seriously anymore.

Is using violence, beating policemen with bricks, the answer? No.
They will not protect you at your most vulnerable.

There’s a dark cloud above the youth of today. It disguises itself as honour and pride. They believe it is better to fight, than just survive.

While last year’s “Fees Must Fall” seemed noble, with students gathering around campus in unity, this year’s cause is dampened with innocent blood and soiled ideals. As predicted, the fight last year was quickly “shut up,” only to rise again this year as an angrier, more vicious corpse. The people of South Africa were given, as usual, temporary solutions to a major issue – to satisfy that moment, to kill that immediate need. Meanwhile, the solution infected other areas – varsities are going bankrupt, lecturers are not being paid on time.

“They can afford it!” the students scream, their shields made of mattresses and ironing boards high in the air. Their anger is sadly aimed in the wrong direction – the government’s expenditure that needs to be reprimanded, not the educators…

Varsities have not been able to continue with exam season.
Students are failing, as they are too afraid to come to class or be threatened on campus.

South Africa’s “rainbow nation” has continued to fade, suffocated by smoke, empty promises and an uncertain dawn.

Can we raise our children in a country where the only answer seems to be destruction?You want his car? Shoot him.
You want her to feel your power? Rape her.
You want that baby? Kidnap it.
You want free education? Burn it all.

Cry for our beloved country.
Cry on this thirsty land that craves for manna in all her forms – rain, money or change.

Powerful photographs by Lee-Roy Jason Photography.

South Africa goes gaga over Gaga!

VANESSA SMEETS

Despite a staunch stand by South Africa’s Council of Churches labeling her “a satanist” and “bad influence on our youth” as well as a whiplash by SANEF (South Africa National Editors’ Forum) for her refusal to have any media at her Born This Way Ball, Lady Gaga performed for an incredible two hours at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on Friday night.

Gaga_stadium inside

JOBURG MAGIC: The FNB Stadium slowly starts to fill up with Lady Gaga’s fans. PIC: Vanessa Smeets

However, the stadium stood quite empty in comparison to Linkin Park, a few weeks ago. Many fans arrived later, missing out on the opening acts by Lady Starlight (Gaga’s good friend) and the Darkness, best known for their hit “I believe in a thing called love.”

She made her grand entrance on a puppet horse, wearing outrageous headgear, which some rumoured was the reason for her lip-syncing for most of the performance. Another reason could be the incredible stamina and moves she had to display while performing, with some fans calling her the best performer since Michael Jackson.

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LA VIE EN ROSE: Gaga fans were handed free pink wigs, after doing some wine tasting before the show. PIC: Vanessa Smeets

The stage was mostly taken up by a huge castle, filled with secret rooms and detail that Lady Gaga mastered with acrobatic ease, while being decorated in chains, sequin, lace, latex, etc. It was fascinating to watch her change into at least 30 different outfits in just a few minutes at a time. No wonder she needed six vans to transport her outfits and her rumoured 200-people entourage.

Big Concerts tweeted it was by far the most expensive concert they’ve ever held. By 6pm, “Lady Gaga” and “Gaga5” were trending on Twitter, with 5FM DJs like Rob Forbes and Poppy retweeting the best outfits and pics of the stadium.

The crowd gasped as a giant ball emerged from the castle, with legs on its sides. Yes, she emerged from a two-metre vagina, as the crowd sang in unison. She sang her most famous hits: “Born this Way,” “Pokerface,” “Just Dance,” “Paparazzi,” “Telephone,” amongst others. Some fans truly believed Beyoncé would make a surprise appearance for Telephone.

Jean Esterhuizen (@jeanesterhuizen on Twitter), a Lady Gaga and Beyoncé fan and celeb-connoisseur, claimed the show outlived all expectations:

“It was beyond epic. She’s such an inspiration. She even came back to do more after the final song, as if she didn’t want to leave. We laughed. We cried.”

She also appeared in what seemed to be that infamous egg from the music awards and also hung from a butcher’s rail as a piece of meat, for another song. She both fascinated and shocked the audience with her religious motifs: she often mentioned “black Jesus,” which happened to be one of her dancers, wearing a crown of thorns and tight top, which he later tore off. She appeared between two lumo crosses for another song and spoke to the crowd of coming to South Africa on a goat.

Some Christian fans were offended by this:

“She claims she arrived on a goat, the sign of the devil in Revelations. Christians know this is a mockery, as Jesus appeared on a donkey. She insisted we say her name many times, claiming we must rejoice her coming to South Africa and adore her forever. Very weird. Maybe those Christian protesters were right after all. We love her, but we don’t need to worship her.”

Gaga_monster pit

DEDICATION: Dylan Jack (centre) and his friends camped since early morning to be part of the Monster Pit. PIC: Courtesy Dylan Jack van Vuuren

Dylan Jack van Vuuren (@dylanjack on Twitter), who queued up since early morning to be part of the Monster Pit, disagrees:

“I really enjoy the religious motifs. As someone who was an Evangelical Christian, along with the rest of the family, letting go of those unrealistic and unfounded religious expectations for yourself is the first step to being and accepting who you are.”

Read more on his blog: Just Dylan Jack

Lady Gaga made the crowd laugh with her safari tale of that morning (which, according to her tweets, looks like it may have taken place at the Lion Park), claiming she cut a hole through her hat to fit her pony-tail and wore fishnet stockings:

“I feel bad for those animals… All day they get people staring at them, I wanted them to have something to look at!”

She made the crowd cry towards the end with her powerful a capella performance, singing her “Princess Di” which she claims was inspired by her dark past of being bullied and abused:

“Some people write a diary, I write a song and keep all the pain there. Healing comes from being honest to who you are.”

She then grabbed a few fans from the Monster Pit and whisked them on stage. One fan shouted, with tears in his eyes:

“That’s what I love about her. She remains true to us. She sees us as equal to her. Yet, she’s not human or mortal… She’s a goddess!”

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ALL OUT: Lady Gaga has become a huge inspiration to the LGBTI community, fighting for equality for all. PIC: Vanessa Smeets

Lady Gaga has become an inspiration to the LGBTI community, fighting for gay rights in the army and equality for all. In South Africa, her fans seemed to be a collection of all genders, sexual identity, races and religions. You saw children as young as five standing next to drag-queens and happily married couples. Lady Gaga even remarked upon this phenomenon:

“That’s what I love about you, South Africa. We somehow speak the same language. You are all here, whatever your history or background. That means the world to me. I can’t speak South African, but I can if you want me to.”

Her “Don’t give a f*ck speech” was by far the highlight of the evening:

“It doesn’t matter whether you’re gay, bi, straight… You are born this way. Don’t give a f*ck about what people think or say about you… It doesn’t matter if your parents don’t have a seat for you at their dining table, because they can’t accept you for who you are, you will always have a seat at my table. Look around! You will have a seat at these little monsters’ tables too. What makes me so proud is watching you all grow… Some of you used to copy my style and fashion, now I watch you grow into who you are. You are finally born this way! Now, don’t give a f*ck anymore! Have an amazing evening… Go get drunk and vomit on your friends!”

Save the rhino, ink yourself!

VANESSA SMEETS

The year 2012 has already exceeded all past records in rhino poaching, with 570 rhinos killed this year alone (as of November) in South Africa, compared to 333 in 2010. The population has plummeted by 90% since the 1970s, with a rhino poached about every 16 hours. Poachers have access to vast resources and are technologically advanced, even using helicopters to track and kill them. The investigative piece done by eTV’s 3rd Degree two weeks ago showed how all members of society could be involved, even game rangers themselves.

rhino tattoo

HELP US: The proposed rhino tattoo that will be launched this Saturday in South Africa, to help save the rhino, by funding anti-poaching units and raising awareness amongst the public. PHOTO: provided

The only solution would be to guard each and every rhino individually, which would cost a lot of money in training guards, setting up night vision, purchasing horses, maintaining specialised vehicles and a helicopter.

Project Rhino describes the situation:

“When a country goes into battle they have massive war chests available to them, the war against poachers instead is reliant on an outraged public to get us our funding to take the battle directly to the poachers. We need to get serious and stay serious!”

Skintrade tattoos and “Space for Elephants” who are co-founders of “Project Rhino” have put together an initiative that will display the public’s concern and get people talking, as well as raise the funds necessary for the equipment. “Mark of the Rhino” is a permanent tattoo that will preferably be placed somewhere visible on your body, to get people talking. It will officially be launched this Saturday (1 December).

It is hoped that thousands of people will go through with this initiative, showing that rhino poaching is not an environmental problem but an EPIDEMIC.The Mark of the Rhino  will be around 6-8 centimetres. It is a silhouetted, tribal-style tattoo of a rhino, designed to represent the black, white and even Sumatran rhino, and a unique code beneath it in Roman numerals. The code will be individualised for every donor’s tattoo.

Along with the tattoo, they will also receive a certificate with their name which will also be placed on the website next to their individual number. Their own names, company’s name, or a pseudonym can be used. Companies can also buy multiple “marks” and give them out to suppliers, staff members or customers. Individuals can buy marks for family and friends and it is believed they will make great Christmas gifts: a gift that you can’t lose or break and that will make a difference in the war against poachers.

The mark will cost donors R900 and take around 10 to 15 minutes to get done and will have a lifetime guarantee. It takes around a week to heal and does not require much aftercare.

The “mark” can be purchased at any Skintrade Tattoos’ shop.They are award winning artists and have done plenty of shows and tattoo conventions, including the BMX World Championships, international tattoo conventions in South Africa, and the Sexpo show, to name but a few. They are located in Durban, Johannesburg and Cape Town, but they will also be doing roadshows around South and Southern Africa. They will be appearing at shopping malls, festivals, fairs and markets in many areas.

Addresses for these shops can be found on the website www.skintrade.co.za and details of the roadshows will be posted there too. It will be launched in the three main cities to start with and rolled out nationally, and then internationally. We have a number of celebrities that are already lining up to get their “mark” and a lot of the Project Rhino members will be at the launch getting theirs.

Project Rhino believes the war against rhino poachers can and will be won:

“A militant stance towards the poachers themselves, driven and fuelled by public funding and a trained, armed and adequately equipped crew dedicated to this very difficult task, will see the rhino population rebounding within the next few years, provided we ALL participate in the fight in one way or another.”