The ZIMBABWE Connection: Our Stories Our Future
29 January 2018
Firstly I would like to begin with a brief history of Charles Mungoshi, and then I will proceed with other authors who have made a mark in the minds of readers. This project is intended to connect the SADC region through story-telling, reading, promotion of literature and literacy in one of the most resource rich regions in the world. The resources are both human and material/mineral as well as environmental. This idea popped into my mind as I was doing research on Dambudzo Marechera, and this led to my reading up on some of his contemporaries. The work of Memory Chirere has been invaluable in this pursuit. The other ambition is the completion of my own book of essays, poems and stories which I call The House of Plenty.
The vision I have is not only to appreciate and promote the work of the Afrikan writers, but to also find other avenues wherein their personal and imaginative stories can come to life and perhaps help with the program of regional integration or the socioeconomic and cultural intercourse of Afrikan peoples, beginning with the SADC region, in particular South Africa, Zimbabwe and Swaziland. Let me start by offering a brief biography of one of the truly stellar writers, a Zimbabwean living legend, Charles Mungoshi. I am lifting this from Memory Chirere’s website.
Who is Charles Mungoshi?
“Born to a rural farming community in Chivhu on 2 December 1947, Mungoshi has very humble origins and has remained down to earth despite his international stature. Until the time he fell ill recently, he had travelled across Zimbabwe, mentoring young and new writers, sometimes for no fee. Records at the Budding Writers Association of Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe Women Writers association can bear testimony. He has mentored or directly influenced younger writers, among them Ignatius Mabasa, Ruzvidzo Mupfudza, Albert Nyathi, Joice Mutiti, Lawrence Hoba, Chiedza Musengezi, Thabisani Ndlovu, myself and others. His style of writing has become a brand. In honor of his amazing ambidexterity and depth, the University of Zimbabwe – conferred an honorary doctorate degree (Doctor of Letters-DLitt) on him on Friday 14 November 2003.
The essence of Mungoshi literature is about grappling with the issues of home, identity and belonging in the changing times. He is constantly asking key questions: Do we truly belong to this land? Is it possible to belong here and elsewhere? What must we change and what exactly must continue and why? Is there any space for the individual in our quest for collective glory? Are we right? Are we wrong? In this quest Mungoshi pens “The Accident” a short story from Coming of the Dry Season which seems to question and challenge the stance of a people living under minority rules – the book lands him in trouble and is banned in Rhodesia only to re-appear later and has been studied in schools ever since. Mungoshi’s writings have also tended to evoke that strong sense of Zimbabweaness.”
+By Memory Chirere, Harare
In my essays and poems, I would like to explore what it really feels, looks and sounds like to be be Zimabwean. The first frontier is to learn the languages, beginning with Shona then Ndebele and the other Shona dialects. I have already bought the books but we all know the best way to learn a language is to immerse oneself into the culture, to be among and speak to the people as regularly as possible. The key is to listen to the Zimbabweaness. This will require me to slightly suspend other judgements because to be Afrikan also means to exist as a neo-colonial subject of empire.
In this quest to gain understanding of the people I am living among, I shall strive to look at phenomena through the eyes of Artists, Creators as well as ordinary people. But I will also don the spectacles of diplomats, religious and other public personalities such as the overtly optimistic and motivational radio DJ’s.
SUNDAY, JULY 23, 2017
Memory Chirere reading (from Tudikidiki) to a writing workshop audience on top of Chisiya Hill, Zvishavane 2016, October.
The Eloquence of Dancing Bottoms Where Everything Crawls Back to Art:
Prefatory Notes on LIVE LIKE AN ARTIST
By Robert Muponde, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.
It is a life spent on carefully quarrying the soil and stones of experience for that blinding yet familiar insight (if you imagine the striking ordinariness of lightning and the terrifying deadliness of its familiarity).
David Sunny Mungoshi’s critical voice significantly shaped the republic of letters in Zimbabwe. At some point in his career, he presented his critical persona in the legendary garb of one Chigango Musandireve; a witty, robust and acerbic critic. The barbed but playfully scorching witticisms have now been recalled into service once again, but presented as a bouquet of poems that traces the broad and complex expanse of an artist’s imagination and life.
Sunny and dark, jovial and wistful, cantankerous and conciliatory, bombastic and sober; these poems are stories of a life lived fully in its contradictory, diverse and beautiful paradoxes. The yearning and despair, the nostalgia and scepticism, the harking on the past and the love of the present and the timeless; all are emotions and attitudes which are adeptly quilted in the very texture and intentions of the poems. The sense of urgency and quest for significant meaning is tempered with the cautionary tales about the new buccaneers in our midst, who seize the day (as everyone should) but blow up the ozone layer and leave us with bridges ambitiously laid over dead river beds.
The nostalgia for a golden past, whether personal or communal (the shared glory of a simplified and unified universe), is laced with a sense of urgent time (to rethink and reorient) and slippages of time (when poorly handled and misconstrued).
Nostalgia does not preclude pain and loss, disappointment and betrayal, and the “cold unfriendly days of your childhood”. It is viewed as the quest to travel light in a meaningful past and present. I am tempted to provide commentary on all the poems, but am mindful of the fact that I insisted on writing only one page, or a few paragraphs perhaps. It is not possible to capture the entirety of the experiences presented in this book, but a few examples might do.
Living as an artist, as someone not driven by profit but prophecy, not by revenue but revelation; the whole persona of the artist is imbued with an aura of creation, of origins, the coming-from-nothing (not in the sense of the much-touted rags-to-riches stories). The art does not easily sell because it is priceless, like life itself.
The quest for freedom (free-spiritedness) and happiness in “the riches of poverty”, whose cypher is the vagabond who has nothing to guard, is equally as intense as the expression of poetry embodied in “eloquent bottoms dancing/To a choreography that shakes the world”. With this primed contrast and juxtaposition, David Mungoshi jolts us into an awareness of different levels of aesthetic intellection, combinations and rhythms.
The voice is that of a versatile raconteur who has jostled with and surfed the cycles and turmoil of time; a key witness in how time ravages, repairs and recycles; and is himself both oppressed and quickened by the imminence of mortality, obsolescence and dereliction if, as in “A Poem About Time Going By”, he does not seize the moment and inspire significance in his own life and experiences. Living like an artist requires time itself to be experienced in multifarious ways. In this collection, time is experienced chiefly as a fad and a good, a heart-breaking occurrence that can start all over again, an insistent and repetitive memory; and a crutch, “time –insulating your sensibilities against memories”. The voice constantly reminds us that even for the poet, memories are “Our choicest pickings from best-forgotten episodes”.
His poetry, better appreciated as story, tends towards the expression of the delights of telling a story and the artifice of inhabiting one. When David Mungoshi throws around words like beau and belle, she-devil and Lolita, he is very much aware of the indelible footprints of cultures other than our own that have directed his reading and narrative pleasures. He is asking the reader to go with him to the ends of the world he has travelled imaginatively but with a sure and kind hand guiding him/her. What could have come across as an egregious exhibition of erudition in the poetry of other writers (such as Dambudzo Marechera) is experienced as a mellow and humane worldliness in which knowledge of other cultures is not only a good (pun intended) but a valuable accessory.
The story of time and cultures shapes the poetic expression; it is mythopoeic as in “The Legend of Sekwa the Lass” who was “too well-endowed for her own good”; prophetic and playful; caustic and cautionary; wise and jocose; serious and sentimental. Sometimes the pleasure of telling a succinct story invested with the power of an image is what is behind the imagination of pieces such as “The Green Door”. At other times it is the image, or a series of images that slip into the place of a poem and evoke powerful glimpses of epochs, mores, character and the configuration and uses of social mobility (see “The Twelve Bar Blues Story” and “Stories from My Picture Album”). Then, you have occasions when the poet wants to pontificate on human conduct and deficits such as in “Bang! Bang! Bang!” (where a woman experiences sex as a shotgun). The call to a moral compass is shrill.
I should say, in spite of the accessibility, educated jokes and puns; Live Like An Artist has its own fair share of shortcomings. Some of the poetic images in, say “Treat Me Like I Really Am Something” and “Peasant Woman’s Beauty”, are well-intended stereotypes that err on the side of caricature. Delectable belles, she-devils, lasses, studs and beaus, are meant to widen the archive and wordplay, but end up being mere idiosyncrasy on the part of the poet. However, the frame of reference is indeed wide (beyond these clichés) and adroitly incorporates musical genres, canonical literary texts, and fashion.
The poems are themselves a mixture of the purely narrative and the consciously poetic in terms of rhyme and line construction. The affectations of style and language are “all just for fun and effect”, I agree, and allude to the beautiful paradox that is central to the life of one who lives life like an artist where everything crawls back to art and, like eloquent dancing bottoms, raises chuckles and questions.”
About The Author:
Memory Chirere is a Zimbabwean writer. He enjoys reading and writing short stories and some of his are published in Nomore Plastic Balls (1999), A Roof to Repair (2000), Writing Still (2003) and Creatures Graet and Small(2005). He has published short story books; Somewhere in This Country (2006), Tudikidiki (2007)and Toriro and His Goats (2010).Together with Maurice Vambe, he compiled and edited (so far the only full volume critical text on Mungoshi called): Charles Mungoshi: A Critical Reader (2006) His new book is a 2014 collection of poems entitled: Bhuku Risina Basa Nekuti Rakanyorwa Masikati. He is with the University of Zimbabwe (in Harare) where he lectures in literature. Email: email@example.com
Recently, just before I left South Afrika for Zimbabwe, a fellow Rastafari brother who had just finished reading my book Rock ‘n Rule …asked me to write a journal about my opinion on Ethiopia, the Rastafari impact on the community as well as other personal reflections.
This will be a series dealing with my trip to Ethiopia, Shashemane as well as my thoughts regarding the tensions between the Ethiopian government and its various peoples. I will share a lot of other activists works, their opinions in addition to my own views. I believe that the time for the progressive rise of Oromo Ethiopians is inextricably tied to the socio-economic rise of Ethiopia as well as the rest of Afrika as an economic power.
I wish to also analyze just why the All Africa Rastafari Trade Conference failed to take into account the plight of Oromo people, both historically as well as the present struggles. In my opinion, any movement that ignores the struggles of the community it resides in is setting itself up for failure. I also understand that there are complexities related to the presence of Rastafari community as well as other Pan-Afrikanist movements in Ethiopia and the surrounding regions. My intention is to find out the real impact of Pan Afrikanism in Afrikan peoples daily struggles. I wish to be as practical as possible while contextualizing the various challenges that are faced by such movements both internationally and inter-continentally.
It is sad that many so called Pan-Afrikanists and even Rasta’s have very little knowledge of who the Oromo people are and why their liberation and understanding of their Spiritual system is as vital to our progress as that of other Indigenous peoples. We love to look to Ethiopia’s Christian or Abrahamic heritage, we even go as far as Egypt/Kemet yet we know so little about a people whose lives have been impacted so negatively by the Triple Heritage ( Islam, Judaism, Christianity). I became interested in Oromo people while I was researching about the impact of foreign religions on Afrikan people, my primary concern is still the Spiritual and Cultural progress of all Afrikan people. Let me share a brief history of who these people are, according to Oromo Liberation Front website:
“The People: Origin
A brief look at the early history of some of the peoples who have occupied north-eastern Africa sheds some light on the origin of the Oromos. The Oromo belongs to the Eastern Cushitic language subfamily which in turn belongs to the Afro Asiatic super family that occupied most parts of northeastern Africa. The Cushitic speakers have inhabited north-eastern and eastern Africa for as long as recorded history. The land of Cush, Nubia or the ancient Ethiopia in middle and lower Nile is the home of the Cushitic peoples. According to recorded evidence the Cushitic family separated into different linguistic and cultural groups called Northern Cush, Middle Cush, Southern Cush and Eastern Cush at around 5,000 BC. The Eastern Cushitic family in turn gradually separated into different branches between 3500 and 2000 BC. Accordingly the Oromo national group came into existence as a linguistic and cultural group or as an entity beginning from 3500 BC. The Oromo is one of the Cushitic groups which spread southwards and then east and west occupying large part of the Horn of Africa. Their physical features, culture, language and other evidences unequivocally point to the fact that they are indigenous to this part of Africa. Available information clearly indicates that the Oromo existed as a community of people for thousands of years in East Africa (Prouty at al, 1981). Bates (1979) contends, “The Gallas (Oromo) were a very ancient race, the indigenous stock, perhaps, on which most other peoples in this part of eastern Africa have been grafted”.
According to Perham (1948): “the emigrant Semites landed in a continent of which the North-East appears to have been inhabited by the eastern groups of Hamites, often called Kushites, who also include the Gallas” (Oromos). Paulitschke (1889) also indicated that Oromo were in East Africa during the Aksumite period. As recorded by Greenfield (1965), Oromo reject the view that they were late arrivals, “… old men amongst the Azebu and Rayya Galla dismiss talks of their being comparative newcomers. Their own (Abyssinians) oral history and legends attest to the fact that Oromo have been living in Rayya for a long time.” Beke (cited by Pankhurst, 1985-86) quoted the following Lasta legend: “Menilek, the son of Solomon, … entered Abyssinia from the East, beyond the country of the Rayya or Azebo Gallas (Oromos). There are also evidence (Greenfield et al, 1980) that at least by the ninth and tenth centuries there were Oromo communities around Shawa (Central Oromia) and by about the14thcentury settlements were reported around Lake Tana. The recent discovery, (Lynch and Robbins, 1978), in northern Kenya of the pillars that Oromo used in the invention of their calendar system, dated by carbon date around 300 B.C. is another indication that Oromo have a long history of presence as a community of people in northeastern part of Africa.
Different areas have been mentioned as place where the Oromo developed or differentiated into its own unique community of people or ethnic group (Braukamper, 1980). According to some ethnologists and historians, the Oromo country of origin was the south-eastern part of Oromia, in the fertile valley of Madda Walaabu in the present Baale region. This conclusion was reached mainly on the basis of some Oromo oral traditions. Bruce, an English traveler in the 17th century indicated that Sennar in the Sudan was the Oromo country of origin and that they expanded from there.
There are several Cushitic peoples in East Africa very closely related to the Oromo. For instance, the Somalis are very similar in appearance and culture. The fact that the Somali and Oromo languages share between 30 percent and 40 percent of their vocabulary could be an indication that these two groups of people became differentiated very recently. Other Cushitic-speaking groups living in the same neighborhood who are closely related to the Oromo are Konso, Afar, Sidama, Kambata, Gedeo, Agaw, Saho, Baja and other groups. Konso and the Oromo people share more than 50% of common vocabulary.
In older literature and in fact until quite recently, the Oromos were referred to as “Galla”, a term with negative connotation that was given by Abyssinian ruling families. One may encounter this name in older texts, here and there but it should be noted that it is a pejorative and derogatory name. Historically, some people among the northern Amharic community used the label “Galla” derogatorily to label the Oromos. However, it should be known that the Oromo people neither call themselves nor like to be called by this name. The term seems to be aimed at destroying the identity of the Oromo people
The ancient Oromo settlement extends deep into present day Gojam, Gondar and Tigrai in northern Ethiopia. Even in recent history the Oromo were living in Gojam and Gonder as early as the seventeen century. But the Habasha clergy and rulers intentionally hide these facts or label these periods – the era of the princess – as the dark ages of their history. It is a fact that some of the Oromo population was absorbed by Amharic and Tigrinya speaking peoples. That such a process did take place is strongly suggested by the fact that Oromo personal names that frequently appear in genealogical reckoning of Amharic and Tigrinya speaking population. The Oromo also assimilated many of its neighboring populations. In this process it is believed that the Oromo developed into a veritable cultural corridor. It opened up extensive cultural exchange between societies which would have otherwise remained isolated and atomistic (Gada, Asmerom Legese 1973) —
The Oromos, have a strong and well-defined system of belief or worldview characterized by its respect of all virtues (such as kindness, honesty, integrity, truth, equality, brotherhood, peace and justice) as opposed to all vices. Monotheistic in nature, the belief is known for its glorification of God or Waqa Who is considered as immortal, everlasting and the sole and ultimate creator of man and the entire universe. The religion preaches that all men are created equal and that they deserve equal treatment in many aspects of life and in the protection of basic human rights. It gives special importance to social harmony and peaceful coexistence. The Oromo believe in only one Waqa (God). They did worship false gods or carved statues as substitutes. The Oromo Waqa is one and the same for all. He is the creator of everything, source of all life, omnipresent, infinite, and incomprehensible, he can do and undo anything; he is pure, intolerant of injustice, crime, sin and all falsehood.
In traditional Oromo religion there is a religious institution called a Qallu. Qallu is also the name given to the spiritual leader of the institution. He is like a Bishop in the Christian world and an Imam in the Muslim world. A Qallu is the most senior person of the society. The Oromo describe the Qallu as Makkala, means messengers of God. As opposed to the egalitarian democratic system of the Oromo society the authority of the Qallu is divine origin, and hereditary.
In Oromo religion is distinctly separated from politics. The domain of Qallu is purely the domain of sacred and peaceful. Whereas the Gada leaders are charged with legal and political activities the Qallu are charged only with ritual and spiritual affairs. There is a clear functional differentiation between the sacred and the profane. The Qallu institution and traditional Oromo religion were weakened with the advent of colonialism and outside religions.The Abyssinian conquerors interfered in the religious affairs of the Oromo and weakened it. They adopted policies to discourage and destroy Oromo cultural institutions and values.
The Oromo have a number of religious holidays such as Irreecha (thanksgiving festival) which takes place once in a year in river meadows.
In its later history, the Oromo people have been in constant contact with other religions like Islam and Christianity for the last 1000 years or so. For instance, the Islamic religion was reported to have been in eastern Shawa about 900 A.D. and Christianity even before that.
Today the majority of the Oromo people are followers of Islam and Christianity, while the remaining are still followers of the traditional religion, Waqeffannaa. The Oromo who are followers of Islam or Christianity yet still practice the mode of experiences of their traditional religion. Bartels (1983) expressed this reality as follows: ‘Whether they (Oromo) became Christians or Muslims, the Oromo’s traditional modes of experiencing the divine have continued almost unaffected, in spite of the fact that several rituals and social institutions in which it was expressed, have been very diminished or apparently submerged in new ritual”. In fact adherence to traditional practices and rituals is still common among many Oromo people regardless of their different religious background.
There has not been threat of religious fanaticism or fundamentalism in Oromo population. The cultural affinity and ethnic identity among the Oromo did not allow such development. Thus there is a great deal of tolerance among the different religions in the Oromo society. It was the Oromo who stopped the protracted wars between the Abyssinian Christian kingdom of the north and Muslim kingdoms of the Somali and Afar from the south that went on for centuries during Medieval Abyssinia. The Oromo created a buffer zone between the two in the 16th century, and stopped the religious wars once and for all.” – http://oromoliberationfront.org/en/oromia-briefs/
Freeing ourselves from psychological slavery is a daily task. Firstly we have to know how we are victims of this slavery, secondly we have to see ourselves as the primary agents of our own emancipation. The next step in my opinion, is we have to continually educate ourselves, our families and communities regarding our history, present situation and collectively find solutions to our predicament. The question of Leadership always arises. In an age of fake news and false prophets as well as virtual reality we have to ask ourselves certain crucial questions. What are the characteristics or traits of the best leaders we can find among ourselves, because it still remains true what Marcus Garvey said, “None But Ourselves Can Free Our Minds.” We have to be truthful and we have to expose the fakers and promote the realness.
Lately I have been watching with earnest concentration, some video’s from and about Dr Umar Ifatunde Johnson and thinking deeply about my own agency as a Pan-Afrikan activist. I am impressed as millions of others by the robust debates that the brother raises as well as his vision of establishing a Pan Afrikanist school for Black boys. When we hosted Dr Umar as The Institute of Afrikology in Kwa-Zulu I had several detractors to deal with. Most of the people who disagreed with Umar were Black feminists, Black radicals as well as people from the LGBTQ …community, yet our lectures were fully packed and great insights were shared among ourselves. I wrote a couple of essays about that and debated a few people in addition to speaking to Dr Umar in private regarding the concerns of all these people who follow our work. I still stand by my opinions, yet I have further concerns. The problem of viewing and judging each other or ourselves through European and white liberal eyes. We need to remain confrontational and factual as we carve our way towards Afrika’s liberation.
After posting some of the videos and debates on Umar on my Facebook timeline, I sat and meditated for a bit. The main realization and concern I have is not what Dr Umar Johnson said, but the problem of the Ego. Now everyone has a right to define and defend him or herself, but if we have a long term vision and seek to remain truthful, we have to become as transparent and as honest as possible firstly among ourselves. We owe no white people any explanations regarding our mission.
But I am writing today because I am watching videos of Dr John Hendrik Clarke, a scholar and activist of a much higher order. The videos that piqued my interest was the series titled The Million Man March and Fake Leadership, posted by Afrikanliberation*.
Dr Clarke is to me part of the foundations upon which brothers such as Dr Umar Johnson stand upon. Controversial mainly because they reveal things about the Black community which we are often afraid to confront. I will come back to the question of respect, egocentricity, the quality of our leadership and what we have to do to take progressive steps towards proper Black Power Pan Afrikanism. For now, please just listen to Mkhulu JHC.
Ankh Udja Seneb.
The country I now live in is undergoing a precarious transition. I come from a country that is still struggling to figure out whether its own celebrated democratic transition was worth it all or it is really a shambolic mess. I belong to a country without a name. Although many of we who espouse the Pan-Afrikan/Black Consciousness ethos call ourselves Azania(n), there has been resistance to that mired name, fraught as it is with what some call Arabic connotations of slavery. We shall deal with the name Azania on a different platform. Just call me South African for now, at least until the transformation is complete.
My family and I have been in Zimbabwe for just about a week now, and both my wife and I are still stunned by the amount of vegetation we have been confronted with, both in our yard and across every cultivatable surface. The people of Zimbabwe are on a mission to plant their own food in every nook and cranny. The only places where there is no maize, pumpkin, spinach, or sorghum growing are parks and business premises. This is another phenomenon I hope to return to once I have fully gained proper understanding of it. Suffice to say that, the whole thing is stoking my long suppressed will to became a serious farmer, a vision that I have long neglected in my home base in the suburbs of Durban, although I do have a few things growing in my garden, a smallanyana garden I had to reluctantly abandon for expedient reasons. I am also aware that farming requires much more work than I can afford right now, nevertheless, I would like to see my children growing up to a regime where we all get up in the morning to till the soil and mind the animals, this could be anywhere, between Azania and Zimbabwe.
Yet after reading today’s New Day newspaper, it is becoming clearer to me that this is a country whose transformation is going to take much more than politics and green-fields to achieve. The seemingly successful public relations campaigns that the present government lead by President Emmerson Mnangagwa is a great start, and they are making all the right noises in order attract investors, but I am concerned about the noises that they are not making. They are not being practical or forthcoming with regards to dealing with their detractors, ignoring or rubbishing calls for restorative justice regarding the Gukurahundi massacres is not a great way to begin, or perhaps they are saving such things for a later period. In the letters section of the New Day, Dube says:
“Gukurahundi is an easy way of seeking relevance and attracting cheap publicity among academics and unsuccessful politicians. To non-governmental organisations, it also serves the same purpose, but more importantly, it is a cash cow to get money from donors. One has to keep making noise and ruffling feathers of the establishment. As we approach elections, the noise about Gukurahundi will be ratcheted up. Such people had decades to confront former President Robert Mugabe about Gukurahundi, but they never did so in any meaningful way. Mugabe was never liked in Matebeleland, but he always won elections nationally ( questionable statement ). It is not, therefore impossible for the country’s new leaders to also win. Zapu leader, Dumiso Dabengwa is essentially a good man, but should be wary of individuals and organisations seeking to profit from his name.” – ( p.11, sms letters, News Day. Tuesday. January 16, 2018 )
I must admit, I said the similar things too in December, when I saw people all over South African news, who were opposed or heavily criticized Mnangagwa over this massacre. How come they were not as vocal during the Mugabe regime? But I also understand that it is far more complex than that, and people do not usually have free speech during the tyrannical reign of a man who was loved and much as he was hated and feared. Zimbabwe’s position is similar to the Ethiopian situation after the deposition of HIM Haile Selassie I by the Derg regime, but there are also uncanny parallels between Ramaphosa and Mnangangwa, both have a controversial history but the tides of future times and providence seem to be carrying them towards new and more promising shores.
Let me just add that I shall be writing short essays and short poems under the title The House of Plenty, once I have figured out just what kind of country Zimbabwe truly is. To gain such knowledge I have begun observing everything, reading and making notes, listening to the people in addition to aspiring to learn the Shona language. At the supermarket today, I discovered a bookshop I will be frequenting, mainly for historical books.
“The Revolution being fought now is a revolution to win the minds of our people. If we fail to win this we cannot wage the violent one.” – Karenga
Waking up this morning, I had planned to begin by re-reading the ‘Summary of Critique of the National Development Plan, March 2013‘, as well as part of the tome National Development Plan, 2030.
Today, I woke up with my mind in a rather chatty mood. The usual routine is to begin with a reflective or meditative attitude of Thanksgiving, giving thanks to the Creators (God, Amathongo, the Ancestors ) for the breath of Life. Then more often than we should, we find ourselves on our phones, scrolling through social media or websites for news and peoples views on what’s the latest this or that. The initial reason for picking up the phone may have been to check the time or update oneself if there are any upcoming events, but what usually happens is one may find oneself absorbed in an unfinished conversation that took place a day or two ago. Such are the distractions, self-created, of social media.
The debate that captured my mind this morning had something to do with Culture, Afrikan culture to be specific, as well as the crimes that are committed in the name of it. At about the same time, I happened to be re-reading some notes I had written in 2014 on the subject of Black Power; from The Black Power Revolt, 1968. I had highlighted the words of Leroi Jones ( Amiri Baraka) as well as Maulana Ron Karenga.
The words of these two Afrikan American cultural icons were very inspirational and urged one to refocus more effort at playing a more significant part in bringing about the Black power dynamic into popular culture. Baraka writes:
“WE want power to control our lives, as seperate from what American, white and white oriented people, want to do with their lives. That simple. We ain’t with yuall. Otherwise you are talking tricknology and lie conjuring. Black power cannot exist WITHIN white power. One or the other.”
This is what has really put me in a difficult position ever-since I first read it. I am an Afrikan, a Black man living in a previously and still predominantly white suburb near the port of Durban in EThekwini Municipality.
Like many post 1994 situations, we still see more white power than anything else around here. The economic conditions of black people have not changed much. While there are many people who have acquired new wealth and went on to move to more affluent suburbs and even built huge houses in previously impoverished areas such as Adams Mission, eNdwedwe and many others, these symbols of wealth are few and far between and they certainly do not mean that Black people have arrived at the economic, social, cultural liberation that was so long fought for.
Many of the blacks residing in these suburbs are caricatures or mimes of whiteness, they are Christians or Muslims, most of them cannot even tell you something substantial about Afrikan culture and their children know very little about the Afrikan continent as their educational curriculum is essentially Eurocentric. Many Black people today do not even like to be called Black because that makes them feel guilty by association, blackness is equated with lack, with ignorance and various forms of poverty. Precious few black folks have an appreciation of the cultural power that they potentially possess, and even fewer know anything about the Civilizational achievement of fellow Afrikans.
Amiri Baraka continues to write: “The politics and the art and the religion all must be black. The social system. the entirety of the projection. Black power must mean a black people with a past clear back to the beginning of the planet, channeling the roaring energies of black to REVIVE black power. If you can dig it???”
The Afrikan American icon speaks loud and clear and what he says is true of Southern Afrika too. This is partly why in my ideal world, Black power means the amalgamation and collaboration of thought and actions from the whole Black world. There are no borders and no segregation between Abantu Abantsundu/Abamnyama. Since most of our experiences and struggles against imperialism are the same, there should be little that comes between us in terms of cultural unity, a unity that is our only weapon against our extinction. Afrocentricity and Afrikology have given us many tools and many studies to equip us to win the fight for our lives. But we keep being distracted by politics,m disorganization and the disorientation that comes with our lives which are punctuated with all manner of violence.
This brings me to the matter of the National Development Plan 2030, as well as the summary done by COSATU in 2013.
There is a part in the summary, ( Draft for discussion) that reads: “The NDP proposes too many low quality and unsustainable jobs: the target of 11 million jobs by 2030 is based on a plan which is unsustainable, relies disproportionately on exports, and particularly SMME jobs, as well as jobs in the service sector. If the plan is followed, it is highly likely that many of these jobs won’t materialize, and those that do materialize will only be of low quality. The plan conceded that it is based in the creation, particularly in the first 10 years of low paying jobs, as opposed to descent work. It fails to pursue the NGP ( National Growth Path ) / IPAP ( Industrial Policy Action Plan ) vision of re-industrialization the economy, with manufacturing at the centre…. The NDP vision is based on the acceptance that high levels of inequality will persist until 2030.” –
This bleak scenario is partly what pushes some of us to advocate for a Cultural economy. This paradigm shift places culture and the arts as part of the socio-economic work that must be invested in with adequate urgency. We believe in industrialization and the inevitability of technological advancement, but we know that it is important to prepare the minds and souls of the labour that will take Afrika forward.
Joint Statement on the Migrant Situation in Libya
African and European leaders, gathered in Abidjan for the 5th AU/EU Summit, discussed the terrible media reports on inhuman treatment of African migrants and refugees by criminal groups.
They condemned in the strongest terms any such criminal acts and expressed their firm resolve to work together for an immediate end of these criminal practices and to ensure the well-being of the migrants and refugees.
They also agreed to widely communicate to the youth about the dangers of such hazardous journeys and against the trafficking networks.
They welcomed ongoing efforts of the Presidential Council and the Government of National Accord of Libya in undertaking appropriate measures to address such incidents, as a thorough and swift investigation has been launched in Libya, including to confirm the validity of media allegations.
They called to support Libya, through international cooperation, in undertaking immediate action to fight against the perpetrator of such crimes, inside and outside Libya, and to bring them to justice. This international cooperation should cover enhanced police and judicial mutually agreed cooperation, including freezing of assets of convicted
They stressed the imperative need to improve the conditions of migrants and refugees in Libya and to undertake all necessary action to provide them with the appropriate assistance and to facilitate their voluntary repatriation to their countries of origin as well as durable solutions for refugees. In this regard, they stressed the need for all Libyan stakeholders to facilitate access by
international organisations and by consular officials of countries of origin.
They welcomed the African Union Commission for swift engagement, including the
AUC Commissioner visit to Libya.
They also commended the existing work by UN
agencies, African countries of origin, and the EU, which together have already allowed for 13,000 assisted voluntary returns of stranded migrants to their countries of origin.
They have committed to work together between AU, UN, EU, Libyan government and countries of origin and transit, and to take the necessary means and actions, in order to accelerate exponentially this work, while continuing to ensure with international organizations that voluntary resettlement is available for those in need, whether to countries of origin or third countries.
They agreed that lasting resolution of the issue of African migrants is closely linked to addressing the root causes of the phenomenon and requires a political solution to the persistent crisis in Libya.
In this respect, they stressed the imperative need for coordinated action involving all the stakeholders concerned, especially the African Union, the United Nations, the European Union and the League of Arab States, in order to expedite the lasting solution to the crisis. To this end, they committed themselves to convey a common and coherent
African and European heads of government gathered last week in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, for their 5th summit since 2000. For the first time, the African Union (AU) rather than “Africa”, officially appears as the European Union’s partner. While plenty has been discussed about youth, migration, security and governance less is being said about the shift from an EU-Africa to an AU-EU summit.
Is this just a case of semantics? After all, the AU has been the key organiser of these triennial summits since they started in 2000. Or are there larger implications? We think there are.
The AU-EU summit coincided with the January 2017 report on the reform of the African Union prepared by Rwandan President Paul Kagame. The report recommends rationalising “Africa’s” many international partnerships by having the continental body take the lead. This means that the previous, current and future AU chairpersons, plus the AU Commission chairperson and the chairperson of the Regional Economic Communities, would represent the AU, rather than all its member states.
Despite some misgivings at the July 2017 AU Summit in Addis Ababa, Kagame’s proposed reforms were well received. The AU and its member states have committed to a timetable of reform implementation, heralding a potential new era for the AU.
The transformation of the EU-Africa summit series into the EU-AU summit in Abidjan is more than just a change of name. It reflects the increasing recognition of the AU as an international actor that is becoming difficult to circumvent when engaging Africa. But there’s still a risk that the recognition remains confined to ceremonial purposes, as long as key challenges such as funding and mandate are not resolved.
The first summit in Cairo in 2000 was intended as a meeting of the EU and the AU’s forbearer, the Organization of African Unity (OAU). But, the EU insisted on the inclusion of Morocco – the only African country not a member of the OAU and the exclusion of the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), a full member of the OAU.
Only after last minute shuttle diplomacy was the cancellation of the summit averted. The compromise solution was to call the event the “Africa-Europe Summit Under the Aegis of the OAU and the EU”.
The idea of “Africa” as the EU’s interlocutor was set.
This way of seeing Africa had repercussions for the relationship. Although the EU had targeted the AU as its principle partner by 2007, the AU’s organisational growing pains and less clear jurisdiction in external relations meant that it was exposed to the whims of its member states.
This was the case before the 2nd summit in Lisbon in 2007, when after months of AU-driven negotiation of the Joint Africa-EU Strategy, several AU member states voiced strong misgivings about it. Their objections on issues such as the restitution of stolen cultural artefacts, while crucial, were outside of the EU’s jurisdiction and threatened to scuttle the AU’s own good work.
The 2010 summit in Tripoli was overshadowed by the outsized personality of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, who stole headlines insisting that the EU pay him to limit migration to Europe. Lost was the fact that the AU was endeavouring to upturn decades of EU driven agenda setting in the EU-ACP (Africa, Caribbean, Pacific Group of States) relationship.
In theory the AU’s new status in EU-Africa summits has the potential to substantially contribute to the AU’s cohesion, recognition and identity. But whether this upgrade will actually materialise or whether the summit only offers a ceremonial appearance of the AU’s standing will depend on four crucial factors.
Firstly, the AU still needs to be based on a sustainable financial mechanism. So far, it depends heavily on development aid for its activities.
Secondly, member states need to provide the AU with an authoritative mandate to negotiate on their behalf. While it is becoming a stronger institution, it still heavily depends on compromises between heads of states.
Thirdly, the AU has to compete for the EU’s attention with other existing partnerships with Africa. Plans are already underway for the it to play a more prominent role in the ACP. This would underline the central role of the AU for all interregional arrangements.
Fourthly, other international partners such as China will need to recognise AU’s central role in their summits with Africa. So far, China is focusing on bilateral relations and there are few signs of the direct relationship China-AU receiving a substantial upgrade.
The following was written as a presentation at the Mazisi Kunene Colloquium that was recently held at the University of KwaZulu Natal’s Centre for Indigenous Knowledge Systems on the 4th and 5th of December.
I publish the draft here, the complete article will appear in a publication that features the presentations from the other illustrious delegates:
Radical Spiritual Transformations:
Harvesting the Super-abundance in Mazisi Kunene’s Works for Transforming Our Society
The following poem from Mazisi Kunene is titled Imbewu kaMakhasana, it is quoted from his book INDIDA Yamancasakazi ( The riddle of the young maidens ), published in 1995 by Reach Out Publishers. The Poet speaks about sowing a seed on a pathway between two houses, the leaves and fruits from the tree will nourish forthcoming generations until future generations sing its praises. It is a proverbial description of the work of a conscientious and purposeful cultural worker, someone who knows that our work is not only for present generations, but is merely a seed for the spiritual and cultural sustenance of future generations. It is also obvious that as a metaphysical and Thongocentric ( One Inspired by Ancestral Urging ), Kunene also means much more in the poem.
“71. Imbewu kaMakhasana
Phakathi kwemizi emibili
Mina mina ngitshala imbewu kaMakhasana
Ngiyibekela labo abahamba ngendlela
Ngithi wukuba bathilambile impela baphile
Badle kuzo izife ezikhulayo
Yiyo lena imizi iyakuzihlakula
ithi uma isilele ubuthongo bobusika
izifudumeze kanjalo emaziko omhlaba
kube yilo iculo lomphefumulo eseliyakuduma.”
I often wonder if modern historians, sociologists and anthropologists, black, white or other scholars have ever read the works of Cheikh Anta Diop, Van Sertima or Toni Morrison. I wonder if they have ever heard of Ayi Kweyi Armah, Magema Fuze, B. Kojo Laing, Walter Rodney or Noni Jabavu or even Carl Jung or Levi Strauss, not to mention Molefi Asante and the myriad Afrika-centred scholars.
I ask this because many contemporary intellectuals appear to suffer from an acute form of historical amnesia. It is either that or they are under the spell of neo-colonialism, whose liberal tendencies appear to mask a deep seated attitude of afro-pessimism. This is the logical manifestation of imbibng too much Western philosophy and being mired in the epistemological straight-jackets of colonial racism.
I recently read an article written by a white American history professor, Mary Lefkowitz, from a journal called The History Place: Points of View. The article entitled: Not Out of Africa, subtitled; Was Greek Culture Stolen from Africa? Modern Myth vs. Ancient History – aimed to debunk the myths peddled by Afrocentric scholars and reputable Black Power activists, that seek to elevate Afrikan knowledge above that of Europeans. The article itself is extracted from her book which is provocatively titled: Not Out of Africa: How Afrocentrism Became an Excuse to Teach Myth as History.
I begin with this reflection because after reading the article, I was troubled by the fact that much of what the white professor said was actually true. As a student of uSolwazi Mazisi Kunene, Cheick Anta Diop, Ayi Kwei Armah, Magema Fuze, Mfuniselwa Bhengu,Toni Morrison, Marcus Garvey, Francis Creswell, Octavia E. Butler, Frantz Fanon,Walter Rodney and Steve Bantubonke Biko and many other Afrika centred writers and activists, I am very intolerant of lies disguised as truth, especially when it comes to matters regarding my people, the Black people of the world.
The point I seek to emphasize is that in a similar way that uMkhulu uMazisi Kunene had done, many scholars of history and writers of the ancient into the future, are very interested in protecting their own people, their own cultural and intellectual heritage. Some even go to the extent of basing their whole work on demystifying or exploding the myths, while others even create their own myths in the process. In answering her own question, “Did ancient Greek religion and culture derive from Egypt” professor Lefkowitz states:
“Apparently Greek writers, despite their great admiration for Egypt, looked at Egyptian civilization through cultural blinkers that kept them from understanding any practices or customs that were significantly different from their own. The result was a portrait of Egypt that was both astigmatic and deeply Hellenized. Greek writers operated under other handicaps as well. They did not have access to records; there was no defined system of chronology. They could not read Egyptian inscriptions or question a variety of witnesses because they did not know the language. Hence they were compelled to exaggerate the importance of such resemblances as they could see or find.”
In other words, although she raises many important questions about the claims of Afrocentric writers such as Martin Bernal, Ben Jochannan and others, she also contradicts herself and ends up strengthening the argument of Afrocentric scholars whose sole aim is to raise Afrikan history and Intellectual life to reputable and redemptive levels.
When I first met Baba Kunene in the early 2000’s at SABC studios, at a Creative Writers workshop co-organised with Ukhozi FM, I was intimidated by his regal age, his fiery white hair and his reputation as a no-nonsense intellectual. I had been writing short-stories and only in English, I had also recently read his Emperor Shaka Zulu The Great, Amalokotho KaNomkhubulwane and his books of poetic proverbs, Impepho as well as Igudu LikaSomcabeko.
After the intense workshop, which became really his unique way of asking us armature writers to Become Truly Who We Are, To Redefine The Essence of Storytelling and To Embrace The Wealth Embedded in Our Mother-tongues, I met him when most of the learners were gone. One on one, he became more serious. He read my one page story quietly and frowned and said: “Such a great imagination, but why do you insult your Mother and your ancestors by writing in English?”
He paused and continued, “You are living in the age of freedom and information but you insist on enriching the culture of Abantu abangena’Buntu.” He then through the page on my face and said, “Hamba uyozifuna, uzibuze ukuthi ungumbhali noma ungumlingisi”
Translation: “Go and find yourself, ask yourself if you are a writer or an actor or imitator.”
I thought I should share these two, apparently unrelated episodes; it is my way of reaching back and reaching in. Baba Kunene’s work and life asked us to not only reach back but like Biko, or jazz multi-instrumentalist Bheki Mseleku, he forced us to Look Within, mainly because that is where our treasured lie buried, ready to be discovered by us and the world. The world is waiting to Afrika to reveal her wonders. Those wonders are locked in our own stories, both realistic and fantastic.
Lastly, Kunene’s work is revolutionary, and calls for a Radical Spiritual Transformation. They are a cultural reservoir from which we and our children can find sustenance. In the words of Maulana Ron Karenga, another pragmatic Afrocentric worker: The seven criteria for culture are these:
- Social Organisation
- Political Organisation
- Economic Organisation
- Creative Motif
- As well as Ethos.
We do not have time to get deep into all of these right now, suffice to say Baba Kunene’s work remains one of the most dexterous and purposeful attempts by an Afrikan Intellectual and Sanusi, Inyanga Yamagama, to overthrow a system that is built on eliminating us. His poems and proverbs are Revolutionary magical invocations or charms, written for a generation that would, should and will use them wisely to Create The Afrika We Want.
Kunene also reminds us that a love for Afrika, an appreciation of ones own peoples contributions to civilization does not have to be parochial, we do not have to be dogmatic and blind to other influences; the poem says that we should be able to love ourselves while being able to glean wisdom from everywhere else. He writes ;
“72. Ezinkambeni zolwazi lwezizwe
Ongathi lungathi luphela lolu suku
Ngibe sengiphuzile ezinkambeni ezininginingi
NezaseChayina nezase-Arabia nezaseMaija
NezaseNdiya nezaMongoliya nezaseMelika
NezaseYurophu nezaseRashiya nezaseMaori
Nazo zonke zemihlaba ngemihlaba ehlakaniphileyo
Kepha ekugcineni ngibuyele kwezakithi
Ngibuyele kuzo zaseMbokodweni ezimnandiyo
Ezimithombokazi ibomvu ngokuvuthwa ndulweni
Yizo zona zingamafa afihlelwe thina
Sesiyakuwuphinda size sifike ekugcineni.”
Menzi Maseko ©
The Institute of Afrikology