Where do we go as Black People in order to find spaces that are conducive to our Spiritual, Socio-Economic and Cultural Growth?
The institutions that we presently have are not cutting it. There is no church, temple or mosque; bar, tavern or gym; social club or jazz club ( except perhaps for the Afrikan Freedom Station) in Jozi, which caters for the wretched souls of black folks.
In the urban areas, almost all spaces are owned by white people. All spaces are either commercial entities with obvious profit focus. The Non Governmental and Social/Cultural spaces also have their specific mandates and visions which do not always serve the holistic Cultural vision of Revolutionary youth, artistic innovators or alternative creative workers.
One of most enabling spaces in the EThekwini/Durban City is the BAT Centre. Since the later 90’s and through the early 2000s this Community Arts Centre has contributed to the honing of many talents.
There are so many performance artists, visual artists, poets, writers, street-artists and even activists from various fields who have participated and continue to do so in this space.
Perhaps it is presumptuous to even assume that certain people require more spaces such as this one. It is possible that any artist worth the name can thrive and work her or his craft in relative obscurity and then simply find expression and audience in the already established galleries, stages, walls and social media platforms which are available.
But the Revolutionary, the Black radical revolutionary in particular whose conscience and mind is fed by the unfettered Love of people, by the ideas of seeing changes in the social structure, where does she or he find the Books, the films, the kindred souls and the music and art that can nourish their body, mind and soul?
Shall we not strive to turn our homes, workplaces, public spaces and social mediums into such spaces?
If this happens, how will we achieve the long hoped for ideal of Black Consciousness mass mobilization, the Pan Afrikanist ideal of Afrikan unity that can overturn the world as we know it and usher in the Social Ma’at ( Peace, Justice, Rightness) that so many have striven for?
I have had the good fortune of being in many such Black spaces. Some were not necessarily exclusively black, but there was an abundant FLOW of Black Music, Arts, rhetoric and wine, herbs and good food. Yet people ‘grow up’, move on and while some graduate in their various pursuits in life, others transition to the Ancestral dimension.
When was younger I used to retreat from the bustling city into a house called …and then there was the Writers Corner at the basement/roof of the BAT Centre’s art studio. Around the year 2007, Papy Kaluw, an eclectic and eccentric fashion designer and I started a brand-house called Urban Zulu (inspired by the Life and music of Busi MhlongoAlthough it was a commercial entity dealing in clothes, accessories, books, music and occasional performances, Urban Zulu became one of the hang-suites or go to spots for Creatives and even the outcasts in Durban. Later the our store started attracting the wrong kind of attention and was forced to shutdown. It lasted for only 2 years but the brand has taken a new form and continues very successfully in various parts of Johannesburg.
Yet the idea of such spaces which are a type of retreat from over-determining Whiteness and materialism,lives on. We still seek for spaces which are definitively Afro-Futurist, Sankofasist and Afrika-logical. These are spaces where we can debate and organise business-wise and also spirit-wise. Where victims of psychological, social and systematic abuse can find Peace of Mind, Peace of Bread and a Way out of the rat-race, but most of all, a place where we can collectively plan and execute the radical Transformation of the present systems. It obviously all begins with the MINDS.
The Kilombo Village idea instigated by former Pastor Xola Sikosana is one such space. But more about that later. But you can read a bit about the Way of Life Church/Kilombo Village here: The Black Space – Our Spaces