Amanda Koster

thoughts and experiences of an international documentarian

Posts Tagged ‘kathy gill

Thinking about TEDx

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I finally submitted my TEDx title.

“In Steve Biko’s Backyard”

When I returned from South Africa Kathy Gill and I finally had made time to meet. We’d been trying since we met after my presentation at Gnomedex in 2008.

“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.”

Written by amandakoster

March 29, 2010 at 6:31 pm

why ignite kicked my butt + why i want more

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‘are you nervous’ becky asked me. ‘you can’t be, you do this shit all the time’ nick laughed and poked more spaghetti into a gumdrop. i was quiet. this felt different.

***

what went thru my mind last night on stage:

“crap! my slides are screwed up! and crap! i just spent way too many seconds thinking about how my slides are screwed up! crap, while i was thinking about how my slides were screwed up, they keep advancing anyway… wtf… i better quit this thinking crap….!”

man, everyone ought to try it. what i love about ignite is pure passion. and i love pure passion. there is a rawness to the event. the venue was cold, sticky, dusty and i was nervous. yes, pretty darn nervous. i could hear it in my breathing.

why was i nervous? i speak all the time? huh?

few things: 5 minutes is a flash in the pan + eternity, i could not see the audience… seriously: the audience was pitch black and it felt like no one was out there, like speaking to a black hole… (is anyone friggen’ out there?)  the slides auto-advanced every (kind of) 15 seconds, my slides were screwed up (uh- they worked on my computer/s), i was in my home territory. i know the audience (even tho couldn’t see them). i have a crush on a few of the guys in the audience (they have no idea), i am used to talking to hundreds of strangers most of who i will never see again. this crowd knows me, i play with them, and they are ready and willing to give feedback (thank you kathy gill and brian dorsey… i truly loved that!)

and why was that awesome? because being nervous, feeling harmless fear is wonderful thing. it means i was challenged verses being on auto pilot. i felt like i was ‘just starting out’ again last night at ignite. i was out of my comfort zone on home base (seattle). oddly cool. delicious.

what an experience. to sit amongst the other speakers, feed off their nerves, passionate energy. the talks ranged from:  ’huh?’, ‘yer kidding’, ‘i don’t get it’ to ‘i really have no idea’, to ‘wow’, to ‘that’s hilarious’ to, ‘are you serious’ to…. wtf.

i loved them all. all the speakers, the energy, brady so diligently summoning us right before we spoke, the ignite team managing what someone called a ‘mac orgy.’ all of it. i simply love ignite. in some odd way it was a love-fest. i knew the people, many of them have seen + helped salaamgarage (and me) grow from where it was to where it is now, it’s a community that immediately embraced an outsider like me: a photojournalist and writer without an iphone (gnomedex) who gives a shit.

who are these people, where did they come from? how is it there is a community of people who are  willing to  listen to god knows what on a tuesday night, cheer you on, and forgive your screwed up slides? imagine.

ahhh. for me ignite is like a platform and a lasso for reckless creativity and passion. a little welcome love mat with subliminal messages that say ‘i love you, say what you gotta say, deal with the screwed up slides and make room for the next guy. and i still love you.’ and man, was i nervous up there and man, would i do it again in a heartbeat. it would be an honor.

thank you ignite. thank you for doing what you do and for opening your arms wide to anyone who says ‘this is what a geek looks like, give me 5 min. let me do my thing.’

Written by amandakoster

March 5, 2010 at 11:20 pm