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Marc harks back to land of mhlk and honey

Peter van der Merwe

Marc Lottering Live Down Under
St Martin’s Youth Arts Centre, Melbourne, Australia
Saturday, 26 July 2003.

The first thing that struck me — before I even start talking about Marc — was that I hadn’t seen so many coloured people together since I was last in the Golden Acre (as Marc would put it)! Although his shows usually cater to a fairly multiracial audience, I had the unexpected experience of being one of the only white people in the audience — waar was die Melbourne-boere gewees? In all the other Australian cities Marc’s shows were packed out, but not here.

Having proudly brought a Kiwi friend with me, to show him something of where I came from, I realised anew the complexity of our country as I tried to give him a canned cultural history of South Africa in five minutes. My difficulty in doing this was instructive. Is any explanation of what a “coloured” is, going to make sense to a non-South African? Can the extreme cultural impact of apartheid on the identity of especially “coloured” people ever be properly comprehended by a foreigner?

It is exactly this complexity at the heart of South African identity that Marc’s subtly perceptive work deals with. And of course, Marc doesn’t shy away from tackling the emotional quagmire of expat identity. Most of his show was tailored to the tastes of Australian expats, by his talking a lot about his Canadian, British and Australian experiences.

This show in particular evinces a deep understanding of the effects wrought on South African culture by globalisation and emigration. Live Down Under tackles these issues head on: most of Marc’s act revolved around telling the audience about events back home, from the Cricket World Cup to the politics of bringing your own shopping bags to the supermarket.

Of course the much-loved stock Cape flats characters of Galacia, the ingenuously djars starlet hairdresser; Antie Merle Abrahams, the skinnerbek housewife from Belgravia Road, Athlone; and — of course — S(h)miley, the touchy gartjie (taxi fare collector) are lavished upon the audience. With an international twist, Marc hilariously shows us the culture shock that occurs when they get questioned by immigration officials at Heathrow Airport, having come to kuier in London. Antie Merle, for example, experiences a mixture of shock, sorrow and then amusement when she sees white street sweepers in London.

Marc’s latest show works with the experience of growing up South African and then setting that against a context of international diaspora. Although his songs and skits made everyone scream with laughter, they do seem to have touched a place of concealed sadness in the audience — most left during the apartheid years. An unavoidable part of the expat condition — the confusion and pain at loss of continuity of home — was touched in the audience and although Marc’s show was a celebration of our South Africanness, everyone left the show with at least a grain of sadness in the serotonin mix. As Marc has said, he wants his shows to be thought-provoking as well as amusing.

Marc is a canny, sensitive and deeply humane observer of culture. At the heart of his work lies a great faith in and love for South Africa, as well as a vision for a less divided future through his and others’ work. Marc Lottering makes me embrace my South Africanness anew. He makes me aware of my real love for South Africa. He makes me want to talk lekker plat, and proudly say “mhlk” instead of “milk”!

July 2003

boontoe / to the top

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