"Women have the continual unfortunate reminder that their outer appearance is more important than their abilities"-Ansley Jones

                                                                                                           pic courtesy - Anshul Gupta
Ansley Joye Jones aka Jukebox is a dancer, dance scholar, writer, rapper, singer, hip hop feminist, crochet and jewellery designer and women’s rights activist.  An active researcher, she attends conferences and festivals such as the Black College Dance Festival, the American College Dance Festival, Florida African Dance Festival, the Florida Dance Festival, the National Hip Hop Political Conference (where she won passes to the conference, transportation and housing for a hip hop essay contest), the New York Capoeira Festival and the 1st Ginga Brasil-CDO Women’s Encounter & Semi-Annual Batizado. She also presents her choreography and research at conferences such as the Congress on Research and Dance (CORD) Conference: Dance in American Culture. Recently, Jones traveled to India (May 2014) with the Next Level Program; an initiative of the University of North Carolina at Chapel-Hill and the U.S. Department of State to teach  peace and conflict resolution through hip hop culture.

Do you think the music arena is a place where women can be empowered to effect culture and politics?

Most definitely! Art makes people see things from a different perspective. Through art people learn to respect others for what they do. This is a normal thing for men in society; to be respected for what they do rather than be judged by their outer appearance. For women in patriarchal societies this is a luxury. Women have the continual unfortunate reminder that their outer appearance is more important than their abilities. Because art shifts the focus from the human being to the message of the human being, women’s ideas have the potential to be accepted, respected and admired. And-- many times they are.

Have you faced resistance in your career for advancement, or do you get political, religious or cultural resistance for being a woman taking the stage? (If so how do you deal with it)? 

Yes, I would say both.  I have faced resistance in my career and cultural resistance for being a woman. When I went to college I ran into a crew called Chief Rockaz. I was enamored by them and asked them to teach me. One member named bboy X-man took it upon himself to try and sleep with me instead of teach me; he would invite me to practice and  then drive me to restaurants for dinner--.and to his house on our last encounter. When he realized that wasn’t going to happen, he started alienating me from the group and the hip hop community. It worked for a while because the other members were indifferent, which is the same as condoning the behavior. They were the only group there and my only way in. So I started capoeira because it looked like breaking.

I had a similar experience with men in capoeira. My ex-mestre (master) Bundo pressured me to sleep with him and when I refused, he treated me badly and wouldn’t advance me to the next cord. So I quit his capoeira group. Even though the experience was similar, I learned in capoeira. This is because students pay to take class. Hip Hop dance is still an underground art form so one’s learning is up to the most popular person in the community. I started teaching myself how to break with capoeira moves until I met Ciprian Gontea, aka Bboy Radio from the same crew. He was different and was the first man to respect me and teach me something. 

I grew up in hip hop culture where only men are allowed in the forefront. However, this is not exclusive to hip hop culture because the majority of the world’s societies are patriarchal. And in patriarchal society, this mentality exists anywhere that a person can be commended for something, which is almost everything! We are taught to believe that certain forms and careers are male-dominated, but I have evidence that this is untrue. Women are in everything and are in it in abundance, but patriarchy doesn’t allow space for us in the forefront. Rather, we are shown only men who participate in the form, which gives us this illusion of male-dominance.

The way I deal with it is to continue learning no matter how hard it seems. I create my own opportunities if there are none. I check to see if there are any women who want to learn and we learn together. Every bit counts so even If I take one workshop a year, I never quit completely. If one quits completely then they give up their power. I am where I am now because I never quit.

How do you see portrayals of women in music videos and elsewhere?

Portrayals of women in hip hop music videos are terrible. All of the women are very light-skinned and scantily-clad. Their main purpose is to be the object or prize of the man along with his cars and money. The same thing happens in commercials and on tv shows. This is to promote a white-supremacist idea of beauty while encouraging women to display their bodies for men. It happens in all communities of color (or non-white communities) all over the world.  One can see the effects of this pressure on women because skin-whitening cream exists in all these communities--and it’s selling. It’s shameful. While in India I noticed the actresses in bollywood films and on commercials all had white skin. All of the celebrities in the back of the newspaper had white skin.  While in Patna I saw women who were my complexion and darker. And I thought to myself “This imported idea of beauty is in every society that European people have invaded.” 

So girls have more issues they have to deal with including colonialism. I think it is terrible that we are treated like soul-less bodies and those who do this should know that this is the evil they participate in. I work against these pressures by counseling women and girls on how to combat these issues mentally, emotionally and physically. In addition, I make sure women and girls know that it is detrimental to us to compete. We must stick together to create unity between ourselves and teach men who are willing to learn how this affects them as well. There is so much work to be done. And dance has been the most rewarding way for me to instil these ideas in the global consciousness of women.

What advice would you give to young girls who want a career in music? 

Go for your dreams because who says you can’t and why not? Pay attention and eliminate those who discourage you or don’t encourage you. They shouldn’t be in your life. Women must decide that their worth is not about pleasing others. So I urge women and girls everywhere to nourish their souls. That’s the only way to even out the evil inflicted upon women in this world; to be what they don’t want you to be, yourself.


Preserving Sorbian identity through the lens of time

The Sorbs of Western Slavic origin have been living in regions of Eastern Germany long before Germany as a nation state existed. Overcoming numerous obstacles like the terror aimed at them during the Third Reich, they have endured and are still holding onto their own language, rights, and traditions even today. They have become fairly integrated into German society but still place a lot of value on their Sorbian identity, which for them precedes their German nationality.

German photographer Yana Wernicke through her work “Irrlicht” wants to go back to the mythical and fantastic roots of Sorbian life. Inspired by fairy tales and legends, she delved deeply into Sorbian history in order to bring to life an imagery that has long been forgotten. Yana explains to Abhijit Ganguly at the sidelines of her exhibition at the Goethe–Institute / Max Mueller Bhavan, Kolkata, “In Germany, not a lot of people know about the Sorbs, and their traditions are fading away. So, for me, it was a way photographing something that interests me anyway, that is, traditions, fairytales etc., and it was also about preserving some of their traditions.”

While photographing real events and real people she did not want to document Sorbian daily life as it is today. Rather, she wanted to use fragments of it in order to tell her own story, as she has been infatuated with the magical and mythical aspects of the Sorbian way of life since childhood. This exhibition is a modern fairy tale that combines old conceptualities with new interpretations and portrays a world somewhere in transition between reality and fiction.

What according to her is a good photograph? Yana smiles, “I think there is no fixed notion about what makes a good photograph. Everyone is different and such conceptions are too subjective to decide.” With “Irrlicht”, Yana hopes to trigger a thought process that talks about keeping alive the imagination within one self as well as the idea of being part of a greater identity. Does she think there is such a thing as someone really having a “natural eye” for photography? Yana feels, “Yes I think that there are people who have a natural eye for photography. But photography, just like any other art form, can be trained and learned, but if you don't have the eye or talent, it is way harder and having the talent will make a good photograph an interesting one.”

Digital and SLR cameras have been selling like hotcakes as more people, especially youngsters turn to photography. What are her views on this?
Yana says, “It doesn’t matter what type of camera you use. I shot my series Irrlicht in analogue with a double lens camera. I have seen great works by photographers only shot on their phone or with an analogue compact camera. It really doesn’t matter. A good camera won’t make the image better. I personally have a Digital SLR, but I am not going crazy about lenses and types. For the camera, I have only one 50mm lens and it works great. If I need to zoom in or out, I walk and do the work myself and not let the camera control me.”

Her word of advice for photographers, “There are no rules and advises; it’s just important to stay curious and not worry too much about the technical aspects of photographing.”


Indian tourists are opting for volunteering activities during their holidays in South Africa

                                                                                           Hanneli Slabber, Country Manager, South African Tourism India

How important is India as a source market for South Africa? Where does it stand?

The importance of India as a source market for South Africa cannot be emphasized enough as India is an emerging travel market with massive growth potential. India’s economic growth is also expected to continue over the next 40 years and by 2050, India is expected to be among the top-three global economies. Cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Ahmedabad are mature markets for us. But we are witnessing good arrival figures from cities like Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Pune and Kolkata as well.

We are currently training more than 1000 Indian travel agents and tour operators to enable them to sell South Africa better in the Indian market. South African Tourism is intensifying their marketing efforts and investment in the Indian operations through road shows and various other consumer campaigns every year. India is not only a source market in South Africa, but also an emerging travel market with massive growth potential. India will continue to be our priority market in the coming years.
How do you see the Indian travellers evolving? Where do they stand compared to other Asian tourists?

We have certainly seen a great change in travel patterns and consumer preference in the last few years. We get three generation travel from India as South Africa has something to offer to every member in the family across age brackets. Interestingly, we have also seen a lot of same sex travellers, i.e. all boys group, women travellers choosing South Africa as their preferred holiday destination. 
Over the years, South Africa has developed over sixty thousand registered tourism products and within that product offering, every budget and niche are catered for. Therefore, we are able to cater to the varied budgets of travellers across the segments. The travel patterns and consumer preferences are changing so rapidly as a result of which we have constantly diversified our products, maintained excellent service standards and invested in innovative marketing and distribution channels to meet traveler expectations.

The Indian traveler’s mindset has definitely evolved drastically over the years. Indian travellers are now looking for uniqueness in every holiday. We have witnessed several new trends amongst Indian travellers, one of them being a never-seen-before growth in the uptake of adventure activities and that’s too high adrenaline adventure are becoming more popular. Both Indian men and women travellers are bungee jumping, shark cage diving, crocodile cage diving, sky diving and also opting for other marine and outdoor adventures across South Arica.

What has also caught the interest of Indian travellers in recent times is an interesting concept called “Voluntourism” wherein,   Indian tourists are opting for volunteering activities during their holidays in South Africa. The little penguins seem to have marched straight into the hearts of Indian travelers as many of them volunteer their services to the various penguin conservation agencies. In addition, we have also seen Indians taking up animal rescue and rehabilitation work with various private game reserves across South Africa. This is especially gaining popularity amongst the youth travellers to South Africa.

Apart from being a sought after honeymoon destination, South Africa is gaining popularity for all women group trips as well. The numbers of all women groups on holiday to South Africa had been on a growth trajectory for some time now. Indian women are not only traveling to SA for wildlife, vineyards and shopping; but also for nightlife, adventure and self-drive holidays.

What potential does South Africa has as a MICE destination for Indian corporates?

In the past few years, we have seen a steady growth in MICE from India. Many Indian corporate houses and businesses are choosing South Africa as their preferred MICE destination because it offers great value for money. The fact that South Africa has already secured over 200 international conferences, which is estimated to attract 300 000 delegates and provide an economic boost of more than R1.6 billion over the next five years, reiterates the growing popularity of the country as a preferred MICE destination. As per 2013 ICCA ranking, South Africa is now the number one convention destination in Africa and Middle East and is ranked number 34 on global rankings. Also Durban and Cape Town – are placed in the Top 100 cities in the world for business events. The destination boasts a 40% return of all delegates as leisure tourists with 43% of all delegates bringing an accompanying traveller. The diversity of the nation, world class conference venues, warm hospitality and ability to customize, create a conducive atmosphere, ability to host any MICE activity with success coupled with beautiful cities, game reserves, vibrant nightlife and enough scope for adventure sports has facilitated the growth of MICE travellers to South Africa.
Every region brings its own unique cultural character and exclusive attractions to meetings and events. There are more than 1700 conference venues in South Africa, with International Convention Centers located in Durban, Johannesburg, Cape Town and East London. Also, over the years MICE travel has become a multi-faceted industry in South Africa, which has seen a move away from the confines of the expansive metropolitan areas to newer regions like Limpopo province, Garden Route and Cape Winelands amongst others.

What is the significance of Bollywood in influencing Indian travellers to South Africa? What are the facilities available for Indian film industry for shooting in South Africa?

In India we have noticed that Bollywood influences the Indian traveller’s decision while selecting a holiday destination.  Films are a mass culture in India and help reach out to a wider audience and expand the target group – family, honeymoon and MICE segment.  Therefore partnering with Hindi Films production houses increase our chance of attracting more tourists.

From a location perspective, South Africa promises the best of everything: beaches, beautiful mountains, scenic landscapes, wildlife and adventure, luxury experiences and vibrant city life. Today, film makers are looking at Cape Town and also exploring hitherto unknown yet fascinating locations in South Africa.

Bollywood filmmakers are increasingly recognising South Africa’s value as a high-quality production site for their movies. Currently, we are extending support and assistance to increasing number of Bollywood producers as and when we receive requests from them. Going forward, we would definitely like to attract more and more Bollywood producers to our country. In order to do so, we are already in the process of identifying their requirements to be able to enhance our offerings and facilitate greater support and value added.

South Africa offers Bollywood filmmakers a value for money and high-quality production site for their movies. We extend our support to various grounds ranging from tax rebates, availability of best quality technical support, no language barriers, easy shooting permissions, to splendid combination of professionalism combined with a dash of African warmth and hospitality. Taking these factors under consideration has made South Africa a popular shooting destination for many production houses. We have also realized the power of networking that exists in the Hindi film industry, having been impressed by South Africa’s hospitality and professional support while shooting many producers have suggested the country to their friends and other producers who in turn are now approaching us. 


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