South African video footage has been freed from the annals of the archives housing our past on VHS. A remix of South Africa’s past and present day is now available in a low-fi video clip collection from CUSS — a group of young Johannesburg artists including Ravi Govender, Jamal Nxedlana, Bogosi Sekhukhuni and Zamani Xolo — on their free-to-air channel, and even more directly to the public in the myriad of TV-selling stores in Johannesburg’s inner city.
CUSS, among other things, subverts the closely guarded collective memory of South Africa’s 90s and takes standard definition video/images as a starting point. They help to remind us of what we know (that 90s TV talk show) and what we more recently barely got to know (that Spear painting). It’s a comment on what’s in the media today, catching throwaway comments that could be lost in the brevity of an un-taped local breakfast show:
(PJ Powers is still talking “poster boys for what South Africa can be”. Really?)
Remixed in rainbow colors is a dismissal of the rainbow nation for all the grey areas in the picture, as well as an attempt to find out where the picture does come together:
Pointing fingers at our middle-classness is also part of the offering of self-reflexive video speak, in an age where “I’ve got to have it!” sets the precedent:
Here is a group of artists who have democratized the image of our past through ripping clips off Youtube to re-author what we once knew. It’s incendiary and strikes chords very close to home for those of us under-30 near the mark of South Africa’s 20-years of democracy.
We were just kids in the 90s, listening in on the excitement of our parents and singing along to the SABC catch phrase: “Simunye, oh, we are one!” Now, we are still one, I think, only less optimistic. That’s Mzansi for sure.