Sunday, August 21, 2011

Entering the unknown

I am about to begin the process of gathering content for my radio current affairs series.  This week, to kickstart the project,I am travelling to the Whittlesea region, armed with recorder and camera, where I am scheduled to interview a number of  citizens. I am determined to get in contact with as many people as possible, and have tried my best to prepare for this. Yet I am still concerned about how much content I am going to get.
A description of the series I am producing:  It will consist of three stand-alone features, each of between nine and 11 minutes in duration, that also come together to form the series which I call "IHewu: Ukonga inxeba" (Whittlesea: The healing of a scar). I will be looking at Whittlesea, a region of the the Eastern Cape, tracing aspects of its history from the apartheid era to democratic South Africa. My focus will be on the way Whittlesea communities have adapted economically to life in a democratic South Africa. I have heard many stories about how this region enjoyed a better quality of life in the homeland system.  My plan is to draw on the wisdom of citizens from this region, to determine whether this really is the case, and what the current standard of living is in the region. My aim is to foreground the voices of ordinary people, bringing together the different voices of people who live or who have lived in Whittlesea.
I have set myself great challenges for this series, and now I have to face those challenges head on. 

Over the next few days, I will be interviewing older citizens of Whittlesea, particularly those individuals who were youths in the region between the 1960s to early 1980s. I do not know what to expect from these individuals, in terms of the information they will share with me. What I can be assured of though, is that this series might take on a new dimension after I have interviewed these individuals. I learnt in the fieldwork process of producing my documentary, Uhambo Lomphilisi, that one's views of a particular subject change or are enriched after the research process. This is what I am looking forward to the most in this series as well, to learn, to be aware and be inspired by the people I will interview, and the environment I will be in. 

What I aim to achieve in my first round of interviews, is to have detailed conversations with the people I will talk to. I want to find out about the stories they have to offer about their experiences in Whittlesea during the ‘peak years’ of the region, when it was an agricultural giant of the Ciskei during apartheid.  Similarly, I would like to hear stories about the changes the region experienced at the fall of the homeland system. Hopefully, I will end up with stories of individual lives that can then, through my narration, be woven together with the history of the region as a whole. This is an interview technique I have exercised in the past, which works very well for me. 

Next week, when I come back to this blog, I hope to write of significant inroads made in this research stage of the radio series. I have laid my plans, but I dare not predict the stories and opinions I will gain from these interviews. 

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