How to Waste a Tuesday Night in Johannesburg

From the old JHB Hive when I went to see The Honey.

Johannesburg winters are terrible. Even when they're mild. In the evenings after work (and through my two taxis), I keep my head down and imagine my house socks on my feet. My bra off. Warm.
Last Tuesday, I delayed this joy because a friend and I wanted to see an artistic director and visual artist "in conversation" with an arts editor.

Had this friend not offered to take me straight to where I stay, I would have had to give the event a pass. The art scene, with our bullshit geography and public transport system being what it is, is structured for certain kinds of people. I'm not one of those people. Noord is far.

Leading up to the conversation, I wasn't sure if we would be able to go because after my friend booked our spaces, she didn't get confirmation until late morning on the day of the event. But we got the confirmation. Suddenly, it didn't matter that the space -- The Bubblegum Club at Workshop Newtown -- is small. Our spaces were booked. My spirtis were again high and my curiosity piqued. 

The public invite

We got to the venue a little before six, the subjects of the conversation arrived about fifteen minutes later, the facilitator a little after the subjects arrived. So, as six-thirty, the time when the event was supposed to start, ticked by, not much was ready. The photographer, who was supposed -- according to the public Instagram invite -- was taking photos of two women I recognised from the photo sharing app. He would later move on to a beautiful woman with a beaded wig. My friend refused to recognise the against-a-white-wall set up as a photo booth. I only keep the company of petty people.

When we realised there were a few people sitting on the black plastic chairs (very dressed, much space) as the clock sneaked toward seven, my friend and I negotiated the terms of our entering: I was perfectly fine listening from the bench outside. But If she needed me to come inside -- social buffers are great -- we would have to beeline for the seats that seemed to be far from other people. We approached the door and were told, "not yet" by a really pretty woman clearly dressed as the invite had instructed "to the 12s." Ok. Awkward. I went back to my spot on the bench and my friend greeted people she knows. 

The person who won my giveaway copy of The Yearning came through and we chatted for a while. Slowly, the room go full. Others approached the door and were either let in or told "not yet." A few people were told the standard two-word line but ended up in there because contrary to the look, one of the black chairs had their names on them. The event began, the people who didn't get a chair crowded around the entrance and there was nothing. The sound system I had counted on to carry the talk to me outside seemingly did not work. The facilitator did not speak above an intimate whisper. 

My friend tried and got close, she heard nothing. We queued for a drink because we wanted the pineapple slices. We drained our glasses, we left. I said to my friend, She would have been better off recording the talk in her living room and sharing it online, tbh. Left behind, was a woman I know from Facebook who seemed terribly disappointed.

Maybe we should have taken comfort that recognisable faces in the Johannesburg night scene and people who were tagged by social handle in the comments of the public invite scene were also outside, unable to hear or anything. Only, they didn't arrive at six. They arrived well after the doors were barricaded by bodies.

In these situations, as an outsider trying to see what the girls and boys who eat izigxavathi eziluhlaza under the gumtree while you sit facing away from the sun eating whatever sad thing people who can't pull off blue tongues eat, are up to, you will be called a hater for asking questions. You are sometimes told to plant your own gumtree even. 

Maybe, if anyone who had to do with the event reads this, I will be branded a hater. This post will not be seen as call to improve their eventing. Maybe the organisers will not think that, actually, it was cold as fuck and making people wait and then not delivering what we brought them out for to every single person there was disrespectful. It was an inconsiderate badly-organised evening. I peobably would have been pissed if I had to walk around this dark city, take a local to Noord to take a taxi to where I stay.

As I write this, I have a submission at this editor's desk. Even though I have elected to post that submission on this blog -- it's coming in a day or two, I couldn't help thinking about another one of my tweets. Am I ever going to write and make things in this town if I keep expecting event organisers to respect my time and platforms to look outside their immediate circles for talent and voices (yes, that was for you Imbawula)?

Nobody is honest in this "scene." I say this as the girl facing away from the sun and routinely looking over my shoulder to those under the gumtree. One of the familiar faces in the Johannesburg "culture scene" who was outside with us, posted a photo from the event, smiling. Nothing about not hearing or seeing anything. Maybe she got in when we left.

TL;DR: the Johannesburg "culture scene" is an incestous wakfest that often will not respect our time, I don't know why I try to act like I don 't know this and go out of my way to be given the finger.

You can read my very informative live-tweet thread from the night here.

2 comments

  1. Ooof, so sorry you went through that! Definitely sounds like you had a rough time of it. But keep making the right noises--awful as they may be for some people to hear!--and they'll certainly start paying attention!
    PS: Fierce post as per usual!

    ReplyDelete

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