Wielding scissors

Asher Gamedze on his new single ‘Wynter Time,' and the struggle of oppressed peoples against dispossession, exploitation and alienation.

Image © Asher Gamedze

The song “Wynter Time” is a tribute to black radical intellectual Sylvia Wynter. It is inspired by her work Black Metamorphosis: New Natives in a New World, which is about black people producing a culture of resistance in their new context. As a process, it takes place with the land that they work and people of the Americas, and has its basis the cultural practices, values, and ideas that enslaved people brought with them from Africa, and is in opposition to the conditions of oppression and exploitation that they live in.

Rather than try to illustrate this specific process, for the song’s music video I wanted to play with these ideas and to do something that was grounded in the politics of the contemporary context in which I live and work—Cape Town, South Africa, today. I was interested in how to use the influence of some of the ideas in Black Metamorphosis to deal with the condition of dispossession and alienation from land as it unfolds today.

In a piece titled “Interregnum” on my previous album, Dialectic Soul, I recite a poem/story I wrote called “the sun kissed.” The poem is about a child growing up in an oppressive environment that is hostile to their being. Through a surrealist process of transformation, they weave themselves a dress from a lake of beads; “The dress is a perfect fit.” Upon wearing the dress, while the environment has not changed, they are more capable of confronting the conditions they live in. “Wynter Time,” the video, takes its narrative arc from this story.

The lead character is played by my friend, collaborator, and comrade Qondiswa James. She is seen outside in the sun feeling an inescapable cold. This cold is a metaphor for alienation on a social and personal level (dispossession from land, history, people, culture and self). The new Amazon development, soon to be the head office of the multinational corporation’s Africa operations, operates in the video as a symbol of the forces of dispossession. The site of development, the banks of the Black River, were the site of one of the first major military victories of local Khoi groups against the Portuguese in 1510. Popular struggles attempted to defend this land for this and other reasons of deep historical significance to indigenous people of the region. Amazon, the corporation, its lawyers and its local compradors in the neoliberal racist City of Cape Town, have managed through their massive resources to defeat and co-opt many of these popular struggles and the monstrous development is going ahead.

The struggle over land is not only something that happened in the colonial and apartheid periods, but also continues unabated into the present-day. The struggle against Amazon relates local issues to others internationally, to strikes in the US and the UK, for example, against the exploitative work conditions that are the basis of the monster corporation’s super-profits.

I have known both Kurt Oderson and Adrian Van Wyk from Azania Rising for many years and generally I respect the way they work and resonate with the political and social vision of what they are doing. One of their films, Not In My Neighbourhood, deals with present-day processes of dispossession and resistance to gentrification with an internationalist perspective, working with activists in Cape Town, São Paulo, and New York City. So, with these personal and political alignments, I approached Azania Rising to collaborate on making “Wynter Time.” They also brought Rae Human into the project as the editor, who was key to shaping the visual aesthetic and the feeling of time in the film.

In the video, some mystical new friends—myself, Lungiswa Gqunta who is my partner, and Najma Nurridin who is a filmmaker and part of the Azania Rising crew—help Qondi to make a new garment; something with a lot of space, space to breathe, space to move, and space to remain hidden. This collective making happens seemingly in a time outside of time, in Lungiswa’s studio. The garment was actually made by my sister, Thulile Gamedze who makes clothes I understand reflect and embody a philosophy of ease and space. Under the moniker/concept/project “For The Afterlife,” they are clothes for another time, under different conditions. To me this garment is symbolic of the fifth element of hip-hop—knowledge of self—and is about how that journey takes place in and among other people who are also in a process of attempting to know themselves and to know the world.

Qondi emerges from that process moving with the wind, feeling and occupying the space around her, and heading for the ocean. At the beach, an important site of spiritual practice, she realizes that her transformation, the journey of knowing herself and/in the world, should not end there. The process of knowing oneself and the world is incomplete unless we act to transform it.

Realizing this, she determinedly turns back, wielding scissors…

Further Reading

Cape Town’s Inner Ugly

Patricia De Lille, one of South Africa’s most popular post-apartheid politicians, claims she tried to redress spatial apartheid in Cape Town, but the legacy of her seven year run as mayor is one of violent forced removals and a refusal to upgrade informal settlements.