Monday, October 5, 2009

Kaya's Zulu Wedding

Monday October 5, 2009

‘Morning, Drew. How was your week-end?’

‘Fine, good… You?’

Monday morning. Back to work at the office.

The wedding of Kaya and his bride did not disappoint despite my high expectations. As the outdoor ceremony progressed, complete with stick-fighting, impromptu dancing and call-and-response singing from the bride’s family to the groom’s; more and more wedding guests appeared as if from the woodwork – suddenly the field was full, over 500 hundred guests. 500 faces filled with joy and abandon.

And our job is to capture and document the proceedings from the ground. But the nature of this job requires us to be active participants – not outside observers, nor mere archivists. Which is a good thing.  I never liked the idea of shooting wedding videos in the first place.

Before I arrived in South Africa I wondered if our role here would get in the way of truly experiencing the events. In other words, I was concerned that the imperative to ‘get it all’ on film would in fact distance us from what we are actually ‘getting.’ The process of filming can’t help but mediate and compromise real events, right?

But the Zulu  (in fact all South Africans) are so unselfconscious around the camera; they simply go about their business of living ‘fully, completely’ that we frequently forget we are filming. We have been welcomed as true guests and we will leave as friends. A very different kind of hospitality, and generosity of spirit. It makes our ‘job’ so much easier. We don’t have to convince, cajole or plead with anyone.

More important: we don’t have to stage anything, fake events or manipulate human emotion. Thank God. ‘Real’ Reality Television.

Before I arrived in South Africa I had list of things I wanted to do, see or experience during my stay. I’m a list guy; I can’t help it. They were, in no particular order:

1)    Swim in the Indian Ocean

2)    Touch an elephant (or at least see one)

3)    Attend a religious ceremony

4)    Listen to a real choir

5)    Sleep under the stars

Hmm… So: how am I doing?

1) Our last night will be spent on the coast, in a town called Durban. And since we don’t fly home until late afternoon… I think I’ll get my chance to break out the swim trunks. Check.

2) This morning we are filming in one of the big game parks complete with (you guessed it) the Big Five: Rhino, Buffalo, Leopard, Lion and… Heffalump. The local authorities advise me not to attempt any physical contact, however. Dumbo is a bit bigger than me, and Africa is no petting zoo. Semi-check.

3) Saturday’s Zulu wedding. Check.   

4) This afternoon Bryan and I are taking a camera crew to St. Lucia to film a Zulu choir as they rehearse for various church venues. I’ve listened to recordings of similar choirs – a mixture of straight up gospel and more ‘tribal’ rhythms – but I have no idea what it will actually look like. Stay tuned for photos. Check.  

5) Sleeping under the stars.  Local authorities – the same ones who warned me about getting up close and personal with Heffalumps – warned me about this. Sleeping under the stars in this region of Africa is about as safe as… high-fiving an elephant. So THAT’S out.

Okay four out of five ain’t bad.

Upon inspection this list looks kind of… tourist-y. I have a feeling the most memorable, most profound experiences will also be the most unexpected and spontaneous moments.   

Like this Zulu woman who stopped to smile at me.

Or other moments still to come… like the FREAKING HELICOPTER I’ll be riding in tomorrow morning at sunrise. Yup, I’ll be riding shotgun in a ‘Jet Ranger,’ the doors blown off; sweeping over the African landscape for an hour and half.  

On a more practical level... I need to do laundry (which is, mercifully, an option here). In the meantime I've been reduced to wearing the very last set of clean clothes in my suitcase. Typical African Safari gear, sure; but I look ridiculous. In fact, set against the Land rover like this I look like I'm straight out of central casting - like I got kicked off the set of some cheesy 70's tv show: 'Safari, Wow!'

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