Written by: Tiisetso Tlelima
Pictures Credit: Kemang Wa Lehulere
What is Blackwash hoping to achieve with this event?
“The main purpose of the camp is to drive political discussions about the black condition, the purpose of black consciousness and to build Blackwash. Our objective is three-fold: to introduce Blackwash and its ideas through discussions by a wide range of people; to subject the last 15 years of democracy to critical evaluation; and to debate the relevance of black consciousness. Here linked themes are white supremacy, homophobia and patriarchy. Then we try and come up with a way for us blacks to get ourselves of this stinkin’ mess.”
What is the relevance of black consciousness in South Africa today?
“We believe that black consciousness remains relevant in South Africa, yet it needs be fashioned in a way that fits the reality in South Africa as we know it today. We want to inject fresh ideas into black consciousness so that it can better challenge the reality of post apartheid South Africa which is that of patriarchy, homophobia and white supremacy. We are essentially updating Biko, reading him and contesting him and contesting him with other forces of society. Biko himself will not be valorized as an infallible god. Rather, his ideas are questioned and developed to help blacks make sense of why their victory of 1994 has turned into a massive defeat. Key to upgrading black consciousness is linking it to the black diaspora, in particular to Haiti and her agonies of the past 200 years. We are committed to injecting a radical black consciousness that can work for the 21st century and beyond. This new thinking includes rejecting backward cultural practices such as ulwaluko (circumcision) and ukuthwala (forced marriages) and seeks to construct new forms of being informed by black consciousness’s liberatory impulses. As a counter-culture initiative, Blackwash, a blacks-only formation, seeks to upgrade black consciousness for the 21st century.”
What role can the arts play in a festival like this?
“Depending on the content of the work they produce, artists could help shape the thinking of the masses or supporters. The role of the arts is to educate, empower and inform ordinary people about the issues of the day. If artists could be more politically engaging in their work, speak truth to power and challenge the status quo, then they could serve as a vehicle through which movements like Blackwash can spread the massage across. We hope artists will take whatever is given in this festival and give it to the [masses] in ways that [they] can understand. The arts should not be silent on controversial issues of the day. Black artist should make an effort to go down to the people and make them understand the arts and also participate in community initiatives dedicated to raising the consciousness of black people. We want to see the arts in township schools – sharing their knowledge with black kids, helping open the minds of ordinary people about what the real issues are.”
Why is the festival dedicated to Thomas Sankara? Who is this man?
“The camp is dedicated to the memory of revolutionary, Thomas Sankara, former president of Burkina Faso, who was killed on 15 October 1987. Sankara has become a symbol to all those who were inspired by the Burkinabe revolution and who are committed to the total liberation of Africa and indeed of all humanity the world over. Blackwash draws inspiration from Sankara and we hope to live up to his dreams in delivering a true sense of liberation to black people all over Africa and the world.”
What topics will your speakers be addressing at the festival?
“Jimmi Manyi (Black Management Forum) will be speaking on post-aparthied South africa, transformation, BEE etc. Lybon Mabasa (Socialist Party of Azania) will speak on black consciousness and why it is still relevant today and how that can be useful for the challenges faced by South Africans today. And we’re also hoping to get Elaine Brown, a former Black Panthers Party member on webcam from USA.”
Why should people attend this camp?
“The idea is for us to get together for 3 days to talk about everything there’s never enough time to discuss at the meetings and have a damn good time while we’re at it.”
Blackwash’s festival of ideas is not just open to its members, but to anyone else interested in black consciousness issues. Entrance fee is R50 for working people and R20 for students. Food, water and shelter will be taken care of, but visitors are advised to bring their own blankets and sleeping bags.
The programme on Friday evening starts at 18:30.
For more info about the festival e-mail Blackwash at firstname.lastname@example.org or call on 0724388078.
Read our article on Blackwash’s controversial “Fuck the Rainbow Nation” t-shirts.