By Panashe Chigumadzi (@panashechig)
Panashe watches a documentary created by the creative collective called the Conformists. What she loves the most, and to some extent is intimidated by, is their irreverent and forceful youthfulness seen when, for example, they insist “just one word!” when interviewees give sentences as answers to the instruction “Describe June 16 in one word”.
This post was originally published on 17 June 2014 and is republished here as part of our one year anniversary retrospective.
“This government will not be intimidated and instructions have been given to maintain law and order at all costs. Those educational institutions at which blacks are destroying their own ammeninties will be closed,” so begins this short documentary with words pronounced by South African Prime Minister Ben Vorster in the wake of the Soweto Uprisings in 1976. This documentary, produced by the young Cape Town collective, the Conformists, is a window into the hearts and minds of young people as they grapple with their place in post-apartheid South Africa.
Produced and released online in 2013, it begins by setting the scene with clips of speeches by grand apartheid administrators and scenes from the June 16 riots. We are then taken to 2013 Cape Town where we follow the Conformists as they engage fellow youth across colour and socio-economic lines with questions such as ‘Does June 16th have any relevance in your life today?’ and ‘Are you South African or the result of South Africa’. The soundtrack to this journey is stirring, switching between the ‘old’ of Miriam Makeba’s ‘Piece of ground’ and the contemporary offered by Tumi and the Volume’s ”76′ featuring Pebbles.
Although not appearing as part of the documentary, nor offering any of their own reflections, the real stars of this documentary are the Conformists. This collective, all barely over 18, embody the spirit of the youth of June 16th in a way that is at once chilling and awe-inspiring. What I love, and to some extent am intimidated by the most is their irreverent and forceful youthfulness seen when, for example, they insist “just one word!” when interviewees give sentences as answers to the instruction “Describe June 16 in one word”.
They are definitely a group to watch and as they develop their cinematic and story-telling skills over time, they are sure to produce something explosive in the future, as these words from their blog might indicate:
“art is our ammunition
and we’re just a bunch of kids with guns”
WATCH THE DOCUMENTARY HERE: