Stephen Rothenburg
Zanele Mashinini
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Love, sex and intimate relationships

16 february 2006

Hello and welcome to everybody taking part in the discussion: Love, sex and intimate relationships.

In introducing this topic it may be interesting to reflect on the first stage of this discussion which took place at the Drill Hall in Johannesburg, on the 4 th of February. On this night, The Drill Hall was filled beyond expectations by audience members who had come to this beautiful venue in downtown Johannesburg on their Saturday evening. Bearing in mind that the surrounding neighbourhood of the Drill Hall is still regarded as an unsafe area at day or night, there was clearly something attractive in the speakers and their themes of discussion.

The evening saw a very dense 4 hours of presentations by our 9 panellists. Regrettably the overload of information on these topics made it difficult to penetrate to the subtler dimensions of these themes. By the end of the evening it became clear that to discuss such a topic required special conditions which were not suited by the ambitious scale of the event. So I was grateful for the opportunity to re address these themes in the online dimension. There are clearly challenges and great obstacles for the individual in contemporary life, in finding satisfying personal and intimate relationships. In order to discuss such themes it seems necessary to take care to create the correct conditions of privacy and space which permit new notions of these aspects of personal life to unfold, and I hope this will be possible through the online medium.

Another important point raised by some of the audience members at the live discussion, was that in order to address these themes in a manner which provided inspiration, one had to not only look at the problems and obstacles facing the individual in the present, but also to assert the the positive aspects of intimacy and the possibility of alternatives and new forms of informal networks and means of relating on a personal level. In South Africa at the present moment, this seems a particularly complicated project in a society whose history seems to have to a certain extent disarmed it of the ability to deal with the intimate and sexual realm (a shortcoming which is sadly witnessed in the rampant spread of AIDS as addressed in the presentations of Stephen Rothenburg and Zanele Mashinini) and where complex undercurrents continue to undermine personal encouters.

So it is in this context that I welcome your thoughts and reflections on the topic, and perhaps also on mediums which might better facilitate its engagement.

 

Gregg Smith