Circle of fire report back
2 June 2013
I am told that after you have prepared for it your whole life, change comes suddenly. The unexpected twist for Kgantsa was a visit from Nick Mirzoeff of the occupy Wall Street movement (O.W.S). He was in South Africa for public presentations on his recent book, the Right to look: A counterhistory of visuality. On this particular Sunday he was travelling to a circle of fire in Thabisang primary school in Soweto. His travel companion was Detlev Krige a member of the human economy programme at the University of Pretoria.
During the circle he spoke of their occupation in Zucotti Park in New York. Here they opened the conversation on the most private of topics – debt. When they asked people why they had come the answer was simple – people are in debt. They had borrowed money to study but are now unable to repay these loans as there are no jobs. In the park they held debt assemblies and debt burns. People shared and burned symbols of their debt. This cathartic process allowed individuals shed the identity of debtor as they came to realise that they are not alone and are being made to be in debt because of an exploitative social system.
The surfacing of debt is part of the O.W.S’s movement strategy of “leap” and “pivot” – go where they won’t expect you and when you are there make a political point out of the issue. Through their occupation, activist used their bodies as sites of resistance as they claimed the right to be there. It’s a tide that is spreading all over the world as dissent surfaces through the occupation of centres such as Taksim Square in Istanbul or on Johannesburg’s highways that are set for e-tolling. Because we remember that streets traditionally belong to us – they remain sites of popular resistance and protest.
After their violent eviction from Zucotti Park, they began reconstituting themselves. One of their new initiatives is to create living, learning and organising centres in Detroit, Palestine and New York. Detroit is the birth place of Motown and the ford motor car. After 2008 financial crisis this African American city’s economy has imploded. Here people are engaging with real solutions of how they are going to live after the crisis. The answer from the Detroit community was to go back to the basics – to use the centres to develop skills in urban agriculture, sufficiency and media.
Education– a process of unlearning and re-membering – also took centre stage when Imbawula reconstituted itself in 2010 in Soweto. Kgantsa ho ganye is the name given to the project that celebrates learning as sharing. At the media centre we have also have begun the conversation on what the purpose of education should be. From the circle, the consensus is to create what Antonio Gramsci’s called “organic intellectuals.” Neville Alexander defines this as “people who understand how the system functions and decides to fight for or against it.” Paulo Freire argues that education should create the full human being – one that is liberated – neither oppressed nor oppressor. Education should teach us how build and create as opposed to fix and work.
Kgantsa too must returns back to the community of Soweto for its mandate on the media centre’s vision. This question will be posed to the community in our annual memory circle that takes place every year on the 16 June. The intention is to remember and reflect as we ask ourselves: what education did you want in 1976 and how is this relevant today? If you are interested, the memory circle will take place at Spanish inn, Soweto – corner of Moema and Kudu street beginning @ 10:30. Please contact Bonolo if you would like to attend or help with the planning on 082 818 9558.
- for nick’s visit to Thabisang : http://tidalmag.org/blog/intensify/dispatch-from-soweto-the-artrising-and-the-uprising/