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Thursday, July 16, 2015


(Iain Ewok Robinson)

(Reviews from the artSMart team at the 2015 National Arts Festival in Grahamstown)

Emotional, hard hitting and razor sharp. (Review by Keith Millar)

Appearing on the main programme at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown was a new production by Durban-based Hip Hop Activist Iain Ewok Robinson and Filmmaker Karen Logan entitled YOBO: You’re Only Born Once.

YOBO is an in your face, raw spoken word and audiovisual production.

It is set against the background of the persistent construction that is widespread in contemporary South Africa. YOBO draws us into the world of a solitary white man who lives beneath a national highway flyover. A character who is struggling to come to terms with his own whiteness and his position in the country.

On a sparse set resembling a rubbish tip of discarded plastic bags containing litter, and old beer crates, Robinson uses his visceral poetry to tackle many of the socio-economic, racial and political issues confronting South Africa today.

He touches on issues such as white privilege, and the need for white people to apologise for past transgressions against human rights – whites must say they are sorry before they can move on as a nation.

The Rhodes Must Fall statue protests are referred to, while in an astute segment called Borrow me your Language, Robinson suggests that there is need for all whites to learn an African language.

He also talks of the need for all people to get on with each other. He suggests that the colours of the rainbow don’t mix and that black and white make grey.

As always, Robinson’s delivery is emotional, hard hitting and razor sharp. He is an extraordinary wordsmith whose use of the English language is quite exceptional. However, I felt that some of the segments were too long and over-emphasised, and at times a bit obscure.

Karen Logan’s video projections are excellently compiled and are brilliantly complimentary to the proceedings. Logan also directs the production.

Very good sound and lighting also enhance the overall professional feel of the piece.

YOBO: You’re Only Born Once holds up a mirror to its audience and asks them to examine themselves, and their prejudices, and to think about what they can do to improve life for everyone. – Keith Millar

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