As we move into the final throes of what has been, for many, a true annus horribilis, most of us are looking to December as a time to pause, to assess the past year, and to prepare for what promises to be a turbulent 2019, both globally and in South Africa.
For the arts and creative sector, the risks are diverse. 2018 was striking with regards to disruption in our sector – we have seen disturbances at SAMRO, NFVF, Market Theatre Foundation, and the National Arts Council. This has caused higher levels of tension in the sector, and deepening mistrust between agencies, staffing, the sector and broader society. It talks to the need for extremely rigorous governance and interrogation as we move forward.
Having said that – ke Dezemba! At last. Time to slow down and allow for some contemplation. For me, contemplation comes through reading. Books open my mind to deeper, broader conversations. There are two books that you should pack into your reading pile, that talk to the challenges of past and present, the role of the personal to explain the public, of staring the future in the face.
The Brazilian author Paulo Coelho is probably most well known for the book The Alchemist, which has sold 85 million copies in a diversity of languages. And yet his latest work, Hippie, described as ‘self-fiction’ comes at the most appropriate time.
Brazil has just nominated a president on the populism ticket. He has been described as ‘the Trump of the Tropics’, a man who was in the military during Brazil’s military junta
The US has a president who is telling us to ‘sweep the forest floors’ after the worst Californian wildfires ever, and swathes of Europe are fast-tracking to the right wing. All of which are deeply at odds with the themes of self-discovery, exploration and a powerful challenging of the social and historical order in Hippie.
In Hippie, we criss-cross South America, and finally join Coelho’s fellow travellers on the ‘Magic Bus’ across Europe and onto Central Asia, during the ‘70s.
Ostensibly it is a fictitious book, and yet it has been described as his most autobiographical to date. Coelho writes about himself in the third person, as Paulo – distancing the author from the narrative. Early in the novel, he describes being imprisoned during the Brazilian military junta, and it strikes a harsh chord with what the country is potentially about to go through in 2019. This is a story of self-discovery; it is a ‘journey to the past and a map for the future’. Actually, it is also a journey through the world, and likewise into the interior of our souls.
Bollas talks of ‘reflection and introspection’ as much needed, when currently ‘hate-based solutions are used to address world politics and problems.’ These books, and many more, should be reflected and deliberated on, in a time when truth, false truth and fake news are pinned to the noticeboard of debate.
To read more about some December contemplation, purchase your copy of our December 2018 / January 2019 issue from only R18! Or continue supporting the arts and culture sector by subscribing to our monthly Creative Feel magazine for R180 per year.