Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Swenkas + Cuchifritos Exhibit + Jeff Allen Reading

SwenkasVia one of my former students, the dandy Andy, I learned about a recent South African film, The Swenkas, that briefly screened last month at New York's Film Forum. The Village Voice's Michael Atkinson described it like this:

The authentic nature of the post-apartheid state in either case is merely background, but in [Danish director's] Jeppe Rønde's The Swenkas, the odd escapist subculture explored is almost by definition a reaction to political powerlessness. Apparently, for generations, rural laborers that come to Johannesburg for work have been indulging in "swenking": spending a portion of their hard-earned wages on designer suits, silk ties, and top-of-the-line shoes and competing in public (and often semi-public) style-maven contests every weekend. Cash prizes are at stake, and over the decades these mime battles of double-breasted panache have taken on a distinctive performance quality, inciting the various Zulu men to vogue, fox-trot, solo-tango, prance, display their outfits' materials like game show hostesses, and generally attempt to wordlessly impress upon the judges (who are they?) that a cresting degree of macho chic has been achieved.

SwenkasHe adds that the director doesn't probe swenking's ethnographic roots, nor does it contextualize or explain the ritual sufficiently (does the name come from the English word "swank" or "swanky"?), but he does stress that this "peculiar and sweet" film is worth seeing. Though I haven't seen the film I immediately thought of Black LGBT ball culture; based on his descriptions the parallels sound obvious. Have any of you readers seen this movie? What was your take?


From poet Gina D. I received the following invite:

"Being There"

William Cordova, Leslie Hewitt and Wardell Milan

Curated by Omar Lopez-Chahoud

Opening: Saturday, December 17, 4:00-6:00pm

December 17 2005 - February 4, 2006

CUCHIFRITOS art gallery/project space.

120 Essex St.
between Delancey and Rivington
New York City, NY 10002
(Inside the Essex St. food Market South end of the building)

Open daily, Monday through Saturday 12:00 noon to 5:30pm

212.598.4124 Gallery

For more information please contact: Omar Lopez-Chahoud,

I won't be able to attend, but back in April I posted links to Wardell Milan's at PS 1. It looked great, so if you're in NYC, do check it out!


AllenTomorrow, writer extraordinaire Jeffrey Renard Allen will be reading with students from his fall Cave Canem New York workshop on myth and poetry at Poets House.

The reading takes place at 7 pm, and is free of charge.

Poets House's address:
72 Spring Street, Second Floor | New York, N.Y. 10012
(212) 431-7920 |


  1. sounds like some interesting events in NY as usual...I would love to see that South African movie.

  2. John, I'm definitely going to need to check out 'The Swenkas'---thank you for highlighting this diasporic gem. Yet another text that I probably would not have stumbled upon otherwise. Leave it to you! BTW, this application to you-know-where is due next week!