Masepeke Sekhukhuni
                 South Africa

Originally published in Sisters of the Screen: Women of Africa on Film Video and Television. Africa World Press, Trenton, NJ,  2000.

Interview conducted by Mbye Cham for the African Women in the Cinema Project in October 1998, at the Southern African Film Festival (SAFF) in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Masepeke, you are the director of the Newtown Film and Television School in Johannesburg, South Africa. Could you begin by talking a bit about your background, where you received your training and how you became interested in film and the general television and audiovisual media?

I was born in Soweto.  When I was growing up, education was a very important aspect of everyone's life, the whole culture.  In order to improve your life, in order for you to be a better person, you had to get education.  By that, it meant having those kinds of formal secure jobs.  If you are bright and doing well at school, you have to be a doctor, you have to be a scientist and all those kinds of things.  When I was at school, during the Soweto uprisings in 1976, I was just about to finish my primary education.  Due to that, our education was totally disrupted for two years.  Some of us did not even finish our primarily education properly.  A couple of churches initiated a project where young people could go and finish their schooling but it was mainly for the secondary level.  Some of us just squeezed ourselves into the secondary level and started learning things.  We learned that way. I did that through a couple of churches. 

Politically things were tense, our parents trying to cope with us.  Through ANC connections, some of us were able to go abroad.  I worked in England for about a year and a half in community centers working with young people, with young people who were truant, who did not finish school.  I was trying to find myself, asking what it was I wanted to do.  I knew that I did not want to be a doctor.  I wanted something in media.  Before I left home, I had taken some classes in drama, in theater and even when I was working in this community center, we used to do drama classes, something was hooking me to media.  I wanted to study communications.

I went to Middlesex Polytechnic, which is now called Middlesex University of Communications.  It opened a whole area for me, television, radio, film and everything.  Starting off, I was more interested in print media.  Because you are so used to expressing yourself on pen and paper, everything had to be in writing.  So I started out that way.  I also loved photography, I was self-taught.  I learned how to develop photographs myself.  I started freelancing with Drum magazine in Johannesburg.  A friend of mine was working for them and said, "get some of these stories in Drum."  I started doing that.  My main area was music so I developed show biz stuff.  Then there was a whole political thing of consciousness-type music about apartheid.  There were specific musicians that one targeted in order to get the anti-apartheid message across, like Third World, there was Missing Roots in England and all those who were sympathetic to anti-apartheid.  One was doing a lot of stuff around them, photojournalism, and all that.

Through the experience of photography, I realized that there was something more effective.  It was frustrating trying to capture the musicians movements on stage through still photography.  I thought that there was a better way to capture these movements.  I happened to hook up with a woman filmmaker in England who was a journalist before and who was also from South Africa.  She was studying film.  I talked with her and she said, "Yes, try film, let's take my Hi-8 camera and go do something."  I thought, "Yes, filmmaking is the answer." I did my graduate program at Goldsmiths College in London.  They had a full-time film program, I was very happy with that.  Ever since then, I have never looked back and I still believe that the best way of capturing anything is through film.  It can be the smallest movement. There is nowhere that you can get closer to anything without using film and video.  That is where I came from.

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