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I remember seeing my first Ai Weiwei installation in person. It was his collection of porcelain sunflower seeds at the Tate Modern and it was a sight to behold. It gave me my first sense of the scope and scale in which the Chinese artist works. His latest exhibition, in New York, is no less as ambitious.
It’s called Good Fences Make Good Neighbours, and features site-specific works dealing with the theme of migration and people moving across borders and space. The two largest pieces of the public art showing (which also celebrates the 40th anniversary of New York’s Public Art Fund) are located in Central Park and in Washington Square Park. They encourage you to walk through them, to look up and around, and consider the implications of your own movement being limited or restricted.
This theme is timely, even if it the refugee crisis may not necessarily still be headline news. Displacement of people, how they are or are not welcomed in other countries and what it means to be citizens, of one country or many, are issues worth talking about. For this reason, I’ve liked seeing these pieces across the city – whether it’s the giant pieces or the smaller portraits hanging from lamp-posts of well-known immigrants, like Marlene Dietrich or Alfred Einstein.
As K’naan raps in The Hamilton Mixtape version of Immigrants (We Get the Job Done):
“You can be an immigrant without risking your lives /
Or crossing these borders with thrifty supplies /
All you got to do
Is see the world through new eyes.”
Seeking to see the world through new eyes is a laudable aim, but when it doesn’t happen on an every-day basis, art is so important for this. It’s one of the reasons I was so moved by the virtual reality piece Alejandro G. Iñárritu and Emmanuel Lubezki made that debuted at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, and for which the filmmaking duo will receive an honorary Oscar. Their short film Carne y Arena took me deep into my own prejudice, to the point where when I, placed in the scenario of crossing the Mexican border, was asked to get down by a policeman, I shook my head no. I was in a made-up world, based on fact, yes, but my mind told me there was no way he was talking to me; that I would never be in that situation. When his gun was directed straight on in my face, I found myself scrambling to the floor. I hope to never be in that kind of situation, but it showed me that I still hold some perhaps discriminatory ideas about what being a refugee really means. It’s powerful to feel with new eyes too.
The exhibition will run until February next year. In the meantime, here’s my episode of The Rundown dedicated to Good Fences Make Good Neighbours.

Jet-setted out to Miami for a hot minute to cover the BET Hip Hop Awards. Hosted for a second year by DJ Khaled, this time with his little protege Asahd by his side. 11-months old and that kid has more of a following than I could ever hope to accrue in all the years I have on him. It’s those cheeks I tell you! It was also the first time the awards took place in Miami, aka 305, aka Sunshine State, aka Khaled’s adopted home and the place that gave the super producer his big break into the industry.

[Photo: Jeff Daly/BET Networks]

“It’s my second time hosting the awards, and I asked them, ‘man, if you ever decide to move to another city, I would love for it to be in Miami,’ nahmean? Now it’s in Miami, and it’s such a blessing, nahmean!” he said, on the red carpet. Khaled, as host and 9-time nominee, along with Cardi B and Kendrick Lamar, had quite the night. But not quite as big as Cardi B. She took home Hustler of the Year, Single of the Year and Best New Artist prizes. The 24-year-old is riding the wave of her success – having become the first female rapper to top the Billboard 100 chart since Lauryn Hill back in 1998.
[Photo: Jeff Daly/BET Networks]
She also performed the track that’s had people asking more questions about the ex-stripper turned reality star turned rapper – Bodak Yellow. That track has become ubiquitous. Taking to the stage in a massive fur coat, she gave a shoutout to her Bronx upbringing through the barber and bodega shopfronts used as her backdrop.
Gucci Mane and Khaled also performed, as well as Florida’s most well-known talents like T-Pain and Flo Rida, but the performances that had me most excited were the Cyphers, especially the all-female one featuring Kash Doll, Leikeli47, Tokyo Jetz and my favourite rapper at the moment, Rapsody – and her Africa-flag-bearing jacket. Cardi B may be getting all the big-name kudos, but Rapsody’s second album, Laila’s Wisdom is full of that let-it-settle greatness. She spits lines that have you thinking about them way after you’ve heard them and others that are instant punches. Witness: “Influenced by many, but I’m a whole new star. There’s levels to this, but I’m a whole new floor.” She’s been in the game for a while, but it seems the time is right for a little more recognition and a lot more respect for Marlanna Evans. At least the time seems right to celebrate women in hip hop however they choose to be.

I’m so late to this party. So late that I not only missed a stand-out moment in contemporary TV-watching, but I missed out on doing a story about it. As the US correspondent for Eyewitness News back home in South Africa, it’s my job to stay on top of the entertainment news here, as well as big US stories (you could say Trump has kept me pretty busy). But I also specialize in sharing any strides South Africans, and Africans to a larger degree, here in NYC and the US are making. So if someone is nominated for an International Emmy, as Thuso Mbedu was earlier this week, then I’m on it.
Having just watched – finally, yes, we’ve established I’m late to this era-hopping party – the Black Mirror episode,  San Junipero, the same one that just recently scored the Emmy for Outstanding Made for TV Movie and also Outstanding Writing for Charlie Brooker. As soon as I started it though – crushing on the ’80s soundtrack and luscious costumes that Gugu Mbatha-Raw wore – I felt a sense of familiarity. I’d seen the magical place of San Junipero before. There’s only so much you can do to dress down the 12 Apostles in Cape Town – once you’ve seen them, you’d recognize that mountain range anywhere.

The episode deserves all the adulation it received when it first aired in October last year. The pop tracks, the Clint Mansell electro compositions, the progressive yet tear-inducing story-line. I don’t proclaim to keep up with everything that happens in pop culture – just trying to stay on top of new movies and music is hard, yet fun, enough. But the fact Cape Town was the center of this fictional technology-assisted afterlife was a story I should have picked up on in the moments after the episode won its award. A win for San Junipero is a win for Cape Town! Plus Mbatha-Raw is half South African (I interviewed her a few years back, pre-Beyond the Lights era). And so is Mackenzie Davis, who acts alongside her in the episode. They both relished being in South Africa for the 14 day shoot.
Anyway, what’s passed on has passed on. Besides, I believe that things happen when they need to – a song, a movie, a piece of art comes into our lives when it’s meant to, becoming discovered to us at the time it needed to. Or at least I like to believe that, when I’m not being hard on myself (which is, you know, most of the time).  I think it’s a sign I need to get to Cape Town, where I used to live, again soon. At the very least, it’s a sign that I now have a whole new playlist to keep me entertained.
I particularly like that Brooker came up with the idea to incorporate Belinda Carlisle’s Heaven is a Place on Earth while out running.

Another Toronto Film Festival has come and whooshed by!
I’ve been asked what my favourite films from this year’s fest are. And what a coincidence – I made a running video about them. Another coincidence? Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, which won the Grolsch People’s Choice Award was my top film too. Frances McDormand needs to win all the awards for her role in it, where she plays a grieving mother who takes up a drastic move to solve the mystery of her daughter’s brutal death. Sam Rockwell, too, shines, in this film from director Martin Mcdonaugh, who brought us In Bruges and Seven Pyschopaths.

“I was about 8 miles from here when I started to write The Dark Tower” Stephen King said, wearing a cap with the city’s name emblazoned on it. “Bangor is home.” I went to Maine for the first time ever, to see sites and places that have inspired the King of suspense and the supernatural.
King grew up in a little town in southern Maine, “with more graveyards than people,” as he describes it, and no running water. He came to the University of Maine in 1966, and soon he and his wife Tabitha settled in Bangor, with its population of just over 31 000 people.
Taking a tour of the area, with the very knowledgeable and affable Stu Tinker, of SK Tours, you’ll see the influence the area has had on King’s writing – directly or indirectly. From the RM Flagg Kitchen Store on Route 2 – a road King would drive on daily to get to his job as an English teacher at a high school in the next town – to the truck stop that gave him the setting for his short story Trucks, which became Maximum Overdrive, his directorial film debut. The beauty of having Stu as your tour guide is the familiarity he has, as a life-long resident of Bangor.
Stu will tell you that King has never even set foot inside the kitchen store that gave him the name for the overarching evil presence in his books. He’ll show you the exact bench King sat on when he wrote parts of It, in the shadow of the town’s large standpipe. He’ll also let you know if he thinks King will be home as you pull up to the author’s house on West Broadway, with its gargoyle-protected gates and huge lawn.
King wasn’t home when we stopped by, late Tuesday afternoon, to take photos outside Bangor’s most famous house. It’s a stark contrast to the trailer home we’d driven past earlier in the day, where King and his wife first lived, barely able to pay the rent. To see the place where King had written – and then thrown away – the manuscript for Carrie is quite eye-opening. His wife Tabitha fishing it out of the trash is the reason the world today knows him as the master of supernatural and suspense that he is.
We meet King before the cinema screening. He walks into the room, unannounced and unassuming, takes a seat and says: “So I think the way this is supposed to go is that you’re meant to ask me a few questions and I’m meant to sign a few of these.” He takes off the sharpie lid and begins to sign copies of The Gunslinger. The film based on the 8-book-opus has travelled a rocky road to reach the big screen – taking more than a decade and several setbacks to make it. “I never really thought about it that much,” says King, when asked about it. “There were times when people would express an interest in it and then it would go away again, and then interest would come back again when Peter Jackson had success in The Lord of the Rings movie. I thought ‘well, maybe.’ But it never seemed like a movie-movie idea to me.”
King has given the film – and director Nikolaj Arcel – his thumbs up. “It was complex and long, and they’ve done a wonderful job here telling a story that’s coherent and it holds on to the elements of the novel, The Dark Tower. The purists may not like it – I can’t tell about that for sure, because it doesn’t start where the books start. But at the same, they’ll fall right into it because they’ll know exactly what’s going on.”
He believes the film is a chance to look at the novels with fresh eyes. “In the various stories the plots are fairly complex and the characters interact, and they go back and forth, and I think that the screenwriter Aviva Goldsman picked out what seemed to him to be the most accessible and most human relationship – and that’s between this old guy Roland who’s been around for a long, long time, and the kid. And they had wonderful chemistry, and it comes through.”
He’s aware that fans of The Dark Tower are very loyal to his work but that the film is geared towards appealing to others too. “Many decisions had to be made about the film,” he says. “Some of those are related to telling a story that the general public will get, not just the hardcore Dark Tower fans – the guys who show up to the fantasy conventions with Roland tattooed on their arms. Of all the books I’ve written, the fans of The Dark Tower books are the most zealous, the most fervent fans of all, but they make a small sub-group of the people who read books like The Shining or Misery. They’re an acquired taste – they are fantasy, after all!”
Fan reaction has been a constant during the development of the film. When asked about the dissatisfaction some voiced at the casting choice of Idris Elba as Roland Deschain, The Gunslinger, King says he found it problematic. “It’s weird, why shouldn’t Roland be black? Why couldn’t it be a black guy to do this?” King questions. “What I said in a tweet after all that discussion started was that I didn’t care what colour he was, as long as he could command the screen, draw fast and shoot straight. It doesn’t make any difference to me. I don’t even see people when I’m writing, because if I’m writing about a character, I’m behind their eyes. Unless they walk by a mirror or something, I don’t even see what they look like.” He went on to add: “You know what’s weirder than that…you know this show, Game of Thrones? They’re all British! I mean, Westeros is basically England and nobody ever questions that. To me, the idea that a black man would play Roland is minor compared to that.”
King does hope the next iterations of the story becomes R-rated. “I understand the rationale to make it PG13 – you want to get as many people into the tent, but I really think that’s where the movies need to go now.”
As for where he goes next, King is looking forward to touring a book he wrote with his son, Sleeping Beauties. “It’s nice to be able to write a book with your son,” he says. “He told me what to do and I did it. It’s a preview of the old age home,” he chuckles, before putting his Bangor cap back on and exiting the movie theatre.