Review of Brent Meersman’s ‘Body of Work’

South African writer and novelist Brent Meersman has a knack for writing compelling reviews for a number of different social interests. In his various pieces of writing, be it reviews or his column in the Mail and Guardian, he takes a hands-on approach while maintaining a somewhat laid-back style to his writing.

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Brent Meersman. Picture courtesy of Books LIVE, on Flickr

He possesses a wealth of experience when it comes to review writing which he displays in his column with ‘This is Africa’ as well as in his ‘Once Bitten’ restaurant review blog. He also currently plies his trade as one of the co-editors for groundup.co.za.

Meersman’s blog called “Once Bitten’ is dedicated to restaurant and food reviews. An article in which he ‘looks back on 150 restaurants reviewed’ he speaks of his personal experiences with regard to these 150 reviews. The article is one that holds a comical element to it but is able to lose its readers through the use of culinary jargon.

The style of writing he displays is one that is nonchalant as would be the case if he were having a conversation. A telling sign of the type of writer he is, one that looks to actively converse with his readers. However, there are instances where he makes statements that lack factual evidence, making it his opinion. It is a good piece of writing that can be bettered through some visuals to further open the reader’s imagination while simultaneously making the article look a little less dull.

His second article, ‘The chef’s table at Masala Dosa’ from the aforementioned blog takes a detailed look at a specific meal that the restaurant offers. There is no great deal of contextualising, he just makes mention to his “ingenious friend, Amit Raz, owner of Masala Dosa”. A simple description of ‘chef’s table’ at the start of the article would have made for easier reading and understanding.

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The amuse-bouche, a finger-sized dosa. Picture courtesy of ‘Once Bitten’ blog

However where he lacks with background information he makes up for with visual content which tells the reader’s what can be expected should he or she visit the restaurant. The images supplement the descriptions of the dishes yet could have been better captioned.

In his third article, ‘Why so many African writers leave?’

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Nimrod Djangrang Bena. Image courtesy of This is Africa

Meersman sets the tone by using an effective quote which introduces the story before even reading the article. This article is based on an interview with Nimrod Djangrang Bena which is accompanied by a picture of him [Bena] as well as in-text links which shed more light on the story. This story was more informative and polished than the two formerly mentioned.

Brent Meersman is a very creative and witty writer who plays on the emotions and senses of his readers through his descriptive images. I thoroughly enjoyed reviewing his different styles of work.

 

 

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Conflict between Black and Coloured South Africans – Cape Town

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A beautiful shot of Cape Town. Picture by Jeidi Thompson

Racism is often referred to as a timeless struggle that has been passed down from generation to generation, decade after decade. A problem as old as time, is racial discrimination and the inequalities that go hand-in-hand. Throughout the history of South Africa both pre- and post-Apartheid, racism has reared its ugly little head whether it is institutionalised, stereotypical or internalised.

Cape Town, on the surface is arguably one of the world’s most beautiful cities and one of Africa’s biggest tourist attractions. However brewing under the surface is an unpleasant conflict amongst two of the larger ethnic groups within the city.

Previously disadvantaged during the Apartheid era people of colour (both black and coloured) had limitations and laws put in place against and in some cases, inflicted upon them. The history of Apartheid and the downfall thereof is well documented but the intricacies involved as well the aftermath remain somewhat of a grey area.

Prior to this piece of writing, I had conducted brief interviews with a few people who have lived in Cape Town all their lives about the aforementioned conflict pertaining to black and coloured citizens. We all hear stories through the grapevine of this incident or that but in order to achieve definitive answers and opinions one has to do some digging. The only way to gain a better understanding of the issue at hand was to obtain opinions from both sides; from a black perspective and from a coloured perspective.

When first asked about the conflict, a 20-year old coloured female (who wished to remain anonymous) responded with, “Why are you asking me that?” followed by “Yeah, I guess there is”. This response leads me to believe that the talking points are there, lying dormant until the issue needs to be addressed. During the same interview, the young woman referred to stereotypical racism as being a part of her everyday life in a post-Apartheid era. She said, “We all know about the general stereotypes that exist across all races whether it’s black, coloured, white or purple! I was made aware of these stereotypes growing up but it was for me to decide if I wanted to look at someone based on their colour or the actual person”. Based on that statement alone, it is easy to say that the stereotypes and the effects thereof vary from person to person but that presumption cannot be made based on one person’s opinion.

Speaking to 22-year old black male (who also wished to remain anonymous), I had learned that he had a similar view to that of the young woman. Baring in mind that they live in the same neighbourhood in Athlone, they had similar views on racism and stereotypes. He said, “It’s a choice. You can choose to be racist or not but there are some cases where you are born into it and just can’t help yourself”. As contradictory as that last statement sounds, it makes sense with regard to how you are brought up and what your parents lead you to believe.

Parents and elders shape the beliefs and thinking of their children and families which is why I found that when speaking to older folk about the conflict they seemed more stern in their approach to other races. Almost as if they were speaking from a place of anger and frustration with a pre-1994 way of thinking about race.

This anger and frustration was somewhat justified when contextualised in an Apartheid era type of mentality for a person of colour. Black people had no rights and were the ‘target’ and on the receiving end of Apartheid laws and policies, however coloured people were able to find loopholes and in some cases fall through the cracks of the oppressive system. Coloured people were able to claim their “whiteness” as a result of having  a fair colour of skin or straight hair (to pass a pencil test) and as a result live a better life. Black people were not as fortunate but were able to ‘pass’ as coloured due to having a lighter skin tone. Naturally those “who were left behind”, so to say, were enraged and this is ultimately where more of the older interviewees believed that conflict stemmed from. Another interesting point that was made by one of the interviewees was that “the blacks are getting more opportunities than the coloureds”. Essentially what is happening is that there is no equality in terms of the opportunities being made available as black people are getting first preference.

In a post-1994 ‘Rainbow Nation’ South Africa we have seen our decision makers that be, try to correct the injustices of Apartheid and use this particular conflict to their political advantage. These occurrences have come in the form of government implementing systems that aim to ‘aid’ and benefit black people in previously disadvantaged areas first before any other ethnic groups within the country. Essentially, what this means is that black people are looking to better themselves first in order to make up for the injustices of Apartheid but ultimately it is the coloured people who get left in the middle as they were during Apartheid.  Policy makers and government officials use the conflicts and evident racial issues for their own political gain instead of trying to resolve the issues at hand as well as issues that should have been addressed well before embarking into our second decade of being a democratic country.

In closing, based on the interviews and conversations that were conducted held respectively there is the notion that there is a conflict that is lying dormant just waiting to be sparked off by a racist rant or something of the sort.

‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ – More than just a saying

This may be a bit late but in honour of the TRUTH behind Hillsborough tragedy and the aftermath of that famous comeback against Borussia Dortmund I had worked on an academic writing piece based on Liverpool Football Club and the famous anthem of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’. Enjoy!

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Pciture by Rafid Fatkhurohman

 

In this essay I will discuss as well as analyse one of the most iconic songs in sport and the various images, emotions and conceits that it contains and evokes out of its listeners and singers alike. The song that I will discuss in this essay is one that has become as iconic as the sport and club with which it is associated, Liverpool Football Club’s anthem of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” by Gerry and the Pacemakers.

This song carries inexplicable amounts of sentiment to those who revere and cherish the beauty of this musical master class. Sung by millions all over the world regardless of their ties with Liverpool FC or not this song has reached out to individuals in the most difficult of times. Before divulging into the main topic of discussion, here is an extract of the song’s lyrics below:

When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high

And don’t be afraid of the dark

At the end of the storm, there’s a golden sky

And the sweet, silver song of a lark

Walk on through the wind

Walk on through the rain

Though your dreams be tossed and blown

Walk on, walk on

With hope in your heart

And you’ll never walk alone

You’ll never walk alone

Walk on, walk on

With hope in your heart

And you’ll never walk alone

You’ll never walk alone

(Gerry and The Pacemakers 1963)

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Picture by Kieryn Thompson at Anfield

Firstly, some background history about the world-famous Anfield anthem in order to contextualise the matter. The song was originally written by the pair of “Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein who wrote it for their musical Carousel in 1945” (Kop Left 2016). Hammerstein wrote the lyrics while Rodgers had composed the required music. In the same year, Frank Sinatra had become the first well-renowned artist to do his own rendition which eventually ended up being ranked ninth “on the Billboard charts in 1945” (Songfacts 2016).

The Football Supernova’s Antoine Choueri provides a more in-depth look at the song that is no0w etched in Liverpool folklore, not just the football club but the city as a whole. He looks back to a time just after World War II had begun where “what [was] arguably the biggest empire in history is on the brink of defeat. In the North-West of England, between the River Mersey and the Irish Sea, Liverpool is witnessing the heaviest destruction it has ever seen, being the most bombed city in the Nazi Blitz after London” (Choueri 2012). In addition, Antoine Choueri much like me is “a die-hard Liverpool fan” who has a better knowledge of  and claims to know “the club’s history inside out” (Choueri 2012).

According to Choueri, “Fast-forward a couple of decades later, and Liverpool has barely recovered from the Blitz and post-war crises. The birth of the Manchester Ship Canal means the ships coming from America and the rest of the world would bypass the destructed Liverpool Docks to go straight to Manchester. What was once the Empire’s second-city and the biggest seaport in the world is on the verge of extinction, half of the city’s inhabitants having fled to London or the US” (Choueri 2012).

This may all seem overly-contextualised but the aforementioned explanation courtesy of Antoine Choueri makes reference to the lyrics, “When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high” (Gerry and The Pacemakers line 1). The proverbial ‘storm’ refers to the tough times that England’s once proclaimed “second-city” (Choueri 2012) were experiencing.

A once-great city in a state of turmoil and under threat of becoming obsolete had then begun to see an upturn in their fortunes as the early 1960s rolled in.

Liverpool the city, began to see its “the golden sky” (Gerry and The Pacemakers 3) like the song goes, as pivotal events had taken shape. A 47-year-old Scotsman by the name of William Shankly had entered the helm “to manage a mediocre Division Two Liverpool FC side. On July that same year, four teenagers change their band name from “Silver Beatles” to “The Beatles”. Liverpool was meant to change history forever” (Choueri 2012).

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Bill Shankly in front of the Kop following Liverpool’s 1973 league title win. Courtesy of Skysports.

Almost like clockwork, Shankly’s Liverpool FC were back in the top-tier of English football challenging for the title while The Beatles had a host of number one hits which had lead “the Merseybeat movement” (Choueri 2012) by 1963.

“At the end of the storm, there’s a golden sky” (Gerry and The Pacemakers 3) points to the upturn of Liverpool’s fortunes as The Beatles’ top-chart records accompanied by Bill Shankly’s mighty Reds had helped put the once extinction-bound city back on the map.

Choueri (2012) explains how  Liverpool’s world-famous ‘Kop’ end, the terrace where the Liverpool home fans are seated had erupted to the tune of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” “on one cold November afternoon” (Choueri 2012). “The Kop suddenly erupts into singing a tune one would have thought they’d known for ages” (Choueri 2012), this had added to the romanticism associated with Scousers and music but the irony of it all was that the fans had taken to the tune like a fish to water.

“As the years went by and silverware ridiculously piled up in the Anfield Trophy Room, the song vigorously accompanied the men in red, win or defeat, home or away, locally or abroad” (Choueri 2012). Liverpool FC’s home ground, Anfield had become a cathedral of 30,000-plus fans singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” in unison before, during and after matches. The atmosphere that this sheer, awe-inspiring tune had created was nothing short of bone-chilling, goose-bump filled moments that helped usher in the club’s most successful period in its rich 124-year history.

It was in the midst of Liverpool’s ‘roaring 60s and 70s’ that the “You’ll Never Walk Alone” had become the club’s official anthem while, “a banner containing the song’s title was added to the Liverpool Football Club’s official emblem” (Songfacts 2016). Other football clubs such as Scotland’s Celtic Glasgow and Germany’s Borussia Dortmund soon followed suit and adopted the famous tune as a club anthem and pre-match ritual.

In a sense, Liverpool FC and more importantly Gerry and The Pacemakers can be regarded as pioneers of the modern football atmosphere as what was once just a theatre for football and noisy clapping and roaring had transformed. Transformed into a cauldron of “noise volume, humour, generosity, banners, flags, scarves, originality, creativity, and most importantly, its unity made it the most famous football terrace in the world” (Choueri 2012).

This song made fans unite in chorus and has been regarded as ‘the 12th man’ that has been known to get their men in red across the line on numerous occasions throughout history.

“Walk on through the wind/ Walk on through the rain” (Gerry and The Pacemakers 5-6) are the persevering words that inspire not only Liverpool FC fans but the players as well to continue to fight and believe with passion. “Though your dreams be tossed and blown” (Gerry and The Pacemakers 7) points to the evident struggles of both the city and the club which had been met with the persevering “Walking on through the wind [and] rain” (Gerry and The Pacemakers 5-6).

Undoubtedly, “You’ll Never Walk Alone” has united fans worldwide and willed the players on through the toughest of times.

Nothing is more evident of this than the club’s periods of ultimate high and ultimate low. This being the ‘Hillsborough tragedy’ in 1989 and The Champions League Final in Istanbul 2005 respectively. “On the 15th of April 1989, 96 Liverpool fans went to watch their beloved side go through to yet another Cup final, but never made it home”. The city of Liverpool stood together and “united, mourning and standing by its own, those 96 brothers who lost their lives at a football match. The first football game Liverpool played after the disaster was a friendly at Celtic, set up as a tribute to the 96, and both sets of fans went on to sing their anthem in unison in the most emotional way. Similar scenes at Wembley, just before the FA Cup final between Liverpool and Everton, where 90,000 Scousers sang YNWA, reminding the world that there are things that are just bigger than football, and their rivalry was only on the pitch”(Choueri 2012). The events of Hillsborough still live long in the memory of those who were there that day and those who continue to show their support with the common denominator being the famous words of, “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.

The evening of May 25th 2005 marked Liverpool FC’s first European Cup final in over 15 years and had kicked off in ‘tragic’ fashion after being ‘left for dead’ at 3-0 to Italy’s AC Milan. Almost as if they were scenes from a Hollywood box office best-seller, The Reds had emerged from the half time break to the most emphatic, emotional and passionately sung “You’ll Never Walk Alone” that had spurred the Reds on to come from behind and win the cup on penalties in the most dramatic of finals in history.

It is abundantly clear that this anthem, a hymn if you will, passionately unites people beyond more than just the game of football. It evokes emotions out of the most stern of characters in time of deep sorrow as well as incredible jubilation. It is more than just a song or anthem but rather a symbol of hope and remembrance.

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Picture by Kieryn Thompson at Anfield