Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Israel Apartheid Week

Last week was Israel Apartheid Week. It was the 6th consecutive year that this event has been held in cities and universities throughout the world. The aim of the event is to educate people about the nature of Israel as an apartheid system and to gather support for the growing global BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaigns. This is achieved by a series of lectures, films and events co-ordinated in various cities during the event. Last year official IAW events took place in more than 40 cities across the globe including cities like New York, Adelaide, Brussels, Geneva and all major South African cities as would be expected. Who better than us (South Africans) to identify and rise up against an apartheid regime. The BDS campaign is something that we should be very familiar with considering its similarity to the very effective global campaign that helped bring about an end to Apartheid here in South Africa.

Earlier this year, the British electronic group, “Faithless”, whilst on tour in South Africa and promoting their concerts often took the time to discuss why they refuse to play in Israel. I found this so refreshing because for a change, Israel and their illegal occupation of Palestinian territories, was being criticised by members of the 'in-crowd', not the usual leftist parties or muslim clerics. Guitarist Dave Randall, in an interview with the Mail and Guardian was quoted as saying that cultural boycotts have distinct advantages over economic boycotts because it is rather difficult for an economic boycott to have an impact when the government in question receives $3 billion annually in aid. “The advantage of a cultural boycott is that people are really interested in whether or not Faithless went to Israel – and why.”
 UK Dance Act 'Faithless' (source:

He went on to say that, “ Musicians and artists are afforded a platform where we can talk about our views. When we are granted this platform, we have a responsibility to expose what's going on in the world and suggest ways to change it.” Advice and comments like this must just whizz over the heads of local music stalwarts Ladysmith Black Mambaso who, even after intense criticism from Pro Palistinian activists, the ANC and Cosatu, have agreed to perform at a concert in Tel Aviv in June this year. The ANC should be careful of falling glass as the house crumbles around them. They are known to publicly criticise the Israeli occupation of Palestine but also to welcome members of the Israeli government and trade delegations.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo's founder member, Alfred Mazibuko has said that the group are determined to perform despite the intense criticism. He then went on to say that, “ We went there (Palestine) in 2007 and we sang songs about peace and unity. We will do the same when we go there again.” I think Alfred fails to understand that there is a worldwide campaign calling for a cultural boycott of Israel and that by performing there you are sending the signal that everything is normal and should continue as is. It comes as no surprise that Ladysmith Black Mambazo don't get it (cultural boycotts, that is) because they did not seem to get it in 1986 even when they performed on stage with Paul Simon in his sanctions busting tour of South Africa.

Leaving the shame aside, I must confess that I am extremely proud of our academic institutions and the way they have risen to the challenge of fighting against apartheid. I will continue to support the BDS campaign in any way I can and I urge you to do the same. For more information on Israeli Apartheid Week,  please visit 

Maybe next year I will remind people about Israel Apartheid Week, a week before the event, rather than a week after :)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Time of the Writer - 2011

I wrote an article for Durban Live on the upcoming Time of the Writer festival and it may be viewed in edited form here

Readers of my blog should however have the opportunity to view my article in it's unedited form. The editor removed references that were not related to the event itself and shortened it. She unfortunately removed all the funny bits in the process but it is her duty as editor to keep the content consistent with the site and I acknowledge that.
My article in it's unedited (funnier and slightly longer form)
(Image courtesy of Centre for Creative Arts - UKZN)

For many, March brings with it the much awaited and very publicised Top Gear Festival which is to be held outdoors at the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit. It promises, as it does every year, a once in a lifetime motoring experience but allow me the opportunity to save some Durbanites the hassle and inconvenience of a trip to Gauteng, only to have Jeremy Clarkson confirm that the best car in any competition would be the British one or at the very least, one that was designed by a Brit. My advice, stay in Durban, because from March 14th to 19th the South African literary world, together with other intellectual giants from around the world, will gather in our backyard for the 14th Annual Time of the Writer festival.

The Centre for Creative Arts (University of KwaZulu Natal) have over the last few years transformed this event into not just a literary event, but one that celebrates our very freedom of expression, which ironically is the theme of this years festival. With 21 prominent writers from 12 different countries on the programme discussing their books, the creative process and the context in which they write, this years festival promises a literary dialogue and debate that would be both captivating and insightful.

An evening programme will be hosted nightly at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre throughout the festival and this will begin with a book launch and some live music which will be followed by a double-bill reading and subsequent panel discussion. Amongst the themes to be discussed at this years festival is “Writing Resistance” and “The Pen as a Weapon Against War”. These evening functions are complemented by daily workshops covering topics ranging from 'what it takes to create successful online journals and communities' to a 2 hour 'creative writing workshop' at the BAT Centre on Saturday the 19th of March.

“Opening Night” on the 14th March 2011 promises to be the highlight of this years festival with the keynote address to be given by recently retired constitutional court judge and lifelong activist, Justice Albie Sachs. The address is titled “Free Spirit and Ravaged Souls – tension at the heart of freedom of expression”. Fresh from the success of receiving the 2010 Alan Paton literary award for his book “The Strange Alchemy of Life and Law” and as one of the architects of our constitution, his opinions on where we now find ourselves as a nation, dealing with freedom of expression, will be much anticipated.

My advice to Durbanites. Feed your mind this March at the Time of the Writer Festival. Then travel up to Johannesburg the following weekend (27 March 2010) and feed your soul at the Kings of Leon Concert.

For a full programme and details visit 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Modern Parenting; Are we too involved?

True life confession. I am in perpetual angst when my daughter is playing with other children (especially when I perceive them to be rougher) at parties, on jungle gyms, jumping castles and most especially trampolines. Although away from the action I am near enough to keep a vigilant eye on any misbalance, fall or push that may require my swift involvement to prevent either severe injury or tears. I anticipate the response from most people to be along the lines of, ' let children be children' or 'only when they fall will they ever learn'. I reluctantly agree with those sentiments hence I don't ever stop her form playing unless I deem it to be too dangerous. Case in point. At a recent party, Siddiqa and a friend climbed to the top of a 2m high jumping castle and sat precariously atop it whilst other children bounced around inside. Had she fallen, the wrong way, she would have hit the ground awkwardly and after a near slip, I went up to them and asked them to play someplace else as it was dangerous to sit there. They complied unquestioningly (rare, I know) unaware of the danger that they had been in.

That experience had got me thinking. Why was it that I do not recall my parents having the same problems? One possible answer is that they did not love me but my sister assures me that I am #1 in their eyes. The reason was simple. My parents, like most of their generation, were not constantly at my side as I was growing up. They never accompanied me to birthday parties, played with me in the park or took me on play dates. They never insisted I wear a helmet when I rode my bicycle (although they did try and restrict where I was allowed to ride), never knew and hence stopped me from climbing trees or playing in the bush. Unfortunately I understand that times have changed and that the world is not as safe as it used to be, but I just wanted to share my realisation with you. I have no solution or advice otherwise I would not be spending my Saturday mornings deciding whether it would be quicker to clamber over the poolnet or leap over the potplants to get to my daughter if she needs me. 

On the topic of parenting, I also believe that all the newsletters, books and TV shows that claim to have all the answers have , in a way, set us up for failure. We take in all this advice and research and begin to believe that somebody out there has the solution. I think we need to cut our children some slack. Tonight my daughter slept 2 hours later than expected (hence I am still blogging at 1 am) and initially I found myself getting upset with her. Why was she misbehaving? Why does she not just sleep? The truth was that she was not misbeving and I was glad that I made that realisation. She just slept in bed and tried to close her eyes but could not sleep. If anything, she probably inherited that from me. Kids are kids and 'misbehavior' every now and again should not be a sign to involve a child psychologist or start searching the internet on' how to raise a respectful child'. Don't stop following the research or reading books on parenting. It is egotistical to think that we inherently have all the answers. The point I am trying to make is that even if you follow all the 'right' advice, your child could still have a bad day every now and again. Accept it, and move on. As parents, we need to differentiate between those incidents and a recurring problem. 

My favourite parenting books btw are;

Raising an amazing child: The Montesorri way
The Science of Parenting, and
Playful Parenting

I found that the concepts introduced in these books appealed to my daughter. It may not appeal to your child but I assure you that there is an author out there who has ideas on how to better raise your child.