Land is in the Air
A Button Without a Hole
Working the Land
The films started from an anecdote about my ancestor, Richard Gush. On arriving in Salem, South Africa, he deliberately built a church before building a house for his family – the act of work, a way to claim his space in a new land. This church and the land around Salem were part of a controversial land claim making its way through the courts. The legal aspect is the subject of the first film, Land is in the Air.
Land and work are central to this project. They are some of the most important issues facing South Africa. I am interested in how historically and in the present day they are entangled; how the dispossession of land was linked to the creation of a workforce for the colony and how work still affects and structures the processes of return.
Collaborating on the interviews with my neighbour, journalist Niren Tolsi, opened up stories I had not expected to find. On the third day of filming in Salem we found ourselves on the doorstep of the Madinda family, caretakers of Castle Farm. For more than 10 years the Madindas have been trying to get the farm running. Their experiences and the obstacles they face form the basis of the third film, Working the Land.
Mr Mongezi Madinda’s beautiful narration of the history of the land, his retelling of the story of Richard Gush and the ways this deviates from the settler myths that I read as a child are the basis for the second film, A Button without a Hole. It contrasts Mr Madinda’s narrative with the stories repeated in books and a 1970 play by Guy Butler titled Richard Gush of Salem.
Director: Simon Gush
Camera: Simon Gush
Sound recordist: Victoria Wigzell
Sound Design: Andrei van Wyk (Healer Oran)
Research and interviews in collaboration with: Niren Tolsi
Editing: Simon Gush
Script: Simon Gush