Nico Athene’s #MeToo statement

Nico Athene: A work by the artist Picture: Ed Young/Eh!woza
Nico Athene: A work by the artist Picture: Ed Young/Eh!woza

You can read the full story of all the women who have come forward with #MeToo claims of predatory sexual encounters with acclaimed film maker Khalo Matabane here.

I met Khalo at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam in 2014, where the women I was with at the festival kept pointing out at every afterparty and industry event who to avoid and who to look out for. Who was going to try grab my ass when I leaned over the counter to order a drink.

I emailed Khalo later about getting funding for a project I was trying to launch, and the possibility of an interim job with his company on what was then his current production. He invited me to the I Love Laundry dimsum bar in Cape Town where he used to work to talk about it and where he offered me wine and food. The conversation indirectly suggested that he’d soon tell me about funding and look at my proposal, and we’d talk about what work opportunities were available with his new series production, but he never quite got there. An hour later I needed to leave and he suggested we follow up the conversation the next week at La Parada, which we did.

He bought the dinner and again didn’t get around to talking about my project. Basically he was turning my business meeting into a date. On top of this, saying goodbye on the street, he pulled me towards him and kissed me open-mouthed and with his tongue. I pushed him away. The worst is the insidious confusion that can leave you feeling somehow complicit.

Is it wrong to turn meetings into dates? It is not illegal, sure, but as a young woman in the film industry it was the last straw in a string of events that seemed to confirm that I had to do unpaid sex work to access resources, or a career, and that even then I would never really make it. I’d always be funnelling money and opportunity through people like him. When it is a systematic and unspoken requirement like in this industry, it is violent. It is sexual coercion.

I gave up film and my real name to strip so that I could charge for the labour fairly and explicitly. It was an act of performative protest – my first work of art.

The finale, though, is Khalo coming into the club to find me there by accident, telling me he is intrigued by what I’m doing there, and that I should write a script about my experiences so that ... (drum roll please) ... he could direct it. I was like, ‘Sure bbz if you buy this 5K lap dance and then one for your friend, I’ll be your sexualised intern/research-body-on-the-frontline/scriptwriting fantasy for the hour THAT YOU ARE PAYING.’

I have actually written a script, which was the idea even before a man suggested it to me, believe it or not, and I am looking for an experienced WOMXN to produce it.

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