Seen on 15 Oct, 2015 @ RU TV Documentary Festival, Grahamstown

Xenophobia has held the nation in its grip with violent reports from bolig places like Johannesburg and Durham. But what does it do to people living in smaller places. Amakwamerkwamere is a travelogue of some young documentary makers looking for first hand experience and learning about xenophobia in Port Elizabeth, voicing different community members both in the townships and city centre of a city by the coast. Street vendors from Zimbabwe and spaza owners from Sudan take the viewer inside their protected homes that have become prisons, entering their houses through a small opening and look helpless and hopeless. Is pity the only thing one can offer?

somali-shop-owner-2But the life of a black foreigner is not easier in the citylife. A voice over commentary translates the reality of two siblings manoeuvring around each other as if there is something comfortable about the relationship of the two. The documentary tries to give an inside perspective of people that have been on the other side of xenophobia, the ones that live constantly in fear because others have forgotten the contribution foreigners have made to the wellbeing of the nation or the part other nations played during apartheid days. It aims to relocate humanity in those that have been dehumanized. And so it becomes a harmonizing portrayal of ordinary people with their humour, fear, contributions working as spaza owners, street vendors, car mechanics who all have a story to tell of what they left behind coming to a country to start a new life.

Again I am impressed how a big story is so humanly and personally portrayed in the hope that even the documentation of these extraordinary other human beings would render dignity and respect. Although not fictitious by any attempt, Amakwamerkwamere’s attempted reality check is sobered by the last line pointing out a serious attack on one of the characters zoomed in upon.

Amakwerekwere by Tebo Ramosili & Siyavuya Makubalo, Imbokado Productions, 2015