Keeping Mum

By Tracy-Lee Nicol

Ah, it’s a sad case.
Can you believe we knew her?
She murdered her kids.
Every one of them.
Her own kids!
They say it was cold-blood, but who knows.
She can’t speak about it.
They say it’s ‘cause she was, you know…raped.
Assaulted. For, like, ages!
Right up until the day she flipped.
Can you imagine?
The worst part is…
…Can’t bring myself to say it, it’s so…
But they’re saying…it was her children.
Her own kids!
I told you I was suspicious.
She showed signs, you know
Big scars, bruises, torn skin,
Acted weird.
Sometimes crazy.
They took her in.
The hospital showed she had history of
But no one said anything.
Her own kids!
I feel kinda bad, you know?
It’s this Legal thing.
The Judge put her kids in charge
Said they could look after her better
So nobody questioned.
Eventually I guess she just flipped.
Wiped out the lot of them.
Lord knows I don’t blame her.
I’d do the same.
Her own kids!
Poor Gaia.

The Price of Convenience

By Tracy-Lee Nicol

It grieves me to hear myself complain about the cost of living these days. I imagine those words spilling from the peppermint-breathed mouths of old ladies tutting about how expensive the cat kibbles are, wondering if they can still afford to try their luck at this week’s lotto quick-pick. This thought, however, came seeping into my mind as I cruised the aisles of my nearest blue white and red and realised that my weekly grocery budget (not that great to begin with) got me just about nothing.

Now I’m sure economists would have a lot to say about the matter: inflation, Brent crude over $65 a barrel, petrol costs, global recession etc. At this point it all starts to sound a bit like static, it’s beyond my spectacular mathematical illiteracy. Fortunately, I am not entirely illiterate and I understand what it means when the headlines read “four major store chains under investigation for price fixing”*. Now where do you suppose that leaves the consumer, when we believe there
are only four major chains to choose from and they’ve all decided it’s okay to milk us? “Oh,” they say, “that’s the price of quality, that’s the price of convenience”. See, convenience is one of those delightful, oh so- marketable euphemisms for arse-lazy. At the risk of alienating you, most of us are guilty of it: “I’m much too busy (and self-important) to go to several small stores to find my dinner ingredients like Jamie ‘Pukka’ Oliver on his scooter, and then wash the soil off them”. What you would discover if you took a few extra minutes and perhaps walked off that kept-warm-for-hours pie you had for lunch, is that there exists a fruit and vegetable shop (nation wide) that sells pumpkins the size of your ego for prices I didn’t think existed anymore. And not
just pumpkins, but I need the space to lecture you further so I’ll leave it at that.

See the thing is, while we all continue on our apathetic aisle cruise, the executives, directors and major shareholders say a big “thank you” for the idiotically generous year-end bonuses from the deck of their own pleasure cruiser, while specialist and small businesses go under and local produce jobs follow suit. What many people fail to realise is that we are all major shareholders too, shareholders in our community. When you absently pull an over-priced and oddlylighter-than-last-time bag of dog food off the shelf, do you know that a 20kg bag is available from the SPCA for a fraction of the cost and each R50 goes toward spaying cats and dogs preventing untold neglect, suffering and coercion? For every bunch of veggies you buy at the farmer’s market you’re encouraging local business and jobs, for every bundle of firewood you buy from local sellers you’re helping reduce alien invasive species and preserve water. The list goes on.
Look, I’m not ignorant: people are busy, stressed and tired, but small lifestyle changes can have a huge impact. I’d like to see the major stores continue on their price-hike rampage when tumble weeds drift across their aisles. The key word is lifestyle. Ever tried making bread instead of buying it? Its fun, stress busting, not intensive on the electricity, and its not hard,
we’ve been doing it for a couple of thousand years!

Consuming is not just about how easily you put things into your trolley, it’s about what you put in your body and in your life. When you cook your own food you know how much salt and oil goes in and you by-pass the preservatives, flavourants and other unpronounceables that will eventually result in your heart by-pass. Cooking and shopping can also be sociable and entertaining, not a tedious daily chore – it’s about a mind shift.
So experiment. Mix flavours, try local foods and embrace seasonal produce, Gwyneth swears by it. And you know what? If that bread of yours comes out flat, call it pita bread, you’ll save yourself a fortune skipping the “international cuisine” aisle. Here ends the lecture.

*I’m sure you can figure out whom for yourself and spare me the risk of a defamation lawsuit.


By Leila Hall

We remove our gags together.
The 56 women who are wearing ‘RAPE SURVIVOR’ shirts and the 62 men with shirts that read
‘IN SOLIDARITY WITH ♀ WHO SPEAK OUT’ stand up first and begin to chant…


...and then those of us who for the whole day have had black masking tape across our mouths –
295 women with shirts that proclaim


– we stand up together and, finally, after a whole day of no talking, no eating, no drinking, pull off our pieces of tape and tentatively at first (because it feels strange for just a minute to open our mouths), then steadily louder and louder, with increasing confidence and a mounting sense of relief, begin to chant, begin to shout, begin to scream with the rest, until soon the whole lecture hall rings with our sound so that you eventually lose track of your own voice – drowned as it were in this multitude of feeling and noise.

I keep running my tongue across my teeth, suddenly self-conscious. My breath, quite honestly, stinks. It tastes musty, it smells – I imagine – much like anything that’s been kept closed for too long. My breath, seems a huge part of this metaphor we are engaged in. Those of us who are gagged represent the 8 in 9 women in South Africa who are raped and who never go on to report the rape — who are effectively silenced by it. The silence of rape, I suddenly realise, doesn’t just mean no sound. It also means this dank, slightly stale smell — this taste. It means feeling like you can’t, you shouldn’t, open your mouth too wide, shouldn’t lean in too close to the person next to you, because what if they catch a whiff of it? What will they think of you?Will they move away? It means carrying something foul with you, something that sits on your tongue, fills your mouth, refuses to leave.

I’ve had few moments like that today. For the most part, I’ve struggled to realise the metaphor. I have struggled to feel like I can understand at all — silenced, as I’ve been, for only a day, and even then not really silenced at all because I could still sms, could still facebook, could still giggle, my hand continually pressing down on my gag so that it didn’t move too much when I did. One of the most astounding, moving, admirable things about today is the fact that many of the women wearing the ‘RAPE SURVIVOR’ shirts have, in fact, been raped. Unlike the majority of us, they are not simply a representation of the statistics — their speaking out is real. As we sit and hungrily, thankfully, tuck into our food, many of them stand up. Some read poems, others speak about the relief of being able to break their silence, others simply speak about their day, about the reactions they encountered on campus.

And then, towards the end of it, she stands up. Through the sudden rush of pent-up words, of
emotion confined and now let out in sobs, you can make out what she says:

I didn’t want to wear one of those ‘RAPE SURVIVOR’ shirts because I don’t feel like a survivor
at all, I am not brave enough

my own family didn’t believe me
it happened twice
in my own room
on my own bed
I haven’t spoken about it until now.

The room has gone quiet, gone still. My helplessness caught in my throat. But then a few people stand up, go over to her, and as she cries, as she breaks down, they hold her. And then someone says ‘why don’t we all stand up?’ and we do, one by one, many of us in tears by now, some of the girls letting out choked sobs. Still so much pent up, still so much waiting to be released. But suddenly this is real and suddenly this is something, because after a while, after hugs and holding and soft words from a room full of people

she manages a smile.

Together, we remove our gags.

1in9 By Nina Bekink

1in9, originally uploaded by deva_lee.

1in9 By Nina Bekink

1in9, originally uploaded by deva_lee.

1in9 By Nina Bekink

1in9, originally uploaded by deva_lee.

1in9 By Nina Bekink

1in9, originally uploaded by deva_lee.

1in9 By Julia Housdon

1in9 by Julia Housdon, originally uploaded by deva_lee.

1in9 By Julia Housdon

1in9, originally uploaded by deva_lee.

By Julia Housdon

Time to Talk and Untitled

Nonsense from the Editors

Yann Martel writes that “if we, citizens, do not support our artists, then we sacrifice our imagination on the altar of crude reality and we end up believing in nothing and having worthless dreams”.
We concur.

This journal is our defence against the proliferation of worthless dreams.
It does not assume a truth.

“Jiggered”, as defined by ourselves, means to be tampered with or damaged. It is an expression of astonishment. It is to be exhausted to the point of hallucination. We just really like jamming a jig with a jiggle and interrogating the jiggery-pokery.

Jiggered is a platform for and the support of artists and authors who encourage imaginings and challenge ideas.
This is not who we think you should be.
This is not your brand of choice.
This is not an answer.
This is not a formula.
This is not lacking in colour.
This is a narrative like everything else.

You might be reading this because you wear red tape on your slippers. You definitely breathe aesthetics and appreciate honesty. You apply your ideas to the ground you walk on even if you are on stilts, or a pogo-stick.

We hope you like it in this house.
Step into the labyrinth.
You’ll be jiggered if you don’t.

Jen and Vicky

An Unauthorised History of Ska

By Stuart Thomas

How does one describe a perfect moment, those instances that occur so rarely in any given human life? Surely that brief second is beyond description? The best skank pits, ones like the one I’m in now, have to come pretty close. But that’s just me placing my essentialist something-or-other-point-of-whatever on it…

I look down and realise I’ve lost a shoe. It must’ve been when I was on about the second sentence of my nonsensical, quart-fuelled introspection. Panning around, I see it held aloft in the hand of the dreadlocked hippie I call my best friend. Oh yes, he’s also been my near-constant pit companion for the last five years. As I hop toward him, his girlfriend pours her drink over some idiot trying to slam dance…

How do I go about trying to explain why ska has such a powerful hold over us, why a circle can seem like Nirvana itself? After all, the people running around in it look like they’re being jolted by powerful surges of electricity. I’m stuck in pretty much the same place as I was during my transcendental reverie.

I could go on a psychoanalytical rampage, or measure endorphin levels and calibrate my results in a rigorous scientific manner. Or, I could go down the least satisfactory path of all and start at the beginning…well, as reasonable a beginning as I can get, anyway. I don’t want to start sounding like one of those crazies who insist that the middle class ‘gangstas’ spouting rubbish about how many “ho’s” they’ve “capped” are the direct descendants of African praise poets. The other reason for choosing to start where I am will become apparent in a moment.

Our story begins in Jamaica in the middle decades of the 20th century. Ska exists, but not as we know it. This is Jamaican ska, a beast that would only be recognisable to us through a few of the moves being practised in the swinging dance halls. What this story needs is a lot of people on a lot of ships heading for a foreign land. It needs diasporas, and it’s about to get it.

In the years following the end of World War II, over half a million West Indians would leave their homes to seek a new life in Britain. Some would leave hoping to escape poverty, others were recruited to fill labour shortages in the massive public works projects taking place in postwar UK.

As with many immigrants, they weren’t given the warmest of welcomes. Given the working class fields they were going into, it was inevitable that they would come into contact with England’s
traditionally conservative working classes. Some of these contacts turned into clashes, sometimes riots. Tinged with reggae, ska started getting political.

In the 1970s this ferment began to garner the attention of musicians and writers in the punk scene. We’re still not quite at the ska we know today though…this is 2 Tone, named after 2 Tone records. Bands like ‘The Specials’ and ‘Madness’ played a significant role in exposing this music to the British mainstream. Collaborations such as those between ‘The Specials’ and ‘The Clash’ brought the two genres even closer.
By the time the 1980s rolled around, punk was retreating from the public imagination to return to its
stolen couch in whatever squat it had crawled out from. In the meantime, 2 Tone had – perhaps a little ironically – made its way back across the Atlantic. In the sunshine of California the ‘Third Wave’ of ska emerged. This is probably the most punk of the ska-punk combinations. It’s also the one that would be most recognisable to us with its fast-paced horn sections and the heavily accented offbeat (basically kept by the bassist and drummer – I can’t really explain it but I’ll point it out next time you see me at a ska show). I didn’t recognise any of the bands cited in my research for this part of the article until those that emerged in the 1990s, so I’ll list those anyway.

I won’t say that these bands represent ‘Third Wave’, but they were influenced by the important ‘Third Wave’ bands and you’re more likely to have heard of them. Bands like ‘Sublime’, ‘Save Ferris’ and ‘Reel Big Fish’ became the guardians of the California ska scene. More fundamentally, punk bands like ‘Rancid’ and ‘NOFX’ became heavily influenced by this movement.

Today ska is global, from Switzerland’s Skaladdin (Swiss Cow Rock) to our own shores, where ska has been visible for a while now. The SA Rock upsurge in the 1990s of bands like ‘BOO!’ and ‘The Springbok Nude Girls’ probably saw the influence at its most visible. Today, bands like ‘Hog Hoggidy Hog’, ‘Fuzigish’ and ‘Captain Stu and the Llamas’ have become stalwarts of the SA music scene and kept ska-punk at the forefront. If you really want to get your boots on and ‘skank it up old school’ though, there’s only one name you need to know: ‘The Rudimentals’.

“A swinging pit and ‘Radio Skaweto’ live, now that’s Nirvana”. The Hippie turns to me and asks me what planet I’m from. It’s too late to answer though, the sax and horn players have just struck up again, the drummer is swinging like a child in a park and the guitarists are just about to go crazy. Besides, someone has to make sure this is done right.

For Lack of an Article

By Wamuwi Mbao

I was all set to write a witty block of text on the tragic state of a world where people don’t write anymore. I was going to try to make you, dear reader, chuckle knowingly at my literary-elitist puns as I ripped into Chitter Twitbook or MyFace or whatever new “social networking” site has the worderazzi in a huff these days. But rambling on about the pseudo-communication of the interwebs has been done to dessication, so I decided to try my hand at something else.

Why not attack literary snobbishness? After all, that’s a worthy cause if sprinkled with enough literary vinegar. There had to be enough targets of my ire, what with the Conservative Colonial set who swoon about with flattened vowels muttering about the post-colonial literature that slew Byron and James, and professing a wish to see “Keenyaa” one more time.

But this too will not do. What I needed to do was draw upon my “shared African experience”, I thought. After all, weren’t my lecturers always subtly hinting in postcolonial tutorials that I could identify with these poor black protagonists (a knowing look is usually the path of least resistance)? If I was asked to present an “African” viewpoint, it would seem as though my black skin made me spokesperson for this continent. But this too is a well-worn pathway, and the call of the disgruntled native doesn’t travel very far in these parts.

Then I thought I’d head in an alternative direction. As I write this, I’m sure there are very many hapless individuals out there pounding out their gonzo imaginings on keyboards, tweaking at hand-rolled cigarettes and imagining they’re going to write the next “Fear and Loathing in (insert generic city for sake of metaphor here).” After all, in a world of moodily lit HBO series with their eccentric heroes always willing to engage in improbable verbal sparring, everyone who can write wants to be Hank Moody.
Wading out of the very shallow literary puddle that constitutes gonzo journalism, I switched on the fluorescent lights, stopped trying to write like “the new” anything, and instead focussed on actually writing something that people might want to read. This got me nowhere at all. So I looked to the news. People waving the old flag around? So much outrage, so much vitriol. So much liberal lip-service. Best not to attack it from that angle. How about interrogating the Anglophone white South Africans who fly the current flag boldly but see absolutely nothing amiss when each and every one of their bosom buddies and lifelong pals is another liberal, suburban white person?

I thought I’d hit on something there. Then it dawned on me that I was in danger of pointing the spotlight rather too close to my own audience. Clearly not the best path to take, and not one likely to be looked on favourably by those who judiciously wield the editor’s pen. Besides, that would just be replicating the conventions of so many articles with a formulaic foray off the beaten track.

So I was left in a bit of a quandary. Perhaps this would be my inspiration, in a corkscrew-looping sense. Who knew that writing some drivel for a journal would be such an exercise in difficulty? I certainly didn’t. At this point I thought of abandoning my avant-garde ambitions and write something that would sit comfortably alongside the undoubtedly fine entries that shoulder this one. But I couldn’t. That would be a cop-out, and I wasn’t prepared to do that yet.

And then it hit me. From this fog of mediocrity in which I’d been wandering like a certain Shakespearean (*spit*) ghost, something that could loosely be termed an article had formed. It looked like an article, had all the qualities of one, and just about met the word-count too. So I stopped there.

Recycle the Corruption

By Vicky Truter

We wanted to publish Jiggered on recycled paper, but it was vastly more expensive. Surprised, I investigated and discovered the myths wrapped up in the term. Recycled paper is a euphemism for paper made with a fractional percentage of recycled material, or that which is made from mill broke and recovered fibre. It is more accurately defined as a poorer quality of paper which is mostly not recycled at all.

The ‘recycling’ of paper and its green three-arrowed logo aptly serves as a symbol for a vicious cycle. It perpetuates greed under a facade of environmental friendliness. It serves as a symbol that is used on products to advertise the myth of the marriage between a money-based value system and the apparent good it can do for the environment.

I’m not talking about the environment as a loose concept that anyone with some kind of liberal guilt throws around without a second thought. I’m talking about the stabilising earth beneath your feet, the water you thirst for, the plant fibres you hunger for and the air you breathe when you remember that you need it.

While recycling can be an honourable endeavour, the metaphor makes for a good rant, especially when you consider the irony of the process. The damage done to the earth by the necessary chlorinated compounds used to bleach post-consumer fibre renders the attempt redundant. Paradoxically, we are taught that it is right and proper to recycle. A new irony for a new war on waste. Why do we farm forests to make paper when faster-growing and cheaper alternatives are available? Like hemp, the plant that we all have a convenient amnesia about. But it’s illegal to grow, despite it being a weed. It would negatively affect other farming industries. This is because they wouldn’t have as much money to be lobbying for their subsidising bills that make them even more money. All while your average would-be hemp grower makes no money at
all. This way, difficulties are curbed and an open market is demarcated with red tape. But when you’re a dick on a mission, ‘competition’ doesn’t have to be a word in your lexicon.

Recycling paper is more expensive because it takes more time and more labour. Because time has been equated with money, it ends up too expensive to afford what really needs to be remedied. The rich get richer while the poor get poorer. No trees get greener.

Three Shots

By B.K Taoana

My name is Tau, and this morning, I am going to shoot the King of Lesotho. I can’t say I have anything against him. On the contrary, he is a man I hold in the highest regard. Not only is he a fair and equitable king, but he also seems to have a firm grasp of what it means to be a constitutional monarch, a figure-head, a symbol of unity for the country. This is more than I can say about kings in other countries I know, who whimsically throw their political weight around and invariably pillage the state coffers to finance their indulgent habits. As far back as I can remember my king, he has always lived modestly – well, as modestly as a regal figure can live – and has been humble and unassuming. If all these are criteria of a good king, then he comfortably fits the description.

Anyway that’s neither here nor there. Listen to me go off on a tangent! I’ve got a job to do, and here I am offering in-depth political analyses and unsolicited evaluations of the effectiveness of my king – not what I get paid to do! And regardless of how much I may like him, he must get shot. At noon.

I was commissioned by a highly placed official in the Palace. He had heard about my matchless track record, spanning three continents and thirty countries. My work speaks for itself, really. I don’t advertise. I’m not listed in the Yellow Pages. As a matter of fact, very few people know how to reach me directly. Let’s just say those who really need my services – and can afford my fee – will find a way to contact me. I guess this highly placed fellow I speak of really wants the King taken care of urgently.

These are the moments I live for! The anticipation of doing a big job, especially when the mark is a ‘higher-up’. My heart thumps my chest violently as I go through the motions in my head: Take aim…align the acquired target with the cross-hairs…keep hands steady…three shots. Quick and painless. That’s my signature. Three shots are all I’ve ever needed. I have never mis-shot a target.

I get my equipment case out, hidden in a specially-built compartment in the floor, under my bed. I hide it because I think it would look incongruous among my porcelain ornaments and glassware. I open it to make sure all the components are there and polish them before placing them back in the case. I take great pride in the tools of my trade.

In order to do my best work I’ve got to use the best technology has to offer. My high-powered equipment is the offspring of German designers and Japanese manufacturers. It is the perfect, convenient marriage between precision and aesthetic appeal. It set me back wallet-wise, but trust me, it was well worth it.

I dress in all black, as I always do when I’m on a job. Black is discreet, and more importantly, professional. I wear my contact lenses as opposed to my glasses because the latter make aiming a tricky business. I can’t afford to have my view of the target impeded in anyway.

After wolfing down a hurried breakfast of coffee and motoho (Basotho porridge made of sorghum), I grab my equipment case and my car keys. Just before dashing out I do a quick scan ensuring that I haven’t left anything. One missing piece of this jig-saw would be my undoing. Satisfied that I have everything, I walk briskly to my car. As if on cue, just as I’m about to drive off, that proverbial Nokia ring-tone bleats loudly, startling me. It’s the Palace official.

Ring ring. Ring ring.

“I’m headed to the palace,” I say, skipping the pleasantries.

“I’ve made sure the King will be alone when you get there. I know audiences give you stage-fright!” I grunt at this weak attempt at humour.

“Is everything in place? I don’t want any slip-ups.”

“Why don’t you let me worry about that, and take care of things on your end? I’m not in the habit of slipping up,” I reply sharply.

“Fine. I’ll – ”

I hang up. I’m working under a very time-specific schedule, so I don’t have time for chit-chat. Besides, I prefer keeping all my business relationships strictly impersonal. I don’t ask my clients how their spouses are getting along, and don’t especially care whether their kids are getting taller. I just want to be given the target’s name, a time and date, and a location. And my money when the job is done.

As I negotiate my way through the mild Maseru traffic, I do one last mental dress rehearsal: Distance from the target, angle of elevation…I’ve got to get these just right, otherwise the result will not be as I want it. One degree too much or too little and the whole thing goes pear-shaped. True, the man who commissioned me just wants this done acceptably. I, on the other hand, don’t accept “acceptable”. I didn’t get to where I am by producing “acceptable” work. For me, only perfect, seamless and flawless will do.

Sooner than I expected I find myself at the Palace. This brownstone edifice is singularly imposing with its wrought-iron gates and armed members of the Royal Defence Force standing sentry. I show one of the soldiers a pass card. He gives a quick nod and two soldiers open the gate. As I go up the snaking drive-way,
I marvel at how this beautiful piece of architecture is a testament to the proud Basotho history. Even more history will be made by the time I’m done here, I think to myself. When I arrive at the security door a barrel-chested bodyguard booms at me in a polite but officious tone:

“What is your name, Sir?”

“Tau Lelimo, His Majesty is expecting me for a twelve o’clock appointment.”

He cocks his head to one side and puts his index finger to his earpiece as he speaks to someone to confirm what I just told him.

“Very well. Go right through, Sir. You will reach some turnstiles at the end of the passage. Some security personnel will go through your case before letting you in.” Look through my case? This is where I get slightly nervous. Something may go wrong at this stage. But if the palace official took care of things, as he said he would, there is no cause for alarm. With the best look of calmness I can muster, I make my way down the passage to the next security point where I am met by another, even burlier security guard.

“Mr. Lelimo, is it? May I look in your case please?”

Although I say “yes”, I have a feeling that this is not so much a request as it is a nicely worded command. He takes a long look at the contents of my case, then, gives me a knowing look. He is clearly in on this. “Follow me please, Mr. Lelimo.”

After he leads me through several convoluted passages, he ushers me into the King’s study. By now my heart is beating at Formula One speed, and my palms are clammy from the sweat. As if I’m a virgin at this. Presently, I pull myself together. My escort turns to leave after presenting me. “Don’t be too long in there, otherwise His Majesty will be late for his next engagement.” How interesting it is that he chose that word: “late.”

“Your Majesty,” I begin respectfully, “I have come to shoot you.”

“Hahahaha!” he guffaws in his trademark oboe voice. “You make it sound ever so sinister! Well, you can put your tripod over there and set up your camera while I put on my regalia.” After he has donned his intricately-designed royal wear, he sits down and gets ready to pose. “Legend has it you take the best pictures in no more than three shots.”

“I wouldn’t believe everything I hear, Your Majesty,” I joke, poised to take the first of three shots.

"Thieving, lazy jokester calls himself an artist?"

By Tracy-Lee Nicol

An up-and-coming artist is hard at work until the small hours of the morning setting up his latest exhibition due to open the following evening. He’s satisfied and calls it a night. Next evening the artistic elite, press, critics and collectors gather anticipating a great show. The curtains are thrown back. The audience gasps then falls silent. Someone attempts an awkward clap and mumbles, “is he for real?” The gallery is stark empty save for a bit of lint in the corners. The only clue that something has gone awry is the artist running off in tears.

Down the road, Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan is opening an exhibition too. The artistic elite, press, critics and collectors gather anticipating a great show. The curtains are thrown back, the audience gasps…except this time they are greeted by a gallery full of boxes containing art that mysteriously disappeared from the other artist’s gallery the night before. The reaction is mixed.

The teary artist bays for Cattelan’s arrest. At the police station he describes Cattelan and the officer pulls out a file as thick as a phone directory with hundreds of pencil drawn profiles of the man himself. “He left these here after one of his exhibitions where he told friends and family to draw what they thought he looked like” says the officer. Some time goes by. The artist hears Cattelan is opening another exhibition and decides to go over and have a word. Upon arrival the gallery is dark and locked up, no one’s around, and stuck in the window is a handwritten note saying “sorry”, a police report and a case number for a “stolen exhibition”. Some people wish the title “artist” could be removed much like a head from a pair of shoulders.

While some fail to see the humour of his work, — one of his best-known sculptures La Nona Ora (The Ninth Hour) (1999), an effigy of Pope John Paul II in full ceremonial dress crushed under a meteor, caused a right commotion — Cattelan’s satirical and controversial approach to art makes him postmodernism’s poster-boy. Showing a metaphorical finger to the artistic elite, Cattelan: did not attend art school, commissions others to make his work, hires stand-ins armed with evasive or nonsensical answers for media interviews, has sold his exhibition space at one of Europe’s prestigious biennales to the highest bidding cosmetics advertiser, holds empty exhibitions with only a sick note from the doctor stuck to the door as explanation, and creates miniature wax caricatures of himself should anyone want to know what he looks like.

In spite of his regular satirical pokes at the art world, Cattelan has made quite a career from this machine he critiques, that same body of ruffled feathers that bestows upon him the title of “artist”. He has exhibited in illustrious international galleries. In addition to exhibition credentials that would bring a tear to any striving artist’s eye, Cattelan’s pieces fetch handsome sums at auction. La Nora Ora (The Ninth Hour) (1999) hauled in $3 million at a Christie’s auction, while Par Peur de l’Amour (2000), a sculpture of an elephant dressed in a Ku Klux Klan uniform, sold at Christie’s in 2004 for $2.7 million.

Some may say that the death of modernism was the death of art, and who’s to say they are wrong? Gone was the artist as god, great author, speaker and knower of unfathomable truth, gone was a world structured by polarised opposites of mind/matter, higher/lower, greater/lesser, subject/object, civilised/uncivilised.
Postmodernity is a reflection of unresolved paradoxes of modernism; a movement wholly parasitic, whose scope of deconstruction rattles between established binaries.

So while today anyone has the ability to call themselves an artist, a bag of rubbish on the roadside or a shop window display can be called art, where art is as commodified and consumable as a Mac and cheese to go, and where authorship lies cold and stiff, this does not spell the death of art. You can be certain that the goal posts have moved, perhaps are missing entirely, and Cattelan has run off with the ball. And it’s a good thing too, because only once everything has been said will art truly die. But hey, if you refuse to see the art in Cattelan convincing his gallery manager to dress as a giant pink phallus for an entire month, the joke’s on you.

P.S. While facts in this piece hold more or less true, some have been bent and stretched for effect (the price tags not being one). If you have any queries, though, I’m sure Cattelan would be happy to dodge them too. See more at (

The Birth of a Reader

By Lumumba Mthembu

As a student of English Literature, I find that my relationship with the literary critical establishment is characterised by a profound sense of betrayal. The treachery that underlies the academic treatment of literature is best exposed by way of an allegory I encountered during three years of mindlessly meandering through the field of Psychology. There is a science fiction story about an unidentified flying object that is detected orbiting the earth. At first, the military is all for shooting it down but the people of earth soon relax upon discovering that there are no life forms aboard the alien craft. A computer database containing writings in an unknown language is the only object of human interest on board the ship.

It is presumed that these writings will reveal valuable information about the spacecraft’s origins. The database is then downloaded onto computers on earth so that cryptologists, linguists and anyone else for that matter, can get to the business of deciphering the strange writings. Industriously, the humans apply themselves to the task, ever reliant on the principles of hard work and intellectual rigour. Eventually, the writings are rendered intelligible as the code is broken. There are celebrations all round. What the humans do not immediately perceive is that, in the act of rendering the alien language comprehensible, they have assimilated the alien way of thinking which subsequently transforms them into aliens even though outwardly, they still appear to be human. Without a second’s delay, the ship leaves the earth’s atmosphere and sets out to colonise other planets.

In much the same way, the literary critical establishment estranges the student of English Literature from their own independent thought and line of critical pursuit. While their mind is still pliable and their footing unsure, they are indoctrinated by the normative discourse spewed out by the academic establishment. While they are still na├»ve and impressionable, they are told that they are not qualified to have an opinion and so they should master the skill of hanging onto the coattails of those who are qualified: the critics who have been published in peer-reviewed journals and the scholars who have become intimate with ‘the Man and his Work’ over years of incarceration in the ivory tower that is academia. Far too late in the day – when their instincts have been blunted and their confidence checked, when their mind can no longer hold an idea without having to rely on the crutch of academically sanctioned discourse for support – the trick of their enfeeblement is revealed to them.

I am currently studying the major works of Joseph Conrad in a course on Modernist literature. Joseph Conrad, the historic personage, is obviously unknown to me but in my academic endeavours I speak of him as if he poured his very essence into his works. I have assumed that the man is somehow brought forward by his works and I have been conditioned to believe that it is my professor’s job to tease out the ways in which Conrad’s life colours his texts. Like a trained German Shepherd, my mind sniffs out the source of official academic discourse and remains loyal to it. Without my consent, my mind gravitates towards readings of his novels that are privileged by the academic literary community. I am told that I should merely accept that Joseph Conrad is a racist and the only recourse that is left to me is to simply deal with it, and like a dumb man, I nod my head without a sound. Gullibly, I venerate the author by buying into the myth of his creative genius. What would have become of me were it not for my encounters with theorists who question the validity of authorship, I leave to your imagination.

Ideally, I would like to see the academic literary establishment engender a culture of critical readers as opposed to the current system, which reduces students of English Literature to Golden Retrievers who have been trained to ‘fetch’ information from ‘credible’ sources. This establishment should not just accommodate the many interpretations, it should actively encourage diverse views and should resist the impulse to privilege any one particular discourse at the expense of another. Traditional critics’ recourse to the values of clarity, nobility, and humanity, which they treat as neutral, exerts a censoring force on other interpretations. The establishment needs to display more commitment to self-reflection and reaction.

The idea of a literary canon needs to be interrogated if not thrown out all together because it is the very construction of a core of canonical literature that relegates contemporary, alternative and deviant literatures to the sidelines of academic focus. The changes I am calling for have been implemented to some extent. My problem is that the effects of these changes have not yet filtered down to the grassroots level. A small corner has been carved out for the expression of these revolutionary ideas within the academic literary establishment, but only so as not to contaminate the centre. No matter; we shall toil from within the confines of the space that has been demarcated for us by the powers that be, because at the end of the day, “there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come”*.

*Quotation from Victor Hugo


By Julie-Anne Lothian

Some say there is nothing left to fight for, that we are a lost generation with no cause, no war and no purpose. And with this in mind, we assume no responsibility: if there is nothing to fight against, then fighting seems pointless.

Although logically sound, the argument is false. It is not that there is nothing left to fight against, but that sacrificing anything to do so would cause far too much discomfort. And so we sit and complain, because no one is doing anything. Yet when something goes wrong it astonishes us when no one gives a damn. Maybe I am being too harsh. I do not wish to forget all those who get up every morning and fight their own personal battles. This, however, may be part of the problem: we are not sovereign entities wandering aimlessly. Your individuality is wrapped up within countless other lives. The coffee you drink, the paper you write on, hell, the thoughts you believe to be your own; all have a story. What we fail to remember is that that story is also wrapped up in the lives of other people.

I believe that the greatest thing the evils of the world are capable of is distraction. We all know that injustices occur; we are all aware of the fact that some people go home to a good meal and a warm bed, while others do not have a home. What we have convinced ourselves of is that this is someone else’s fault. We say the ‘system’ is to blame: the government is not fulfilling their duties, the neo-imperialist powers of the world are enslaving all of us. This is true to a point (and not something I wish to go into here), but it is also part of an increasingly elaborate diversion. When there are so many things that are beyond your control it’s easy to assume that you are not the problem.

This is the war I believe we have to fight, and this is also why no one is taking up arms. The battle is not against a neo-liberal machine that perpetuates the oppression of most while rewarding some. The war is against the individualistic self who believes that it affects, and is effected by, nothing outside of itself. We are the enemies of the world, and we have fashioned the most impressive war strategy ever known: self-manipulation. With this internal manipulation, we have created a society bent on self-destruction. It is a highly effective and complex system that is sophisticated in its application. This is because we have made ourselves unaware of the fact that the suffering of others is our own suffering. Unless we change the belief that we are not part of the lives of others, we will squeeze the life out of everything we value in the world.

The point I wish to make is a simple one: we depend on others for our survival. Even our beliefs are affected by those around us. In keeping with the tone of this column, let me leave you with words that are not my own: “you can never escape from your fate, the mistake is to take without giving. So break the tradition, make a decision, because no matter how hard you try you’re still in prison if you’re born with wings and never fly”*.

*Quotation by Faithless