The cane keeps Africa going

cane african

Interviews from the International Alumni Conference in Cape Town November 2017.

What does this have to do with beating?

If you ask an artist, a painter, he will tell you immediately that sometimes you have to change perspective. Go far away from your painting, to see it as a distant structure or go very close to see the patterns of the brush in a spot of color on the canvas.

Looking at the development of Africa, you can change your perception and go deep down your own childhood, to the very beginning in the upbringing of you as a child. The upbringing of children in Africa also shapes the development of the continent, as was my upbringing in the late 60s and early 70s in Germany, which was very similar.

If there would be no cane – and all what it stands for – young Africans would be raised in a climate of personal self development, free will and even more important free speech. Just imagine that even in primary school and at home in the family young Africans would speak out freely and openly what they don’t like and what they think should be different in the world they are living in and be responsible for as adults. These young untamed beings would oppose every elderly, boss, superior or politician immediately when they see some wrong behaviour, be it corruption, unfair treatment of subordinates or just being to selfish to see others suffering.

The cane is also preventing that such a habit would flow into daily life, and therefor avoid the steam of anger to rise in the pot until it explodes with the loss of many lives.


So the conclusion is: The cane keeps Africa going, as it is.


At the “International Alumni Conference” in Cape Town (November 2017) I made many film interviews with attending alumni and key speakers of the conference. The conference theme was: “Tackling the root causes of displacement in Sub-Sahara Africa”. But of course the statements covered a wider range of individual perspectives.


Coming home with five hours of film footage, I realised it will be hard to find the “best” statements in each interview and put it down to a less than seven minutes final film. So I started to look for a thematic map in the answers of my interview partners and approached the footage from a qualitative interview perspective 1.

To my surprise I really found a clear structure to which, in a second step, I could edit the film footage:


  1. migration in general
  2. external migration
  3. internal migration
  4. inform policy and do research
  5. government
  6. enforcement of law
  7. education
  8. poverty and food security
  9. Schengen for Africa
  10. investors and business
  11. conference and network
  12. my time at the Centre and my values


With this approach I tried to turn the conference of scientists into a source for research about the respective subject. Seeing the alumni of the African Excellence Centres as a resource for data gathering, also closes the circle to a scientific project I worked on at the WZB Berlin Social Science Center in 1984. In the WZB study we looked at implications of psychological mindsets, related to the dying of the German forests, that at that time massively threatened our ecosystem. The question was, while anyone, from the simple citizen to a CEO in the chemical industry, knew that something has to be done, nothing happened2. A situation that seems to be very similar to the African struggles today. What are the motivations, assumptions, interpretations and cognitive subsumptions of the key influencers and also the normal citizens when it comes to solutions for problems in the African context? If it is the cane that keeps African countries from falling apart, then you will have a different approach towards solutions than thinking, that it is the politicians who have a good law but don’t implement it for very personal reasons.


For me, from a psychological perspective, one of the key statements in the interviews was the answer from Dr. Juliet Okoth who said, that it took her until her PhD to develop the freedom to feel that it is okay to have a different opinion than someone else and to express it freely and to reason about it with someone who might have another opinion (video minute 33). Having been raised by the cane left these long-lasting traces in her, she tells us. In another interview a master student told me, that even until today – having a stipend and being one of the heavily selected students of the African Excellence Programme – her father doesn’t talk to her, since she violated the tribal based family expectations for a girl. Many African countries are challenged by high teenage pregnancy rates. In Namibia a high rate of female university students get unwanted pregnant, despite family planning at the hospital being free and the hospital itself being in walking distance from the university. Tribal social rules, family expectations, the church and also the rude behaviour of the nurses in the hospital (assuming that every young girl who asks for family planning is a prostitute) creates a climate of pressure and extrusion.

The hippie generation in Europe had to fight the hardened expectations of their conservative narrow-minded parents. The older post Second World War generation in Europe had a longing for a small nicely ordered social context, but the Vietnam War, the longing for sexual freedom and social justice had been stronger and changed our society in Europe forever.

Now it seems to be the turn of the educated African middle class to create for their youngsters (and themselves), at least at home and in school, an atmosphere in which a free and creative personality can develop and flourish. Assuming that, if the inner attitude of people will change the rest will follow automatically.


The Video

Unfortunately there are still no iframes possible on this blog so you can only watch it on the Website. Choose:

“Alumni Conference Cape Town 2017 – 1 hour – Interviews with Alumni”

This rough and not finalised edit of the footage was not ordered, paid or  certificated by the DAAD, it represents my own view and necessity to contribute to the discussion.

The video is approximately one hour in length!
Please lean back and take your time to listen to the statements of some of the most brilliant brains in and around the African Excellence Programme.
It is worth it!


  • Judith Christabella Aceg
  • Callistus Akachabwon Agaam
  • Zihembire Gerald Ahabwe
  • Brenda Akia
  • Kennedy Alatinga
  • Sylvester Nsobire Ayambila
  • Chifundo Chilera Patience
  • Christian Eanga
  • George-Grandy Hallow
  • Kenasi Kasinje
  • Elisabeth Munee Kiamba
  • Fleming Lumumba
  • Joyce Marangu
  • Jesse Mugero
  • Penelope Malilwe Mulenga
  • Peter Mwesigwa Katoneene
  • Patrick-Didier Nukuri
  • Juliet Roselyne Amenge Okoth
  • Charlton C. Tsodzo
  • Faustine Wabwire
  • Wilhelm Löwenstein
  • Matlotleng Patrick Matlou
  • Dorothee Weyler

Author: Thomas Hezel –


Berlin, July 2018-2019




Aghamanoukjan A., Buber R., Meyer M. (2009) Qualitative Interviews. In: Buber R., Holzmüller H.H. (eds) Qualitative Marktforschung. Gabler Verlag, Wiesbaden Germany



Fietkau, Hans-Joachim (1984) Bedingungen ökologischen Handelns: Gesellschaftliche Aufgaben der Umweltpsychologie. Beltz Verlag, Weinheim Germany

A picture shows the truth – a film shows 24 pictures per second

sound mixing zazudesign Sound mixing for the video of the Congolese-German Centre for Microfinance at the zazudesign postproduction suite

This quote of the French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard is, seen from a scientific background, everything else but the truth!

Since Immanuel Kant we know, that apperception is a function of our brain and to recognize the world, as it is “in-itself” is beyond our excellence. With the Austrian epistemologist Paul Feyerabend we could now shout out loud: Anything goes and there is no universal methodological rule! Karl Popper, another Austrian grumbler, would immediately jump in front of the camera, insisting: Yes, anything goes, just start with an arbitrary theory, but then my friend, you must do your homework and falsify with hard scientific proof, what looked in the beginning so nice and easy and felt like the final wisdom. Theodor W. Adorno climbs the stage, followed by his Frankfurt gang of brooders, and puts himself into the spotlight: Your whole perception of this film is blurred by the evil influence of the psycho-social-agencies in their totality, which are – you may not feel it by yourself – much stronger then your individual uniqueness. So if you are looking, maybe not for truth but for a better world – just change the institutions that formed you and with you your film. So what about the film? It will never be finished, if I have to wait for the institutions to change. Voices are raised, arguments hit the ceiling, ending in a positivism-dispute between Karl Popper and Theodor W. Adorno about what to do: fighting the total concept and ideology, that formed the film and the recipient, or as Popper would suggest: going picture by picture, frame by frame and looking for some truth by finding the lies in each image.

Making an image video for a Centre of Excellence always starts with a Paul Feyerabend feeling: Yes, anything goes! The imagination spreads its wings and creates a bright and colourful film idea, filled with humble truth and well-intentioned purpose.
In the preparation process Adorno starts creeping into the room and stands there with a bright smile on his face, as he observes my struggle with permissions, custom regulations, plane luggage limitations and all kind of organisational challenges, availabilities, not to talk about time and money limitations. It is not just the psycho-social-agencies, but as well the organisational agencies, beginning to form what – without having even started – will be possible. During filming I fight each moment with the spell of Immanuel Kant to find something – if not in general but at least for my own personal perception – that looks like it could be a unique moment – captured by the camera – of a little fragment of the “it is in-itself”.
Coming home with two hours of film footage for each Centre, the sorting and structuring process of the images seems interestingly to develop an underlying structure by itself. It is still chaos, but one could see the waves rolling on the ocean. The waves what you see,  Adorno would reply, is the casting mould that was formed by the psycho-social-agencies and is now perceived as structure that individuals in a definite social-time-frame only could agree on. As I look up to my bookshelf Douglas R. Hofstadter is whispering: Yes, inside a system the system mostly makes sense, but don’t forget, there is a world outside your system. So editing, not only for a European but also for an African audience – that was probably formed by a different casting mould – needs a good amount of questioning my own assessment and perception.

The next step after the sorting process is to find the best statements of each interview partner. Here it is important to hear, what the members of the Centre qualify as a good and important statement, hoping that a deeper insight and a higher quantity of reviewers pushes objectivity and therefor the overall quality.

After that stage I have to choose part of statements that fit into the five minutes timeframe of the final video. The statements need a clear starting point and an on the spot end point and in most cases they have to offer the possibility to cut out breathing spaces and slips of tongue. In this stage it is interesting to see that I loose more and more the absolute control of the editing and the system and structure creates its own demands. When the first statement is in the edit the other statements base and relate to it. Is everything said about the structure of the Centre, for the rest of the participants this topic is out of question and I have to look for statements about visions and growth of the Centre. So, if in any case, what felt for you was your best moment in front of the camera, or even your whole interview in itself, is not in the final film, don’t blame me, it’s the system. It’s the fault of Adorno, Marcuse and even Walter Benjamin, who put the structures over the good intentions of the individual.

Yes Mr. Adorno, we learned our rules and act accordingly, putting good beans in one pot and the so called bad ones in the other, while Pavlov’s dog is standing on his box, drooling saliva on the polished floor of our scientific lab. What can we do, it’s not punk and our audience doesn’t expect some Dada poems, so we flow with the rivers flow, longing for an ocean of applause.

By the time the selected interview parts are put together, the gear-wheels of arguments mesh with a pleasant sound, but the car that drives us all the way to glory shines only in its greyish mechanical beauty. To make it worse – in contrast to what a scientist would call, the desire to show the objective truth – we add some music. Now the film drifts even more in the misty world of subjectivity. Sigmund Freud would have his pleasure, it’s time to feature the unconscious mind, the secret world of hidden dreams.

It seems, that we are far away of showing the truth, not in one picture and not at all in 24 pictures per second. But: “Ceci n’est pas une pipe”, the painter René Magritte would reply. This is not the thing itself. A picture of something should not be confused with the object it is showing. And art, if it hits the spot, is capable of beeing more then the sum of the little light spots illuminating a computer monitor.


So in the end I hope that, beyond all subjectivity, there is some truth in every picture and the final film – even if it’s only inside the psycho-social-agencies that cover the world of our expected audience.


zazudesign postproduction – Video editing with FinalCut Pro X for the Ghanaian-German Centre for Development Studies


color matching Kenya
zazudesign postproduction – Color matching with DaVinci Resolve Professional for the East and South African-German Centre for Educational Research


Author: Thomas Hezel