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Comic Con Africa 2022 is over but there are other Stranger Things to look forward to – all eyes on Cape Town 2023

With Comic Con Africa 2022 done and dusted, we look back at the long-awaited return of the pop culture festival.
It’s hard to form an objective opinion on Comic Con Africa 2022 (CCA 2022) without it being coloured by the feeling that it’s great to be back. Conventions are about people and making connections; virtual gatherings generally don’t deliver the shared excitement and happiness that comes from interacting face-to-face over shared passions.
One of the bonuses of pop culture conventions is that, for a few days, they provide attendees with a much-needed shot of positivity and creative inspiration.
This year’s Comic Con Africa (despite being a business-minded event) delivered and created an environment where all kinds of fans – whether into comics, movies, series, video games, boardgames and tabletop roleplaying, cosplay, streaming, fan art, collecting and even tattoos – could come together.
CCA 2022 was the first Comic Con Africa in three years, due to pandemic restrictions. The inaugural CCA took place in Johannesburg at the Kyalami Expo Centre back in 2018, before making a move to the bigger Gallagher Estate venue in 2019. For this year’s four-day event, from 22-25 September, CCA 2022 moved yet again to the Johannesburg Expo Centre, Nasrec.
Overall, if you look at the three “Cons” together, you can recognise the formula of a blockbuster movie trilogy: a rough-around-the-edges start; a much bigger sequel that builds on the original’s success but fumbles in certain areas; and a final instalment with a “MOAR” mindset that refocuses on giving fans what they love, delivered in a sleek package.
The organisers of CCA have clearly learned from each event, taking feedback to heart. While there are still niggles (and some may never be solved), improvements have been made every time.
Now let’s take a closer look at what worked, and what was less successful, at the third CCA.
The build-up
Celebrity guest cancellations are to be expected, given the nature of the entertainment industry – but it was great to see Jamie Campbell Bower as this year’s legitimate big-name drawcard. It wasn’t quite William Shatner, but Bower is huge right now thanks to Stranger Things.
What did feel very last minute about the event, though, was its marketing. Everything seemed to be crammed into the last couple of weeks before the festival. Announcements before this were difficult to find, even though there was a lot going on that could have been used to stoke hype.
CCA 2022 included an ...

The Cape gannet — soon to be dethroned Bird of the Year

Each year since 2007, BirdLife South Africa has announced the country’s Bird of the Year, but their mission, goes far beyond celebrating a bird for its looks.
Their breeding is restricted to the southern African region, specifically on six islands: three off the Namibian coast, two off South Africa’s West coast, and one towards the east, specifically Bird Island in Algoa Bay. Out on these breeding islands, they’re protected from predators on the mainland. Sometimes referred to as missile birds, the Cape gannet’s high-speed dive through the ocean surface is both a demonstration of graceful flight, as well as finely tuned mechanics.
They feed primarily on anchovies and sardines, and come feeding time, gannets on the hunt will hover some 30 metres above the surface, until they spot their prey. Then, at first, with their wings spread out, they plummet towards the fish at speeds of up to 100 km/h, and within milliseconds before their sharp beaks hit the water, they tuck their wings in and bring them closer to the body, while simultaneously extending them backwards, effectively transforming into aerodynamic missiles.
With no external nostrils, water can’t force its way inside their heads as they plunge. The air sacs beneath the skin of their heads, neck and chest, cushion them from the impact as their bodies hit the water, and the momentum from the dive can propel them 10 metres below surface, catching fish as they descend. Using their webbed feet and powerful wings, they’re capable of plunging further, to over 20 metres below the surface as they hunt and feed.
The Cape gannet’s beauty is not limited to the spectacularly streamlined mechanics of their flight. A close look at their faces reveals cobalt blue eye-rings, surrounded by black accents that run along the beak; features rendered even more striking by the golden hue that covers the crown and hindneck, before fading into the creamy white of their body and wings, which are again accented by a strip of black flight feathers on the outermost edges.
As distinct as these seabirds may be, looks and feats of aviation weren’t the only reasons the Cape gannet was named Bird of the Year for 2022 by BirdLife South Africa, the country partner of the non-profit bird and habitat conservation organisation, BirdLife International.
“The Cape gannet is a good ambassador for the problems that are affecting seabirds in South Africa, which are unfortunately threatened by quite a few ...

‘It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way’ — a must-read fiction about the very real climate crisis

Alistair Mackay’s ‘It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way’ is a captivating read about love and connection, while also being a painful, heart-wrenching call to action on behalf of our planet.
Set in a Cape Town that has been devastated by rising sea levels, extreme weather events and drought, It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way by Alistair Mackay is an arresting page-turner that documents the planet’s descent into a full-blown climate crisis.
Mackay’s choice to set this novel in Cape Town may hit a bit too close to home for South African readers, with the city’s lush landscape now bone dry, streets underwater and makeshift homes scrambling up Table Mountain to escape the rising sea. Separated into two time periods, one in present-day Cape Town, the other in a not-so-distant future, the setting makes Mackay’s message about climate change more tangible and relatable, forcing the reader to grapple with what happens when what they know and love is on fire.
Mackay’s work is fiction and yet the discussions around climate change, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, queerness and religion are all real and ubiquitous today. This pulls the reader into Mackay’s world as he unsettles many of the anxieties that people may share today about the world and the environment.
The novel is also a love story, following three queer friends, Luthando, Viwe and Malcolm as they face the impending climate disaster, and detailing the individual actions they take or don’t take. In the future, after the Change, the fourth voice of Milo is introduced, as he grows up in a world that the adults who came before him had neglected.
“There aren’t any good days left. Dad said we used them all up when he was a kid,” Milo laments.
‘How many people ever look up?’
While Milo’s childhood is lived in poverty, some have managed to escape to protected areas and alternate realities. Underneath a glass dome covering Signal Hill and Lion’s Head lies the Citadel, where affluent residents live safely tucked away from the pollution and violence outside, with access to virtual reality technology that places them in new worlds of their choosing. When activated, the virtual reality programmes turn their users’ eyes “silvery opaque” — they are zombies who choose to live in worlds that do not exist.
At one point, as Malcolm commutes to work in the Citadel, he finds himself alone. He is surrounded by other commuters, yet they are interacting on ...

Stroke: young people can have them too – here’s how to know if you’re at risk and what to look out for

Kid Cudi and Hailey Bieber are among the growing proportion of stroke victims who are under 45.
American rapper Kid Cudi shared recently that he suffered a stroke in 2016 at age 32, while in rehab for his mental health.
His stroke resulted in problems with speech and movement. Even after several months of rehabilitation, he still struggled with some aspects of memory – losing out on an acting role because of it.
Model Hailey Bieber also spoke out earlier this year about the “mini-stroke” she experienced. She was only 25. The stroke was caused by a blood clot on the brain. Her first symptoms were numbness and tingling on one side of the body, drooping of one side of the face and difficulty forming words.
Most of us think of stroke as a condition that only affects older people. But while it’s more common in old age, around 10% of all strokes happen in people under the age of 45 – and the figure is rising.
Here’s what you need to know about why strokes happen, who’s most at risk, and what kind of symptoms you need to look out for.
Types of stroke
Stroke happens when there’s an interruption of blood supply and oxygen to the brain, which is caused by an obstruction, injury or haemorrhage. A number of factors may increase your risk of experiencing one.
For example, certain congenital factors may increase your risk. In Hailey Bieber’s case, her stroke was caused by a congenital hole in her heart which allowed a blood clot to escape into her bloodstream and travel to the brain. Other factors that may increase stroke risk include heavy drug and alcohol use and head trauma – which is why wearing head protection during certain sports is so important.
Although we don’t currently have data showing exactly how common strokes are in people aged between 20 and 40, we do know what types of stroke this age group is most likely to have.
For example, one report claims that half of all strokes in people between the ages of 15-44 are ischemic strokes. This occurs when a blood clot or other substance (such as cholesterol) causes a blockage to the brain’s blood supply. These can occur as a transient ischemic stroke, which is similar to what Hailey Bieber had. This is essentially the same as a stroke, except the symptoms last for a much shorter time because the blockage is temporary.
Bleeding in ...

5 xenophobic myths about immigrants in South Africa debunked by researchers

Scapegoating immigrants will not result in significantly improved healthcare service provision, reduced crime or less unemployment.
In South Africa, immigrants are often scapegoated as the root of socio-economic problems. In the post-apartheid landscape, Black African immigrants, mainly, from other African countries have been negatively stereotyped as “illegal” and “job stealers” who are “criminal” as well as “diseased”.
This attitudinal orientation of hostility against non-nationals in a given population is xenophobia.
Since 1994, more than 900 violent xenophobic incidents have been recorded in South Africa, resulting in at least 630 deaths, displacement of 123,700 people, and looting of about 4,850 shops. The eruption of xenophobic violence undermines social stability and cohesion, tolerance, the constitution of South Africa, and the social fabric on which the country’s democracy is founded.
Misstatements by public officials and politicians have time and again fanned the flames of xenophobia and violence associated with it. United Nations experts recently warned that “the country is on the precipice of explosive violence”.
Almost three decades after the county’s first democratic election, South Africa faces what commentators have dubbed the triple challenge of poverty, unemployment and inequality.
More than half of the country’s population lives in poverty, with close to 12 million people hungry and 2.5 million experiencing hunger daily. The country has a Gini coefficient of 0.65, making it one of the most unequal countries in the world.
A meagre 10% of the population owns more than 80% of the wealth. South Africa is still “a country of two nations”, as former president Thabo Mbeki once described it.
Youth unemployment is a huge problem. Of the more than 10 million people aged 15-24 years, only 2.5 million are active in the labour force, either working or searching for work. Over 75% of this group is out of the labour force.
The significance of negative stereotyping and scapegoating in relation to the “triple challenge” is that immigrants are portrayed as the cause and a threat to national sovereignty. Inflammatory remarks about migrants by public officials and politicians harden mythologies.
In a recent research paper we set out to debunk negative immigrant myths. We provided evidence demonstrating the influence of myths on the citizenry’s perceptions, as well as contradictions.
The research drew from authoritative and credible sources of data and information.
Beyond debunking the myths, this research sets a baseline of what facts exist regarding immigrants in South Africa.
Myth 1: South Africa is swamped with immigrants
It is widely believed that the country is flooded ...

The Woman King is more than an action movie – it shines a light on the women warriors of Benin

From Lovecraft Country to Black Panther to a statue in Benin, the “amazons” of Dahomey continue to trend in global popular culture.
The Woman King is a big-budget Hollywood movie that has been anticipated since 2018, when US star Viola Davis was announced as the lead in the story of the “amazons” of Dahomey. Rising South African star Thuso Mbedu also takes a key role in the film, which has premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and is heading to cinemas worldwide.
The action blockbuster is adding to renewed global interest in the historical women warriors of Dahomey, a kingdom that flourished in the 1700s and 1800s in what is today Benin in West Africa. The “amazons” were exceptionally skilful women warriors. They inspired fear and curiosity among locals and foreigners who had come to explore and colonise the territory. Protectors of the king, the anticolonial women warriors are referred to as Agoodjies in Fon, one of Benin’s many languages.
The Woman King is not the first time that Dahomey’s “amazons” have appeared in Hollywood productions lately. The mighty warriors were featured in the popular TV series Lovecraft Country (in an episode where Hippolyta Freeman, a black woman in pre-civil rights America, experiences a triumphant, cosmic journey of liberation). And there were the Dora Milaje, the Wakanda warriors in the blockbuster film Black Panther. Modelled on the Agoodjie, they are the protectors of Black Panther. Incarnations like these have helped bring the warriors of Dahomey into the popular culture spotlight.
On social media and in reviews the film is being celebrated as an example of “fierce” representations of black womanhood, so unlike dominant popular culture stereotypes. But who were these women – and how does their legacy resonate in Benin today?
A statue is unveiled
A colossal bronze monument called Amazon – created by Chinese sculptor Li Xiangqun – was unveiled in Cotonou in Benin on 30 July, the 62nd anniversary of the country’s independence from France. It depicts a young female warrior dressed in a belted tunic and armed with a shotgun and a short sword. Amazon joined two other new monuments erected as symbols of anticolonial resistance.
The statue follows an exhibition about the warriors held in Cotonou in 2018 and a new museum featuring them is expected to open in 2024 in Abomey, the former royal capital of the Dahomey kings.
The government of Benin appears to have tasked them with the dual responsibility ...

Here’s the real reason to turn on aeroplane mode when you fly

Is it true our phones are dangerous for aircraft navigation? An expert explains.
We all know the routine by heart: “Please ensure your seats are in the upright position, tray tables stowed, window shades are up, laptops are stored in the overhead bins and electronic devices are set to flight mode”.
Now, the first four are reasonable, right? Window shades need to be up so we can see if there’s an emergency, such as fire. Tray tables need to be stowed and seats upright so we can get out of the row quickly. Laptops can become projectiles in an emergency, as the seat back pockets are not strong enough to contain them.
And mobile phones need to be set to flight mode so they can’t cause an emergency for the aeroplane, right? Well, it depends whom you ask.
Technology has advanced a great deal
Aviation navigation and communication relies on radio services, which have been coordinated to minimise interference since the 1920s.
The digital technology currently in use is much more advanced than some of the older analogue technologies we used even 60 years ago. Research has shown personal electronic devices can emit a signal within the same frequency band as the aircraft’s communications and navigation systems, creating what is known as electromagnetic interference.
But in 1992, the US Federal Aviation Authority and Boeing, in an independent study, investigated the use of electronic devices on aircraft interference and found no issues with computers or other personal electronic devices during non-critical phases of flight. (Take-offs and landings are considered the critical phases.)
The US Federal Communications Commission also began to create reserved frequency bandwidths for different uses – such as mobile phones and aircraft navigation and communications – so they do not interfere with one another. Governments around the globe developed the same strategies and policies to prevent interference problems with aviation. In the EU, electronic devices have been allowed to stay on since 2014.
2.2 billion passengers
Why then, with these global standards in place, has the aviation industry continued to ban the use of mobile phones? One of the problems lies with something you may not expect – ground interference.
Wireless networks are connected by a series of towers; the networks could become overloaded if passengers flying over these ground networks are all using their phones. The number of passengers that flew in 2021 was over 2.2 billion, and that’s half of what the 2019 passenger numbers were. The wireless ...

The Oily Trinity: Big food, fast food and proximity

The closer South Africans live to supermarkets and fast-food joints, the more likely we are to be overweight or obese, a study has found.
The rapid rise of supermarkets in Kenya has not only helped improve food security, it has also had a significantly positive impact on child nutrition, leading to an increase in child height, and to lesser degree, an increase in weight, according to a study conducted from 2012 to 2015: “Supermarket purchases also increase child weight-for-age Z-scores, but the effects on height are larger than the effects on weight. Supermarkets do not seem to be a driver of child obesity in the region,” the researchers concluded.
“The positive effects on child height are particularly welcome, as child stunting is still widespread and a major health problem in developing countries. Our data show that dietary diversity is higher in households with supermarket purchases than in households that obtain all their foods from traditional sources.”
They do make it clear that the study was strictly focused on children between the ages of five and 18, and do not claim to have collected any data on adults. In fact, drawing on studies from other researchers, they remark: “That supermarkets contribute to rising obesity in adults but not in children is interesting and plausible.”
While supermarkets offer a diverse selection of the typically recommended healthy foods such vegetables and grains, they also expose communities to many processed foods that are largely viewed as unhealthy. And taking this into consideration, as well as the need for more long-term research, they note that “the nutritional effects of supermarkets will obviously depend on the initial dietary and nutrition situation and the types of dietary shifts that occur. In the medium-sized towns in Kenya, many of the households are still moderately poor, and traditional diets are not highly diversified. In this context, the greater variety of foods offered by supermarkets at affordable prices can improve diets and nutrient intakes, even when most of the products purchased in supermarkets are in processed form.”
The kids are all right, but the adults.
A more recent study, published in 2021, shifts the lens to South African adults; in addition to the effects of the ubiquity of supermarkets, they also looked at the proliferation of fast-food outlets.
Based on body mass index (BMI), among South African adults 68% of women and 31% of men are either overweight or obese, according to the South Africa Demographic and ...

2022 Sony World Photography Awards

The Sony World Photography Awards will return in 2023 for its 16th celebration of contemporary photography. Here is a selection of the images from this year's awards.
In case you missed it, also browse 2022 Sony World Photography Awards: National winners
2022 Sony World Photography Awards: National winners

A Pink Floyd tribute show, musician Dina el Wedidi and more — things to do this week around South Africa

Your weekly round-up of go-to events around the country.
Pink Floyd Tribute Show
Go on a musical journey via the much-loved English band Pink Floyd’s extensive catalogue. Psychedelic rock takes centrestage in the tribute concert, presented by musicians from The Blues Experience. The show begins at 5pm. Tickets cost R150 per person and are available via Quicket.
Where: The Sessions Music Lounge, Dullstroom When: 1 October 2022
Duo tour with Tim Kliphuis & Charl Du Plessis
Catch the final performance of the countrywide tour featuring Dutch violinist Tim Kliphuis and South African pianist Charl du Plessis and enjoy folk, jazz, and classical music. The show runs from 3pm to 4:30pm. Tickets cost R180 per person and are available via TicketPro.
Where: North-West University Conservatory, Potchefstroom When: 2 October 2022
Dina el Wedidi in Concert
Egyptian musician Dina El Wedidi is known for her “powerful, nuanced voice and authentic style”. The songstress is a former Rolex protégée, an honour bestowed on select, standout, creatives across the globe. El Wedidi will do two performances in Cape Town. Tickets from R150 per person are available via Quicket. The concert commences at 7pm.
Where: Baxter Theatre Centre, Cape Town When: 30 September – 1 October 2022
House of Kenji
The wonderful worlds of art, fashion and theatre collide in this new stage production by Kenji Productions CPT. The performance-style fashion show has been described as “eccentric” and “awe-inspiring”. Tickets cost R175 per person and are available via Quicket. The show begins at 7:30pm and runs for 90 minutes.
Where: Baxter Theatre Centre, Cape Town: When: 1 October 2022
A tale chronicling the trials and tribulations of township life, family dynamics and love is brought to life by performer Sivuyile Dunjwa. Follow as the play’s protagonist falls in love, then has his dreams crushed when he “does the unspeakable”. Tickets at R80 per person are available via Quicket. The show begins at 7pm, with a Saturday matinee at 3pm.
Where: Baxter Theatre Centre, Cape Town When: 6 – 8 October 2022
Mr Hare Meets Mr Mandela
Based on the Chris van Wyk and Paddy Bouma novel of the same name, the play’s storyline follows Mr Hare on his quest to seek out Mr Mandela. Mr Hare stumbles on a stray R200 note and believes it belongs to the late president, as it bears his image. Central to the plot is the fact that the protagonist is unable to read, highlighting “the significance of being literate”. The comedy is suitable for all ...

On sharing the joy that being a vegan brings me

The day after I saw ‘The Animals Film’ I informed my mom that I would never eat red meat again. That was 40 years ago and I’ve not eaten any since.
I was 18 when I sat in the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre at what was then called the University of Natal watching a film that was being screened as part of the Durban International Film Festival.
The documentary, The Animals Film, had been made by Victor Schonfeld and Myriam Alaux in 1981 and was narrated by Julie Christie, who later described it as the one film that she had been in that “really changed people’s lives”.
The film’s exposé footage of factory farming, animal testing, hunting and fashion, interspersed with cartoons and vox pops, left me dazed and distressed. As I walked up the steep incline from the theatre to the main campus, the world looked different, meaner. I knew my life had been changed.
Moving away from meat — red meat, chicken and fish —was easy in a home operated by my teacher mom. We four children had learned early on that lentils could make a meal, that salad was an integral part of any dinner and pawpaw picked from our own tree and run over with a squeeze of lemon was a respectable and even delicious pudding.
When I moved out of home in my third year of university and was living on the money I made working at a restaurant (in the week) and a chemist (on Saturday mornings), I lived off a lot of macaroni cheese, butternut soup and cooked vegetables. On the rare occasions I went out for dinner, I would scan the menu before settling for the sole item for people like me: the boldly named vegetarian platter which unfailingly consisted of a baked potato with mushroom sauce, creamed spinach and mashed pumpkin on an oblong plate.
A flicker of light came in the form of Durban’s Hungry Hermit which served a variety of vegetarian fare with a side helping of the folk music that I’d long loved (my dad Owen ran, for a time, the Durban Folk Club). And the year I worked at the then Post Natal newspaper had moments of still memorable culinary deliciousness. I would eat hot but delicately flavoured vegetable and lentil curries and fresh, perfectly thick rotis that my colleagues would bring in on occasion, always with some spares for me to take home ...

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