VIDEO: The world’s best break dancers – from South Africa (Ubuntu B-Boyz)

A video by Anthony Molyneaux and Jaco du Plessis

Ubuntu B-Boyz is a South African breakdancing group from Mitchell’s Plain. They received international acclaim when they were crowned world champions in 2006 in Germany.

The Ubuntu crew have opened for artists like 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg, Beyonce and Kanye West. They perform throughout South Africa, and have just recently performed at Rocking the Daisies festival near Cape Town.

Ubuntu BBoyz preforming at Rocking the Daisies festival in Robertson

Ubuntu B-Boyz preforming at Rocking the Daisies festival in Robertson

Apart from commercial performances, they also take part in ‘dance battles’ and competitions against other break dancing groups around the world.

The word Ubuntu is an African concept meaning ‘I am because we are’.

Courtney

Advertisements

The Truth and Tredoux

Professor Colin Tredoux speaks about the infamous Station Strangler case, being taught by J.M Coetzee and the difficulties facing court convictions. Anthony Molyneaux sat in his leafy offices at UCT to find out what’s next for Tredoux.

“There was someone murdering young boys in the 80s and 90s in Cape Town. Modus operandi was the same it seemed, he would meet young boys between the ages of 8 to 18 years at train stations and he would ask them to do things for him,

‘Carry a box and I’ll give you R5.’

“Once he led them away from the train station, he would tie their hands up, rape them, murder them, mutilate them and shove their heads in the sand. Twenty two boys over an 8 year period were killed.”

Professor Colin Tredoux, a psychology professor at UCT, strokes his grey goatee thoughtfully as he recalls all the information on the infamous station strangler case.

There was a R50, 000 reward for any information on the murders in the impoverished Mitchells Plain area. Vigilante groups were escalating in their violent behaviour against suspected residents.

On the 19th March 1994, after another boy was found in the sand, the police finally got a break in the case in the form of two eye-witnesses.

The identikit drawn up by the two eye-witnesses led to a tip-off by a nurse of a patient undergoing treatment in a psychiatric ward in Cape Town.

The eye-witness testimony and the line-up that ensued made up the crux of the evidence against a 28-year-old Mitchells Plain school teacher named Norman Afzal Simons.

Simons was found guilty of the death of Elroy van Rooyen, the last boy to be murdered. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and locked in Drakenstein Maximum Correctional Facility near Paarl.

Tredoux, having investigated the finer details of the case, believes that the station strangler case has many curious tactics and methods that may have led to an example where the law and investigation can go wrong.

He is not the only one.

Norman Afsal Simons pictured at the Police station when he enrolled for the reservist position

Norman Afzal Simons pictured at the Police station when he enrolled for the reservist position

“Most of the police you ask about this are convinced he is not the guy. The lawyers who defended him are absolutely adamant he is innocent,” states Tredoux.

Advocate Koos Louw, who defended Simons, refused to cut his hair for 16 years in a sign of protest against Simon’s trial and conviction.

“You look at the theory of our law and what is supposed to happen and then you get the actual judgments and procedures. These two are remarkably different to what they are supposed to be,” says Tredoux.

Tredoux has a monumental knowledge of the case as he is an expert in eye-witness recall and line-up fairness through his barrage of published research papers.

“Early on my research centered on devising measures to improve the fairness of police line-ups. My second strand of research was Eigenface which is a tool to assist the police in getting better quality pictures of perpetrators from eye-witnesses. The third strand is armchair investigation as to why the current method is so inaccurate.

 “In Simons case, not only was the eye-witness extremely hesitant of pointing Simons out, but the line-up had serious concerns in terms of fairness. All the participants of the line-up were supposed to be of similar height, dress and have similar features such as scars or tattoos. In the line-up footage, Simons is the only one that has a facial scar and wearing the most notable mustard coloured pants,” states Terdoux.

“In South Africa we have more of a bias to prosecuting people rather than defending them. If you defend people more vigorously, more guilty people go free. We are desperate to prosecute people and drive crime down, we are happy to let innocent people have a little less protection.”

Even with the current method being so inaccurate, there are more factors at play that reduce the chances of accurate convictions.

Internationally, he found through his studies that a large factor in identification inaccuracies is cross-race identifications.

“There’s a difficulty in recognizing people from other groups. If you look at the mistaken convictions in the United States, three quarters of them are white people trying to identify black perpetrators.  Of the roughly 330 cases that DNA has now vindicated in America, three quarters of those were cross-race identifications,” states Tredoux.

If memory recall, eye-witness inaccuracies and questionable line-up discrepancies are so prevalent, is there a future where DNA and technology rule, instead of subjective memory recall?

“DNA testing is always circumstantial. All it proves is that you were there. You can argue that you had been there before on another occasion. That’s different from someone saying, ‘I saw him do it, he is the guy who had the gun and he pulled the trigger.’ DNA needs to be backed up by a visual record of the perpetrator being there at the time of the incident,” states Tredoux.

CCTV is the new kid on the block in court rooms for attorneys to identify suspects. This ‘objective’ method should rule out all these inaccuracies in terms of eye-witness recall. However, Tredoux has mixed feelings about this new form of identification.

“The likelihood of identifying the CCTV image with the actual person has been shown to be 50 percent. The images are grainy for one, but it’s not just that, it’s a tricky task to match a photograph of a person at point one versus the person at point two. It sounds absolutely straight forward, dead-easy, but it’s not,” states Tredoux.

“CCTV and cell phone footage won’t be good for arguing identity; it will be good for circumstance. In this case, it’s not an argument about identity, it’s about likelihood.”

On the 28th of August, four teenagers were convicted of killing Dean Mayley in west London. The CCTV footage shows the criminals blocking Mayley’s path and then stabbing him in the chest when he refused to hand over his money. Just as Tredoux pointed out, their faces are indiscernible but the footage did help to place the perpetrators at the scene and aided in convicting the four teenagers.

CCTV footage revealed the incident yet the men's faces were indescribable.

CCTV footage revealed the incident yet the men’s faces were indescribable. (BBC)

Regarding Tredoux’s past work, I spoke with one of Tredoux’s PhD students, Alicia Nortje, about Tredoux and his motivation behind his work.

“If Colin has an opinion about something, he has probably thought about it for some time because he doesn’t make any hasty judgments. He is not hell-bent on justice. I think in the station strangler case, it’s a really interesting application of our work, and there is social responsibility that goes with that.”

PAST and FUTURE

Tredoux grew up in Pretoria and attended the reputable Pretoria Boys High School.

Upon moving to UCT to study English Literature in 1982, he was taught by the legendary Pulitzer, Nobel and Booker Prize winner, J.M Coetzee.

“Coetzee was a very cool person, quite distant. Formidably clever and he taught us unusual things like Defoe. I remember when I was an honours student and working in the computer science building. I used the word processes, as it was in 95, and Coetzee was always there, every night, typing away frantically on the processor,” reminisces Tredoux.

Coetzee is currently living in Adelaide in Australia. I wondered if Tredoux would continue his current direction and spend the rest of his working years in Cape Town

“I have another fifteen years [left]. It’s tricky because you can become a member of the overfed bourgeoisies very easily,” he says, laughing loudly.

After a long pause, he continues,

“I think a change of scene of some kind might be the best thing for me. A totally different country, a totally different way of doing things. A gigantic change could be it.”

Tredoux, working tirelessly over the past twenty years, has published many research papers such as ‘Evaluation of ID: using Eigenface as an eye-witness tool to aid the police’. He has also studied the accuracies of cross-racial prejudices in identikits and facial composites, has tackled racial preferences in children and researched line-up construction and fairness.

Concurrently, Simons has been in jail over the past twenty years and just as Tredoux is looking for a change, a major change may be facing Norman Afzal Simons. The alleged Station Strangler is due for parole in 2015. It seems Tredoux and Simons share something in common.

Potential freedom.

_______________________________________________________

A documentary feature regarding the Station Strangler case and the details surrounding this case will be released soon. Follow this blog for more information.

Malema’s recent outburst in parliament may be a ‘game changer’

Julius Malema. Image at Leadership Platform

“Julius Malema eats, drinks and sleeps South African politics. It doesn’t matter that he got a G in woodwork because he knows this game better than anyone else around,” stated Richard Poplak, the acclaimed journalist, at the Stellenbosch University on Monday.

Poplak was promoting his new book, Until Julius Comes, which documents the South African 2014 elections and features Julius Malema and the EFF as the main protagonists.

Poplak’s book release coincides with the controversial disruption in parliament on Thursday last week where EFF members were kicked out of parliament for chanting, “Pay back the money”.

The outburst was against President Jacob Zuma and the fraudulent allegations surrounding his homestead, Nkandla. This action, according to Poplak, could be a ‘game changer’.

“We cannot underestimate how powerful that performance was in parliament last week. On Thursday Julius Malema did something that has been passed around the country, he stood up to the bad guys and gave them hell right in the big house,” stated Poplak.

“The idea of representation [of the public] suddenly switched and people realised they have a voice, and that voice is Julius Malema.”

Richard Poplak at Stellenbosch University

Richard Poplak at Stellenbosch University

Wearing a black beanie and a shaggy beard, Poplak spoke of the rising popularity of the charismatic Malema and the crucial role he plays in the party’s success.

“He [Malema] is the star, if he’s gone, what’s left? This question is pretty serious because at this point without him there is no movement.”

The EFF won 6.35 percent of the votes in the national elections. The EFF still needs to produce an in-depth policy document clearly stating what their future intentions and guidelines will be.

“Right now it’s like a Pink Floyd light show, everything looks great but at some point there has to be something underpinning it. It can’t all be Marxist rhetoric and red onesies.”

The 2016 municipal elections will be the next test for the EFF. Poplak predicts that they will show a massive upscale in the polls and that the DA will also have a surge in votes.

Poplak has been trailing the EFF and their rise to parliament over the past year and hypothesized what could happen if the EFF took power of the country.

“With what I understand of the EFF policies currently, there would most likely be a massive capital flight out of the country and a lot of white people would run screaming to O.R Tambo or Cape Town International airports clutching their cutlery.”

Until Julius Comes documents the political complexity of the new South Africa. Poplak, acting under the pseudonym “Hannibal Elector”, will continue to document Malema and the EFF going forward.

Short films and skate parks

Marcel Swanepoel at the Gardens skate park, Cape Town, The park is set to open in July 2014.

From the studio to the streets, from architecture to film, Marcel Swanepoel thrives on not producing ‘average work’. Anthony Molyneaux discovers what his ever changing existence is like and what he thinks our ‘everything-all-the-time’ generation is searching for.

The unfinished skate park lies quietly under the yellow light of Cape Town’s lampposts. Marcel examines the rubble and construction of the steps, half pipes and rail placements. “Our company, Epitome, wants to produce a video for this park and display it on the back wall on the day this skate park opens. We love skating, film and Cape Town and want to be a part of this venture. We just can’t get through the hierarchy at the moment.”

Marcel is working on a host of his own short films. Some animated, others shot in real time. One of the films called “Through the Fire” depicts a monster like creature, down and out lying on a couch, dismayed by the life of routine and its orthodox environment. The monster is contrasted in the short film by Lilly, a young child who instead enjoys the life of routine. Lilly is depicted as a happy-go-lucky being, thriving on the routine of life that the unhappy monster can’t stand.

“I have a phobia of normality, I was brought up in routine, society placed me in routine throughout my younger years and I needed to break free from this,” he states while stroking his week old beard.

Sparkling neon lit slot machines with names such as ‘Kitty Glitter’, ‘Russian Treasure’ and ‘Indian Dreaming’ illuminate an otherwise bland, square room at the back of a quaint pizzeria. The type of place one would expect the mob to meet. Framed photos of drunken customers sporting vuvuzelas and soccer scarves line the wooden walls.

Marcel Swanepoel, a 28-year-old man, now sits across from me with a woolen beanie concealing his short disheveled hair. He drags hard on his cigarette, creating an orange furnace at the end of his fingertips.

The tiny silver ball attached below his left lower lip jumps up and down his beard laden face as he details his enjoyment of the otherwise empty room.

“A room can create comfort, calm or distress without you even knowing it.” He casually sips on his golden beer in between the drags of his hot cigarette and his explanation.

“Architecture is a wonderful concept; it’s a way to manipulate your environment. That’s why I went into it but I realized that I wanted more creativity than architecture could offer.”

Film is where Marcel finds his freedom, his passion to share his ideas and concepts with the world.

“In film I can manipulate space and environment infinitely with no rules or overseeing authority.”

Another cigarette is lit, his eye movements rove the ceiling in an attempt to formulate his words and concepts. “Little pieces of myself get into them [short films]. People wear masks for different occasions and I thrive on this fakeness. I call myself ‘the fake Marcel’ as I too adopt these facades.”

“Every person I meet can offer something. Getting to know people is my number one thing in this world. I love trying to break through these facades to get through to the real person.”

Marcel has studied many things in his 28 years. He started with Math. The idea of creating new theorems enticed him into the field of mathematics. After a year in this field, he changed to Engineering as this was less confining than math and he yearned to create something physical. After two years in Engineering, the creativity he desired was not satisfied. Architecture was next. The concept of developing and designing enticed him and he continued to gain his master’s degree in this field. However, this too provided too many obstacles to his creative nature.

Marcel now works for a ‘small time production company’ called Epitome with his step brother, Renico van Wyk. Film now caters to his creative streak while he lectures part time at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) in Architecture.

http://thisisepitome.com/

“I believe I have a lot of valuable thoughts and ideas that could influence society”

The problem comes about as society is the very factor that’s preventing him from producing his ‘masterworks’.

Marcel refers to our society as an “everything-all-the-time generation.” Marcel believes that our current society has learned to adapt to everything coming at us at once due to the ease of information that the internet has brought us. Skimming the surface like a skipping stone, only taking in the bare minimal to serve our ever active fingertips and thought.

He chose a short film medium as he himself deals with this dilemma.

“I make these films for myself, not to serve any other purpose. Yet I want people to feel something when they watch it.

“I believe creativity is problem solving, or how creatively you can solve the problem.” He slides two empty beer glasses together and poses the question of how to merge the two glasses to become one. As he is explaining this, small droplets of perspiration formulate on his nose. “Many would come up with the most practical solution and go with that one but there are so many more ways to address the problem.

“You could break the two into shards of glass and because they are the same glass, they could be regarded as one. You could fill each with liquid and place them on top of each other to merge them into one glass.” After a shrugging of shoulders and more nose perspiration explaining multiple options to this dilemma, he states, “I could go on forever.”

Another one of Marcel’s film concepts is of greed. Marcel depicts greed as ‘Doctor Terrible, a well-to-do physician ambling from house to house. After knocking on people’s doors, he asks, “Anymoney home?”

Society is under scrutiny throughout Marcel’s life yet an overwhelming truth comes to realization. “Society creates the framework to work within.” Without it, too much freedom is given and essentially, the artist is left to their own divergent and detrimental devices. For Marcel, his work is aimed at the public, in order to influence the public. Therefore without the public, there is a missing link.

Upon asking what he hopes his movies will achieve he states, “I want people to be affected by them, to get emotional, to maybe even cry and to realize something within themselves they have been denying.”

Renico van Wyk, Marcel’s half-brother, a talented videographer, speaks of Marcel as having “a lot of good energy mixed with almost too much confidence. Creatively, he is always bringing the crazy ideas [sic].

He is really scared of losing originality.”

Marcel explains his idea of passion with a flurry of hand movements. “I believe I have many passions but finding one real passion to stick to is difficult.” He instead distills his passions across the board and infuses the different mediums with his infinite energy. Through short film Marcel finds his contribution to society through extension of his creative spirit.

Clark Kent of the Arts festival, Woordfees

Every year Tenswell Hector leaves his corporate job to work in an arts festival for 10 days.

It’s a story of metamorphosis from a dull rather average life adopted by so many, into a life that is closer to their real passion and originality –much like Clark Kent being given the chance to become Superman.

Tenswell Hector, a rousing man from Cloetesville, Stellenbosch, had studied drama and performed regularly at the Breughel Theatre Company, winning a number of best acting awards, before the cubicle world hijacked him from the stage.

After 35 years of working for an attorney group in Stellenbosch, “Tessie”, as he is affectionately known by those close to him, decided his creativity had been suppressed enough and strode out of his confining office job. This transition as a 53-year old man played a massive role in guiding him back to theatre.

In 2011, Woordfees received Tessie as a stage production manager and assistant at the book tent based on his charisma and skills in the industry. He shined, this time behind the scenes with the enthusiasm of his boyish grin and adaptability, winning hearts as he helped out wherever he could.

“It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are from, I respect everyone attending. It doesn’t matter if they are a homeless person, President Zuma or ‘Malemakie’, they are our guests and that is what the Woordfees is all about.”

"After working at the festival, I don't even feel tired"

“After working at the festival, I don’t even feel tired”

A benefit of working at the Woordfees is the chance to see all types of live theatre and Tessie looks forward to a play by acclaimed director Adam Small called “Kanna, hy kô hystoe”. “This play was only performed by and for ‘brown’ people back in my acting days, so to see it portrayed on this scale and to such a diverse audience makes me proud.”

Tessie’s opinion of the predominantly Afrikaans festival is one of pride in his language. He believes Afrikaans as a language is under pressure. The internet and the overruling use of English and slang all contribute toward this. “If we don’t have festivals like Woordfees, we will lose something special about our language,” states Tessie.

After the ten days of creative, outdoor freedom, Tessie puts on his office suit again and returns to his job at Anglo American. When asked how this transition back into reality affects him, he describes his delight as being able to have charged his creative battery. The festival brings him back to life for 10 great days.

Tessie wants to become a household name in theatre management and his work at the Woordfees will no doubt set him up for his greatest passion in life. “I didn’t get what I wanted in the corporate world but what I get out of theatre, is more than money.”

Miracle baby into mended boat

Writing about an individual requires their claim to fame, a reason why they have been given attention. Dominique Oosthuizen’s claim would not be her birth right but just her birth. Prematurely born by 3 months, she faced a life and death situation the moment she took her first incubated breath.

There is no way for Dominique to remember those prayer-filled moments when she should still have been comforted by her mother’s womb. However, the true story of her own survival is like a robed cloak around her slender shoulders, a barrier against life’s hardships. She tells of her life and death experience not unlike a person who has been granted a second shot at life, except Dominique fought for just a shot at life.

The construction trucks roared past the casual wine drinkers on the corner, clad in expensive hats and lathered in fragranced sunscreen. These two extremes so commonly seen around the town of Stellenbosch on any given Thursday. At a hip and quaint café in the heart of this student town sat Dominique, dressed in a summery jean jacket, a functional blue dress and a glass of wine in hand.

Currently studying journalism at the University of Stellenbosch, Dominique is not sure of where the course will lead her but her background in finance will undoubtedly play a part in her future. A strong believer in careers and being fulfilled in a job you are passionate about, she states “I’m not the type of girl who is pinning wedding dresses on her wall.”

Her life has been shaped by the large amounts of testosterone encompassing her in her household. Growing up with five brothers contributed specifically to her skill in sports and the choice of “appropriate clothing” when she would attend a party or event.

A self-confessed daddy’s girl, Dominique holds the utmost respect for her father. “My dad is my hero.” A man described as larger than life and as tall as a lighthouse, guiding her through times of her possibly going adrift.

What about your mom, I asked. An immediate change came about. The confident, I-know-what-I’m-talking-about sureness flew out the window. A wafer thin answer is produced. I inquired further yet the shifting eyes and uncomfortable hand gestures pushed me back. It’s too soon into our talk for that.

Dominique has moved around a lot. She tells tales of strolling to school barefoot on the beach at Melkbosstrand, playing in the suburban streets of the Highveld until dark and zigzagging across the map of South Africa more times than Barry Ronge has watched ‘Titanic’. She has moved 34 times over her 23 years of life.

Earlier that day, Dominique had to present a 30 minute presentation to her 24 classmates. Like many, Dominique hates the spotlight. Observing her closely showed almost no sign of conflict with the glaring sets of eyes. Confident, well-prepared and able to handle the questions posed, I am taken aback by her statement now in this audience of one.

Hiding away at a cafe in Stellenbosch

Hiding away at a cafe in Stellenbosch

Dominique has figured out ways to deal with these uncomfortable situations. Learning to deal, I think, sums her up. She strikes me as a person who can learn to deal with anything. Accounting would be a perfect example, “I hated accounting – I used to pour a glass of wine to study for it.” She stated coyly, sipping on some wine in the midday, not quite autumn sun.

Her school track record shows distinctions and favourable results. A high school career any parent would be proud of. Her life then led to Stellenbosch. Her eyes light up every time she mentions her family and leaving them behind in Pretoria was rough. Yet a decision she says was one of the best she has ever made. A time to set sail for different shores. Strolling from class to the café through Stellenbosch, she points out locations and giggles at the memories she has acquired over the course of her 3 years.

Dominique’s life is steered by her will to discover and the confidence to overcome any bad weather. Her power to keep going comes from her brothers it seems, shoveling the coal into the furnace engine providing more steam. Her direction and guidance originates from the lighthouse operated by her ever present father and the boats exterior is made out of her will to fight and win.

Her hands seem to be shooing away imaginary flying critters as she explains her existence. She seems like the type who would shoo-away rather than destroy. “A constant change of scenery, friends and schools combined with time spent among a bunch of sibling brothers, makes you a varied person – girly yet sporty, creative yet logical – a life open to any avenue,” stated Dominique.

A caring individual and the longer I speak with her, I feel she would be a wonderful person to speak to in a time of need – a person who would understand, no matter what. A notion backed up by her close friend, Jolandi van Niekerk who adds, “You can trust her with your life. You will never EVER hear her speak badly about someone else.”

While describing her life of varied experience and the paradox of personality traits, she drew a cartoon type dog seemingly being attacked by a UFO. She has green chalk on her left cheek after touching her face at the delightful anguish of it all.

I wanted to find out more about her mother and prodded lightly at the topic. Her parents divorced when she was 3. Her dad won custody over the children straight after the parents break and Dominique hasn’t seen her mom since her third grade. A visibly uncomfortable Dominique tells of how her mom wasn’t in the right place to have a child. The effects are still palpable. Yet the other aspects of her life stay in place and cushion this blow. It seems like Dominique has taken this absence in her stride and let it lie behind her, much like the landscape she sails away from.

A miracle baby, who can get through anything it seems. Much adversity yet Dominique still stands, rudder in hand, brothers giving her the strength to push on and dad helping her find her way. She leaves behind the challenges of the past in her wake and using these lessons she has learnt as her sails, she directs life’s gale to her advantage and to her port of calling.