This edition was conceived during the time of the Secrecy Bill furore. Little did i know that South Africa would be dealing with more issues around censorship, freedom of speech and media control soon.
Things were clearer then, the government can not be allowed to interfere with press freedom, especially over personal grievances. By now you’ve heard all about the Spear, you’ve read all the arguments and counterarguments, you’ve probably weighed in yourself – groaned or celebrated when the Spear was smeared. You’ve probably also weighed in on the case against Zapiro or the one against Mdu Comics. Even in 2001 when SAB sued the t-shirt making company, Laugh It Off, you probably had an opinion then.
I’m hoping that you’ve had time to think about your own rights to freedom of speech. That while weighing in on all these debates you have also asked yourself the tough questions. Why do you write? Should your work be free from responsibility? Is your freedom of expression enough? And that purpose you have, does it supersede the needs, feelings lives of others?
Kwame Dawes (previous edition, 2012.01) said something that will stay with me for ever – he said, “We’re not that special, poets are not that special. Because we’re poets, we’ve written enough about being poets to make everyone think we’re special. We’re not special.” What he said made me think about how we act like art and artists are above all other ‘ordinary’ humans. This kind of thing, I see it every time an artist does something irresponsible and then decides to hide behind the guise of freedom of expression or the special guise of being chosen by the gods to speak to truth… this is an ongoing exploration.
Truly, South Africa is a young country. There’s so much that we should’ve achieved by now yet so much we can’t achieve in such a short time. The new leaders (can we still call them new?), wrangling with new found power, spend a little too much energy trying to control the state broadcaster, silence critical voices and the dissidents.
But are we dissidents? Should all critical voices be silenced in the name of … something.
All I know is that the poet, the artist, must and will write. We don’t do what we do only to exercise a freedom or to cause controversy or just to gain fame. most of us are driven by something more… Something we battle to explain every day.
Herein, are some of the battles with words…