24 Jun Remembered Futures | History, Memory and Freedom in Contemporary SA
Remembered Futures is a documentary that asks us to consider the way we as South Africans understand our own history and how this affects our future. Created by young writers Kagiso Mnisi, Andrew Miller and Tseliso Monaheng, the film premiered on 27 April – Freedom Day in South Africa. With a focus on youth, freedom and remembrance in contemporary SA the directorial trio collected insights from historians Prof. Jon Wright and Dr. Nomalanga Mkhize, artist Quaz Roodt and Back to the City festival co-founder Osmic Menoe.
We spoke to Tseliso, Andrew and Kagiso to learn more about Remembered Futures and what they discovered through creating it, the challenges they see facing the youth in our country and why re-teaching (and in many cases, re-learning) our past is so important.
The title Remembered Futures presents an interesting juxtaposition. Could you tell us more about this?
Andrew Miller: SA History is murky, to say the least. Relatively few people know the smaller details of what went on over the last three hundred + years. Yet grappling with history will be important if we’re going to set up a social structure that works for the majority of South Africans in the years ahead. The title plays with this idea.
What did you learn about freedom, youth and remembrance in contemporary South Africa through the making of this film?
Andrew: That it’s a jungle out there. Everyone talks a big game when it comes to creating material like this but really if you want to do it expect to finance everything yourself up front and to lean far too heavily on the village vibes to get it done. We have a long way to go locally to match up to Europe, where there’s a lot of subsidisation on offer for people to explore freedom, youth, remembrance etc.
Kagiso: That there’s a lot going on and old schools of thought are oblivious to it all. When looking around youths are re-imagining their existence in so many interesting ways. They are not waiting for a future. Their future is now.
Prof. Jon Wright remarked that “useable pasts” is what all of us are looking for, which means remembering certain aspects of our history and forgetting others. Why do you think that lesser-known accounts like that of Chief Langalibalele’s pre-struggle resistance against colonialism are so important?
Tseliso: Because Chief Langa is but an instance of so many undocumented black leaders, heroes, misfits and kool kids who’ve BEEN doing this life thing in Africa since kudala. Shout-out to the First People too. Their story and how it continues to be misrepresented is a whole paradigm we’re yet to shift into and question critically and silently reflect upon. They’ve BEEN future, since long time!
Andrew: SA history has been like a pulverising sledge hammer, and Boer War centric history has smothered the real stories and the real people and, as Tseliso says, the many leaders, heroes and misfits who did incredible things through the ages.
Kagiso: Chief Langalibalele was one of those cats that dared to challenge this monster called white supremacy. It’s important that black folks labour at whatever cost to unearth real truths about their history and celebrate heavy hitters such as Langalibalele and many others that came before.
As Dr. Nomalanga Mkhize notes, we do have a very difficult history. How do we actively pursue a better understanding of how we have gotten where we are as a nation?
Tseliso: Sizzla always spoke about “teaching de yout’ dem.” It begins at home man; what are the parents feeding their brains? Are they conscious that whatever it is automatically gets assimilated by the children? Positive vibes and support and less rhetoric and more action, you know, ACTUALLY fuck shit up! Also, asking questions is important.
Andrew: You don’t know what you don’t know, and in South Africa making sure people don’t know things has been a very sophisticated art form within the broad field of history. There’s a lot of re-teaching to be done in terms of history, but before we can teach kids we need to re-teach adults, parents and teachers.
Kagiso: I think folks should be on the same page in agreeing that versions of history fed to them are largely dubious. Academia has played a large part in fuelling that fire. More importantly, we should be asking who is telling history and with what intent.
What does freedom mean to you?
Andrew: Freedom is largely a catch phrase used in ad campaigns and government communication to create a general and vague sense of hope and goodwill, without having to bother exploring the details of daily life.
What challenges are young South Africans facing?
Andrew: Access to money, and access to the political and commercial networks necessary to be successful in the hustle for money. Access to a quality education, and access to the political and commercial networks necessary to be successful in the hustle for a quality education.
Kagiso: All of those and so much more at so many different levels.
On the other hand, what is unique/exciting about the current position and outlook of the youth in South Africa?
Tseliso: There seem to be more people asking questions. Some other guy at Oxford tried to make this the reserve some imagined ‘poor’. I find people who’ve got influence and use it to say questionable, dumb shit very lulz-worthy. Anyway, questions are being asked.
Andrew: Agreed. The questions that we couldn’t ask ourselves 20 years ago are now coming up. It might hurt, but answering them could relate opportunities to do something fresh, socio economically speaking.
Kagiso: And there’s a more radical approach that comes with asking these questions.
What will move our country forward?
Andrew: Thinking from scratch about why we work, and what we intend to do as a country with our loot once we’ve earned it. Are we going to be a laissez faire winner-takes-all capitalist set up forever, or is there another way?
Kagiso: I’m more interested in what will move the continent forward, so SA should seriously consider making greater efforts in building stronger relations with the rest of the continent. That is how it will ‘move forward’.
Extra credits: Shout-out homegirl Leila Dougan for readying the army in G-Town to film Dr. Mkhize’s part. Nuff faya to Ras Benji and the entire team at Azania Rizing for allowing us to use the footage they filmed during Rhodes Must Fall marches at UCT. Big love to Becomingphill; to Tumi Mogorosi; to Mokhele Ntho (alias Suade Ritchie); and to my Fratpack familia. Their music’s at the root of this whole vibe. Sibu Mpanza, thank you for letting us use your images. Village vibes man, the fire’s only as strong as the amount of wood helping it burn. Makwande!