Day 16: There and back again

Despite my disheartening day yesterday, today was a little more on the up side.

I went back to Yeoville with Luke, his group and Kudzai to get a few more shots of my Nigerian Jews.

Our first stop was at the hill so that Luke could get some cutaways and B-role for his video.

COLOURFUL PRAYER: A group of Christian worshipers praying on the hill top in Yeoville. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

COLOURFUL PRAYER: A group of Christian worshipers praying on the hill top in Yeoville. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

 

Afterwards we headed off to my Nigerian Rabbi. He and his community never fail to inspire me.

While the girls waited in the car, Luke and I headed in to see the Rabbi and take some pictures. One of the congregants told us that “Rabbi is eating lunch and we don’t disturb him during lunch.”

We waited for him in the Synagogue as one of the congregants came in and did the daily afternoon prayer. I watched him take his shoes off, get on his knees and say a number of different verses. It was beautiful.

The Rabbi came in and greeted us with a warm “Shalom Aleichem!” (Meaning Welcome, peace be upon you.)

I explained what I needed and off we went to do my photo shoot. We started chatting afterwards and he asked me if I’d like to chat with his majesty, Igwe Royal Highness) Eze Eri, the leader and Chief Rabbi/Spiritual Leader of the Igbo Jews. He is the direct descendant of Gad, son of the patriarch Jacob.

“Now?” I said.

“Yes I will call him now. He would love to speak to you! I will phone him in Nigeria now!”

I was mildly shocked and in awe that this was about to take place. The thought of speaking to someone who knows he is directly related to a biblical figure was overwhelming.

Shalom Aleichem Igwe Eze Eri, Ze Rabbi Natan m’Drom Afrika,” said Rabbi Obiekwe. Natan is Rabbi Sylvester’s Hebrew name. (The above translates as “Peace be upon you your highness Eze Eri, this is Rabbi Natan from South Africa” – in Hebrew I might add) They proceeded to speak in Igbo (a Nigerian language spoken in Southern and Eastern Nigeria) and Rabbi Sylvester handed me the phone.

We spoke for about 10 minutes about my project and I told him how wonderful his community is in South Africa and I hope to come visit the community in Nigeria. He told me about a few holidays and celebrations the Igbo Jews would be having in Nigeria soon and explained his lineage and role as leader.

IT'S ART: As we left Yeoville I came across this amazing piece of graffiti on a wall. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

IT’S ART: As we left Yeoville I came across this amazing piece of graffiti on a wall. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

He gave me an incredible blessing at the end of the conversation which included “doing well with my project”, “being successful with everything”, that I should “flourish as a Jewess and follow the ways of G-d [Hashem]” and that I should “have a long, happy and peaceful life.”

I handed the phone back to Rabbi Obiekwe and Rabbi Obiekwe said that Igwe Eri and his community would be happy to sponsor a trip for me, a friend and Rabbi Obiekwe to meet and see the Jewish community of Nigeria. I should just “let him know if I want to come”.

It sounds like a pretty awesome plan!

We thanked the Rabbi, said our goodbyes and headed back to the car – I must admit, I was in a bit of a daze.

We then helped Roxi, Thabi and Palesa film at their barbers on Rocky and headed back to the car. On the way, I once again got hit on by another old “Sugar Daddy”. His comment was something I’m not going to share on this forum…

COOLING DOWN: A chilled end to busy but fun day. Photo: Wits Student

COOLING DOWN: A chilled end to busy but fun day. Photo: Wits Student

We got back to Wits, Luke and I giggling and having fun the entire trip back and the two of us wanted ice-cream.

So we went on an “adventure” to the Matrix to find some good old-fashioned ice-cream. Yum!

The perfect ending to a productive (and albeit amazing) day!

In-depth day 15: A snag in the road

HANDS UP: Today this is how I felt after hearing about the need to redo last weeks video footage. Photo: Iakov Kalinin, Huffington Post

DOWN UNDER: Today this is how I felt after hearing about the need to redo last weeks video footage. Photo: Iakov Kalinin, Huffington Post

I feel like I’m flapping, trying to keep my head above water… trying not to sink like a stone to the bottom of an unforeseeable ocean floor.

In other words my filming and editing process has hit a “minor” bump.

Zaheer, our video mentor took a look at the footage I acquired last week and unfortunately he needs me to redo some of the shots… well most of them actually. He was happy with my plan, my ideas and even my B-role filming – just not so happy with my interviewee footage. Some was a little unfocused, others not aligned properly but as he said, “This is how you learn to make things better – you’ve done well so far but lets take it that extra step.”

So I’m re-filming some of the car scenes and two of the interviews this Friday with the social worker from Kosher Mobile Meals. I was a little disheartened but I know it’ll make me a better journalist and a more professional one in the end.

“Nothing ever goes according to plan, you’re always going to hit a snag somewhere, but you just have to work through it and you will!” – Zaheer.

He showed me exactly where I went wrong and taught me how to correct my mistakes and make “Take Two” shine. I just hope it will…

There’s a part of me that feels disappointed and a little broken inside because I thought I gave it my all… But as William Hickson once said:”If at first you don’t succeed try try again!” And that I shall do even if I feel like I’m flailing…

On the plus side, TJ, our photography mentor was happy with the photos I’ve taken of the Nigerian Jewish community. I just need to get those “establishing” shots of the Rabbi and the outside of the Synagogue which is what I’ll be doing tomorrow with my partner in “crime” Luke Matthews.

Well here’s to a better day tomorrow and a more productive one.

Take two: Lights, camera… action!

In-depth day 14: Edit it

I came into university early this morning to get copy all my content from filming onto the computers. A back up as it were and easy access for my editing.

It took almost 2 hours to get everything on and as I waited I started looking through, picking and editing my stills from my time at the Nigerian Synagogue. I realised I needed to get an “establishing shot” of the outside of the Synagogue and the Rabbi and some congregants walking into the premises. Also realised a picture of the Rabbi standing outside or in the entrance would be a good idea to shoot too. So I need to plan when I’m going to get that done – tomorrow or Tuesday should work well.

Finally, the footage had all copied and I decided to get going with some editing so I would have something to show the video mentor, Zaheer in the morning. I spent most of the day finding a bit of music, editing and cutting video footage and syncing the sound. I managed to get 2 minutes and 26 seconds “slapped” together and felt satisfied with what I’d produced.

Yet as the end of my day approached the nerves started kicking in that both the photo and video mentors were going to be unhappy with my work and I might have to redo everything.

My anxiety towards Yeoville has settled but I still don’t enjoy spending my time there – despite the amazing journey and people I have met. That is what makes it bearable: the people, the old Jews who have been living there for over 60 years and the new Jews – my Nigerian brothers and sisters who have been living there for just a couple of years.

In-depth day 13: Old times

OLD TIMES: Photos depicting a sneak peek into the vast Jewish history of Yeoville. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

OLD TIMES: Photos depicting a sneak peek into the vast Jewish history of Yeoville. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

With the last set of Jewish holidays around the corner, I decided to stay a little closer to home.

I finally got an appointment atthe Jewish archives and headed over there to take some pictures and cutaways of old Yeoville newspaper cuttings and photos to add into my video.

I love looking at historical items, photos and the like. It fascinates me. Looking at the roots and discovering unknown facts about a once prominently Jewish area like Yeoville gets my adrenaline pumping.

I walked into a large room filled with tons of shelves and boxes upon boxes of photos, memoirs, newspaper cuttings, old books, records and information about places.

I discovered photos dating all the way back to the 1930s – the Synagogue (which today is a Congolese church) and a kindergarten class at the Jewish school in the area.

ARCHIVE SELFIE: There are another 6 or 7 sets of shelves in the room. This is just a taste of what it looks like. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

ARCHIVE SELFIE: There are another 6 or 7 sets of shelves in the room. This is just a taste of what it looks like. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

I even found a picture of an old cousin of the family’s who I didn’t even know lived in Yeoville during her life.

It took some time to make a collage and search through the information I was given and I was helped by a lovely lady who runs the place and keeps everything so ordered.

After taking my time to order the pictures, take some videos and stills, I packed up all the archive materials supplied and handed it back in. I headed out and made my way to Wits to do a few odds and ens.

I’ve started doing the first steps of actually putting something rough together for my video which is quite exciting. It’s going to be a long process but hopefully it will go well.

With that, I’m outta here!

Chag Sameach to all my Jewish readers! 😉

 

In-depth day 12: films and stills – “D-Day”

I’ve been trying to process today. I am struggling to express in words what I’ve seen… what I’ve experienced.

This was kindness beyond measure. Something that touched a chord within me – deep within me.

Today… today is the reason why I chose to do journalism.

Today was filming day. It was all planned and ready. Of we went to Yeoville at 7.30am to meet and deliver home-cooked food parcels to members of the Jewish community still living in the area. The aim of the Jewish organisation is to bring home-cooked meals to the Jewish elderly who are unable to cook for themselves.

So today this was our mission: Delivering to the Jewish recipients around Yeoville!

There are about 18 in the area that the organisation knows of.

I had the honour of interviewing three beautiful people during the trip while also chatting with the social worker, Ingrid, who helps to run the organisation. Phil, Pessi and Pauline shared their life stories – the happy and the sad, the triumphs and the many difficulties – and also explained to me why they still lived in Yeoville.

As we left each home – a hug and a kiss on the cheek was shared and a promise of my return to have tea and spend more time with them in a more “social capacity” (in the words of Pessi). I was blown away at the warmth shown and that these people were so willing to give me an opportunity to take a peak into their lives and share in their stories.

I’m a little sad that I didn’t take any photos with each interviewee but I guess the best memories are those you truly feel rather than capture.

Part of the delivery root was to the heart of Hillbrow – a place where not many venture but we did and it was special meeting the people who still do their best to make the best of their lives despite the challenges of living in such a place.

And yet, they are happy there. Their lives are there and as many said, their neighbours (all colours and religions) are always so helpful.

One of my favourite experiences from today was seeing how one of the recipients gives a small donation each time the organisation delivers food as her way of saying thank you despite being elderly and living in difficult circumstances.

There is so much to share and so much to think about. To be honest no blog or words can describe the feelings experienced after such an emotional day.

Today was food for thought and once I’ve gathered my thoughts together properly I will tell you more.

Until tomorrow’s adventure: Good night everybody! 🙂

 

In-depth day 11: Why I hate lifts…

I’ve never had a phobia of lifts but I’ve always had a mild phobia of being stuck in a lift.

STUCK: A lift selfie  while biding my time in an immobile lift in Yeoville. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

NOT HAPPY: A lift selfie while biding my time in a stuck lift in Yeoville. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

I was always the lucky one in the journalism class – I had never had the “pleasure” of being stuck in the notorious Wits Art Museum lifts like a number of my colleagues have. However, today my luck changed.

After visiting a family friend who’s moved out of Yeoville but still works there, I climbed into the solid but dodgy lift to leave the building. She works on the 4th floor of a building a few roads away from Rocky street (don’t ask me to name it).

The lift gave a shudder and low and behold I was stuck between a rock and hard place – in-between the second and third floor, the doors half open. It was just me inside the lift which made me panic slightly. With shaky and sweaty hands, I pressed the alarm button which gave off a very meek sound and the intercom buzzed:

“Hello!” Came a heavily accented voice, “Are you stuck?”

“Yes!” I answered, “The lift just stopped.”

“What your foot is stopped?”

“No! The lift is stuck!”

“We send someone now to fix it. No panic. It happens a lot.”

Well nobody came and after 20 minutes no one had come and I realised the doors were slightly open and I could see the third floor and reach it. I decided I was going to do a “James Bond” and try climb out. I jumped up and gripped the edge of the third floor. After 10 minutes of huffing, puffing, a chorus of “bad idea, bad idea” and making funny noises I managed to climb up – all red in the face. As I began to stand up I noticed three workmen standing there, giggling at my “James Bond” attempt – not my finest hour!

PEACE OUT: Taking in the fresh air after being stuck in a stuffy lift for nearly 15 minutes. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

PEACE OUT: Taking in the fresh air after being stuck in a stuffy lift for nearly 15 minutes. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

What did I do to waist the time until my final escape attempt? Sat on the floor of course and in true journalism looked at the photos I’d taken and went over my plan for “D-Day” (which is happening tomorrow).

After a chorus of, “are you okay?” from the workmen, I headed outside to do a couple of last minute errands in Yeoville (like some photos, say hi to Rabbi Obiekwe and the like) and also managed to organised a trip to the Jewish archives on Wednesday morning to photograph some of the old photos of Yeoville in its hey-day.

As I headed back to the car, I looked up and saw the sun shinning through the trees. I took a minute to be thankful and to have a breather. I realised having a breather alone in Yeoville is not the cleverest thing to do so I climbed back into the car and headed back to Wits.

Lesson of the day: It’s always better to take the stairs.

 

 

In-depth day 10: cameras and conversations

As we build up to filming day (this coming Tuesday!), I have been working hard on perfecting my storyboard which I hope I will be able to stick to loosely at least.

I spent my day driving around Yeoville with my sister who kindly took time out of her Sunday to help me practice my filming. I practiced my camera angling and tried to focus on the shots that could be used on “D-Day”. My main obstacles are keeping the camera still as we drive and using the light to aid me and lighten the driver not darken her.

After a few practice runs and a bit of frustration from my side I finally managed to get the angling and lighting right! There can be miracles… let’s just pray I can get it right first try on Tuesday!

Once that was done, we headed home and once again got confirmation from the Social Worker at Kosher Mobile Meals that everything was set and ready for Tuesday. I must say I’m quite excited to take part of such a brilliant initiative.

After that I called Rabbi Obiekwe to ask him a few questions that I needed clarification on for my written piece. We had a great chat and it ended off with him giving me a blessing for the rest of the Jewish holiday Sukkot which we are currently celebrating.

The rest of the afternoon was spent correcting my “apostrophe abuse”, adding information and taking out the “yucky phrasing” in my written piece. With that Draft number three is finished.

I also called the Jewish archives to organise an appointment to take photos of the old photographs depicting Yeoville in its Jewish hey-days which I will be incorporating into “D-Days” video. Tomorrow afternoon or Wednesday morning are the dates I have asked for. Hopefully my request will be granted!

Well that’s a wrap… until tomorrow’s adventure, I’m outta here!

Arriva Dirche!

 

In-depth day 9: Difference

HOLINESS: Rabbi Obiekwe does a reading from a Jewish scripture and shows how they've traced their lineage through this biblical passage. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

HOLINESS: Rabbi Obiekwe does a reading from a Jewish scripture and shows how they’ve traced their lineage through this biblical passage. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

After yesterday’s hectic but incredible day, today was a little calmer.

I met briefly with the Igbo Jews to chat to a few of them about what it means to be Jewish.

The Rabbi of the congregation together with a few of the members spoke to me about their struggle to be recognised as Jews and how people judge their authenticity on their skin colour.

“When I tell people I am Jewish, they don’t always believe me. They say, ‘but your skin colour, you are black, how can you be Jewish?’ Not all Jewish people are from Europe. There are Jews all over the world with different coloured skin.” Said a member of the congregation.

I was shocked to find that people can be so ignorant and close minded. “But what about the Ethiopian Jews, it’s never been refuted that they’re Jewish and they’re black.”

Rabbi Obiekwe agreed with me and explained how human features change according to the place where people live and the climate.

“The skin, the colour and the features all change with every generation that is born.”

All the Igbos I spoke with expressed their pride to be Jewish and told me how blessed they feel to be a part of the Jewish nation.

I watched a few rituals (some which I couldn’t take photos of because of the level of holiness the actions entrail) but I did get some pictures of two rituals that are done before entering the Synagogue area as a means of purification. It was beautiful to witness.

After my trip to the Igbos, I headed back to Wits and spent some time working on my video script and shots.One thing I’ve learned is video journalism is that things never goes according to plan.

But might as well have something solid that I can stick to roughly. It always helps!

Well time to sign-off for the next few days. The Jewish holiday of Sukkot is starting shortly. (It’s my favourite time of the year!)

I’ll be back on Sunday! Until then… Ciao!

In-depth day 8: Find me Jewish

MEETING: Influencial Beth-El member Charity Nnonyeli, Rabbi Obiekwe, and I after our interview. Photo: Rofhiwa Madzena

MEETING: Influencial Beth-El member Charity Nnonyeli, Rabbi Obiekwe, and I after our interview. Photo: Rofhiwa Madzena

Well today was one of the most inspirational days I’ve spent in Yeoville.

Rofhi and I got the opportunity to meet with some of the Nigerian Jewish community members and got to experience a few of their prayer rituals and photograph them while in their religious garb. They had prayer shawls, religious books, tzit-tzit (don’t ask me to translate that) and smart clothes. (Yarmulke’s are worn 24/7 by the religious members of the community).

They prayed beautiful and I must say there were a lot of similarities to the way in which the Orthodox community pray. They ended off by chanting “Adon Olam” in English which means “Master of the University” and is traditionally recited in the Synagogue at the end of a prayer service.

Afterwards, I met with one of the women elders (or Rebbetzin’s) in the community who explained her role as a Jewish woman and a Jewish wife. It was incredible to hear her viewpoints  from a similar but mildly different perspective.

“The Jewish woman’s role is to bring peace to the house, raise the children in the ways of Hashem and look after her husband. This is not to say she cannot or should not immerse herself in the working world. She can do both but family must always come first.” She said.

It gave me a bit of a spiritual rejuvenation and made me think: If they can be so strong in their faith in Judaism and God, how much more so should I be?

The Igbo Jews are fantastic. I’m glad to have them as apart of the “tribe” and “family”.

JUST KIDDING: Taking a swing in a park in Observatory while on a break. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

JUST KIDDING: Taking a swing in a park in Observatory while on a break. Photo: Rofhiwa Madzena

Following my wonderful morning we met up with Bongi and headed off to meet her interviewees. Both were interesting (and a little dodgy) rappers. We went on a trek to find a quiet park to film and ended up walking into the middle of Observatory. We found a lovely park with swings and while Bongi did her thing, Rofhi and I decided to find our inner child, (which we did!) on the swings. It was a nice change for a change.

We trekked back to Yeoville and by 2.30pm we were once again heading back on a Taxi (I’m use to it now!) to Wits. Our driver was mildly crazy and took a few chances. I was nearly ready to kiss the ground after we arrived back safely.

A lovely day was had by all – with quite a few laughs along the way. But I must say – I am exhausted!

Tune in tomorrow where I will be looking to locate old photos of Yeoville’s Jewish community for my video.

Laters!

TIME OUT: Rofhi and I taking a break and having a little fun in the sun. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

TIME OUT: Rofhi and I taking a break and having a little fun in the sun. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

In-depth day 7: Keep rolling

VIEWPOINT: On our way out of Yeoville today we came across an incredible view of Joburg from a hilltop. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

VIEWPOINT: On our way out of Yeoville today we came across an incredible view of Joburg from a hilltop. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

Well I can finally say that filming has commenced. Albeit I only did a bit but at least it’s a start.

The morning started off with a visit to Yeoville with Kudzai and Rofhi. We headed to the police station to meet a source of Kudzai’s and afterwards headed towards the market area to meet my other Jewish interviewee.

As we walked we spotted the scary guy that had made a move on Rofhi last week and low and behold he tried to make a move on me but I had learned my lesson from last week so we got away quickly before he could get too close to me – Kudzai pulled me away from him and I refused to answer when he tried to ask my name.

“He’s not right in the head that one,” said a man behind us, “Stay away from him.”

I headed towards the block of flats where the Jewish man I hoped to meet stayed. As we got to the building I saw a white man standing on the steps. I suspected that was my man and proceeded to go up to him.

“Hi, I’m looking for Morris,” I said shyly.

“That’s me, who’s asking?” He replied.

I explained what I was doing and who I was and he seemed very receptive. The only spanner in the works is that he won’t let me film him.

“I’m okay with recording but no cameras.”

I realised I would have to incorporate his voice as a voice-over at some point during my video. He seemed like a friendly and an interesting fellow to meet. I was excited to hear his story.

“Call me anytime, come visit. I like chatting – not interviews.” He said with a smile.

So the plan is to try see him tomorrow afternoon.

After a successful trip to Yeoville, we headed back to Wits. We got back at around 1.30pm. I needed to get back early because I had a meeting at the Jewish Charity organisation where Kosher Mobile Meals operates from. The plan was to to video some of the packing process and to speak with the organiser. I was set to meet her at 2.15pm.

I discovered that Kosher Mobile Meals focuses on supplying meals to people who are older, living in places like Yeoville and Berea and are unable to cook proper, healthy meals for themselves.

AMAZING WORK: Volunteers at Kosher Mobile Meals home cook and fill over 160 trays of food for the patrons they supply across Yeoville, Hillbrow, Berea and the Joburg CBD. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

AMAZING WORK: Volunteers at Kosher Mobile Meals home cook and fill over 160 trays of food for the patrons they supply across Yeoville, Hillbrow, Berea and the Joburg CBD. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

“We are not a typical charity organisation that looks after the poor in the community – there are other organisations for that. We look after those who are older, live alone and are unable to cook for themselves.” Said the main organiser.

After interviewing her, filming the volunteers who pack the food and the food packing process itself, I decided it was time to call a day.

The charity organisation is next door my old school and I felt I couldn’t be right there and not make a quick stop off to say hi to all my old teachers and friends on the staff.

A busy day but fun over all! I am exhausted!

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s special episode of in-depth: filming the Igbo Jews and a meeting with a female member of the tribe.