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It’s good, it’s nice

| March 23, 2020 | 0 Comments

Title: Nice
Author: Various
Publishers: KLAYM
ISBN: 978-3-033-07388-3
Reviewed by Fiona de Villiers

I’d like to introduce you to a spectacular new classroom resource entitled Nice. It’s an A3-sized publication running to 230 pages, some of which are in glorious colour and some of which are in more reflective tones on textured paper. Nice is published by KLAYM, in Switzerland, and here’s how it describes the work it does: KLAYM is a non-profit, built on the idea to stimulate economic opportunities for young creatives from across Africa, notably photographers. Our aim to provide a framework, where aspiring creatives and artists, who are facing limited access to professional training, can improve their skills and experiences, develop projects, perform and exhibit. Each Nice magazine production is accompanied by a workshop series in photography, video production, graphic media design and creative writing, aiming to critically engage the participants’ creative visual practice, in a dialogue with local and global visual culture and socio-political realities. We believe that to understand the true scale of Africa, it is essential to pay attention to its emerging voices, many of which explore a previously unrecognised depth of lived experience in a place of rapid change.

The edition of Nice being reviewed here is all about Katlehong, a township 35 km east of Johannesburg and south of Germiston, between two other townships of Thokoza and Vosloorus, next to the N3 highway in the City of Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality of Gauteng province in South Africa. Previous editions of Nice explored Pemba, Mozambique and Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. So what’s this book really all about? Says Flurina Rothenberger, project coordinator for KLAYM and editor-inchief for the Katlehong edition: [It]… offers a unique and thought-provoking glimpse at everyday life within particular urban spaces. The work of Nice’s young contributors highlight the webs of histories, politics, styles, cultural productions, aesthetic vocabularies and identifications that distinguish the urban spaces in which they live, spaces that are in fact geographies of continual transformation, reinvented in the wake of globalisation, the digital revolution, and migration. Between past and future, analogue and digital, Nice shares and supports the voice of young Africans from city to city. Rothenberger explains that with the production of each edition of Nice, ‘[a] majority of the contributors also act as editors, influencing the overall appearance and content of the publication. Supported by mentors, the contributors explore storytelling formats.’ So, what do your students know about Katlehong? Can they find it on a map? If you’re a school in Gauteng, perhaps some of their families live there. Here’s what Nice contributor, Sakhile Cebekhulu, writes in a marvellous, free-wheeling science fiction piece: In Katlehong, there is no limit to taste and the sense of style is flaunted and taunted in the beautiful night life of the township. There is nothing like a Katlehong party, aahhhh, and the lingo, I mean the lingo is… like poetry… Allow me to be your guide, to introduce those individuals who guard the spirit of this outstanding place. In ‘Katlehong: the place of success’, Malefestsane Moiloa says: If you’re reading this magazine, you’re in for a treat, because you are learning about the secret life of our home, also known as K1, unbeknown even to most South Africans… here you will find the biggest taxi rank connecting Katlehong to the rest of Gauteng. The rich, tantalising aroma of magwenya (deep-fried dough) and skop (cow or sheep skull) invites you to the eateries that are installed right outside the taxi rank… Minibus taxis are the lifeblood of Katlehong, carrying passengers to all parts of Gauteng. Mmamello Matake describes the scene in a piece about Tshidi Twala, one of the few female taxi fleet owners in a male-dominated industry: These are the simple rules to survive when using the taxis as a form of transport on a daily basis. The commotion is the main thing that keeps the taxi rank alive. ‘Short left!’ I shout, loud enough for a driver to hear me. [And remember]… pay your taxi fare, do not eat in the vehicle and DO NOT SLAM THE DOOR!

There’s something in this vibrant publication for every subject specialist: stories and pictures about the economy in Katlehong, its various cultural traditions, its history and geography and the feelings of its young people. Teachers, you can put aside your traditional textbooks for a time and use Nice as the basis for cross-curricula ‘let’s get out from behind our desks’ sessions. Let your students explore izikhothane (a trend celebrating showmanship through extreme forms of materialism, underlined by popular house and American hip-hop music and dance battles) and the pantsula dancers of Katlehong. Let them ‘read’ the haunting pictures taken by Phindile Thengeni and her accompanying piece about Abo Mahlalela (an ‘unemployed person and a non-contributor to society’). Everyone in your classroom will be fascinated by Katlehong’s ‘stunters’ – teens who meet after school and perform daring feats on bicycles while zigzagging through Katlehong’s traffic. Siya Masuku, also shares the genesis of her children’s picture books and graphic novels, and Thanzi Mukwevho describes her boot camp. Nice is also a fantastic way to teach your students about books themselves, how to make them and how to revere them. Multiple visual literacies are at work within these pages – for example, comic strips, collages and interviews. Timidity has no place here: whole stories are told in giant fonts interspersed with crazy poetic nuances, and ordinary heroes pop up everywhere – like Qhawekazi Lami’s mum, who sells chickens to make ends meet. You’ll be able to address that monster called apartheid in new tender ways with your students, by reading, for example, the words of Sibusiso Ndlandla speaking about a Katlehong resident: Allow me to introduce myself. They named me after the actions that my parents took when they found the space to build their homes. I was born after 1994, probably 29 years old [sic], not sure about my age because I don’t have a birth certificate and I was born without permission. So, I am not recognised by the government. I am not a boy or girl. I am an informal settlement. Women and men are granted equal space in Nice, but it’s the stories and photos authored by young women that really spoke to me. Mmamello Matake, mentioned above, simply isn’t afraid of the future. She’s 19 and has founded the book seminar, BookwormsZA, which hosts readings and guest talks with South African writers. She also created a pen pal junior club – a weekly gathering promoting reading and writing for children and teens in Katlehong. What struck me most about Nice is that it is a way for students anywhere to connect. I hope that some schools will use this resource to create their own Nice, about their own or neighbouring communities. A young Katlehong woman wrote this poem for Nice, and it moved me deeply:

We built here
We live here
We sleep here
We stay here
We work here
We suffer here
We party here
We are abused here
We drink here
We play here
We fight here
We stand here
All that we have we did
For ourselves here

To order your copy of Nice, please visit: http://www.klaym.org/

Category: Autumn 2020

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