The Bang Bang Club

Journalists in South Africa are picking up on how the film, "The Bang Bang Club," treats some of the Bang Bang Club's black colleagues. And other Weekend Specials.

Still from "The Bang Bang Club."

The Hollywood film about the four real-life white photographers who built their fame taking pictures of political violence in black townships in early 1990s South Africa, “The Bang Bang Club,” was released in South Africa this week. Most reviewers here (and in the UK) were lukewarm about the film. Now journalists in South Africa are picking up on how the film treats some of the Bang Bang Club’s black colleagues.

Here’s Philippa Garson, a colleague of the Bang Bang Club writing in The Mail & Guardian, a Johannesburg-based weekly newspaper:

“What bothered me most about ‘The Bang Bang Club’ was the distorted depiction of Abdul Shariff, who was caught in the crossfire and shot dead in Katlehong in January 1994. He is portrayed in the movie as a gawky young novice who eagerly asks to join the Bang Bang Club. After the group reluctantly allows him to tag along, he is killed in a gunfight in a graveyard in Soweto. In reality Shariff was an experienced and respected photographer who would never have asked to join the Bang Bang Club! It was irresponsible to portray him in this way. “In retrospect maybe it was a mistake, but it was unintended,” [the film’s director Steven Silver] says. For all those people who knew Shariff, this was certainly no small mistake.”

And here’s columnist Fred Khumalo in The Sunday Times:

“… [I]t sickened me to see Alf Kumalo, one of the greats of SA photography, making a cameo appearance as an avuncular has-been whose only contribution to the narrative is giving the Marinovich character a warm welcome to The Star’s photographic department. And – ah, yes – he also gets to admonish a young township radical who rails against members of the Bang Bang Club ‘profiting’ from the suffering of black victims. According to the movie, Kumalo did not share a single nugget of photographic wisdom with the young bucks. Those who worked at The Star, and other photographers who interacted with the Bang Bang Club in the field, will tell you tales to the contrary.Those of us who have been around for some time in this crazy trade of words and pictures know that Oosterbroek, for one, spent many hours learning from Kumalo – about the finer points of photography, but also survival tips in the hot spots where the younger man was robbed of his wife’s car, was shot and generally abused by fighters across the divide. There were others too: photographers Walter Dhladhla, Elmond Jiyane and Juda Ngwenya, to mention a few, who, because of their knowledge of the townships and the languages spoken there, were always eager to help photographers and journalists not familiar with the terrain.”

The paper for the South African black middle class, The City Press, just republished Bill Keller’s piece, “The Inner Lives of War Photographers” from The New York Times.

In other news, Chief Boima went to Ghana. []

Africa, Google wants you.  Just ask The Next Web Africa.

I got to watch South African photographer Zanele Muholi‘s very personal and revealing documentary “Difficult Love” this week.  You can too. Watch out for a review of the film here soon by film director Nerina Penzhorn.

South African graffiti artist Mak1One stopped by AIAC’s “offices” in Fort Greene–courtesy of Dylan Valley. He’s got some big things planned. He was in Rochester, NY, along with eight other artists including fellow South Africans, Freddy Sam and Faith 47, to work on a mural in a popular city park.

There’s a film in the works about the Israel is Apartheid thesis.  It’s by a South African and an Israeli. Not by Palestinians.

The Women’s World Cup is over now. I missed much of it, except the Brazil-USA semi-final. I was watching the Copa America instead. I was rooting against Uruguay. Anyway, back to the women’s game.  How did the African women’s game – represented by Nigeria and Equitorial Guinea – do at the Women’s World Cup? Badly. Some perspective from The Footballers Scholars Forum, Football is Coming Home and From a Left Wing.

Also watch out for a new documentary film about Cape Town struggle hero Ashley Kriel who was cornered and brutally murdered by police in 1987. We’ll try and get a copy and interview the director Nadine Cloete. Here‘s a link (in Afrikaans) to a story about the film.

Meanwhile, from the BBC:  “A 50-year old … man woke up inside a mortuary over the weekend and screamed to be let out – scaring away attendants who thought he was a ghost. His family presumed he was dead when they could not wake him on Saturday night and contacted a private morgue in a rural village in the Eastern Cape. He spent almost 24 hours inside the morgue, the region’s health department spokesman told the Sapa news agency. The two attendants later returned and called for an ambulance. ”  The man hardly looks 50 if you watch the video.  The Associated Press’ video report of the events is equally baffling. The AP got the provincial leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance in Johannesburg to comment on events (I don’t know why) in the Eastern Cape which is a day trip away. He is identified as “the spokesperson for the provincial health department” when he is a political party official.

Remember Faaji Agba, the band I was raving about a few days ago as they prepared to come play in sweltering Brooklyn? Well, Alaba Pedro, the band’s 72 year old guitarist died Tuesday on an Arik airline flight from New York City to Lagos. “Band members said Mr. Pedro had difficulties breathing one hour into the nine hour flight and died two hours later.” [Sahara Reporters]

Seun Kuti has something to say to hip hop. Listen up 50 Cent, Officer Ricky and Lil Wayne.

The check out files:  A Dog’s Life, a blog by a young, hip Kenyan.

Meanwhile in Senegal Life President Abdoulaye Wade holds on for power.

And a music break. From the East German-born tenor sax player Oliver Fox who collaborates regularly with Cape Town musicians. Here he performs in the Katya Sourikova Group live in Berlin.

New poetry from Cape Town poet Rustum Kozain.

Finally, the amount of attention paid to white Afrikaans rock music inside and outside South Africa astonishes me given its limited reach and impact. Like this interview with the band Fokofpolisiekar who played to white expats in London.


Further Reading

A power crisis

Andre De Ruyter, the former CEO of Eskom, has presented himself as a simple hero trying to save South Africa’s struggling power utility against corrupt forces. But this racially charged narrative is ultimately self-serving.

Cinematic universality

Fatou Cissé’s directorial debut meditates on the uncertain fate and importance of Malian cinema amidst the growing dismissiveness towards the humanities across the world.

The meanings of Heath Streak

Zimbabwean cricketing legend Heath Streak’s career mirrors many of the unresolved tensions of race and class in Zimbabwe. Yet few white Zimbabwean sporting figures are able to stir interest and conversation across the nation’s many divides.


After winning Italy’s Serie A with Napoli, Victor Osimhen has cemented his claim to being Africa’s biggest footballing icon. But is the trend of individual stardom good for sports and politics?

The magic man

Chris Blackwell’s long-awaited autobiography shows him as a romantic rogue; a risk taker whose life compass has been an open mind and gift to hear and see slightly into the future.

How to think about colonialism

Contemporary approaches to the legacy of colonialism tend to narrowly emphasize political agency as the solution to Africa’s problems. But agency is configured through historically particular relations of which we are not sole authors.

More than just a flag

South Africa’s apartheid flag has been declared hate speech by a top court. But while courts are important and their judgments matter, racism is a long and internationally entrenched social phenomenon that cannot be undone via judicial processes.

Resistance is a continuous endeavor

For more than 75 years, Palestinians have organized for a liberated future. Today, as resistance against Israeli apartheid intensifies, unity and revolutionary optimism has become the main infrastructure of struggle.

Paradise forgotten

While there is much to mourn about the passing of legendary American singer and actor Harry Belafonte, we should hold a place for his bold statement-album against apartheid South Africa.