Sit Down with an EX-Con

“Believe nothing of what you hear and only half of what you see.” – Tony (Ex-convicted criminal)

It is fascinating the way in which people hesitate to talk to someone who has been through our judicial system. It is as if their experiences must be biased or a straight out fabrication. This article aims to change that perception, at least for the man I had the pleasure to get to know. To protect his identity I have named him Tony. By remaining somewhat anonymous, we eliminate the need to think through responses just in case his answers could get back to him.  Therefore this short interview is an honest portrayal of life after and during incarceration.

Since the late 1960’s to approximately 10 years ago, Tony has served fourteen years in some form of incarceration. His first offense was stealing milk money that people would leave on their doorsteps. Tony confessed he was a young surfer, a bit of a rebel at that and wanted some money for the day. After being caught in the act, he was sent to a state-run government ‘Boys Home’ where “systematic abuse was always going on”.

“It was a bit of a fucking rude-awakening for me”. Tony, like myself when hearing about his first convicted crime, did not expect to end up at a Boys Home. He explained how the facility ran on a point system where guards had the power to reward and take away points from inmates depending on their behavior. Although this seems like a constructive approach, it was a “vicious system” that surprisingly divided inmates from each other whilst successfully banding together guards and inmates who were “the best fighters”.

Although a juvenile facility, the Boys Home ran on divisions ranging from 1-6 to control the population. Tony remembers section 1 consisted of the strongest, quickest and best fighters while the others were mixed. To receive privileges and get ahead, members from group 1 would work with the guards.

“One day we were all out working on the field, there were no guards around so I took my chance and dropped my shovel and ran as fast as I could. One of the boys from section 1 came after me and chased me down, I was punished soon after and sent to solitary. I then knew how the game was played.”

 The guards would also return the favor by organizing certain groups to be left alone whilst turning a blind eye to the violence that would ensue.

 “You always knew there would be a fight when the guards called for toilet breaks and left group 1 and another group alone. Everyone knew someone was getting bashed. This was just one of the ways the guards would get their favorites to do their dirty work”.

I asked Tony whether things could have been different for him. Keeping in mind, he did re-offend and would later experience life inside some of Australia’s most notorious prisons. I posed the question, “If you had received community service, for arguments sake, rather than be sent away to the Boys Home, would things have turned out differently?’ Tony didn’t hesitate before agreeing wholeheartedly. And when we discussed the difference between adult prisons and juvenile facilities he casually responded, “the ball game doesn’t change, just the players”. In fact, many of the players had stayed the same. Stemming from his time at the boys home, entering prison was a lot easier for Tony than most others. People he shared his juvenile sentence with were now also adults who were facing tougher and longer sentences. This is where the point of this article becomes clear, the judicial system is not helping rehabilitate and reintegrate, in this case young offenders, back into society. Sending Tony to the Boys Home may have been effective, that is if the guards spent more time learning about the young man who had troubles at home and difficulty finding himself. Instead, they abused their power and set in place an ever-lasting power struggle between people like Tony and authority.

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Long-Bay Jail, Sydney NSW Australia

ail in 1970’s Australia were derelict facilities flirting with sickness and disease due to their lack of hygiene. Tony recalls Long-Bay JailGoulburn Correctional Centre and Bathurst Correctional Complex  all used “shit-tubs” rather than actual toilets. If you did not use these tubs outside of your cell, you ran the risk of using it alongside cell-mates. Since eating regimes consisted inside the cells and the tubs were changed only once a week, this was an obvious concern. Tony admitted it stripped his humanity for some time, “you felt like an animal but that’s just the way it was in those days.” In contrast, today’s prisons have dramatically changed their exterior shell. Cleaner cells and more humane conditions improved living standards but the facilities themselves face a new set of problems, “When I re-entered prison it was a culture-shock. It was like things looked better but problems were still there. They are just run by gangs now and I can’t see that changing any time soon”. 

Unlike the vast majority who struggle with life after incarceration, Tony was given a chance at life as a functioning member of society. Once released,

 “I was lucky. I worked on a water front where they don’t hold criminal records against you. They tried to get them on the straight and narrow…to earn legally. It’s common sense, if you don’t look after people they will look after themselves. They just need someone to believe in them and give them a start, sure 80% will fuck up but the 20% that don’t, deserve the second chance.”

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After years of struggling with authority, probation restrictions and re-offending, Tony has proven to himself and his loved ones that he can function in the outside world. Yet its wrong to assume his reintegration owes thanks to his time in incarceration. The judicial system works to “….break you down and then you have to fight”. Time passes but feelings of resentment and frustration linger, “I’m still fighting them to this day” Tony admits laughing.

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Phone Photography: A Human Right & An Ethical Dilemma.

Legal repercussions force us to re-think our actions. After all, laws are set in place to prevent crime as well as punish perpetrators which in turn provides emotional and/or financial compensation to the victims. Easy enough? Yet here is the kicker; ethical conduct, at least in regards to street photography, relies on individual choice rather than a punishable system. There is obviously less emphasis on how we consider our actions when we are not legally accountable. For example, I like many others held a “…mistaken belief that the consent of the parents or guardian must be obtained before children can be photographed” (Arts Law Centre of Australia 2017, p.2). The photographer has the choice to notify the parents or the child, or to continue on.

As the vast majority of western civilization are smartphone owners, we have convenient access to high quality cameras. It is therefore an individual code of ethics that we choose to conduct ourselves by. In a perfect society, we would be mindful of emotional, physical and psychological harm. But alas, society will never attain perfection. With this in mind, I took a photograph in a public space of a woman engaged in her media devices. *An important note: the iconic blue bar at the top of her laptop screen tells me she was logged onto Facebook.

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An image of a alfresco area OR a woman unknowingly captured?

This image not only illustrates the ease of photographing people in a public space, it validates our reality; we, who engage in social media, play a part in an ongoing cycle of victims and perpetrators. The crimes however, are subjective and depend on whether you fall into the category of victim or perpetrator. This woman may take great offense to having her image taken, all the while sharing or liking images and videos of strangers who have also been unknowingly captured. If we engage with such content because it’s funny or even insightful and bares no legal repercussions, what else do we grow to accept?

There is a plethora of graphic and disturbing content that swarms the internet. More recently, such content has been viewed and shared on social media platforms like Facebook. Although these sites have ethical codes which attempt to monitor harmful content, it is an unrealistic goal. Photo uploads alone total 300 million per day (Zephoria Digital Marketing 2017). And with Facebook’s introduction of ‘Facebook Live’ where users stream in the moment, the job of safeguarding content is even harder. The result is a desensitized generation and many are producing their own content to shock or humiliate.

In April 2017, 19 year old Serena McKay was beaten to death in a group assault. The incident was live streamed on Facebook which led to the arrest of two teenage girls. Another upsetting incident which was repeatedly shared and received international attention was the text messages between (then 17 year old) Michelle Carter and her ex-boyfriend 18 year old Conrad Roy III. Over a period of months, Carter had encouraged and verbally assisted in the planning of Roy’s suicide. The messages show a reluctant Roy get out of his carbon monoxide-filled truck and Carter demanding he “get back in…you just have to do it. You said you were gonna do it.” Carter was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and faces up to 20 years incarceration.

Facebook users re-uploaded the video of Serena McKay and the text messages between Carter and Roy after they had been taken down. Although their efforts directly assisted police and lawyers in prosecuting the perpetrators, we should reflect on their lack of ethical responsibility. The video of McKay’s death was extremely graphic and upsetting to her family, community and friends. Yet, one could argue that the ends justify the means as her killers face jail time. This ideology has led to a new sub-culture of ‘Cop Watchers’ to combat police brutality in the NYPD division.

When an event unfolds, our first reaction is to capture it on our mobile devices. More often than not, this content finds itself on social media without the consent of people in the video/image. We are not held legally accountable for sharing such content even if it is graphic or shameful for those involved. Instead, we conduct ourselves by an individual code of ethics. Social media users mould this code to suit their own interests, whether it be to expose police brutality or to make their friend laugh. Regardless, we must acknowledge the immense power we hold in our hands as we actively share, like and comment without a second thought.

This brings me to my next venture; the Reflective Project. For this assignment, I will research further into this contemporary problem of personal devices and public space. Stolen identities created on social media accounts is a dangerous reality for many users. To explain, I will go through Facebook’s policies surrounding photo ownership and how it is a system that protects perpetrators. As this is a multi-media task, I could use videography to record either previous victims or have someone act out a scenario where their identity has been stolen. I have found some alarming statistics to validate this issue, such as their being 83 million fake profiles on Facebook (Zephoria Digital Marketing 2017).  Continue reading “Phone Photography: A Human Right & An Ethical Dilemma.”

VHS Killed the Drive-In (Star)

The drive-in theater, when first introduced to Australia in 1954, was an overnight success (Goldsmith 1999). With only a handful still in existence today, it begs the question why so? And more importantly, how did we let slip such an iconic cinema experience? Drive-in theaters offered patrons a public space in which movie-goers (in particular pubescent teens) socialized, ate choc-tops and flirted with adult liberties (like making out in the back of your boyfriend’s car). For many, it was the private conversations, personal experiences and the gathering of sub-cultures that shaped its atmosphere.

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‘A couple making out at the Drive-In movie theater. Ohio, 1950s’ -Photo Source: Pinterest

New South Wale’s South Coast has always been a popular breeding spot for surfers. As depicted in the cult-classic novel Puberty Blues, those living by the coast in the 1970’s would often end their nights at the drive-in. Of course, actually watching the movie was not a priority. Once belonging to this sub-culture, Jenean (Nina) Draper was a vivacious blonde living in Kiama – an hour and a half south of Sydney. Nina recalls, “It (the drive-in) was a place where you could come for a laugh. The cars next to you would be bouncing up and down because they were having a root!” Just like the characters in the novel, Nina would catch a ride in her boyfriend’s Sand Man Holden Panel Van. It was not unusual to find three or more friends hidden beneath a mattress to avoid entrance fees, “…the guards would look in the back with a torch but the security was relaxed. People would even sneak alcohol and marijuana in, I suppose that explains the comical scenes that would take place!” 

To understand the sudden drop in patronage and subsequent closure of most drive-in theaters we can look to Swedish geographer Torsten Hagerstrand. Hagerstrand’s conceptual framework of time geography analysed individual movement in time and space (Neutens, Witlox & Demaeyer 2007). More importantly, it outlined spatio-temporal constraints that could potentially affect an individuals daily activities. I am going to refer to such constraints and how they relate to the closure of Nina’s local drive-in: the Lakeline Drive-In Theatre.

  1. Capability Constraints. These refer to physical or biological factors such as the need to sleep or eat, access to mobility tools and the availability of temporal and financial resources (Hagerstrand 1970, cited in Schonfelder & Azhausen 2010, p.38). Following the release of VHS tapes as a convenient way to watch movies at home, patrons lacked the physical desire to travel – resulting in loss of petrol and finances (Parkinson 1995).
  2. Coupling Constraints. These are restrictions on the autonomous allocation of time needed to coordinate with institutional logistics (schedules) or interactions with other individuals (appointments/meetings) (Hagerstrand 1970, cited in Schonfelder & Azhausen 2010, p.38). Nina mentioned Lakeline as one of two drive-in facilities in the Illawarra. For many, this meant an allocated driver would need to pick up friends (often across long distances) to arrive at the venue together. This could be a nuisance to the driver, particularly after ‘Midnight to Dawn’ sessions as they would need to make the same stops during the early hours of the morning.
  3. Authority Constraints. These are limits imposed by external parties (rules and regulations) (Hagerstrand 1970, cited in Schonfelder & Azhausen 2010, p.38). Lakeline, as many other theaters do, forbid minors from attending without supervision and provided a security presence. However, it was the introduction of random breath testing by NSW police that negatively impacted the theater (Parkinson 1995).
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Photo Source: Memedroid

As outlined by Nina, the drive-in served as a place of dysfunction, fond memories and often romance. I know I despise its closure. Yet, perhaps the drive-in could only exist in a more innocent society; one before random breath testing and VHS tapes. It was a place where the social needs of the ‘puberty blues’ generation could be satisfied. And a time when you could be content in the arms of your lover, whilst laughter filled the air and the cars around you bounced enthusiastically.

Continue reading “VHS Killed the Drive-In (Star)”

Why Television Feels Like Home.

Historic moments, to those who experience them firsthand and to those who have learnt about such experiences – stand out as socio-spatial points in time. In layman’s terms, they make you reflect on where you were, who you were with and how you felt when such goings-on occurred. In 1956, Australians were introduced to a technological marvel – the television. A historic moment in itself, television also marked the substantial progression of the ‘public sphere’ (where citizens debate social and political issues of the day).

Different from its predecessor the radio; television combines visual and audio components to attract and engage viewers. Absorbing news, politics and pop-culture has never been easier. The television series Gogglebox airs the opinions of relatable Australians – documenting an active public sphere which encourages viewers to participate. We are entertained whilst subconsciously forming opinions and taking in information.

Gogglebox reiterates this idea of socio-spatial moments and the evident culture around watching television. Those featured on the program are relaxed; they speak freely in their living rooms. There is an aura of safety and comfort. For most of us, we too sit in our designated spot alongside family, a friend or partner and share this feeling. Whether we realize it or not, a space has been created around our television; we laugh, cry, debate and ultimately feel connected to the world and the person sitting beside us.

Dennis Turner, an elderly Illawarra man, remembers the introduction of television came shortly after Germany’s defeat in WWII. For Turner, and many other teenagers in the 1950’s, to remember television is to remember it as a distraction from the horrors of war. Turner’s own father served for Australia, “It wasn’t discussed…you didn’t know what was going on or if he would come home.”

Aged just 17, Turner along with his mates, would enter local pubs for the sole purpose of watching television, “they knew we were underage but they let us come in and watch with everyone else…I don’t think I even listened to what the person inside the television was saying, I was too busy trying to take it all in…it was amazing.” 

Reiterating this idea of socio-spatial moments and how they relate to television, we can look at iconic or historic moments aired on-screen. As the anniversary of Princess Diana’s death looms near, current affairs programs release ‘exclusive’ interviews and ‘never-before-seen’ images of the princess. Footage of the incident is used to remind viewers of how they felt when they first found out. My own mother becomes emotional when watching such reports, “I’ll never forget it. It was during the Olympics and you were just a baby. ‘Breaking News’ came across the screen and they said she was dead. I couldn’t stop crying.” 

Over the years, television has come to represent more than a device for entertainment. It has an assigned spot in our living rooms, making our relationship with the media more intimate. The culture surrounding television involves active participation in the public sphere but in the privacy of our homes. Socio-spatial moments we witness via our television can connect people, even on an international level. Still not convinced? Ask yourself: “Where was I when news of 9/11 aired?” 

The Woman With Legally Male Tits

If you think puberty was bad, try going through it twice. Juno Zderic has faced this challenge with bravery and optimism. Standing tall with nothing more than jeans and the writing ‘Legally Male Tits’ on her chest, she is no wallflower.

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“By law I’m a man and by law these tits belong to a man. It just makes people think, where is the line for nudity for Trans people?”

After realizing her true gender, Juno had to face the daunting task of declaring it to the world. She admits, “I was pretty late to the whole trans-game thing…I came out after high school.” However, she showed signs of her femininity from a young age. Her mother Linda recalls Juno at age two, “…standing there with her sister’s glittery pink heels on. Wearing nothing else but a nappy.”

It seems things haven’t changed much as Juno now regularly performs topless. The difference being her chest is now painted with political messages: “I usually take the opportunity to make a political statement. In fact, me performing topless is a political statement in itself. I may write something about refugees or others treating a minority wrong…stuff like that.”

As the front woman for the punk band ‘Queer Anne’s Revenge’, Juno is able to “…get up on stage and scream and be angry about transgender issues.” This has assisted greatly in overcoming ostracism and intrusive interrogations from the public. Juno shifts uncomfortably as she explains, “there are times when I’m just walking down the street, doing my thing, and people will shout out to me…call me an abomination or a fucking tranny. A lot of people will ask very private things about my genitals too, “Have you got the ‘snip’ yet?” And they phrase it like that as though I’m a dog.”  Linda believes, “People are hateful. Because of her appearance they think [getting the ‘snip’] is a topic open for discussion. They aren’t respectful because it is still a novelty for so many.”

A popular misconception is that coming out is a single process. Yet Juno argues that, “for most transgender people, they will be coming out for the rest of their lives.” This is emotionally and psychologically exhausting when you consider, “it isn’t just telling your family that you’re trans…initially it’s coming out to yourself which is a huge thing to overcome.” Furthermore, “Every time you meet a new person they will often ask questions…you never stop explaining yourself. Unless people can’t identify you as trans…but I’ve never been for that.” Instead, she is proud to be unique: “I love having tattoos, a beard and piercings. I just love that shit!”

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“I’ll get up and play topless and throw around a guitar and get on the ground to let out all my emotions…It’s very therapeutic in a way.”

Queer Anne’s Revenge transforms social and political issues into catchy and relatable lyrics for the LGBTIQ community. Juno lights up as she describes the atmosphere when performing, “there is such an overwhelming power in that environment, everyone is there and they all have this aggression regarding their pride so if someone comes in and tries to disturb that, they will have all these people against them.”

However her safety is never guaranteed, “I’m still putting myself out there – being in a punk band, I’m always going to play at those dodgy/underground places.” Recently, the band turned down a gig at the Newtown Town Hall, “A couple of years ago a trans woman was beaten there. The security did nothing to stop it, instead they tried to cover it up and apparently there was a guard standing right there, just watching it happen.”

To the public, transitioning is often associated with the post-surgery reveal. In the beginning, Linda admits, “I would struggle with her wearing a dress but having stubble. I’d tell her I don’t understand. If you’re a girl, why are you doing this?” Retired Olympian Bruce Jenner recently transitioned into Caitlyn which put pressure on the ordinary transgender community “…they see her as pristine, shaven and coming out with all this jewellery. People expect me to cut off my genitals too because I’m trans and I should be ashamed of my body.” Juno reiterates, “I love my body. It’s me. All women’s bodies are different and I just have another type of body.”

Try to imagine a complete stranger analysing your gender. Questioning you as to whether you are confident in your answer. Although this stranger is a qualified psychiatrist, it is no less frightening. To be able to take testosterone or estrogen supplements, you must first be approved by a doctor. “It was really scary. I hated the idea of going to someone to be evaluated as to whether I’m trans or not. I felt I had to pretend to be more trans otherwise I wouldn’t pass the test.” Juno chose her clothes carefully, “I thought if I just wore jeans and a shirt, I may not be girly enough for the doctor.” Confident, she laughs, “Nothing is going to come between me and my estrogen.”

Estrogen has enabled Juno to experience a “second puberty”. Linda smiles as she describes her daughter’s “…body softening and becoming more feminine. I know what joy that would give to her.” Yet the psychological changes have been most significant, “I’m so much more emotional and sensitive.” Juno laughs, “My favourite thing to do is drink wine in the bath with some pasta whilst watching Star Trek…I’m addicted to carbs.”

However, there is another side to the estrogen coin: “When I first started taking it, I fell into a very bad depressive slump…I had to see psychiatrists who prescribed me anti-depressants. It was doing horrible things to my head and that’s pretty common.” Yet Juno is quick to not deter others, “I don’t want to scare people away from it because the good definitely out-weighs the bad. But people should be aware of the serious side effects.”

Often treated like a “test-subject” for curious outsiders, Juno has come to the conclusion that most still associate gender with sex. However, she believes “sexual orientation is completely separate.” Despite this, “people will assume I’m attracted to men because I’m a Trans-woman.” Intrigue escalates as Juno explains that she is polyamorous: “I’m in a romantic relationship – both emotional and sexual – but we have the freedom to have that with others as well.” She explains, “It’s an acknowledgement that our hearts and brains will feel love for more than one person. You can be in a relationship and love them a lot, but that doesn’t mean you can’t love someone else.” The older generation may associate polyamory with ‘swingers’. Juno admits she is no expert “…but polyamory is about love and relationships…swingers are just for sexual reasons and many people will swing as a couple to spice up their relationship.”

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“Life has definitely changed for the better…I have the freedom to walk around and be myself, to wear whatever I want. No more walking on eggshells…I’m on the other side of the storm.”

Unfortunately for many of the LGBTIQ community, these individuals experience poorer mental health and have higher risk of suicidal behaviours. As Juno mentioned, issues including prejudice, discrimination and abuse are often the cause. The 20 year old acknowledges how lucky she is, “I have a really strong and supportive group of people behind me.” However, like many others, Juno faced hardships throughout her transition. Regrettably, Linda admits, “I was grieving for the child I lost. After that, I just became obsessed with the amount of prejudice in the world…I just wanted to protect her from all the arseholes out there.” Linda would encourage Juno to not wear feminine clothing around the home which eventually led to her daughter moving out, “In my stupid fright over everything, I asked Juno to not wear dresses around her little brother. I didn’t want him to be confused but deep down I was trying to pretend it wasn’t happening.” Yet to her surprise, “my 12-year-old son never skipped a beat. Now we openly talk about it. He will defend Juno and correct you if you say something wrong.” Zander was quick to let the world know, “yep she’s my sister, always has been.”

Today, Linda declares “I’m the proudest woman on this earth. I really am.” Reflecting on the last few years, “All I do is feel a bit sad that I wasn’t strong enough to support her the way I should have…I feel bad that I failed her.” What is important, is that Linda and her daughter’s bond is stronger than ever, “I feel proud that it has all come around for us now. It’s been a fantastic learning experience.”

So what’s next for this polyamorous vegan and topless fanatic? Juno envisions a career in music: “being able to express myself on stage as a job…that’s such a dream.” Linda adds, “I think she should get recognition musically not because she is transgender but because she is very talented.” For now, Juno is content with the small things. Perhaps tonight she will indulge in a hot bath with a glass of wine in one hand and pasta in the other. What more could a woman want?

 

 

Opposite Worlds – Nollywood & the Korean Wave

Globalization, with its sense of “interconnectedness” (O’Shaughnessy, 2012) influences every-day contemporary life through the merging of global politics, economics and media. The frequency of such worldwide interaction and exchange as well as travel has seen local cultures or ‘Glocals’ (W. Ryoo, 2009) now thoroughly infused with the rest of the world. They can build their identity and share a unique perspective through artistic expression. This is evident in the growing popularity and expansion of global film and music.

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‘Sopyonje’ (1993) – Award winning Korean film about the musical traditional ‘Pansori’. It brought in more than a million admissions, a first of its kind. (D.Shim, 2006)

News media and trade magazines have recognized the rise of Korean popular culture in Asia – from food and music to eyebrow-shaping and shoe styles. In fact, Western musicians have used K-pop presumably to gain Asian audiences whilst simultaneously exposing westerners to the ‘Korean wave’ phenomenon (D. Shim, 2006).

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Avril Lavigne – ‘Hello Kitty’ 

K-pop “…skilfully blends Western and Asian values, creating its own culture and identity” (D.Shim, 2006). The whole experience is an expensive rush of bright lights, vibrant colours and unique fashion and accessories. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the low-budget, amateurish and narrative driven Nigerian film industry, Nollywood (O. Okome, 2007).

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‘The Visit’ – Nollywood Trailer

When the oil boom went bust, so did the rest of Nigeria’s economy (J.C McCall, 2004). Filmmakers couldn’t afford to buy film stock from abroad and bankrupt theaters shut down for good. However, a revolution in consumer electronics enabled affordable access to video-cameras. Unsurprisingly, the production value does not meet ‘Hollywood’ standards. Nor does it impact national unity because its films aren’t shown in movie theaters or television (O. Okome, 2007). Rather, this industry focuses on Nigerian employment, entertainment and social/political issues which holds sentimental value perhaps brighter than the glamour of Hollywood or the Korean wave.


References:

D. Shim, ‘Hybridity and the rise of Korean popular culture in Asia’, ‘National University of Singapore’, Vol. 28, 2006, pg.25-44

J.C. McCall, ‘Nollywood Confidential: The unlikely rise of Nigerian video film’, issue 95, Vol. 13, No., 2004, pg. 98-109

O. Okome, ‘Nollywood: Spectatorship, Audience and the Sites of Consumption’, ‘University of Alberta’, Vol 3, No. 2, 2007, pg. 1-19

O’Shaughnessy, Michael 2012, ‘Globalisation’, in Media and Society, 5th ed. ‘Oxford University Press, South Melbourne’, pp. 458-471

W. Ryoo, ‘Globalization, or the logic of cultural hybridization: the case of the Korean wave’, ‘Asian Journal of Communication’, 19:2, 2009, pg. 127-151

Sugarman: The Enigmatic Myth

Following years of racial tension prevalent in South Africa between the ‘white’ and ‘black’ communities, 1948 saw the legalization of an apartheid to maintain separation and advance white supremacy. Severe socio-economic inequalities followed as black Africans produced cheap labor to advance white, capitalist interests and political power. As part of the apartheid agreement, black people only provided labor in white cities and were forcibly migrated into “…black areas for monitoring” (E.V. Ilieva, R. Rotich & J. Walunywa, 2015.).

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The 1913 Natives Land Act – helped to lay the groundwork for the apartheid policy of racial segregation in South Africa in 1948

As the South African government managed all media at the time, political expression and/or alternative ideologies were seldom expressed in fear of incarceration.

“There wasn’t much a white person could do…if you spoke out against the apartheid you could be thrown into prison”. (M. Bendjelloul, 2012)

Therefore the popularity for submissive and creative outlets grew rapidly during this time. In fact, music soon functioned as a “force to confront the state and as a means to actively construct an alternative political and social reality.” (A. Schumann, 2008) 

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“Every revolution needs an anthem.” – (M. Bendjelloul, 2012).

Malik Bendjelloul’s 2012 documentary-film ‘Searching for Sugar Man’ portrays Sixto Rodriguez as an enigma whose songs “…carried meaning beyond the musical level and into the political sphere” (A. Schumann, 2008). ‘Hate Street Dialogue’ and ‘I wonder’ resonate with anti-establishment messages assuring “it is okay to be angry with your society.” (M. Bendjelloul, 2012)  

Although it was awarded an Oscar and grossed over R54 million, not all agree with the film and its almost mythological depiction of Rodriguez. According to Michael Titlested, his “…albums induced a frisson of transgression because they mentioned drugs and sex…” (M. Titlestad, 2013) Therefore, to assume he directly encouraged the ending of the apartheid, as the movie alludes, is inaccurate. His ability to speak honestly about real-life issues however, connected emotionally with those in need and continues to do so today.


References:

A. Schumann, ‘The Beat that Beat Apartheid: The Role of Music in the Resistance against Apartheid in South Africa’, 2008, pg. 17-20.

E.V. Ilieva, R. Rotich & J. Walunywa, ‘The Social Formation of Post-Apartheid South Africa’, ‘The Journal of Pan African Studies’, Vol. 8, no.9, December 2015. Pg. 133-139.

‘Searching for sugar man’ (2012) Directed by Malik Bendjelloul [Documentary Film].

M. Titlestad, ‘Searching for the Sugar-coated Man’, ‘Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Studies’, 2013, 14:4, pg. 466-470.