Recently while scrolling on the 'gram I came across a photo that Ndumiso had recently posted and to my surprise his background was Wynyard Quarter. I literally had to scroll up again and check his profile to see if I had the right person and indeed it was him. I decided to leave a comment to see if he had a minute to stroll and chat about his 3 minute film 'Ephasini Lamabhudango'. 24 hours later we were scrolling through Albert Park and Auckland City Gallery discussing life, culture, the need to expand African narratives, objectification and everything in between.
So who is Ndumiso Sibanda? Ndumiso is a storyteller who works with the medium of film. When I reached out to him I wanted to learn about the film medium in South Africa as well as find out more about his film Ephasini Lamabhudango which is about the celebration of Ndebele culture in modern day Johannesburg. According to the film's vimeo page, Ephasini Lamabhudango is a film about the celebration and reimagining of a Ndebele woman in modern day Johannesburg who dares to be her true self. Ephasini Lamabhudango means your dreams…english is such a literal language and is not always the greatest to translate into but to translate it loosely it means your dream world.
MAKA: When I first saw your work it was through a friend of mine and to say I was in awe not only of the beautiful and sharp cinematography but also of the strength of the actress, the bravery in which it must have taken to walk through the streets and also the essence of the whole project. Well done to everyone that was involved, what a piece! As I was watching it I remember thinking I wonder what those who were around's reaction was. What were people's reaction?
NDUMISO: I have found that the pace and development of city life causes a shift in mentality especially when people move from a village setting into a city one. It's almost as if they take off their way of life from the village and take on a Western persona that then informs their belief and behavioural system. I always wonder, why can't you be yourself in the city? That's part of what inspired the film, we wanted to see the reaction that people would have to a Ndebele woman dressed traditionally as she would in the villages.
It was a rather interesting reaction, I found and strongly believe that those that hated or were disgusted by what they saw, hated and were disgusted by themselves; it was a reflection of them and the shame they carry about their culture. We caught a taxi, we walked over Mandela bridge and walked through the streets, it was not only about culture but also became about overcoming objectification. The level of discomfort manifested differently in different people. To my surprise the group which we thought was going to be the worst was rather receptive and respectful. This group is the taxi drivers who are known for violence and being the "law" that governs women and disrespects them sometimes violently. One of the comments that struck me as interesting was "this one is a virgin", which was used as a compliment but in essence is rather problematic.
MAKA: Wow that is interesting and problematic. It reminds me of the whole one time for my sisters, one time for my whores. You know this problematic thing that some men do of categorising women into either queens, sisters and whores based on how they believe a woman should be behaving. While I am surprised the taxi drivers acted with respect, it is probably because she reminded them of a sister or of a mother because of the way that she was dressed, in their eyes she was behaving accordingly, as a traditional woman.
NDUMISO: Yeah it is interesting and I find the categorisation of women based on how they behaviour extremely limiting to their growth. In doing that it's like you place her in a space where she is okay to relate to you and while that's "fine" for the male counterpart it isn't for the woman, it means because she has been put in a box she can't transcend. She can never define herself for herself and that is wrong.
What I also found interesting was the female reaction and also having to be mindful of how I observed her through the lens. It is after all about the language of the camera and because me observing her through the lens was a male gaze, I had to be mindful and I made sure that I viewed her as a non-sexual being. I suggest that men watch it twice to get the desired effect/message across because once you get over the nakedness you see that in the world that she is in, she knows where she is going. I feel that once you get over the nakedness, you begin to understand.
Women either cringe and say oh my goodness she went there and she did that looking like that.
MAKA: Interesting reactions on the ground, what were the reactions online?
NDUMISO: The reaction online was great sans Instagram that said the content was offensive because of the nipples. It made me realise that we as Afrikans need our own platforms where we don't have to explain that the nudity isn't for sexual intent it is a woman in her cultural attire. We need platforms for our own understanding and I think in creating our own platforms we are actually defining ourselves. See I have this thing where I don't believe Afrikan history is being redefined, no, in everything that we are doing we are actually defining it because what is mostly out there about our history is not from us.
MAKA: Ase brother! I feel that especially about creating our own platforms, it also allows us to expand our narratives about our individual as well as collective experiences as Afrikan people.
To keep up with Ndumiso's adventures, show him some love and follow him on the 'gram @ndumisosibanda
A neatly packaged combination of tree hugger, tea drinker, cider loving, self appointed wine connoisseur, explorer, social entrepreneur, woman’s rights activist, reggae swaying, serial snap chatter, people loving, community and social development dreamer, book reading, free spirited dynamite. Can be found laughing at inappropriate memes or happenings of life. Hailing from the Southern part of the African continent, Zimbabwe, I am a citizen of the world and above all a womanist.