On the Couch with Claire Jankelson

Claire-Jankelson-AAR-On-the-CouchWho is Claire Jankelson?
I am one of the directors of the Sydney South African Film Festival. My background is as a tertiary educator in the field of management practice. At this time, I mentor people doing PhD’s or doing research or deep inquiries for personal reasons; subjects that matter to them, to how they work or to how they live.

What would you do differently from what you do now?
I would never have expected to find myself running a film festival. However – I come from South Africa – about 26 years ago – exactly the year that Mandela was inaugurated as President. It was hard for me to leave that country and doing the festival has taken me deeply and thoughtfully into an engagement with that place. And it has kindled a different kind of appreciation for the complexities and the extraordinariness of that country. I have come to appreciate the spirit of that place and also its remarkable and creative responses to many of its difficulties

Who inspires you and why?
Australians – Paul Keating, Bob Brown and many others incl Philip Adams on Late Night Live, Radio National. Philosophers like Spinoza, Gadamer, Richard Tarnas. Poets like Mary Oliver, David Whyte. Current mystics such as Thomas Hubl. People that stimulate thoughtfulness, diverse ways of thinking and being in the world. I’m deeply inspired by my women friends and the inquiries that we traverse together. And then my adult 3 sons and husband who continually amaze and inspire me!

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
Act with great consideration and responsiveness to what comes towards me. Open myself with compassion and empathy as well as I can. Recognise ethical and humanitarian appropriate action. Mostly hold back from taking action that’s for the sake of making myself feel good. Avoid ‘development’ activities. Running this film festival that is in the service of education, a mentoring project called Education without Borders. And believe its making a difference to young people in South Africa!

Favourite holiday destination and why?
Mountain places, wild places, sea and rock and river places. Less developed and fewer people and only natural sounds – works well for me. I have a favourite destination in South Africa. If people watch the film Fiela se Kind – its set near that area of the Langeberg mountains. It’s a natural wilderness that was never farmed and parts of it were probably last walked on by Khoi and San people (‘Bushmen’). Such places inspire observation, presence, poetry and writing for me!

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
We’d visit the art galleries including AGNSW, MCA, the White Rabbit. And go walking Lady Macquarie’s chair, Woolloomooloo, Barangaroo etc. And then head to the Mountains – after which we’d continue westward past Bathurst to Hill End. Take road trips through small towns and visit local galleries and museums. Offers history, the environment, the magnitude of this great and vast and complex country – in the wish to know and understand how we have gotten to this time.

What are you currently reading?
I’m in the middle of – and just loving – Too Much Lip by Melissa Lucashenko, also Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe. Interestingly just finished White Tears, Brown Scars by Ruby Hamad. I think being involved with the SA film festival opens issues around indigeneity and indigenous ways of knowing and being in the world. Having grown up with a history of a vile apartheid system, the issues of prejudice and race are complex and continue to challenge what it means to be a white person in this world. Such a significant world issue! Have to mention the last 2 books I read – both highly recommended: Eggshell Skull by Bri Lee and The Choice by Edith Eva Eger.

What are you currently listening to?
Very eclectic music tastes – love all classical music esp anything played by the Australian Chamber Orchestra. Anything by Phillip Glass, most things from Nick Cave; love long streams of electronic music especially when washing the dishes; attached to Leonard Cohen like glue.

Happiness is?
Sunday afternoon, winter sun pouring through the window, view of my wild native garden, cup of well-made English breakfast tea (with a bit of ginger added), latest edition of the New York Review of books or the Monthly or my current book!

What does the future hold for you?
I’m open and ready for whatever the next years hold. I think the real question is what it holds for our children and grandchildren. And this is a great concern. It’s an extraordinary phenomenon and grieves me greatly, that as a society and community, we pay so little attention to the continued decimation of the great natural environment.

Claire is one of the directors of the Sydney South African Film Festival – which takes place online: 3 – 12 July 2020. For more information and full program, visit: www.ssaff.org.au for details.

Image: Claire Jankelson (supplied)