Johannesburg Superheroes

While I was travelling from Seychelles to Johannesburg on that Friday 18thDecember 2015, I kept on watching several times the video clip “Superhero” from Irish rock band “The Script”, which you can retrieve on the linkhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WIm1GgfRz6M and for which are those wonderful lyrics as per below:

All her life she has seen All the meaner side of me They took away the prophet’s dream for a profit on the street Now she’s stronger than you know A heart of steel starts to grow All his life he’s been told He’ll be nothing when he’s old All the kicks and all the blows He won’t ever let it show ‘Cause he’s stronger than you know A heart of steel starts to grow When you’ve been fighting for it all your life You’ve been struggling to make things right That’s how a superhero learns to fly (Every day, every hour Turn the pain into power) When you’ve been fighting for it all your life You’ve been working every day and night That’s how a superhero learns to fly (Every day, every hour Turn the pain into power) All the hurt, all the lies All the tears that they cry When the moment is just right You see fire in their eyes ‘Cause he’s stronger than you know A heart of steel starts to grow When you’ve been fighting for it all your life You’ve been struggling to make things right That’s how a superhero learns to fly Every day, every hour Turn the pain into power When you’ve been fighting for it all your life You’ve been working every day and night That’s how a superhero learns to fly (Every day, every hour Turn the pain into power) (Power, power, power, power, power) (Power, power, power, power, power) (Every day, every hour Turn the pain into power) (Power, power, power, power, power) (Power, power, power, power, power) (Every day, every hour Turn the pain into power) She’s got lions in her heart A fire in her soul He’s got a beast in his belly That’s so hard to control ‘Cause they’ve taken too much hits Taking blow by blow Now light a match, stand back, watch them explode She’s got lions in her heart A fire in her soul He’s a got a beast in his belly That’s so hard to control ‘Cause they’ve taken too much hits Taking blow by blow Now light a match, stand back, watch them explode, explode, explode, explode When you’ve been fighting for it all your life You’ve been struggling to make things right That’s how a superhero learns to fly (Every day, every hour Turn the pain into power) When you’ve been fighting for it all your life You’ve been working every day and night That’s how a superhero learns to fly (Every day, every hour Turn the pain into power) (Power, power, power, power, power) Oh, yeah… (Power, power, power, power, power) (Every day, every hour Turn the pain into power) (Power, power, power, power, power) (Power, power, power, power, power) Ooh, yeah Whoa (Every day, every hour Turn the pain into power) When you’ve been fighting for it all your life you’ve been struggling to make things right that’s how a superhero learns to fly

That video deeply touched my heart and gave me a glimpse of Johannesburg, which is completely different from the luxury life that we see through pictures, shopping malls and attraction centers. Johannesburg, above all, is a town which has only one desire: To live and to rise once for all from its ashes by showing its superhero shape to the world… Not the external superhero such as the superheroes we retrieve in comic books for children, but the superheroes who speak with the voice of their hearts.

Extract from video clip “Superhero” from The Script

The video clip was shot in the shantytowns of Johannesburg, showing so many Afrikaners singing and dancing during The Script’s performance on stage, singing “Superhero”. At the same time, the video clip relates the story of a father living in very poor conditions all alone with his little daughter. Every morning, the father puts on his smoking, kisses his sleepy little daughter good morning on her sweet forehead and leaves home with a black work bag in the hand for office. At a moment, the father jumps into a lorry full of other workers also on their way to work. The truck stops next to a huge dunghill, and the father, instead of going to office, removes his smoking and puts on some old and dirty rags to join his colleagues within those garbage, with the hope of retrieving an old toy to offer his little daughter. While he is working, his eye is going here and there in search of something for her, whereas his heart is constantly close to his daughter’s heart. While he is busy collecting garbage, his daughter, who completely ignores the truth about her father’s true profession and the fact that her father is forced to lie to his daughter about his true position by wearing that smoking, stays alone in front of the house, shares some crisps with her friends from the neighborhood and plays alone on the swings, constantly waiting for her father to be back home with a toy her father promises her every morning before leaving home. After several hours, finally his father retrieves among the wastes a toy donkey, which he caresses within his hands like a rare treasure and a satisfaction for him to fulfill his daughter’s innocent happiness. He puts then his smoking before going back home, and retrieves his daughter coming to him at midway to join him over a bridge. From afar, the little girl recognizes his father coming back to her, runs with joy to him, jumps into his arms and is offered the promised toy his father promised her in the morning before leaving home.

While I was writing the previous paragraph, I was trying to meditate on the story of that father and his daughter, and I could depict lots of hidden messages in that video clip. On Wikipedia, the group members explained their reasons behind choosing Johannesburg for its realization, I quote: “A music video to accompany the release of “Superheroes” directed by Vaughan Arnell was released on 4 August 2014.[11] The music video was shot in JohannesburgSouth Africa over a period of a few days. The location of the video’s principal photography was inspired by the song itself, with Danny O’Donoghue stating that, “We spent a few days there and spent a lot of time with the people in the township, because they are our superheroes” (Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superheroes_(The_Script_song) )

The first message is the human reality that lots of people unfortunately ignore about the other shape of Johannesburg. People appear happy and smiling, but deep inside they are suffering because they still pray for hope for a better life. I still remember that waitress from Century City Hotel in Cape Town, whom I met with my family in January 2007 during a short holiday there. That lady lived in poor conditions and was working very hard to earn a living. There was a big sadness in her eyes, but which she hid with a smile, a jolly voice and even singing gospels. She refused to admit she was sad or suffering, and defended her mood like a tigress by always saying she is happy and always staying positive and in good mood. Not later than even on that evening of 18th December 2015, while we were returning to the Protea Hotel Sandston where we were staying, we noticed that the driver bought a very meager meal for him to eat, since he had nothing to eat before continuing his work! He explained us the hard conditions he faces every day, waking up early to catch the bus to arrive at his work, long tiresome hours of driving and not eating properly. I also witnessed a waiter from the hotel restaurant, who gently picked up a lady’s pullover while she was having a drink and chatting with a friend… And the lady didn’t even thank the waiter for his gentle gesture!

The second message is the unconditional love uniting that single father and his daughter. Daughters, in general, always see their father as their hero, as the very first man of their life, and inevitably, they would like to marry someone who would equal the role model that their father represents in front of their eyes. That father knows it very well. Deep inside it hurts him, because he always fears somehow that one day his daughter would know the truth about his true job as a waste cleaner, and not as an office staff. But as long as he can bring a smile on his daughter’s face every evening when he comes back home, that smile represents more than a treasure to him. This truth was however discovered by another little Thailand girl, through a video clip I once visualized called “My Father is a Liar” on the linkhttp://www.thedailypedia.com/2015/02/daughter-writes-letter-daddy-daddy-liar/ . In that video clip, the little girl always describes his father as her best hero… But comes on revealing that her father lies all the time about his position… To end by revealing that her father is lying because he wants his daughter to become a great person later and he wants to be a hero for his daughter and to be behind her success in life, whatever the price he has to pay for his life. The little Thai girl ends by revealing to her father that, whatever his position is, even though he doesn’t have a great position, he will always be her hero, because she knows that behind all those lies, lays the unconditional love of a father for his daughter. When the father comes to know about that message from her daughter, which the daughter wrote to him on a sheet of paper, he burst in tears and hugged his daughter tightly, showing her all his love as a father.

Finally, the final message is retrieved within the lyrics of the song “Superhero”, and which totally contrast with the superhero as seen into movies and comic strips for children. Let’s take the example of Superman. In real life, he appears as an ordinary dumb employee with thick glasses, who is secretly in love with his secretary. But his secretary ignores that this same dumb staff has a supernatural power, being Superman, and it’s Superman whom the secretary loves whereas she doesn’t care about the dumb staff. This is to prove that women and children mostly see the superhero with the eyes and not with the heart, which force men to lie and to appear as heroes in disguise in front of their eyes to please them. But the Superhero described in The Script’s lyrics is not the one as seen with the eyes, but the one seen with the heart, at the image of that South African father who must constantly lie behind his smoking to bring hope in his child’s heart for a better life and a better future together, and who must overpass his own sorrow and be stronger than he already is for the love of his daughter. As well as the superheroes in comic strips show their external and physical strength for the humanity, real-life superheroes show their strength through the voice of their hearts, such as that wonderful South African father.

Nelson and Winnie Mandela

But there are not only superheroes in South Africa. There are also super heroines. They can be super heroines like that Cape Town waitress singing gospels and being jolly all the time despite her sorrow due to the poor conditions she was living in, but it has a bigger connotation: the motherland South Africa… and the heart of South Africa, which is Johannesburg, and which is the personalized super heroine of all a nation. When I was still a child, the first image I always retained from that wonderful town was the suffering from all a population, because of that epidemic which had been affecting it for years: Apartheid. Colored, Indians, Blacks and Whites were divided, forced to hate each other and to live separately. Everyone was hoping for their National hero, Nelson Mandela, to come back to them and to get South Africa rid from that epidemic. His fight started as Leader of ANC, and his fight continued since he became the President of South Africa. The town which was mostly affected by the epidemic of apartheid was Johannesburg. So many local artists sang in the name of Johannesburg and of South Africa in general to give back to that wonderful country and that wonderful town its reason to smile again. I still remember Eddy Grant’s song “Give me Hope Jo’anna”, Johanna being for Johannesburg, which was afterwards friendly shortened as Josie. But why Jo’anna? Why Josie? Is there a meaning behind those nicknames for the town of Johannesburg? Through its lyrics, Eddy Grant gave to Johannesburg the metaphor of a bold and brave woman, always talking about Johannesburg using the “she” pronoun, a woman who kept on shedding tears deep inside her, but who never gave up and stood as a super heroine to rise up her children. On Wikipedia, I found an extract certifying what I wrote about Johannesburg in the shape of a shattered woman, and which Eddy Grant described perfectly, I quote:“”She’s got supporters in high up places, Who turn their heads to the city sun” represents the unwillingness of the international community, at first, to take action against the South African government and its apartheid system. It is also a reference to a South African luxury resort by the name of Sun City. “She even knows how to swing opinion, in every magazine and the journals” represents propaganda in the media and the Muldergate Scandal, which involved secret government subsidization of pro-apartheid media.(Source Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gimme_Hope_Jo%27anna )

I also had the opportunity to read an article in the recent edition of magazine Silhouette from Air Seychelles, Volume 6 number 3, September – December issue. The article found in its page 63, which I am sending as a photocopy in attachment to that article, is entitled “Mandela’s Letters of Life”. The author of that article, Mr. James Michael Dorsey, relates in that documentary that he was watching a documentary about another superhero, Nelson Mandela, and he especially paid attention about the handwritten letters that Nelson Mandela wrote during most of the years of his imprisonment in Robben Island. Mr. James Michael Dorsey was especially impressed by the beautiful and neat handwriting Nelson Mandela used in prison, and which perfectly described his personality. Maybe most of the prisoners would have used a bulky handwriting, but his English writing was perfect, sincere, and deep. They were love letters addressed to his wife Winnie and to his family. They were even messages shared with his family, through which he was building his dream about a new South Africa, and particularly a new Johannesburg. In his article, Mr. James Michael Dorsey showed us about the importance of handwriting. Handwriting is not only a part of classical education, but it’s also a way to detect someone’s personality… And Nelson Mandela was the typical type of personality of the true visionary who felt love for his country and wanted to bring it back on the right pathway as “one people, one nation, in peace, justice and liberty”, like sung in the lyrics of my Mauritian national hymn. Nelson Mandela’s dream through those letters came true and his dream is still going on, even after his death. I also found a link regrouping some love letters he wrote to his wife Winnie during his imprisonment in Robben Island, which you can retrieve on the linkhttp://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/mandela/husband/letters.html

UP: Singer Johnny Clegg paying tribute to late Nelson Mandela

RIGHT: Johnny Clegg performing on stage with band Savuka

This is incredible how song lyrics, letters, books, etc, can deliver strong messages of humanity! In addition of Eddy Grant, how not to remember the “White Zulu” Johnny Clegg, a British native settled in South Africa for so many years, but who preferred the world of the Zulu community than the cozy life he could enjoy for himself, as her his biography which you can retrieve on the link https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny_Clegg . Thanks to his incredible affection and closeness to the Zulu community, and thanks to his own researches and passion for music, Johnny Clegg very quickly became one of the rare white-skinned ambassadors of the fight against racism and apartheid in South Africa. Each of his songs, through their lyrics and clips, were extremely powerful messages for a better South Africa, and mostly a better Johannesburg. But the strongest message “Asimbonanga”. Johnny Clegg perfectly describes his vision about South Africa as a country who feeds the rage of rising once for all from his ashes, a country who still keeps hope and never gives up though it always faces injustice and at times incomprehension. “Asimbonanga” especially is the screaming voice of all an oppressed people desperately looking for their national hero Nelson Mandela and begging for his release from Robben Island to save his people from the scratches of apartheid. Johnny Clegg also gives a vibrant homage to three of some heroes who kept on fighting against apartheid but who died as martyrs despite a tiresome fight: Steve Bekho, Victoria Mxenge and Neil Aggett, three superheroes who were martyred for the sake of their country, but who will always be remembered as superheroes. I have the pleasure, once again, to share those wonderful lyrics, which were like a sort of prayer loudly pronounced by Johnny Clegg, to which God answered and which brought Mandela’s freedom and fight against apartheid and for a better South Africa: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rrviv1Q-PKc

UP: Lyrics from The Script’s “Superhero”

DOWN: A South African merchant selling his stuffs in the streets of Johannesburg

We should really thank those artists, who were true messengers and true prophets who described us so well the true context of real-life superheroes, especially in a country like South Africa and a town like Johannesburg.

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Author: ekasringavatar

Always be yourself unless you can be a Unicorn. Then, always be a Unicorn.

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