The Weekly Dissident: A conversation with Aryan Kaganof   

Aryan Kaganof poster [supplied]

Dissident, underground, alternative, avant-garde, revolutionary, anarchist, are some of the words that have been bandied around in trying to come into grips with the works and persona(lity) of the prolific and irrepressible South African film-maker, novelist, poet and fine artist, born Ian Kerkhof in 1964 and resurrected as Aryan Kaganof in 1999. 

But like many of his genre-busting and compartmentalization-defying works of art, Kaganof refuses to be pigeonholed, branded or iconized. His rebellion against labels is unflinching in his take on the various monikers that readers\viewers\critics have attempted to put on him:

i have read these labels and looked up their meanings

in various dictionaries, especially when i’ve read

them applied to me. but my soul wasn’t grown

in a dictionary; so, ie. that is, vis a vis

“alternative” – i always wondered,

alternative to what? because

what it was that was going

was always going down

as far as i could see

and if underground

meant anything

then it placed

me under-


cos i didn’t find

it deep enough to

be worth playing in

as for “avant-garde”

i’d rather be on my guard

and revolutionary is just going

round and round making it all ungovernable

again so I rebel music take my soul and suss me out

In the same way that Kaganof  refuses to be stationed at some enclave, cocoon, corner, quarter, section   or province called underground, avant-garde, alternative, revolutionary or whatever; he does not make any claim to have placed himself anywhere else; but rather accredit the source, the ultimate principle, whatever you call him\her\it – nature\God and so on:   

I never placed myself here

God did that and if there ain’t

no god it must have been a very

fine accident of nature giving me

white skin in a place where that means

i don’t have to work very hard in order to

have a house and a hearth while all around

me God (or another accident of nature)

made the so-called blacks to do the

hard labour and in my lifetime

i wonder will it change?

and in this lifetime

i heard their



in the night

time, Lord when

will it change?

What drives Kaganof?

It used to be Valazza

a white Valiant ’66, straight

six engine a most reliable vehicle

before that a Jaguar Executive that cost

so much to start up I never drove anywhere,

I would call up fancy ladies and ask them to come

to my place where we’d sit in the plushly upholstered

vehicle and admire the engineering. before that an Audi 500

that cost me R10 000 cash to buy and nearly a million to fix

and before that twice a Toyota Corolla; one that was stolen

from outside my house in Westdene and the other I

overturned while speeding drunk down Louis

Botha Avenue which made me wonder

whilst I was overturning how come

they never changed the name of

this motherfucking Avenue to

something indigenous like

Gqom Avenue? or the

Whoonga Freeway?

Kaganof is not romantic or nostalgic about the purpose of his work and his life:

When I was a little younger I hoped to change the status of the Youniverse

by writing verse that broke open the status quo and revealed the mortal

condition we’re all condemned to as a sickening joke played on us by

a demented deity with anti-social tendencies; but nowadays, given

the rising cost of living, i would be content with paying next

month’s rent and having a little over in order to daily

bread on and forgive God his or her trespasses

against the dignity of mankind

He is equally nonchalant and makes no clumsy attempt at political correctness in declaring the instrument\weapon and medium he has chosen to do whatever it is he is up to:

Jirre, I used to walk around with a Glock strapped to my right ankle

thinking it would save me in the event of an attempt to rob me

of my poetic license. these days i walk everywhere naked

under my clothes just like the baby i was reborn as

the few words i can remember

are all i have left

to shoot with

If Kaganof was to write a manifesto for the ungovernables, anarchists \ undergrounds\ dissidents\ alternatives\ revolutionaries, what would it say?

There’s a wonderful book written by Jesus Sepulveda

it’s called The Garden of Peculiarities

it’s the book i wish i’d written

he’s already chewed

what i’ve only


I asked Kaganof about his journey from birth till here\there; wherever he is or is heading to and he responded frankly:

Your question is very ambitious

as I used to be

these days

the rent

takes up

most of my

continuity. I hope

that I can pay next month’s

I don’t have much time for anything

else and, in this sense, I believe my poetry

is universal

The dissident’s (apologies to Aryan) explanation of the name change from Ian Kerkhof to Aryan Kaganof once again reveals his proclivity to fuse the personal\private and the political\public:

I returned to South Africa in 1999 in order to meet my biological father

who was not yet in heaven. I wrote about this meeting in my novel

Uselessly, published by Jacana, 2006. When my father passed

on I changed my given name to the name that honours my

bloodspermmachette donor/father, his name. The birth

name I was given by my mother, who was not married

to my father, is the name of the man she was married

to (who was not my father). So the renaming is my

return to my patri-lineal ancestry. In effect I had

the name-change that South Africa still needs

to go through in order to be independent,

truly independentalicously free, of so-

called white minority rule. What a fool

am I for thinking it will ever be

Allowed ? Not while the ANC

are constitutionally com-

murder-mitted a la Mari

carnally to black slavery.