Megan's Head

A place where Megan gets off her head.

Category: deeply personal (Page 1 of 96)

Deeply Personal reflections on The Jewish Literature Festival

I came home early; undone, dismantled and teary. I would have been stronger, held it together better if I had seen it coming but I never do. And I should have trusted my instincts.

When I was invited to participate in the first festival last year (by the amazing, driven, talented and deeply caring Caryn Gootkin – of Souper Troopers) I said an outright no. I still bear the keloid scars of my personal horror story at one Limmud once, and I know that these spaces are a deeply challenging one for me. So, what changed my mind this year? Did I bring this onto myself?

There are probably a few reasons why I agreed. The first and main one was a general softening in me towards the Jewish community of Cape Town after the way From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach was received here. It was a great success. Our play was understood, appreciated and enjoyed. The second was that I had agreed to be in conversation with someone, who then wanted to do their own thing, and I think the inclusion of me in the programme as a speaker in my own right was an afterthought. I knew. My body told me that this was true and I didn’t listen. And the third was, ever since Tali’s Wedding Diary I have been getting genuinely kind recognition from many Jewish Capetonians (and South Africans) for my tiny cameo in it. I thought I may have developed a little traction. And also, I always want to share my knowledge. I love talking about the stuff I do.

I Ubered to the festival. Shafiek was nervous as he stopped to let me out. Suspicious glances from the guards outside the Jewish museum gate turned to recognition once I climbed out and waved him on. I got my presenter’s pack, dashed inside and joined a packed and rapt audience in a warm seminar room for Stephen Sidley’s talk on Science, Jazz and Stories. Then, in the same space I listened to Lisa Chait in conversation with my old friend and hero Mark Gevisser. Then I went downstairs to find out where the Book Lounge venue was for me to present my interactive ‘workshop’ on scriptwriting.

Baffled by the poor woman on a microphone who was struggling to read to an audience in the main outside thoroughfare, I made my way to the info table to find out where the venue was. That was it. I was going to be running my session there, in that main thoroughfare. At lunch time. It is fair to say I lost my shit. A main organiser tried to tell me that the space was perfect. A volunteer was dismantled. A woman was trying to run a mindfulness session while people ate their lunch wraps and ordered coffee.

Phillip Todres (and a few others) saw me at my hysterical worst and jumped in to help me. At last my venue was changed to a boardroom that had been reserved for the slightly bigger kids. I cleaned up the room, removed tomato saucy plates and sweet wrappers, piled paper and pencils into heaps on the table and then ran my interactive workshop. For 6 people. Husband and son of an organiser, my cousin, two teenage girls and a man who wasn’t sure he was in the right place.

It was clear that Henry, the man, had been sent by the gods. He needed my workshop and I needed him. The other five were sweet and kind and cooperative, and I do hope they got something out of it, but I don’t know.

I wanted to stay and listen to Gus Silber. I wanted to hear Sugar Segerman (whose wife kicked in to high gear to help me while I sobbed). But my roast vegetable wrap got lodged in my throat and I couldn’t swallow. Alan Glass tried to lighten my burden with jokes but I couldn’t. I came home with my tail firmly between my legs.

Did I bring this onto myself? Am I delusional and hysterical when I believe I need better consideration? Why is this struggle with this particular community always so fraught for me?

And then there is the self loathing. I was the only one who made a fuss. Who refused to do it there. I watched others suffer, but they pushed through with greater fortitude than I, a performer who should have been able to, was even prepared to try.

 

 

SA life #snapshot

I had such a beautiful uplifting and heartwarming night last night at the second opening of From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach at the Auto & General Theatre on The Square. Honestly, I could not be prouder of this work that has evolved and grown into something I am so aligned with; magical theatre and storytelling with a human message.

It was with a bittersweet heartache that I woke up, ready to get back to my home, partner, animals, other pressing work and Cape winter storms, knowing I was leaving this show, and Chantal, in Jozi, as well as my hometown and city that I long for, love and hate in equal measure. The only way to describe my feelings for both of these cities is in the SASL sign for ‘it’s complicated – a frowning face with wormlike fingers moving from out to in front of the signer’s face.

Lucky, my Uber driver, was chatty and we spoke about how ridiculous the SA banking system is. He needs a loan to buy his own car, but the bank won’t give him one because his previous loan is paid up; something he did way before the time, even paying penalties for early payment. How will someone like him get ahead, he asked.

I had a tiny epiphany. We have to take a risk. Individuals, groups, corporates, banks, governments, friends, neighbours. We have to help each other. Build trust. Have something to lose and risk anyway. Help someone with their education. Help someone take out a loan instead of saying no. I don’t know how, but I know it is so, so necessary. Let’s do this thing. Let’s help each other.

I was going to write more, but I boarded my flight, felt sad about the homeless and vulnerable in stormy Cape Town, and lost my gees a little bit. Still, one thing I know is that I am going to try and help more, do more, be more.

Edit: I bought a bed for 5 nights for a homeless person from The Haven. It cost R60. It is the easiest thing to do. Go to The Haven and buy one. If you do, let me know.

 

Jozi Musings

I am up in Jozi to put From Koe’siestes to Kneidlach into the Auto & General Theatre on the Square and I am working very gently so I have a bit of time. Here are some random musings about Jozi; my hometown.

I get off the plane just before 9am and it’s cold. I can feel the cold through the soles of my takkies. The sky is crystal blue. It is one colour. The whole sky is that blue. Everything else is still golden. But the air. Where is it? It is so thin. I take big breaths but they feel shallow. The inside of my nose dries out.

My Uber driver Lwezi is chatty. He lives in Berea. I tell him I used to live on the border of Berea, just up from Abel Road. We discuss housing. He tells me there are some flats in Hilbrow where 12 people are paying R2 500 a person to live in one flat. I say I am sure you could rent a flat in Sandton for that amount of money. He says black people would never think about that. And besides, nobody would rent their flat in Sandton to 12 people. He tells me that he has been taking and fetching travellers from the airport for four years now but he has never been on a plane. That’s his goal this year.

I decide to walk to the Spar. There are no pavements in the suburbs. People have spread their house property right up to the street here. The people who walk are invisible to the people who live here. People who live here drive. A woman is blocking the road in her 4×4. She is hooting like a lunatic and she is talking on the phone. Her electric garage door is half open. Brown arms grab the underside of the door from the inside. Worn slippers, a faded housecoat, bare legs. The arms start pushing the garage door up. The car woman hoots. I glare. She is unconscious.

I stop to watch a gardening/tree felling team. A man on a rope is at the top of a long palm tree with a chain saw. I watch him with bated breath.

I stand at the till at the Spar. There are a range of chocolates with messages on them. Happy Birthday. Get Well Soon. I love you. Wishing you a good Shabbos.

We go to a restaurant at Sandton Square before going to the theatre. It is a Thursday night and the restaurants are heaving. The whole of old rich, emerging rich and wannabe rich is dining out. Even though I come from most expensive Cape Town I am taken aback by the prices. It is seriously expensive.

The play is Visiting Mr Green. It is an old play, with timeless relevance. An old Jewish man is visited by a young man doing community service in New York City. It is a beautiful, poignant play about love, loss and prejudice. The audience were 90% Jewish.

The sun starts going down from 5pm. The light is golden. Mossies, Starlings, Mousebirds and Hadedas perch on bare branched trees. The air is still. The sun goes. It gets cold in an instant.

 

An open letter to Facebook

I am finally done. I cannot both support my Facebook addiction and leave myself open to the kind of horror I experienced today. Today, while doing a Facebook-on-my-phone-on-the-loo session I saw a thing that I will never unsee and I don’t know how to stop crying, or to even carry on living in this world. I saw a dog being held down and blowtorched in its mouth. I did not even let myself properly register what I had seen and have no idea which of my ‘friends’ posted it, or why, but I cannot. I cannot live and work and be in my positive world of genuine interaction knowing I come from this human race. I must forgo the trite, funny, warm, loving, newsy, idealistic, passionate and even sad posts and interactions. I must find another way of marketing myself and my shows, I must find another distraction/procrastination space.

Recently I was flagged on Facebook because I had left a comment on someone’s post that had the words ‘white’ and ‘die’ in the same sentence. The meaning was something to do with white people in denial and dying before admitting something. Facebook deleted my comment as hate speech.

Today I saw this. Facebook allowed me to see this. I cannot. No. I cannot. Please, real friends, colleagues, connections, I adore you, and do want to stay in contact, but Facebook is not a safe space for me.

This has broken me. This is what it took.

 

White Privilege and the Loaded Baggage of arrogance, patronage and patriarchy

I thought about writing a twitter thread on white privilege but then I realised that I probably had too much to say.

I have been conscious of my own white privilege for a long time, courtesy of a father who explained the difference between my suburban primary school and the ones that were in such trouble in Soweto on June 16, 1976. I was 11.

I was painfully aware of white privilege without having access to the words of it as I was grown up by another woman who was not my mother, or even a family member, Lilian Mpila. She ‘lived in’ while her own children lived somewhere else far away with other people. She fed me, dressed me, punished me (subtly, because it wasn’t her right), and because she was strong, we suffered each others’ micro-aggressions. The ones she directed at me were to teach me, painfully slowly, what it was like to have a paid slave in our house, and what that did to her psyche. The ones I directed at her should have been received by my mother.

Everything I am is because of how I grew up. The fact that my family was not rich and didn’t manage the veneer of middle class does not give me comparison rights to poorness. It is the fault of my family that it did not fare better under apartheid. It should have. It had such a massive head start and truthfully, my grandparents and parents didn’t take enough advantage of the total privilege their whiteness provided them. They were less than mediocre achievers (something I have inherited and am not critical of that at all), and would most definitely have been part of the working class who had not risen up by their bootstraps if it were not for the running head start of being white and having access.

So when white South Africans claim the poorness of immigrant parents and grandparents I want to scream, “That’s their fault! They had every single thing they needed to get out of that!” And I also want to interrogate how quickly they managed to get out of it. The journey that most dirt poor, white European refugees from war took when coming to South Africa was one that started them above at least 70% of the population of South Africa, who were not even seen, counted or considered. Every corner shop (my paternal grandfather started with a general dealer shop in Tulbagh) could only be owned by a white person. Every office job was done by a white person. Every house owned by a white person. Every teacher was white. Every sportsperson. White immigrants got bank loans and bursaries and built houses with cheap labour.

When the DA’s Natasha Mazzone claimed to have come from a poor family of immigrants who arrived here with nothing my response was, well, considering the circumstances they really should have done better. She should be embarrassed about how little they took advantage of their privilege on a platter. They had immediate access to virtual slave labour, land, commerce, cheap and good education, and all this was by law. Every single thing that black people were by law deprived of.

This same white privilege is also responsible for white ‘colour blindness’; the kind that has raised its vile and idiotic head with the Ashwin Willemse saga. Because underneath all the ‘disappointment’ speak around whatever went down and how these white men are not racist, is the complete inability to understand that although these men share a studio, the journey that brought them to it is incomparable. Ashwin’s is miraculous. A one in a million chance. A chance against every single odd. What was handed to Mallet and Botha throughout their lives, on every level, was the daily, weekly, monthly and yearly entitlement of whiteness that they do not even know how to recognise or acknowledge.

What needed to happen, even though it was too late, was a huge, heartfelt apology by Mallet and Botha, for being so unconscious that they had no idea they were causing hurt. I don’t think they meant to. That is possibly even worse. That is white privilege.

I have no idea why this white privilege, glaring and obvious at every turn, is so difficult to own. I do know that not owning it is the most dangerous thing any white person can do.

South African Jews for a Free Palestine

It was a no brainer that I would march on Tuesday with many other Capetonians who are horrified by the atrocities committed by the state of Israel and its IDF against Palestinians. I was emotional about being one of the few South African Jews who were there, but committed to holding a section of the SAJFP banner. As we traipsed across the patch of rapidly greening grass to gather in Kaizersgracht Street we walked past these people in these tents and I got hysterical about land again.

People are living in these tents on this patch of land under the shadow of the mountain. I watched as Jesse Duarte and her ANC entourage in their shiny black cars came to march. They drove past these tents. They were our government marching for the rights of Palestinians. It was hard to swallow the irony.

But, back to the march. Please indulge me here for a moment. (I am taking licence because this is my blog, about my stuff). Never before have I had that kind of connection with people, and I am an old and seasoned marcher. Men and women thanked me, hugged me, embraced me and kissed me. Women held me and whispered their gratitude for me, us, our little group. They spoke about how brave we were (I didn’t feel brave) and their eyes glistened with tears.

Before we walked people took photographs of us and the banner. While we walked people made space for us, wanted us to be seen and acknowledged. One of the organisers of our little group was clear that we were not the focus nor the forefront of the march, yet I have never felt more seen or visible.

I felt human and connected with humanity on Tuesday, and yes, I do know that it isn’t about me, wasn’t about me, but I am spurred on to do things to try and make it better for those who are victimised, demonised and brutalised by others; here and elsewhere.

Page 1 of 96

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén