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The Expressos

Natural hair, shouldn’t care

High school learners made international headlines for protesting for the right to wear their hair naturally. The learners faced arrest and backlash from the school’s administration.

Students at Pretoria Girls High School protested in response to the school’s treatment of young Black womxn and their restrictions on Black hair, prompting the hashtag #StopRacismAtPretoriaGirlsHigh. The protests garnered international attention, being documented by international media organisations such as Mic, Attn:, and The Huffington Post and gaining support from celebrities like Solange Knowles.

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Pupils at Pretoria Girls High School are fighting to wear their hair naturally. Image: Phill Magakoe/IOL.

Continue reading “Natural hair, shouldn’t care”

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Expressing your stress

7 ways to relieve stress (creatively)

Stress is an emotion we all experience when we feel something has become too much for us. It is a mental message from our body telling us that it is time to take a chill pill!  Every so often stress can be detrimental to our health and often causes physical and psychological illnesses, which becomes even more stressful since we are unable to perform. Discovering ways to manage stress can actually just supplement the stress and become equally time consuming.

With 2016 coming to an end, students are dealing with final exam stress and the working class is dealing with deadlines and a heavy workload before getting your boss to sign off the request for Christmas vacation! Doing two things at once might just help you cross a few extra things off your to-do list, so I have attentively gathered a list of seven ways you can relieve stress (without a stress ball) and express your creative side at the same time.

  • Invest in a mini Zen-Garden

As a child, I would watch my sister use her little Zen garden after school and I was quite amused by the fact that someone would actually gift her something that I considered a very peculiar item. So I decided to do some research around this.

The ‘Zen’ tradition is commonly known for expressing mindfulness, peace of mind and letting go of the negatives that surround you. Creating your own mini Zen garden is a useful way to bring about some of these qualities in your life. The expressive part is that you can design the mini garden in your own personal way and add a touch of what you are feeling through the design of your garden. A mini Zen garden generally comes with stone, sand, gravel and a mini rake. Some also come with miniature plants or a miniature Buddha. The size varies but they are never bigger than an A4 page, which makes it easy to keep on your desk or bedside table.  You can purchase one of these for about R130 at bookstores, home stores or online! Ps; if you don’t want to spend any money, you can find a free desktop zen garden or an app for iOS and Android.

Alternatively, you can learn to make your own by watching this video.

  • Writing in a journal

 As children, many of us had diaries in which we would write a few daily rants about the girl who was nasty to us at school or our secret crush. This was because writing is an outlet that anyone can use. It is simple and accessible. Journal writing has been used as a form of therapy prescribed by psychologist to those experiencing mental distress, so why not pick up a pen and jot down some feelings? By making yourself aware of what happened in your day or by writing down a few thoughts, you will find that this makes tackling the next day easier. Especially if you aren’t one to share your work stress with a loved one, a journal will be you best friend and you might even get to know yourself a little better.  Admittedly, I find it hard to write down what I feel, because once you put pen to paper, seeing the words on a page make it real. It puts your emotions or distress in the real world, and sometimes this is difficult to deal with. But on the other hand, this is also a better reason to do it because you can then deal with the issue instead of blocking it out.

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  • Dancing

This one might seem a bit weird and maybe even seem daunting. But I don’t mean join a class and become a professional dancer. I simply mean just put some music on after your long day, lock your room door and shake off the stress! Dancing has been known to have the power to take your mind of the ‘now’ and help you enter a new world. Taylor Swift explains how to shake if off pretty well, so if you are stuck for some music options then this might be a great start.

  • Colouring In

At least one person we all know of is a colourer, this has to be a good sign, right? One of The Expresso’s first series were about the benefits of adult colouring. Adult colouring is a new craze and it doesn’t go unsupported. Plenty of research and experience has encouraged adults to partake in this activity. Adult colouring creates a peaceful and serene environment and the colourer feels at ease with themselves. It is ideal for stress relief and you can personalise it to suit your mood. Take a look at our series for more scientific facts and testimonials from passionate adult colourers. Colouring books are easy to carry around with you so they’re perfect to take to work and they are well priced. You can pay between R30-R100 for a colouring book from any bookstore.

  • Marbling

Marbling is a simple yet beautiful form of art. It is not the most popular art form but it provides the similar comfort and peace of mind as colouring in does. But if you find colour pencils or crayons a bit too juvenile, this is definitely for you. Marbling is similar to tie-dye, it is the art of printing multi-coloured swirl-like patterns on any piece of material using little tubes filled with paint and inserting tiny droplets of the paint onto an oil or water like base.

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You can either place a paper on top of this liquid (which now has your pattern) or any form of material. The stress relief comes from the creation of a unique pattern, some find it relaxing to mix and create colours. The best part is that you could print coasters or plates and keep them around the house. They can even be used as gifts, how nifty! When I was in high-school, my mother would watch DIY shows on TV and she used to help my sisters and I make the things she learnt about. One of which was marbling items.  The only downfall is that you have to be at home to do this and it gets a bit addictive. Marbling sets sell for about R125 at any art or stationary store.

  • Yoga

Yoga is one of the most common forms of stress-relief for the working class women. Some take a class at the gym or they try it at home. It is also very useful for men but a but mostly favoured by women. Yoga helps one find inner peace and assists you in separating yourself from reality. It is also beneficial for physical health and even weight loss. If you don’t have a gym subscription, you can use your smartphone to download a free app which will guide you through a step by step yoga session. You can practice this in your office (with the door closed) or in your bedroom, it might even be a good idea to try your garden or balcony. If you do not have a smartphone, you can google a workout session step by step diagram and stick it up onto your wall.

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  • Gardening

Gardening is a hobby and a pastime that creates mindfulness. It helps you become aware of your surroundings and the combination of fresh air and sunlight releases toxins in your brain that assist with relaxation. The mental focus one invests when taking care of a few plants is enough to set the cause of your stress aside for a few minutes. Gardening doesn’t have to be growing tomatoes or pumpkins! It can simply be having a few small plants in your garden or balcony and taking care of them. You could also invest in a bonsai or an orchid and dedicate some of your time to growing it beautifully. One of our Expressos is a passionate gardener, take a look at one of her pieces to learn more.

 

Written by Khinali Bagwandeen

 

 

 

 

A big heart in a small town

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The Cederberg mountain range elongates its monstrous, supple arms around a quaint town, rooted in the stomach of the rocky giant. An assemblage of houses peep out amongst the streams of trees running through each and every alleyway of this destination. This green cluster of foliage is more prevalent on the outskirts of the town, due to the innumerable bodies of coloured dots hanging on the branches like earrings.

Welcome to Citrusdal, which not only homes numerous citrus trees, but also a big heart in this speck on the world map.

If the earth has a keenness for you, perhaps it would exhale a breeze in the direction of your adventures and miraculously scoop you onto a road rhyming with…

The R303. At the end of this road, after you have been engulfed in the rip tide of trees, tractors and friendly farm workers, you will find the biggest attraction of Citrusdal: The Baths.

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“Goeiemore Meneer, het U ‘n bespreking?” says the ‘sleutel-man’ of the main entrance to the Baths. With a smile brighter than the fruit overpopulating the town almost touching his ears, Hermanus Koopman enthusiastically leapfrogs out of his office. His clipboard follows his swift movements, almost like a bee stalking the scent of a sunflower, while he disappears around the stationary vehicle, jotting down the necessary details before suddenly hopping back into his lookout spot. The robotic walky-talky voice awaits the instruction to open the gate and beckon its visitors in.

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The excitement of floating around in 43° Celsius water springs cannot outshine the friendliness of the gatekeeper, leaving everyone with either a smile or a ‘grappie’ so humorous that retelling it will not do it justice.

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‘Citrusdale is my huis. Dit is my geboorte plek. Hoe langer ek op ‘n ander plek bly, dit is nie vir my lekker nie. Ek dink teveel hierna toe.’

One of 12 children, Hermanus has lived here for approximately 54 years. He worked for carpenters in Cape Town for six years when he was younger but says, ‘die stad se lewe is nie so lekker nie. In die platteland is dit skoon maar in die stad is dit vol rook.’ In 1986, Citrusdale and its fresh air running alongside drew Hermanus back like gravity, being the perfect place where he could raise his three children with his wife, Susana Koopman, who have been married for 34 years.

“Ek is trots op my werk en het baie lief vir dit,” says Hermanus comfortably.

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After working on the citrus farms for 17 years as a production manager, where he lost his one finger to an accident with a grinder, Hermanus first started working temporarily as the guard at The Baths’ gate before being offered a permanent position. “Ek het eers nie geweet hoe om met mense te werk nie en toe besluit ek dat nie streng moet wees of kwaad lyk nie,” explains Hermanus when talking about developing his social abilities working with guests. His invitingly warm nature emanates from every corner of his soul, inviting the visitors to his office as a refreshing break on their way to explore the natural beauty of Citrusdale. “Vir my is dit so lekker as hulle hier kom en dan sê hulle vir my dat hulle my later gaan sien,” says Hermanus.

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Looking through the office’s window, a small body with lava-red pants bolts excitedly towards the building. “Oupa het jy die heater gesteel?” enquires Shanee Friedericks while making her daily escape (or visit) from her pre-primary school, closely situated to the gate and where her grandmother works as a teacher. “Ek het nie baie vriende nie. My familie is my vriende. Ons praat so lekker dat ons vergeet om ons goed te doen,” says Hermanus contently when reflecting on the rock that grounds his colossal mountain of a heart; his family. His family tree was large enough to extend two extra branches and make loving space for a young brother and sister whose mother is going through rehabilitation for drug abuse. He always has ample love clustered in his heart, enough to share in the lives of these two children. Hermanus says, “Ek het baie lief geraak vir hulle”.

“Citrusdale gee mens vryheid.” The freedom embedded in the town’s lifestyle allows Hermanus to express his appreciation and fondness for nature. Growing his own rhubarb, carrots, watermelon, cabbage, beans, onion and spanspek in his garden, Hermanus has to keep guard over his garden gifts, otherwise his wife shouts, “Oompie, kyk hoe eet die bobbejaan jou laaste waartlemoen.”

Illustrating his love of improving his culinary skills, he enjoys making fish dishes, especially because ‘visvang is eintlik my hobby’. Barbels, bass and yellow fishes cease to greet their neighbours in the Olifantsrivier when they nibble on the frogs Oompie caught as bait. His grandchildren enjoy chasing the fishes away when he is trying to catch dinner, whereas in the past, his children used to accompany him on buchu picking expeditions. Climbing each intricate crevice of the mountain, finding the plant with the ‘blaartjies wat blink’, the children would follow and shout, “Pappa kom help my hierso,” with Oompie replying, “nee, ek het nie vir jou gesê om saam te kom nie.” But sometimes, the alone time is necessary. On Saturday afternoons after work, he grabs his ‘kierie’ and vanishes into the mountain’s body, getting lost in its existence, no excuse necessary.

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Not being able to attend church as often as he wishes due to transportation difficulties, Hermanus practices his religion through the way he chooses to enjoy and respect the world. Citrusdale’s very own Snow White, nature’s way is ingrained in him, innately pushing him to live for the earth and from the earth. If he is not busy rescuing the stray puppies wandering the roads, he is calming someone when a bee is hovering nearby by saying, “Nee, los hom. Hy sal jou nie steek nie. Net as jy vir hom gaan waai.”

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This might be a holiday destination for many, but Citrusdale is home to Oompie. For Hermanus, home is a place where family can harmoniously grow and love, together. He has no plans for moving as his heart is firmly set in the Cederberg stone.

 

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“Ek gaan sterwe hier”.

 

 

Shedding light during darkness through the power of performance

There is no single way for one to put into words the fountain of emotion felt by the University Currently Known as Rhodes during the #RUReferenceList protests against rape and sexual violence. However, the Rhodes Chamber Choir managed to encapsulate this through song and poetry.

I went to their first performance, titled ‘Light from Darkness’, and absolutely bawled my eyes out when they performed their adaptation of the struggle song ‘Senzenina’. The room was stunned into silence. This was conductor AJ Bethke’s aim – creating a space where these very specific feelings could be felt and expressed however people were comfortable with. A safe space was created, even if it were only for a single evening.

With purple bands wrapped around each performer’s arm in solidarity with survivors, the chamber choir conveyed the hurt and sorrow felt and experienced by the community with a multitude of carefully-selected songs. The evening was made more diverse with performances by various poets, their words echoing the common emotions associated with the theme of the night.IMG_4377

We were lucky enough to have the opportunity to see the choir and poets perform a second time with ‘Light from Darkness V.2.0’, and my time to share this experience arrived.

“We felt that to ignore these important issues when they were very much part of our community here would be a mistake. So we needed to create a space here in the university that was more of a healing space than a confrontational space, and music offers that,” conductor AJ Bethke explained when asked about his motive to put on a performance such as this. The audience and choir members alike were afforded a space “where feelings could be felt, acknowledged, and just allowed to be”.

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Whilst the people who chose to attend the performance were able to confront their thoughts and feelings about this issue through musical means, choir members were also able to embark on a journey of healing alongside each other. This performance and process towards it enabled members “to let out the feelings and the angst that was there, but also lift people up afterwards and not leave them withering in the darkness”, AJ said.

As well as contributing to a process of healing, the choir’s performance was aimed at raising awareness constructively. AJ explained that “I think any confrontational violence in any way is not going to help. I prefer to see something constructive through poetry, through music, through dance, through listening as a process of non-violent reaction.”

Megan van der Nest, also a member of the choir, worked alongside AJ in constructing the evening and the pieces that were performed to reflect accurately the choir’s stance by selecting lyrics and pieces of poetry to contribute to this narrative:

There was a suggestion by a member of the choir to have the struggle piece ‘Senzenina’ alongside ‘Ukuthula’, which means ‘peace’, because a few members of the choir are actually survivors of sexual violence, and some of the pieces came from their experiences, some of them were suggested by members of the choir, so it wasn’t only survivors speaking but there were survivors in the group. So we were trying to create a space where they could feel safe as well.

On the night where the protests at Rhodes reached their peak, Megan explained that she was a part of a choir that was “on the verge of falling apart”. With so many conflicting opinions about the role of the choir and how visible it should be during such a tumultuous time, they decided to take action. This led to the creation of a workshop that was geared towards the final product of their ‘Light from Darkness’ performances. Megan said that:

There were a lot of dissenting opinions, people who felt that the choir should have been more visible in the protests themselves, and they personally couldn’t do that for their own reasons, that being in the protests would have been too upsetting for them, and others that felt that violence and intimidation wasn’t the way to go. So there was a lot of tension. And I give AJ full credit for diffusing that tension. We managed to create a safe space where we could all be heard instead of tearing each other down.

Not only did the chamber choir achieve full awareness of what music can do when integrated with these protests, they managed to create a sense of strength amongst one another as they grew through this process. Megan explained that “Going to the protests with people screaming and shouting can be traumatic in and of itself. But being in a very healing space, having a discussion with AJ leading us, we were feeling much closer to one another … There was so much hurt and anger and we managed to come through that much stronger as a result. The value of that cannot be underestimated.”

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Words of poetry in ‘Senzenina/Ukuthula’

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To view their performance of their adaptation of ‘Senzenina/Ukuthula’, click on the YouTube link here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n6IPKhsk8fo (please note that I did not have a tripod so my recording is not as good as it should be, but I hope it still does the performance justice and moves you as much as it moved me.)

 

Photos and words by Gabi Bellairs-Lombard 

Trading soccer balls for smiles

A warm winter morning on Wednesday 27 July saw a bus full of 40 children from Luzuko Pre-School pour onto Rhodes University’s Kings Sports Field, making their way towards the soccer balls and their coaches for the day waiting for them by the goal posts.

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Two students from Botha House volunteered to organise the event for the children as their way of trading 67 minutes in honour of Nelson Mandela day, which evidently did not go unappreciated. Pamela Sandi, one of three Luzuko practitioners, says she is always grateful for days such as these because the children are exposed to opportunities they will not find in the location. “These kids are from very poor families as the community that surrounds the school is poor. Some of them are sick, they have HIV, some of them are from homes where they cannot have something to eat, but we are here to accommodate them,” said Sandi.

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With sport in general, there is always an emphasis that should be placed on developing children from a grassroots level. However, it is difficult to achieve this when schools like Luzuko are not supported by the relevant structures. “It’s important [for children to play sport at a young age]…because then they can do it in the future to see ‘maybe I want to be a rugby player’ or ‘maybe I want to be a soccer player’, just to give them the opportunity,” explained Sandi.

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Whilst Luzuko is managing on their existing finances and structures, Sandi is adamant that “we need help, any kind of help. We don’t even have soccer balls.” Sandi has taken several trips to the Department of Sport, Recreation, Arts and Culture in Grahamstown, as well as sent them emails, about being provided basic sporting equipment for the children. She has yet to hear back from them: “I don’t know what else to do because this department does not do enough [for people like us].”

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Lebogang Sonazi, the Community Engagement representative from Botha House that helped organise this event, said that people need to understand fully what “giving back” means: “Sometimes you have to give without expecting anything back.” An avid soccer player himself, Sonazi thinks that incorporating sports such as soccer into children’s school days will help them stay off the streets.

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In terms of how the community can help, Sonazi thinks that “there is no need to have more than one soccer ball…so if you could donate to those in need then we could achieve a lot as a community.”

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Photos and words by Gabi Bellairs-Lombard

Rhyming and reasoning with Shakespeare

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Learners and Rhodes Students collaborate to recite lines from Shakespeare’s plays as part of an exercise. Photo: Nereesha Patel

William Shakespeare is not everybody’s cup of tea. Most of us have had to study one or two of the bard’s works in high school, learning – or at least trying to learn – the intricacies of the Middle English language that he used to put his plays and sonnets together.

With five schools in Grahamstown already participating in workshops as part of the second annual Shakespeare Schools Festival, Tumi Motsisi, a Drama student at Rhodes University and the co-ordinator for the festival, put together an extra workshop featuring Shakespeare’s plays as part of Trading Live for Mandela Day. 13 Grade 11 learners from Nathaniel Nyaluza Secondary Senior School, which was not part of the festival, attended this event at the Oppidan Reading Room. 

With fellow festival performers also volunteering in running the workshop, Motsisi’s main goal was to help make Shakespeare more accessible and easier to understand. 

“As soon as a child realises that they can speak the Shakespearean language, almost every other performance endeavour is a little bit easier,” she said. 

Motsisi also aimed to help these learners, whose school curriculum does not cover Shakespeare, gain confidence in themselves as performers, as well as students of the English language. 

“A lot of the time, you’re told that you can’t do Shakespeare because English isn’t your first language, but as soon as they understand what’s being said, it’s a really magical thing. As soon as it happens, it’s like, ‘I can do anything’.”

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Shakespeare drama workshop co-ordinator, Tumi Motsisi (right), talks to the students during an exercise. Photo: Nereesha Patel

The learners went through a series of warm-up exercises that concentrated on spontaneity, improvisation skills, trust-building and teamwork before getting into the Shakespearean section of the workshop. One such exercise saw the learners pairing up and “sculpting” each other into their own unique interpretations of Lady Macbeth and the mischievous Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Through this exercise, Motsisi emphasised that the character archetypes, the plots and the themes seen within Shakespeare’s plays can be relatable.

The last exercise had the learners reciting lines from Twelfth Night and Much Ado About Nothing. When they were gathered together, each learner was able to speak their lines with conviction and enthusiasm.

It is hoped that the school will officially become part of the Shakespeare Schools Festival next year. With the students having enjoyed the workshop and engaged with the material, this seems like a strong possibility. All the world’s a stage, and there’s always room for more performers.

 

The many faces of childhood

With a painted face, a child has the confidence to take on their own little world and adopt an entirely new persona. This often embodies the bravery of their favourite superhero, the fierceness of their most feared animal or the beauty of the princess they dream of becoming. As we grow older, we expose ourselves to the harsh realities of the world and often forget how a simple layer of paint over our faces could change our outlook. On Tuesday 26 July, student volunteers from Rhodes University used their weekly slot devoted to St Mary’s Development and Care Centre (DCC) to add to the children’s daily routine and include more excitement to their week by organising a session of face painting.  The children beamed with exhilaration as they transformed into their favourite characters and animals.

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After school the children play in the backyard, awaiting lunch time.
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Lunch time has ended and the children are ready to make their way upstairs to get their faces painted.
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A volunteer begins the face painting as the other children patiently await their turn.
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Faces painted and ready to conquer, the girls flip through a book featuring their favourite Barbies.
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“Ready to fight Superman”, he says.
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With the sweetest smile and her face adorned in flowers.

 

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“How can you be scared of tigers if they are so pretty?
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The Queen of Hearts sits as still as a statue, trying to restrict herself from giggling.

Words and photos by Khinali Bagwandeen

The summit of serenity

In the Amatola district, a wise old mountain thrusts its beauteous self out of the Earth and gazes into the vastness of its surroundings. Dense, green jungle encircles and embosoms this entire colossal mountain, like a mother embraces her child with her whole body weight and soul. Standing at the foot of the mountain, this blanket of forestry allows you the pleasurable honor of sighting a few waterfalls peering out and their nourishment flowing through the vegetation.The three hogs Continue reading “The summit of serenity”

Playing the game, but by whose rules?

Having arrived for Ga(y)Me(n)Play an hour early, I observe the cast members’ warming up, led effortlessly by the dynamic choreographer, Kamogelo Molobye, and his towering, slender frame. Captivated by the cast’s total control of their bodies as they leap around the stage, I watch as the warm-up flows seamlessly into the play itself.

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Kamogelo Molobye, choreographer of Ga(y)me(n) Play. Molobye is in the second year of his Master’s degree at The University Currently Known As Rhodes. Image Source: Cue/Megan Kelly.

Continue reading “Playing the game, but by whose rules?”

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