Thinking about TEDx
I finally submitted my TEDx title.
“In Steve Biko’s Backyard”
“Tell me about South Africa!” Her eyes were completely lit up over a latte.
I was quiet. Reminded me of when Becky asked me the same thing. It took awhile because it was, as most of my trips, pretty darn intense. I need to process through writing, speaking, exhibition in order to causally chat about anything. “You know Kathy, I can now.”
Post Apartheid South Africa really had my head spinning. I went to South Africa December of 2009 to work on a pilot of “African Women of Empowerment.” (under construction) We were to photograph, interview and document the life and work of Ms. Bandi Biko, 1 of 20 amazing African women. Bandi is an amazing woman on her own. Through her I witnessed patience, listening, community and soft leadership on a whole new level. Through her I met more amazing women ranging from Nommalindi and Mamphela Ramphele, both absolute genius human beings contributing at full capacity.
However one cannot ignore the last name, Biko. Bandi Biko is the sister of Stephen Bantu Biko. (Stephen) Biko has been one of my top 5 heros since my brother Evan told me about him in the mid 80s. Evan wrote his senior high school paper on the apartheid regime in South Africa and since then Africa has fascinated me remaining very near to my heart. I was entranced by what my brother had discovered and then shared with me. He was obsessed and subsequently we all were. Then came Live Aid, then U2, Bono, Sebastio Selgado, etc. Case closed, Africa was officially on my radar.
Then came the movie Cry Freedom and the song ‘Biko’and I broke down. They left me speechless, in a blind range, drenched in tears, disgusted, obsessed… and they were also a window for me. For me this took storytelling to a whole new level. I felt it was a paradigm shift that enabled Donald Woods to write the book and get the manuscript out of the country, to us all. I wept, felt totally insignificant and then in a puddle on the floor, strangely empowered. What can I do? A lot.
After about decade and a half later I resurface as a professional storyteller, building countess projects; some very successful, some complete duds, I find myself on a skype call with Bandi Biko. We are planning the project, scheduling this and that … then I drop the bomb: “I want you to take us to where you’re from.” The call got real quiet. You can see the audio levels of each caller on Skype and they all went down to zero. I’ve written about this already: https://amandakoster.wordpress.com/2009/11/05/stay-in-your-dreams-dreams-can-not-hurt-us/
Fast forward to South Africa 12/09, I squat in the backyard of Bantu Stephen Bikos backyard in the Ginsberg Township of King Williams Town, recording audio of the family and friends preparing for a Xhosa wedding. I am utterly silent a: because when you record audio you have to be and b: in a trance. I am hearing the scraping sheep heads, slapping of ‘rostiles’ (bread), I hear laughter, Xhosa language, singing, slurping of beer, feet dragging, cell phones ringing, cars honking…. can you hear it?
Why am I in a trance? I’ve been in these situations before, out of my element, a new unfamiliar culture, etc. This is WAY different. This is Steve Bkios backyard, his family, his son getting married tomorrow. This is Steve Bikos Backyard.
And before me I am watching joy, pure, simple joy. A family and friends getting ready for the wedding of a beloved family member. I am watching culture, tradition, laughter, happiness. I am watching what every human desires, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in action, a sence of belonging, love, culture, safety, peace.
So again, why am I in a trance? I’ve seen this before as well. I am in a trance because something swept over me like a slow, heavy, mighty, sand storm. It was because of exactly WHERE I was sitting.
“How can any of this be wrong, bad, subhuman?” “How can ANYONE call this less than?” “How?”
Well apartheid did. This was’ non-white’ to apartheid and therefore not equal. I searched everyone where in my soul, my entire hard dive in external and external and there was no where, no thing, no place that told me this was anything other than fantastically human. And that is where I continue to stand.
“Can you say that in 18 min?” Kathy asked.
“Yes I can… and there’s more.”