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  • CITY OF GOLD

    2013 - 12.13

    ZIPHOZIHLE KATI

    Jozi city. Egoli. That electric place has a myriad of names. Johannesburg’s significance is the same to one and all. You can either find or completely lose yourself. It is the place where dreams are crushed or made. No one is originally from there; they have all come to make their fortune. It is the city of gold.

    David Tlale Fashion

    Spoek Mathambo Music

    Originally a mining town, one can say that it was built on greed. That legacy still rings true today. It is a place that takes some getting used to. It slowly grows on you and then before you know it, you find yourself having fallen in love with the diversity of the people and the variety of the city spaces.

    I had the pleasure of living right in the heart of Johannesburg. The infamous CBD, dirty streets and people in their multitudes. Everyone is in such a rush, if you don’t hold your ground, you can easily get swept away. Gleaming skyscrapers and neglected city walls. The pleasures of this city are the surprises. One can be walking, trying to avoid leaking sewerage, and the next moment one finds that they are in a beautiful city garden space. Look up and the lush green frames the beautiful blue sky. Walk further in the CBD and one finds little pockets of different cultures, immigrant communities that have made a home for themselves in this harsh city.

    From little Ethiopia, walk a bit further and you hear the kizomba rhythms of Angola and Congo. Just around the corner the pavement is filled with local street delicacies of sheep’s head or chicken feet. Decide to go into one of the many shops and you can find international clothing brands.

    In Johannesburg you find all sorts of people from all sorts of places. All influencing each other and forming interesting sub-cultures. From the hip-hop heads, to the cool kids decked in the fashions of the eighties. Some mix western fashion with the beaded adornments of local, indigenous people. Johannesburg is a true melting pot of clashing cultures, a true neighbourhood of the global village.

    I currently live in Cape Town, which is like a miniature Europe in South Africa. It has many tourists and beautiful scenic spots. It does, however, lack that element of Johannesburg where many differing cultures co-exist even if its not always in harmony. I would seek to create spaces, which would attract a variety of people and get them to inhabit it. Juxtapose groups of people that wouldn’t normally come across each other in their own neighbourhoods. Cape Town tends to be very spread out, so to get more diversification one needs more density. I would create more spaces within spaces, little surprises in the empty alleys and under unfinished highways.

    South Africa has history of separation and keeping each other at arms length. The new world requires us to face each other nose to nose and learn from one another. We can no longer ignore each other. Blending all that is ugly and beautiful, we can create a society that grows and is ever-changing.

    As an extra note and to truly express the way I feel about this place and my experience in it, I have composed a poem.

     

    Tarnished Golden Streets

    Step to it, stay sharp, for here its fast living

    Don’t get left behind, for the slow amongst these glittering towers are not easily
    forgiven

    For here the heads of rural households are swallowed up

    So many hopefuls all hoping for the affections of Lady Luck

    Chipped nail polish on chewed fingertips

    Rouge dried on flaking lips

    Walking Hillbrow streets through hot, breezy nights

    To the sound of crashing bottles under broken street lights

    That city of gold, where loved ones are lost

    In pursuit of dizzy dreams, losing oneself is the cost

    Shuffling multitudes in grimy streets

    Red dust washed away by crackling thunderstorms, breaking the afternoon heat

    Hustled in the corners with the destitute

    All of us searching for our hidden truth

    Talking politics through wisps of cigarette smoke

    The lost and forgotten, together we bear the same yoke

    Stuck in one of life’s many lows

    A bag full of troubles and heavy heart all in tow

    Surface smiles form a thin veil

    This journey’s twists and turns, sure form an interesting tale

     

    MAMELA AND MOJISOLA STORM LONDON

    2013 - 11.13

    REBECCA HUSSEIN

    Protests ring out. Lightning strikes. A woman rises. It is ecstatic. It is supernatural. It is the new South African production by Mojisola Adebayo and Mamela Nyamza that is taking London by storm. I Stand Corrected is more than entertainment at its best, it is also a brave and passionate response to Corrective Rape in South Africa.

    The atmosphere as I entered the foyer of the Oval House was electric. I Stand Corrected takes place at the wedding of black lesbian couple Zodwa Ndlovu and Charlie Browning in Cape Town and one is immediately swept up into the celebration as champagne bottles pop and exuberant African music blares.

    And yet, upon being led to our seats, the jubilant mood completely evaporates as the stark message behind this cheery facade emerges. Suddenly it is haunting, almost sinister. A simple wedding dress held up by balloons sways gently in the breeze, surrounded by gloom. Mamela Nyamza as Zodwa appears, wrestling with a dustbin. For this is the tomb given to her by the men that raped and murdered her the night before her wedding to Charlie. As Zodwa’s agony unfolds, we watch Mojisola Adebayo as Charlie attempting to calm her wedding guests only to crumble as the truth unravels.

    Charlie’s wit, her quick fire responses to the prejudices faced by her brings a great addition of comedy to the production. Moments such as her comparisons between the unnaturalness of her wedding and the unnaturalness of the plane that flew them to Cape Town are both well delivered and expertly underpin the absurdity of those against her.

    And yet the real strength of this production is in its contrasts; with every laugh there is an anguished cry that echoes behind at the injustice of it all. This is best captured in the contrast between the two performers, Adebayo’s nervous energy and constraint masking the anger and outrage that fuels everyone of Nyamza’s tortured movements, the visceral reaction behind the speech.

    I Stand Corrected interweaves comedy, movement and dance to create a battle cry. The injustice of crimes against women such as Zodwa, that are swept away with pitifully short prison sentences, if at all, burns through this entire piece and exudes an energy that sweeps up its entire audience.

     

    DARE TO INVENT THE FUTURE: WE ARE ALL SANKARA

    2013 - 11.06

    MENZI MASEKO

    “I think the root of our problems of underperformance in government is that we didn’t invest in education for democracy in 1994. We assumed that Madiba magic would work for us. Citizens in this country tolerate this mediocrity because they don’t know any better. They don’t even know they have the power to change what they don’t like.”

     – Dr Mamphela Ramphele

    Proudly Afrikan Mamphela Ramphele

    Afrika (Azania) is not lacking in quality leaders, the challenge is in finding them when they are most needed. The whole continent is filled with multiple contradictions, from being the most resource rich landmass on the planet yet also the most impoverished by all modern standards. In these essays we have attempted to explain the various sources of our shameful sick-tuation (situation); dealing with historical amnesia, lack of adequate and empowering education, the apparent inability to connect and learn from nature and from the experience of others.

    As much as we have noted the contribution of slavery, colonialism the other instruments of white-supremacy that have repeatedly been aimed against us for more than 400 years, we have avoided the reactionary instinct to play the blame game. Pointing fingers, and playing the victim will never help us get over these traumatic experiences – yet we have and must acknowledge their lasting impact.

    What we have chosen to do is focus on all that is positive, praiseworthy and honourable about our past, present and envisioned future Afrika. It is in this spirit of optimism and love that we bring to you – one of the most well rounded leaders that Afrika has ever had. We shall allow him to speak for himself on various topics that were closest to his heart. His name is Thomas Noel Isidore Sankara born December 21, 1949 in Upper Volta, now Burkina Faso.

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    These quotations are part of the revolutionary work, words and actions of Sankara, the leader par excellence:

    “Woman’s fate is bound up with that of the exploited male. This is a fact. However, this solidarity, arising from the exploitation that both men and women suffer and that binds them together historically, must not cause us to lose of the specific reality of the woman’s situation. The conditions of her life are determined by more than economic factors, and they show that she is a victim of a specific oppression.

    The specific character of this oppression cannot be falling into easy and childish simplications. It is true that both she and the male worker are condemned to silence by their exploitation. But under the current economic system, the worker’s wife is also condemned to silence by her worker – husband.” – (p.206)

    “My fear is justified even more by the fact that the educated  petty bourgeoisie  of Afrika – if not of the entire Third World – is not prepared to give up its privileges, either because of intellectual laziness or simply because it has tasted the Western way of life. Because of this these petty bourgeois forget that all genuine, and they refuse to rise to the intellectual effort of conceiving new concepts equal to the murderous struggle that lies ahead of us. Passive and pathetic consumers, they wallow in terminology fetishized by the West, just as they wallow in Western whiskey and champagne in shady-looking lounges.

    Proudly Afrikan Jacob Zuma

    Ever since the concepts of negritude and Afrikan Personality, now showing their age, the search for ideas that are genuinely new produced by the brains of our ‘great’ intellectuals is in vain. Our vocabulary and our ideas come from elsewhere. Our professions, engineers, and economist are content to simply add colour – for often the only things they brought back with them are their degrees and their velvety adjectives and superlatives! It is both necessary and urgent that our trained personnel & those who work with the pen learn that there is no such thing as neutral writing.

    In today’s stormy times we cannot give today’s and yesterday enemies a monopoly over though, imagination and creativity. Before it is too late – and it is already late – this elite, these men of Afrika and of the Third World, must come home to themselves…” – (p.87)

    Here is a Question and Answer session between Sankara and the Swiss journalist Jean-Phillipe Rapp:

    Proudly Afrikan Sankara 3

    Rapp: Under these circumstances, how do you avoid a budget deficit?

    Sankara: We fill the hole by preventing it from appearing that is, we don’t allow a deficit. We’ve lowered salaries. State officials have lost up to one month’s income. Government functionaries have had to give up some of their pay, which as you can imagine, is never welcomed by anyone. These are the kind of sacrifices we impose on members of the government, of whom who is a schoolteacher receives a salary. The president who is a captain receives a captains salary, nothing more.

    Sankara: Yes. Can you believe that in the past here they were talking about introducing a thirteen a fourteen month of salary? At the same time, people were dying for a tiny capsule of quinine (malaria tablet). And they demanded salary increases despite the colossal sums they were already receiving!

    We have had to demand sacrifices. This is the kind of change of mentality we are talking about …by lowering salaries, by adopting more modest lifestyles, by better management of the funds we have, and by preventing their misappropriation.”

    (Excerpts are derived from Thomas Sankara Speaks: The Burkinabe Faso Revolution 1983 -87, Copyright of Pathfinder Press, 1988. Translated by Samantha Anderson).

    Proudly Afrikan Thomas Sankara2

    The revolutionary impact of Thomas Sankara, the Upright Man, have inspired generations of revolutionaries and organizations who seek real change and an end to this money driven world. One of these organs is Azania’s own September National Imbizo; a people’s movement created by young blacks for the propagation of Black Consciousness ideals.

    Central to the SNI is the notion that each one of us is a leader, thus it operates in a radical and flat instead of a hierarchical structure. There is no one more important than the other, decisions and responsibilities are shared. Yet there are structures and committees focussed on executing specific organizational tasks and the committees members are selected during an annual Imbizo which takes place in a different province everytime. The movement works to make sure that even though neo-colonialism, white-supremacy and black disunity may kill our best leaders, their ideas live on until we are truly free. As Marcus Garvey put it: “While others think they can free the body, none but ourselves can free our minds, afterall, we are the Ones we have been waiting for.”

    Hutuapo! Ukuthula Makube Nathi!

    THE AFRICAN CONTRIBUTION TO TECHNOLOGY AND SCIENCE

    2013 - 08.15

    DR. YOSEF BEN-JOCHANNAN

    A lecture delivered for the Minority Ethnic Unit of the Greater London Council, London, England, March 6–8, 1986. It was addressed mainly to the African community in London consisting of African people from the Caribbean and African people from Africa.

    Proudly Afrikan Dr. Ben_Josh

    I will first express my appreciation for you having me here, and ask that you meticulously follow my comments, because as you know I’m known to be controversial, and that’s an understatement. I’m controversial not because something is wrong with my documentation, but because I challenge Western hegemony.

    Africa, as the label of my talk, cannot be spoken of in terms of Adam and Eve, because long before they had an Adam and Eve there was an Africa and African people, with concepts that predated Abraham. All of the pyramids of Africa, not only those in Egypt, but those in Sudan, and the two in northern Ethiopia (which the British and the Berlin Conference removed and put into southern Sudan), where built thousands of years before there was an Adam and Eve mentioned anywhere on the planet. When you get to the birth of Abraham, at the same time when the Africans along the Nile are already in their thirteenth dynastic period, there is no Adam and Eve, because the Hebrews gave you the concept of Adam and Eve. Most of you believe that it has something to do with facts, rather than theocracy.

    To speak of Africa you would have to revise your concept of the Virgin Mary and understand that it’s nothing but a copy of Isis, and her husband God Osiris. You will also have to go to the Nile Valley to the temples there and see that this is thousands of years before Westminster Abbey, and, of course the Vatican in Rome. You can go all over the Nile Valley and elsewhere, and I use the Nile Valley, particularly, in that the oldest records of man are still there in terms of monuments. Of course, there are a lot stolen from Africa here in London, and in Berlin or other such places.

    Proudly Afrikan Dr Ben_Anne

    Your ancestors gave to the world the calendar in 10,000 B.C.E. (Before the common “Christian” Era). That is 8,000 years before Adam and Eve. Your ancestors revised that dating system because of their understanding of the astronomical calculations. It is the science of astronomy that gives the ability to read calendars. Thus 10,000 B.C.E. saw the first calendar. The term is self explanatory, the solar calendar showing the relationship of the moon and the sun, etc. that gives us the basis of the present calendar, with 364 days corrected each year, instead of 365 days corrected each fourth year. And I will say again that there wasn’t a single European society in existence at that time. The first European writer, Homer, had not been born yet. And when Homer was born and finally became literate because of the teachings the Africans gave him, he too started to corroborate the evidence your ancestors had by stating that even the gods of Europe, Greece, in particular, which was then called Pyrrhus, came from Ethiopia.

    I’m sure that those of you who have been to college, if not here in England somewhere else, know that I’m quoting from two works of Homer, the Iliad and the Odyssey, which brought Europe and England into civilization. The African we must talk about is the African that caused people to understand science, medicine, law, engineering, etc. It is common at the universities here to deal with science as if the art of medicine came from a Greek named Hippocrates. We don’t have Hippocrates until about 333 B.C.E. Yet we don’t need any record other than Hippocrates himself to know that what is being taught at the universities here are lies.

    One has to realize that Hippocrates himself, in what is called the Hippocratic Oath, wrote that he had a god named Escalipius, the Greek name for the God Imhotep. Imhotep had died 2500 years before the birth of Hippocrates. Imhotep is the first known multigenius other than the one you call Michelangelo. We don’t have Michelangelo until 1609 and he is not known until he does the work of Pope Julius II, who commissioned Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo used his cousin and other relatives as models for some of the biblical characters that he painted. The basis of engineering was created by Imhotep. He created the first stone structure; that building still stands in a place called Sakkara, about less than an hour north-west of what is today called Cairo. And here you will see the Grand Lodge of Djoser at Sakkara. That modern structure was built in the Third Dynasty, since Djoser was the third pharaoh of the Third Dynasty. Imhotep was the man who gave us the little quip, “eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we shall die.”

    Proudly Afrikan Imhotep

    The FIRST WORLD western university was the University of Jenne of Timbuktu. But as we continue, we realize that in the universities here you use paper to write on, and if it was not for paper the means of communication would not be as it is today. But in Egypt, Sudan and other such places, and I will remind you that Egypt is still in Africa, the Africans reached such a height in engineering that we even turned the Nile in an s-turn to cut down the flow when the inundation period came. That brings us to 2200 B.C. That means at least 1400 years before the first European wrote anything.

    Africa, Mother Africa, as I prefer to call her, understanding that the Greeks called her Africa in about 500–400 B.C. I’m talking about the time when the first Greeks who had gone to Pyrrus, who had come into Egypt by way of Leba (now called Libya) and established their little villages in a little enclave, they then called Africa long before the continent was partitioned by the colonialists. I am speaking about 11.3 or 11.5 million square miles of land, where first the concept of a God and Goddess Nut is shown as the mother of the sky. Symbolically, the God Geb, the god of the earth, lived in a little chapel in the center of Hathor. The African woman is giving birth even to the sun, in the morning through her vagina and receiving the sun back in the evening through her mouth. This shows the whole rotation of the world, long before the world had a beginning and an end. These Africans along the Nile were to do more of this. They were to give us a God Osiris, where people went yearly to pay pilgrimage long before there was a wailing wall in Palestine or a myth of a Jesus born in Bethlehem, which changed at the Nicene Conference of Bishops, ordered by Constantine and removed from a cave in Ethiopia to a manger in Bethlehem.

    It is Africa that gave birth to Hadzart Bilal ibn Rahab, who taught Mohammed ibn Abdullah, who was illiterate in his own language, not able to read and write. In spite of what your belief system may be, Hadzart Bilal ibn Rahab became the head of the Moslem embassies under Mohammed ibn Abdullah, Omar the Great, and Abu Bakr. I think that we need to know history before we can quote texts in religious scriptures.

    There was a myth of Africa as the home of a people who ate each other and missionaries. I wish we did eat the missionaries, it’s never too late! We’ve got to understand that this Africa we are speaking about even established Europe’s greatest universities and first, the University of Salamanca in Spain. The Africa we are speaking about produced the ancestors of the present Queen of England, George III, the German king who spoke no English. We forget that Elizabeth’s grandparents and ancestors are related to George III, who was the son of Alexander the Medici, the cardinal of Rome who later became Pope, and an Ethiopian woman by the name of Martha. So I have to say, don’t worry too much about it because Elizabeth belongs to the family. The Africa, which you may not know, happened to give birth to Zinjanthropus Boisei by the Africans of Kenya. The Leakey family, Louis and Mary, dated him to 1.7 million years old. Adam is about 4000–5000 years. The Africa you do not know gave birth also to Lucy in Ethiopia dated 3.2 million years old, they are both in Kenyan and Ethiopian museums. And some of us are still ashamed to be Africans! Some of us pay money to have our nose reshaped, our hair fried and boiled and all sorts of things, because we don’t know this Africa; we know the Africa of the slave trade with John Hawkins from London and the other little songs.

    Yes, that is the phase of Africa. Surely, slavery is a phase of lives past, but slavery is a tiny little bit from 640 A.D. with the Arabs, 1506 A.D. with the Europeans to now as against what I’m talking about; it is minuscule by comparison, because if I wished to go back to Africa, not only when we were performing astronomy, engineering in establishing the pyramids and so forth, but when we gave to the world the fundamental moral concept. “I have not killed man or woman.” This is a response to the admonishing of the Goddess Maat. You notice that every time we talk about justice and rights we have as African woman representing the scale of justice. The response to the admonishing which would have stated, “You shall not speak ill of your mother and your father; you shall not kill man or woman; you shall not hide a light under a bushel,” sounds familiar to you because they said some guy named Moses discovered them thousands of years later on Mount Sinai.

    Yet they said Moses was born in Goshen. This is the Goshen in Egypt according to the Torah or the Old Testament in the Book of Exodus. Moses had to be trained, and if he was born and lived there (for between age one to eighty-five years of age), according to your Bible, then he must have read this, because he was taught in the Grand Lodge. If he went to the lodge at age seven as a young boy, then he did not come out until he was forty-seven, because it took forty years of training to make a priest in all of the disciplines. So then, Moses came as nothing but a copy of the Egyptian priests and Teachings of The Egyptian Mysteries System.

    These same Africans went on to give us the concept of the monotheistic deity. Thus it was that Amenhotep IV, who changed his name to Akhenaton, who gave us the concept of a solitary god by the name of Aten. Akhenaton died long before the birth of Moses. Is it possible for you to come to England, go to kindergarten here, go to elementary school, college, do post-doctoral work and never hear of the English national anthem, the Magna Carta, or Queen Anne’s stature? Is it possible, just as it was for Moses to be born in Egypt, a soul brother, because his first wife was Deborah, according to the Bible, and had never heard of Akhenaton.

    Proudly Afrikan Akhenaton

    And it is said that when Moses was running away from the Pharaoh for committing murder (before he got the rod of Mount Sinai), and his brother Aaron was charged for stealing from the Pharaoh’s treasury, he met Deborah. It would seem to be that Deborah said, “That Egyptian,” pointing to Moses; there was nothing in Moses to tell that he was Jewish; he was not wearing any special clothes; he looked like any other soul brother you can find in London, the Caribbean, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Ghana, the South Pacific. And then you say you are the minority! You are members of the third world. I am not a member of the third world, I am a member of the first world.

    When one of the first of the so-called philosophers came to Egypt, we see him before 640 B.C.E. When he was supposed to have released his philosophical thinking, he is in Egypt. From Socrates down to Aristotle, the so-called post-Socratian philosopher, every one of them spent several years in Egypt and of course the only one who couldn’t come since he was the creation of Plato’s mind, was Socrates. And even he (Socrates) was supposed to have taken the hemlock for teaching African philosophy: “Socrates is an evil doer” was part of the charge against him. Plato had to run (and all the others) for teaching this philosophy. Would you have to run from England for teaching English history? Neither would the Greek government persecute the Greek philosophers for teaching Greek philosophy. It was somebody’s Philosophy they were teaching, and where did they go to school to know whose philosophy?

    It is not until the Persians in 525 B.C.E. allowed them in, and it was not until 323 B.C.E. at the death of Alexander, the son of Philip of Macedonia, that Aristotle was allowed by General Soter (who changed his name to Ptolemy I) to have Tusak to bring those works down, that the Greeks had access to Egyptian works. Those who could study in Egypt for themselves did so, while some were sent over to Greece where they established what they called the Peripatetic schools in what later was called Alexandria, out of African materials.

    Is that the Africa you know? It couldn’t be, otherwise you couldn’t be praising your masters; you would be going back to your educational past and be your own master, at least if not physically, mentally. It is difficult, because colonialism brings to us a kind of history written by the conqueror for the conquered to read and enjoy. When the conquered looks around and finds that even God speaks from the heart of the conqueror, the conquered then becomes suspicious of God. What is God’s interest in all of this? It is not the African who said in the Songs of Solomon, Chapter 1, Verses 1–9, and when you get to 8 and 9, it says, “Ye daughters of Canaan look not upon me because I am black, because I’m beautiful. My mother put me in the vineyard, but my sister, she kept indoors.” That is why the Queen of Sheba turned black. I thought it was because her mother and father were black! But even in the Bible you find lies, racism and all that. As if we didn’t have Bibles. We have “The Book of the Dead” which was changed right here in London from its original name in 1895 at the British Museum. It was called “The Book of Coming Forth By Day and Night.” We have the “Book of the Divines,” “The Book of Judgment,” “The Heart of Judgment,” and other such works, that preceded the Old Testament and the Jewish Kabala by thousands of years.

    The Africans gave us the concept against murder. When the Shipwats at the Temple of Philos, a Greek word, which means Angelica, by the way, of the Goddess Auset, which the Greeks called Isis, and her son Heru, who the Greeks called Horus, and all the gods viewed the murder of Osiris by his brother Seth. A murder that preceded the Cain and Abel murder by thousands of years, beginning on the island of Angelica, continuing at the Temple of the God Horus, continuing further and you see the Virgin Birth and Immaculate Conception. It is here long before you see it in lifestyle, and you can see in life-size the drama that preceded Greece, showing Horus killing his uncle for the revenge of killing his father, showing his uncle symbolically as a hippopotamus.

    This continued to the Temple of Osiris in Abydos, where pictures of the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, showing Osiris’ penis perpendicular to his body, being symbolic to the resurrection. When you go there you will see it all over the place. Those of you who have been to Egypt know that life is shown as the penis coming out of Peta’s naval, representative of the extension of the umbilical cord, which is the extension of life, the source of life.

    The Africa that I have spoken of, you need to know, and no one can keep you a slave after you know it. In America there is a saying that “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” It is said on television all the time by people who call themselves “The United Negro College Fund.” You can only waste your mind on that one, and by using the term “negro” it indicates they’ve got no minds, because I have been looking for a negro, and I haven’t found one in umpteen years. Because I’m not a Portuguese, I don’t create negroes nor Negroland. I’m an African, and that word we need to deal with as having come from the Greeks. I guess some say it has got good connotations. So I beg of you to always carry a mirror, whether you are a man or a woman, to look at yourself daily. Then you’ve got to have a good feeling about that face you’ve got, the texture of hair you’ve got, and all the fine features you’ve got. I don’t know about you, brothers, but when I look at the face of that African woman, I see heaven!

     

    DO NOT PUT FLOWERS ON MY GRAVE: AND OTHER POEMS BY MILES MTEMBU

    2013 - 07.03

    MILES MTEMBU

     

    DO NOT PUT FLOWERS ON MY GRAVE

    Proudly Afrikan African Flower

    Do not put any flowers on my grave.

    I’m not headed for some field where,

    when I scatter them,

     by some secret of the hereafter,

    will sprout golden and everlasting.

    Nor am I going to some parlour,

    to repose in bespoke armchair,

    whilst they settle garnishing a well appointed vase,

     never to lose their lustre.

    Strew over me reams of paper and failsafe pen.

    So that I buried underneath, will reach out and write messages of pleading: listing all the prayers I beseech to be said in my favour.

    For I die laden,

    expecting no more clemency,

     than the sum of consideration for my fellow man in my actions.

    BRIDGE

    TALK OF MY DEMISE IS PREMATURE

    Proudly Afrikan Get Well Messages

    Talk of my demise is premature; ‘tis a matter of nomenclature, on the use of the proper suture, to put right my errant future.

    Death was called rather early, for a thing that happened nearly, the bullet grazing me barely, were it truly told fairly.

    The need to report is paramount, on issues that are tantamount to losing a major amount of cache at the Fairmount.

    The Fairmount is just a doorway, for the up and up to walk away, from those eager to gain sway, not in a just and fair way.

    It’s also a major platform for those who want to transform, teaching them how to reform, by learning how to conform.

    Best suited for boarding a path to massive hoarding, it will always be according conflicting reasons for the fording.

    Tell me, did you ever wonder, that things would go yonder, the drunken slap and slander, to a gun shooting blunder?

    But I’m the kind of fellow who will seat and be mellow even if one calls him yellow, I will not huff and bellow.

    Yet I suffer from a tendency, to dismiss all manner of decency from the conscience with urgency, when prospecting for large currency.

    Tender regard is a mere delusion of laboring under an illusion that really only causes confusion about such and such solution.

    Who would not respond with gratitude, to a choice array of platitude, given with proper attitude and verisimilitude?

    There’s a new spotted breed that grows like a reed, whose one and only creed, is blind unfettered greed.

    You meet them everywhere, looking for gear to wear, with only one cross to bear, never to be poor dear!

    Always with somewhere to go, never missing a chance to grow, a family bereavement will forego, for any governmental farrago.

    ‘Tis no sin to be callow, about the doings of the shallow in times that are so fallow, give or take once being sallow.

    So how can you talk of my demise, when you do nothing but surmise about something of a surprise, ‘tis nothing but damn lies?

    BRIDGE

    CRY UNTIL YOUR WELLS RUN DRY MY LOVE

    African Tears

    Cry until your wells run dry my love.

    Let your tears fall deep into the ground,

     forming rivers that course underground caverns aimlessly;

    sprouting  only as a spring of anguish and despair.

    Hunch your shoulders,

     maul and disfigure face;

    Mark yourself with the hatred you nurtured to imprison my love.

    And in the stinging heat,

     when your tears evaporate,

    watch them linger midair,

    too fat with despair,

     to soar heavenward.

    So,  listlessly fall,

    to germinate a bitter fruit

    for you to eat

     and make cry once more.

    HOW DIFFERENT ARE WE?: AN ANALYSIS OF A XENOPHOBIC SOUTH AFRICA

    2013 - 06.07

    REBECCA PHIYEGA

    Sometimes I wonder to myself that as humans are we that different? Do we find our commonality in the differences we have or do the differences make us more common than we ever thought of? The recent occurrences of “Xenophobic Attacks” in South Africa have not only made weary of a place I have come to call home earth, however it has made question the very essence of being. How do we define ourselves as humans and what is at the heart of humanity?

    Metro FM had an advertising campaign many years ago “What makes you black?” It had the questions is it the colour of your skin? Is it the shape of your lips? Is it where you live? Or is it the way you move? It is ironic that I had to remember this campaign for it is in this campaign that the urban culture that built the very cities we live in that made us feel African. In a way this ad campaign encapsulated what Steve Biko the father of black consciousness advocated. A state of true Azanianism a state where we are proud to be Africans without fear, A state of pride and being able to respect one another that most of us felt that we were moving to a state of consciousness and it expressed the true essence of where we should be as a nation. If Africa is for African’s then surely what I saw last week did not demonstrate our understanding of who we are as people, it did not evoke emotions of pride especially that we are supposed to be getting to a state of consciousness as humans where we are global beings. I was horrified to see the pictures that I saw on TV with a Mozambican man being burnt alive. I attended a seminar last month where Deepak Chopra described human beings as being some of the most dangerous predators that ever lived: “We kill our own, rape our own, hurt our own and what separates from all the other animals in the animal kingdom is that we do it with a conscience.

    I am an advertising person and my world is dictated by pictures, It is dictated by colours and shapes but when those shapes are the stuff that horror movies are made of only this time we are not in make believe world but in a real world, the director behind the movie is not going to shout cut it is wrap let’s take the reel for it is real. There will be no numerous takes however the eventual – DEATH. Ernesto Alphabeto Nahmwavane was burnt to death in front of millions and no one was there to stop the onslaught of the crowd, no one stopped to hear his silent cry, people just went on to enjoy yet another scene as long it did not affect them directly it was okay, as long as they were not in another country it was okay. Have people ever thought that when we visit other countries we are foreigners or Kwerekwere’s in those countries? Or maybe in our limited thinking and lives we do not have aspirations of visiting far-away lands because we are so sheltered in our own back yards?

    Ernesto had dreams and aspirations like most of us, he wanted to make a living and did not contribute to the human race by selling drugs, killing people he was a brick layer, he probably built most of the buildings that we feel we want to live in and he wanted to provide for his family. However in a spur of the moment some of us played God because we have never stopped to listen, to try and understand the differences in others, the cultures that they hold dear to them.

    The question that I kept on asking myself as all this events are unfolding, by having foreigners removed from South Africa, will we really have secure  jobs? Will our economy improve or have people not seen that the world is moving into a recession mode. Yes probably there is crime in South Africa however it is not entirely created by foreigners, because there has always been crime in our neighbourhoods. Will it help to remove foreign men from the mix of our landscape in South Africa make our local men treat women better? Will men over night change and start treating women differently? I do not think so and trust me I love everything about this country and would love to get to a point where I tell stories of success and pride and human progression. I bet you the guy who started the fire or set alight Ernesto still does not have a job today, it is not like he earned an accolade for burning an innocent human being?

    We have become a society that discusses the petty and not the real crux of our issues. There is moral degeneration, we do not hold firm our spirituality, we have no regard for human life, we have no regard for other people’ private space, we have no regard for our elders; we have no plans to preserve our culture an indigenous languages. We do not have plans to dream and we fear the unknown. We are a society that is reactive and not proactive. We do not offer solutions unless those solutions are damaging, what is worse is that as young people we require strong leadership to take us to the next level as South Africans. My last thought would be “Do not do onto others what you would not like done onto you”.

    HAMBA KAHLE, VUYO: GO WELL, SON OF AFRICA. WE WILL MISS YOU.

    2013 - 05.30

    DR. LYNETTE HLONGWANE

    Vuyo embodied what’s possible in South Africa. I felt safe in his presence. I felt secure in his voice, on radio or television. On “Morning Live” he was a good beginning to the day.

    Proudly Afrikan Vuyo

    He had a special way to trim off the sharp and rough edges of our collective challenges as South Africans. He assured us it is still a beautiful day, and we can still afford to go ahead, and have a lovely day. In our deeply divided society, Vuyo was the glue that put together our disintegrating selves. At times there’d be such stark naked hatred expressed in messages at the bottom of the television screen or from callers on radio, it would be difficult for some of us to stomach. But Vuyo had the gift to rise above it all. If he had to respond and correct the nasty attitude, without being confrontational, he’d be self-assured and firm.

    Vuyo was mindful of how far we’ve come as a people and as a country. He cherished this. He did not take the present gains for granted, disappointments notwithstanding. I observed lots of hope in him, a vision of a better South Africa, one that is still in the making. It feels so wrong that he is now gone, no longer here to shepherd us, his way, through all of this stuff – at times quite maddening, hope leaking stuff! But God is God!

    Sharp Sharp, Vuyo! You made a memorable mark during your sojourn among us. Rest in Peace at God’s Feet!

    JOU MA SE SECRECY BILL: SOUTH AFRICANS SPEAK UP

    2013 - 05.28

    THE AVAAZ TEAM Dear friends, At any moment Zuma could sign the Secrecy Bill into law — one of the worst attacks on democracy and free speech since Apartheid. But we can force him to give the courts a final say, saving our free speech rights. PROUDLY AFRIKAN JOU MA SE SECRECY The President has the power to send controversial bills to the Constitutional Court before they are enacted to make sure they don’t violate our most precious freedoms. But he’s only going to delay the Secrecy Bill’s corrupt protections for his own government if there’s a massive nation-wide outcry. We only have days to make sure he hears it. PROUDLY AFRIKAN PROTEST He’s already feeling the heat, but the bill could be signed any day now. Click below to call on Zuma to protect our constitution and follow the law. Then forward this email to everyone: http://www.avaaz.org/en/zumas_secret_loc/?tLiGKeb The Secrecy Bill would be bad news for South Africa. Really bad. Under it, anyone who looks at leaked classified files (like journalists reporting on government graft or everyday citizens accessing them online — anyone!) could get up to 25 years in jail, regardless of how important the story is to the public. The bill that passed included important revisions, but they fall far short of what’s needed: far too many officials still have the power to unaccountably classify documents, and the exemption added for whistleblowers has a major loophole that could make it all but useless in practice. Altogether, the law would be a major roadblock in our ability to uncover and investigate government corruption. PROUDLY AFRIKAN ZAPIRO SECRECY   Citizens can bring the Secrecy Bill to court after it’s passed, but the process takes a long time and could cost millions. Even so, many legal experts say that the law pretty clearly violates our free speech rights. Zuma has the chance to give the constitution the respect it deserves and have the court review the bill before it becomes law and starts doing damage. The clock is ticking and we don’t have a moment to lose. Let’s push Zuma to respect the law before it’s too late. Click below to sign and forward to everyone: http://www.avaaz.org/en/zumas_secret_loc/?tLiGKeb When the Secrecy Bill was first tabled in 2010 and brought to vote in 2011, Avaaz members joined the national call for freedom over secrecy, along with the diverse organizations behind the Right to Know Campaign. Now we have a chance to step in again and keep the pressure up on Zuma’s attack on our democracy. With hope, Iain, David, Emily, Sam, Ricken, Alice, and the Avaaz team. PROUDLY AFRIKAN NANDOS SECRECY AD

    THIS SONG IS A WARNING: SIFISO SUDAN AND SOUTH AFRICAN LEADERSHIP

    2013 - 05.02

    ANDREW MILLER

    Creative youth like rapper Sifiso Sudan having been telling our leadership to stop buggering around for a while now. Wouldn’t it be great if our power players got their snouts out of the trough for long enough to clear their ears and listen? Indeed. It would be even better if they weren’t the only leaders we had.

    London Youth Protest

    London Youth Riot

    It’s easy, when discussing our current leadership crisis, to head straight to the Guptas’ arrival at Waterkloof airforce base. Or to Danny Jordaan, explaining with a straight face how the purchase of 20-something luxury Mercedes vehicles for the Safa big guys somehow constitutes sports development.

    Gupta Wedding

    The Gupta Family Wedding

    But what about the rest?

    What about the general media? How is it that we accept so easily the scorn poured onto our heads via our TV programming (or lack thereof)? Are Cosby re-runs across all national channels all we deserve as a nation? What does this tell us about what our media leaders think of us as a people? What about eTV’s snake movies? The station is cynical and brazen in its continual re-running of a core set of very old flicks featuring either Nicholas Cage, large snakes, Cedric the Entertainer or a Marvel Comics character. Is this any way to handle the responsibility that comes with broadcasting power?

    Yes, the government fat men radiate opulence and cynicism with their blue lights and 4x4s, but do our other big-earning leaders and business owners and celebrities not drive very similar vehicles? Gareth Cliff, for example, is happy to take partially amusing (and completely justified, it must be said) satirical pot shots at JZ and Mac on his 5FM breakfast show, and then, without a shadow of irony, treats us to “music” from the depths of generic global entertainment hell, before trotting off to judge Idols, a talent format designed to pull all originality and spark out of our aspirant young creatives until they finally fit the global pop star mould. Where is the social leadership? Is he the example we are supposed to follow? Is reality TV land our true creative/social nirvana? South Africa produces a good deal of powerful creative content within the realm of pop culture, but it seldom receives mass market listenership. Why? Because the effort of showcasing socially relevant and original music is just too much for those in leadership positions. Our media leaders want to bank their salaries. They do not want to alter a global status quo which has evolved over decades explicitly to generate revenue through the ad infinitum repetition of generic global beats.

    Take, for example, the hip hop track Smoke, by Sifiso Sudan. In a society in danger of completely losing its practical and philosophical bearings, Sudan, through Smoke, offers an illuminating take on where we are as a people. He shines a light on our social cancer – the resulting view isn’t pretty, but at least if feels true. Will we ever hear Smoke on the radio? Of course not. No one has risked championing this song.

    Sifiso Sudan is one of the more enigmatic characters working on the South African music scene. I ask him about the trajectory of his music career and he slips past the question twice (with most artists, the query sparks a three-hour monologue on the state of the entertainment business blah blah blah). Sudan’s social attitude reflects a hidden yet important aspect of local youth culture. He is one of a cluster of artists who are more social activists than musical careerists. They work in their communities, and let the light fall where it may. Sudan is not fundamentally coy, however. I ask him what Smoke is all about, and there is no ducking.

    Smoke is about our leadership,” he says. “Because soon we will see people around the world rising up against leadership that has sold them down the river. The penalty for them will be severe. This song is a warning to them.”

    Released as part of African Dope’s Cape of Good Dope II compilation early in 2009, Smoke is a tantalising piece of hip hop. The production is slick, the beat is captivating and Sudan delivers one of the most delightfully slippery sets of political lyrics of the post 1994 era. The song sits awkwardly on the Cape of Good Dope II compilation, however, which is ultimately a collection of broken and abused beats, collated for the specific enjoyment of those who live in and around club land. Indeed, the track is filled with duality. The repetition of the word smoke in the chorus can, at a casual listen, simply be assumed to refer to a desire for (more) marijuana. As with all good hip hop, lyrical and thematic deconstruction requires effort. Sudan lets us have enough, just enough, and no more.

    Proudly Afrikan Cape of Good Dope 2

    The key to Smoke is the chorus, but it is given its power by a set of verses that encapsulate South Africa’s current social discord: 

    1st verse qoute

    Our politicians write their speeches /

    then it’s back to the beaches /

    summer bunnies,  4×4’s /

    What does this teach us?

    2nd verse quote

    They live a life of lazy living /

    though I’ve gotta hand /

    best conditions on the planet /

    underwears are branded /

    helicopters landed on the playground where I went to school /

    rich kids don’t have to act cool /

    they’re never stranded

    I’ll tell you a secret /

    rich people don’t bling /

    Mandela washed away their sins /

    tonight they sleep with a grin /

    But Nyambo made a soundtrack for the have nots back /

    guilt free money that we won’t get back.

     

    All of which makes the chorus, even though half of the lyric is alluringly muffled, ring ominously true:

     

    Chorus

    We’re all broke/

    but check the murder I wrote/

    You’re a joke and you can quote/

    Brother we’re all broke.

    When all we needed was hope/

    Hope in smoke.

    You make it foggy for the good folks./

    Sudan grew up in KwaZulu-Natal but lived in New York from age 13 until he was a young adult. It was in the Big Apple that he started rapping, and he brought his skills back to the local hip hop underground. With Smoke he hits on a fundamental truth – namely that it’s nigh impossible in South Africa at the moment to identify exactly who the metaphorical “murderer” is. He subverts the typical South African racial approach, replacing it with a more current and nuanced South African social offender: a 4 x 4-driving, beach-loving suburbanite who sleeps with a grin, untroubled by the forces of history that are klapping so many in the immediate vicinity. Is the murderer a businessman? A politician? An advertising exec? An Apartheid-era nationalist? A unionist? Well, all of the above actually. The job description doesn’t matter. But the fact of the ongoing social murder does.

    When I asked him for his take on current politics in South Africa, Sudan’s answer encapsulated an ethos that is common across many of our creative youth, but that seldom finds voice beyond social media.

    “I read up on politicians not to hear about their celebrity lifestyles but because I’m concerned about our future in their hands,” he says. “Every day I see people around me who are better role models. Better organisers. More patient teachers. Harder workers. And more visual and vivid thinkers. Yet these people are silent. They are absent. They are tweeting. And that is why we are in the condition we’re in. In our music today we are calling all Kings. We are calling all Queens. We are [calling] the rightful heirs to the throne.”

    Sudan is by no means alone. The notion of profound social rot recurs, for example, in the work of young folk singer Bongeziwe Mabandla. He operates on the other side of the musical spectrum to Sudan, but he sends essentially the same message in his song “FREEDOM”:

    Proudly Afrikan Bongezwa Mabandla

    I used to believe in justice /

    and tales with joyful endings /

    that no one could ever struggle /

    until their life is over /

    but I had to go and change my mind /

    when I see the truth before me /

    is it everyone for themselves? /

    is that the way we’re conditioned?

    There are significant numbers of creative youth in our communities who work hard at their art and their craft not to become famous in the Idols sense, but to make a difference in the lives of their parents, siblings, children and surrounding communities. While our politicians and unionists roar around in blue-lit 4x4s… while our businesspeople bemoan the state of the country from the safety of the golf estate… while our media celebrities douse our spirit with their so-called content, these socially conscious youth are carefully trying to stitch the rotten fabric of our country back together. In the process they write songs and poems which we really can’t be bothered to listen to. Because it takes too much effort. Because Rhianna and Jay Z and the rest are easier to instinctively swallow and digest.

    Rappers and poets are not the only youth sending messages to leadership, and the message is by no means being sent within South Africa alone. In 2011 London’s youth tore the city to shreds in a raw rebellion that was treated with disdainful alarm by the likes of Sky News, the British parliament and the BBC. Egyptian youth kicked out their leader. In the US, young and not-so-young counter culture types delivered a conceptually vague – yet still notable – sit-in protest outside Wall Street, while our own youngsters have been burning down their shoddy communities for years in service delivery protests that our leaders glibly write off as irresponsible, before heading to their holiday homes and celebrity weddings. Globally, youth are warning their leaders in many different ways. Poetry and music are actually the easiest to perceive and accommodate, but still we pay them scant regard.

    The evidence mounting up around us through each strike season is clear: South Africa urgently requires a philosophical and economic revolution. Our society is structurally fragile and has been so since worthless beads were swapped for valuable land all those centuries ago. It is naïve indeed to expect anything to change now, unless we actually decide to change it ourselves. Sudan and his peers are saying this challenge currently rests in the hands of leaders who, thus far, have shown us only the disturbing sight of their rapidly fattening asses. Sudan says we are outsourcing important ideas of social change to people we don’t trust, and who we increasingly struggle to respect, and in
    doing so he makes a very good point. In calling for the young Kings and Queens, Sudan et al are saying South African society needs to seriously re-look its essential ideas of leadership. The logical end of Sudan’s idea is that it is us (you, me, your neighbour, the jock on the radio station) who are the true, required leadership in South Africa. If that’s the case, then we might all need to start thinking as seriously about our own behaviour as we do about that of the easy targets. DAILY MAVERICK

    Andrew Miller is a poet and freelance writer. He is also a founder of Unity Design, a socially orientated arts space operating in Newtown, Johannesburg.

     

    HEATHEN SONGS OF THE NATIVES

    2013 - 04.09

    CHARLES NHAMO RUPARE

    Music is a cornerstone of humanity’s struggle for freedom and progress. Fela Kuti reminds us of this when he said ‘music is a weapon’. Song and change are intertwined and have steered humanity through trying times.  Pipe smoking elders in Zimbabwe who spend lazy afternoons playing Mbira say a grunt in a chant spells trouble. The African struggle has been long and debilitating. At the heart of this struggle for independence in countries such as Zimbabwe, Ghana or South Sudan music played a crucial role in giving the spirit courage to overcome.

    Traditional healers of Africa say music is the healer. Incitements under the Apartheid era in South Africa were led by courageous youth who used song to encourage others to join their quest for freedom. Once, I heard soldiers toyi-toyi in the dead of the night in Mutasa, Mutare during the second Chimurenga war and I knew that freedom music was the exit point of our frustrations. There are many stories told across Africa where music was a lubricant for change.  Over the years, I have come to understand freedom music as the soundtrack of our lives. Freedom music comes from the heart. It articulates raw emotions – good or bad. To undersand change in Africa one has to listen to the sound of its story told through music.

    Queen Madosini

    In my grand mother’s kitchen two things occupied the walls – a Chipendane* and a bow. They represented harmony and protection for our family. This is the backdrop of Free-Dome music. I call it this because its potency lies in inciting the mind to question social realities. Afrika’s musical tradition has been developing bar lines of freedom music from antiquity and it’s safe to say that King Shaka’s battle cries were composed and choreographed to serve as tools of intimidation and self confidence. Vusa’mazulu Credo Mutwa in his book, Indaba My Children, wrote of the origin of all the first music instruments and the Goddess who created them, Queen Marimba. This gives us a sneak peek into music’s role in African tradition and its influence on African spirituality from antiquity.

    Traditional compositions of melodies and lyrics is created with community performances in mind and as such, these compositions do not seek to combine sounds to suit a particular taste. Their purpose is to express life – culturally, spiritually and socially. Another aspect of traditional music is its ability to fuse natural sounds with spoken word to create music. This can be found in simple structures of Malombo music or the haunting melodies of the Jeliya of Mali.

    Freedom music is rooted in self expression but most importantly it’s an expression that portrays community outlook.  To the trained ear traditional music gives an impression that pentatonic scales, hexagonic scales or polyphony are used, but the secret lies with the untrained ear –it’s the translation of emotions into sounds. It is an outward presentation of our thoughts and feelings.

    Afrikan compositions tell stories that bring colour to our everyday lives. There are songs for weddings, working, hunting, farming, death, and fishing. The era of  colonisation brought with it a different perspective not only on Afrikan lifestyles but music development. It added another dimension to the purpose of composing a song – suffering. The systemising of education created a process of learning and worshipping  and with it came Anglo Saxon schools and churches. These institutions became the training ground for music in what is known as Choirs.  This new platform created a new found symbiotic relationship between religion and revolution. We cannot deny this fact. Musicians in early tribal wars produced many songs of revolution and proclamation. They not only became the repositories of community and family history but also the first voices to communicate the community’s feelings.

    This early development of freedom music to some degree, assisted in fuelling the fire that enabled Afrikan nations to defeat imperialists. In South Africa, music was the weapon that gave comrades courage to keep up the fight. The same was experienced in Namibia, Mozambique and Zambia. In 1980, Bob Marley incited comrades in Zimbabwe to rise up and claim their land. The early settlers on our continent brought with them many things but none more life changing than schools and churches. Before this time people praised the creative creator. They tuned into this creative force and fashioned songs of joy and awe. The western approach to music and religion created a meeting place that gave birth to choral music. A lot of compositions took on this early developing route of which, gospel music played a critical role. It started flourishing in small communities across South Africa but it’s important to note here that this change did not remove our ability to express our true emotions. During these early days South Africa was overwhelmed by new cultures and continuous displacement of people.

    The reality of living in one’s own land as a foreigner was beginning to frustrate Afrikans and in their efforts to appease the almighty, western religion took hold of our mothers and through them, singing was re-fashioned and directed at the creator asking for salvation, and relief from oppression.

    The South African natives caused commotions with their songs of hope, freedom and salvation. The dawning of the 20th century brought with it events that transformed South Africa and also led up to a free society we live in today. Up until 1949 lyrics did not court political confrontation mainly because black politicians in those days belonged to a select few elites.

    Change came through a common man whose contribution to our history – “Nkosi Sikele i Afrika” changed the role of music in channeling emotions. Elder Enoch Sontonga composed a hymn that asked for blessings and salvation for people of the land. This song was a major turning point in the evolution of freedom music and it spread across Southern Africa. Its appeal lay in its deliberate invocation of God as the protector and deliverer of freedom. Dr. Cornell West says one cannot remove religion or Christianity from liberation struggles and he is right; Elder Enoch’s song transcended the dualistic idealism and evolved into a liberation song of unified hope. Countries such as Zimbabwe and Zambia honoured elder Sontonga by using his composition as their national anthems.

    Dr John Dube of the Ohlange institute amplified Elder Sontonga’s composition through various performances. This twist in the journey of South Africa’s freedom music changed the way music was composed. It brought with it emotive driven melodies. Songs began to express feelings of the day such as the Song of Oppressive Act. They married politics and music and gave birth to various genres that used songs to reach the young and old. Gone were the black elites who occupied high chairs. The wheels of liberation had started to turn. Music became a political weapon and a loud speaker of retaliation. Songs like “Umteto we land act” became the blue print on which the South African Native National Congress (SANNC) declared their intention to free South Africa.

    The state of the nation became the subject matter of many compositions. Old songs like “Senzenina” took on a different meaning. The  African American influence in Afrikan freedom music surfaced and was largely  sparked in 1891 by Orpheus McDoo and his Jubilee singers. Black South Africans identified with their African American brothers and composers shifted their styles (i.e. Rueben Thokalele Caluza’s Ragtime compositions) to fit in with the flavour of the day.

    Between 1920 and 1993 compositions became a blend of nationalism with moral / Christian viewpoints. They articulated deteriorating socio-political conditions and the evils of the god head. Songs like “I dipu eTekwini” articulated one of the most de-humanising aspects of apartheid. It called for a condemnation of white city administrators who introduced a new dispensation that required all black work seekers to undergo “deverminisation” in dipping tanks for public hygiene. A few South African musicians found their way to other continents and continued to spread the message. Whilst Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba were setting the scene in America, Johnny Dyani was grooving to Song for Biko in Denmark. Freedom music was now in the hands of global South Africans whose sole careers flourished because of their persistent  call for freedom in South Africa.

    In Kwazulu, Eastern Cape and other regions political groups were being organised and members were educated through song. They used extended melodies with words to tell of their situation. The American connection stayed strong in the form of Jazz compositions by the likes of Dudu Pukwana, Kippie Moeketsi and Abdullah Ibrahim. The melodies of freedom songs took on a different groove driven by the evolution of Jazz within the Afrikan society.

    The creation of Townships such as South West Township (Soweto) created a new reality for Afrikans. Life in the ghetto began to grow as people from different parts of the country moved to big cities in search of work. Lucky Dube’s Prisoner and Leta Mbulu’s Not Yet Uhuru propagated the never ending struggle of native South Africans to gain independence.  The behaviour of native South Africans began to shift to adapt to new environments and as such the direction of freedom music followed suit.

    The era of Motown and bump jive showcased urban living to the masses and with it the heightened activities of political struggle. This change saw Sophia town emerging as a haven for gangsters, priests, musicians and political debaters. The Sharpeville massacre and the 1976 uprising took a lot out of people and the need to fight the oppressor heightened. Groups like The Beaters used their musical instruments to smuggle youngsters into exile to join the liberation struggle.

    The death of Hastings Ndlovu in June 1976 in Soweto triggered wide spread violence in South Africa.  Feet shuffling and toyi –toyi were amplified by freedom music. ‘We shall overcome!’ they sang, defying the false hope the sun brought. This attitude became the spirit of defiance that swept the nation from villages to townships. Old songs underwent changes to reflect the mood of the people and one such example was the song ‘Senzenina’ which asserted a sense of worth and belonging for the common man. It also critiqued the political climate calling for recognition of the Afrikan voice within.

    The 80’s brought accelerated urbanisation and continued  influences from American music. Malcolm X and Martin Luther King were symbols of association and musicians began to take on a philosophical approach which was popularised by the emergence of  black consciousness through the powerful sound of Reggae Music. South African greats used their exile status to push the idea of revolution through song. In fact, all exiled musicians took on this stance and artists such as, Kippie Moeketsi, Lefifi Tladi and Johnny Dyani debated freedom in South Africa through musical compositions and poetry. Mbaqanga and township pop created a cacaphony of songs that addressed personal experiences; political and social.

    In the 1980’s Lucky Dube featured prominently and through his music the plight of Afrikan natives to the global community got amplified. Remnants of early forms of freedom music echoed in compositions by Gospel and Jazz musicians. This era highlighted the growing frustrations of oppressed Afrikans and the need for freedom. Thami Myeni’s Medu projects in Botswana use both art and music to chronicle the changing voice of the people. The singing tradition continued in many parts of the country and fuelled protest marches that eventually resulted in apartheid being abolished and the ushering of a new South Africa.

    The message changed in 1994 and musicians in South Africa and abroad found a new voice. The effects of apartheid still endurd and the emergence of popular culture sparked a youth movement that used music to expres aspects of urban living, education and economic empowerment. Kwaito music was born in this new country called South Africa and presented hints of a rebelious disposition.  This genre of freedom music was and still is the most potent urban music to come out of Johannesburg and it drew attention to living conditions in townships. Arthur Mafokate’s hit song ‘kaffir” reflected the new freedoms that emerged after the political changes of 1994. The song’s lyrics were fiery and addressed the classist society that placed the native at the bottom of the food chain.  Music became a tool for young people to bring attention to their own communities and expressed an attitude of self- expression, self-reliance and determination.  Many other artists such as Boom Shaka, Trompies and Brothers of Peace epitomized the changing times in South Africa.

    A genre that revolutionized freedom music came in the form of Hip Hop music. This genre emerged as another powerful voice that had its history in praise poetry and slave songs from America. Prophets of the City, Black Noise and the iconic Open Mind Sessions in Johannesburg gave birth to a new Pan Afrikan voice that used music to ask questions and to project a positive outlook. Artists such as Public Enemy, KRS – One and Poor Righteous Teachers influenced the modern song of the heathen in Afrika. Today, hip-hop music has become the number one genre in the world all because it allowed the voiceless to express themselves in their language with their own style. It might not be what it used to be but its message still encourages the listener to seek knowledge of self. Freedom music is alive and well as seen though the works of Tumi, Sfiso Sudan, Zubz, Obitha and numerous other acts that use their artistry to effect change.

    Zubz

    This is but a snippet of a story that can be told in many ways. I guess the question to ask is; is freedom music still relevant today and in the future? We are in the throes of globalisation after all; and the protest principle has sailed the world wide web as witnessed in North Afrika. We have been entertained by the comedy of Afri Forum and Julius Malema “toyi toying” to the Dubula iBhunu song. Do these events project a world that is changing and in need of a different tune? I believe the role of freedom music is yet to be exhausted in our communities.

    Today the pulse of freedom music has evolved from political to economic freedom. A month ago we witnessed the sad events that took place in Marikana, North West of South Africa where the police gunned down miners protesting over wages.  These miners were led by song and courage to demand a piece of this rainbow nation pie. The nation is in a tailspin  of political struggle for  dominance where he with the most wealth wields political and commercial power. The nature of freedom music needs to evolve to speak out against the battles we face today such as  greed and corruption. Our songwriters and composers are needed in earnest to raise these issues and inspire people to protect their freedom. Freedom music still has a role to play in defining our collective future. It will remain potent  and its tales will contunue to be told by generations to come.

    About Charles Nhamo Rupare:

    Charles Nhamo Rupare is of Shona origin and lives life through the creative eye. He is an award-winning Afrikan-centred brand specialist, percussionist, writer and a Pan-Afrikan instigator of thought. He is co-founder of Kush Kollective, Sankofa Republik, African Compass International and a Partner at TEDxSoweto (www.tedxsoweto.co.za). He hosted TEDxSoweto 2012. He consults to various organisations on Afrikan creativity, art, music, brand building and social development. He can be reached at nhamo@kush.co.za or Twitter handle: @Rupare