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Culture, Reality
Village Life

Work and Fire

by Morrel Shilenge / 09.12.2010

Village life has a bad reputation. People immediately think of the uneducated, unwashed and unemployed. The word “backwards”. This is a quest to portray village life as it is. The pureness… Somewhere cows pose on the streets, everywhere the stench of cow dung. Somewhere, in the backyards of mud houses, graveyards of loved ones, buried. Outside lavatories. Primitive as it is. Gogo’s become models and pose for a camera for the first time. Pure as it is.

Like the beginning, with the caveman. Street water pipes. Darkness everywhere. A witches’ playground. No fancy street lights. The beginning and end of civilization. Loud traditional music piped through old speakers next door. Unpolluted air. Stars. Scary at night. Young men drink umqomboti to pass time, and think because they went to the mountains and their dicks are now carved, they are now men. Young women taught to be sex-silly and trap men with their initiated viginas.

In the village, there’s a visible line between the haves and the have nots. Un-urban. No KFC. No McDonalds. The village is hated by coconuts. But it’s the beginning of me. Inhabited by dark skinned people burnt black by the sun and smelling of work and fire. Where birds, locusts and shrubs are dinner. No genetically modified food here. The garden at the back of my house produces fresh vegetables and fruit. Hard mkokorosh chickens in the hock.

South African Village Life

The traditional way of life is easier. A life of peace and unity, there’s no competition here. There’s less noise pollution, the environment is silent, less cluttered. You can hear your thoughts loud and clear. You know your neighbours. In the city there’s competition for space, housing, jobs. Competition for esteem. Respect. Here there’s freedom. There are enough homes and land for all. Abundance.

How does your city life compare?

Sometimes you may think the city is more comfortable. There are more opportunities. Progress. And you’d be right. There are facilities for people in the city. City kids get better education and healthcare. There are large shopping complexes, banks, offices, cinemas, hostels, clubs. There’s transport. Electricity, highways, telecommunications, plumbing facilities and the Gautrain.

But the cost of living is high. Social status demands: “what car do you drive?” Let’s compete to see who’s better, richer, more worthy. There is no fresh air and pure water. The environment is polluted with dust, smoke, noise, garbage and dioxide gases from factories. The city slowly corrupts its citizens. Crime. Murder. Theft. Streets kids everywhere… have you ever seen streets kids in a village?

Rural South Africa

Read the first part of this series Kasi Musings.

*All images © Morrel Shilenge.

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  1. happy brown says:

    In a land similar to ours.

    Deep deep deep in the village of ignorance live people who eat schrubs, locusts and mielie pap. This strange species of people have no problems, they eat from the earths core and call on the heavens for their sustenance. There are no money issues as people here barter bullshit in exchange for being marginalised. There is land in abundance and no rules to how you acquire that land, self righteous freedom is the order of the day here. Manhood is attained by one eating their own foreskin in exchange for loud traditional music and beer for the remainder of their existence. The uninitiated vaginal juice flows and rape and HIV AIDS have no place in this perfect bubble of ubuntu.

    Far far away smarter dark toned people who may share a bloodline write about this holy holy people who never travel from the beautiful bountiful rural areas to the urban areas where wifi, food and espresso are the order of the day. These same dark toned people never research what they write for Mahala because they are black and can write about anything under the sun as they have been marginalised for so long. TO BE CONTINUED…

    This series reaks of middle class cow dung for whiteys and their sympathetic coconut friends who don’t tell them that its time you read up on how the other lives and stop taking black history lessons from the same sympathetic coconut who never researches what he writes.

    “Abundance in the rural area” – really now, be real bud head to the Kei and go see that abundance for yourself. For Christmas some kids get jam on their bread as a gift, people count on their local counsellor to give them food parcels for the season. Grandmothers raise their grandkids on their pension of R1050 as their parents have passed due to a “short illness”

    “Inhabited by dark skinned people burnt black by the sun and smelling of work and fire” – reads like a mills and boon for slave traders or the Missus who wants to sleep with her garden boy. Stop turning the native into a fetish for your ill informed readers who live in a country that is majority black but have not even seen a township, but don’t worry they have black friends who knows how it feels to be black.

    I’m starting to wonder if its white guilt that lead to Morrel being given a platform to spew his homogenised views firstly of township life and then of village life. Andy’s answer was that its a perspective, so freedom means that even if a perspective is jaded by ones baseless views on class, gender and race that perspective is protected by their freedom of speech. So lets all take photo’s of the other and because we share some characteristics with the same other we can write whatever we like regardless of research.

    This really stinks. Morrel pack your bags and go live with the other for a while, please start writing about things you know about(knowledge) and stop trying to paint black people blank with white words and pictures.

    Being black is not a matter of pigmentation – being black is a reflection of a mental attitude. Steven Bantu Biko


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  2. Doctor L. says:

    Oh no.

    I think these need to be reconsidered. They’re an important step in representation, no doubt, but the writer [no offense] is too slight in his handling of the subjects.

    This is not a good thing. This is not a constructive, thoughtful or even well-written article. There is no “village life” in this article. This article is achieves the opposite of its aims.

    So, so not good. The writer is cannabalizing the township and “village” life with such a tepid, uninvolved and “othering” world view. Moreover, he he/she is absent from the piece, so there isn’t even any culpability for perspective.

    This honestly feels destructive to me.

    Morrel, you need to read, too, not just write. Read other writers who have come before you and approached these areas. Look at Can Themba, look at Zakes Mda etc. You are writing over these communities and not engaging with them at all. Which is such important work for this country; articulating these voices and their spaces.

    This is very flippant. It’s actually pretty disconcerting.

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  3. Polony says:

    so this ‘kasi musings’ is about where? this specific article is about which village?

    or is it just a generic view which we must assume is universally applicable.

    it reads like the script for a tourism ad, come to the ‘village’ where all is good and the natives are calm…

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  4. brandon edmonds says:

    These articles were worth it for the brilliance of the response they have generated. Again, we don’t exactly pay for our content. Sometimes that shows. For Morrel, a fledgeling young writer, this is his clarifying trek across Mordor. The higher the flames the stronger the iron.

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  5. dr phil says:

    ..and I didn’t even mention laziness.

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