Please follow the link below to purchase my book, Rock ‘n Rule: The Essays, Stories and Poetry of Menzi Maseko. Published and distributed indipendently by Green Ankh Works (Pty) LTD.
Please follow the link below to purchase my book, Rock ‘n Rule: The Essays, Stories and Poetry of Menzi Maseko. Published and distributed indipendently by Green Ankh Works (Pty) LTD.
In due time, I shall write a review of these two important books that I hired from the Library. I will be using the appropriate language of IsiZulu, as they are written in that beautiful idiomatic and magical language, I may later translate or summarize my thoughts in English. Suffice to say, these books contain information that should not only be taught in schools, but they also carry the keys to Liberating us from our own delusions and even those imposed on us my colonial conditioning.
In this article I briefly discuss the pros and cons of Afrikan peoples embrace and assimilation into the religion and cultural artifacts and practices of ancient Israel.
I am fully aware that there are many Black people who since the late 50’s began calling themselves African Hebrew Israelites and of the existence of the Lemba of Southern Africa and the Beta Israel, the so called Falasha of Ethiopia. I will later expand on what I think of these peoples and their practice, but this particular article deals with the music of AmaZioni, the Ngoni/Nguni peoples of Southern Africa who are proto-Christians yet retain much of the trances and customary practices of their respective indigenous cultures. Their god is Jehova, and their Messiah is called Jesus the Christ, but much of what they do bears little resemblance to the Judaic conception of God.
It is a continuation from a conversation begun on Facebook by Ndosi Ka Magaye.
The perfect Age has come, when Man will be his own priest, and Men will not array themselves in special garb to advertise their piety.
Mankind will go within to find Self’s wonderment. – Mahatma
It is my humble opinion that each Artists is tasked with the mission of being a Revolutionary. To activate his or her potential and talents to positively transform society. In my brief lived experience as an Activist involved in Cultural and Arts sector in Southern Africa and through my world travels, I have met only a handful truly revolutionary Artists.
While I have also met and had conversations with luminaries such as Abdullah Ibrahim, Bheki Mseleku, Hugh Masekela, Ray Phiri and less well known Artists such as Gabi Ngcobo, Zamani Makhanya, Nhlanhla Chonco, Mfanafuthi Wake Mahlobo, Eugene Skeef, Nduduzo Makhathini, Eric Coolfire Hadebe, Zoe Masuku and Mphutlane Wa Bofelo to name just a few. it has been the Poets among them that have continued to inspire me holistically.
Many of the artists I have met have been Dreamers, people who see the world through a radically different kind of Light. They are ordinary yet extraordinary in their own right. In fact, some of them are reluctant to even label themselves or regard themselves as artists at all. In my book Rock ‘n Rule, a collection of writings gleaned from my notes and thoughts of the past 5 years, I attempted to speak about the significance of such people. But I am the first to admit that the book turned out to be something more political and more of a social commentary then what it was intended to me.
In these blog-posts, I aim to revisit some of those essays and even rewrite and complete some of the themes I had explored then. But it is a difficult exercise as I have hundreds of notes that are written in such a poetic way that I am not sure that readers would follow what I am saying, the feelings and thoughts I am attempting to express are often overwhelmingly transcendental. The primary point I am trying to raise though is that We Are All Potential Healers. We Are Artists and Dreamers and Doers. Even the ones who merely Think and Speak or Conceptualize ideas that never manifest at a given time, they matter and they must be regarded as contributes to the symphony of living. Our becoming.
Here is something I wrote on 02/04/2014, titled The Puzzle and The Living of Dreams:
“In writing out our dreams, fixing the points of conception, to cognition, sub-conscious and conscious causal action – I must be at one with the wild currents of trans-linear lights.
Many impressions and many versions of chaos seeking its perfect imperfection. We must do the seemingly impossible and be where we ought to be and know that whenever we are we are on time.
Activate our body, mind and energy towards the Telling.
If such dream-visions are to be told, We must be guided wisely in our Way of Telling. many of the same stories are being told. How each one tells the the same story is what separates the visionaries from the repetitive mimics.
If we say that the proverbial snake spoke and that there was a rope
or if we felt fearful, dread, lightness, transmigration or hope
let hope be wedded to the words and the imagery of the tale, the words’and let the Music play on
let the funk, the jazzy rhythmic blues
History is constructed from future past-times …
Every journey without was once a journey within
There Must be Substance once we Awake from the Dreaming
There must be Movement towards a Birthing of newness, harmonies and melodies
imbued with Love and Justice and Peace, the new birth must be harmonious with Nature … with the ancient future idea of Ma’at.*
Says the jazz man –
” I’m the unencumbered bird of my imagination, rising only to fall back toward concrete
each note a black flower / opening, mercifully opening into the unforgiving new day.” – Ai, Man with the Saxophone
And as Paul Berliner put it in Thinking in Jazz : “The language metaphors adopted by jazz artists to describe their conceptions convey more than the notion that, within the bounds of their unique language system, ‘musical ideas’ should have substance. They also suggest that, for improvisers, the patterns are not ends in themselves, but have ongoing implications for thought.”
The artists that have captured my imagination and inspired me to see and hear the world in a new way have come from Reggae music, jazz, electronic sounds such as Little Dragon, Radiohead, Hyatus Kayote and my brother Khaya’s experimentation with computer generated EDM and Jungle sounds. Mphutlane Wa Bofelo has also inspired me with his Radical Humanism, which in turn is inspired by his over-standing of Black Consciousness and the basic principles of Socialism. What makes an action artistic? What makes a thought original?
Perhaps these are the questions that one can better deal with through deep reflection and meditation, by journeying within …
I have been re-reading the great work of Eric Miyeni, especially the O’Mandingo series of books, such as The Only Black at a Dinner Party, published by Jacana Media in 2006. The actor, ex-talk-show host and creative director at the Communications company Chillibush, is one of the talented 10th of what one could call the Black intelligencia of Southern Africa.
Although he can’t still be regarded as young, he was among the few real outspoken and cleverly opinionated writer/creative activists of this often perplexed and perplexing country.
Without having to dwell too much on the person, although I would like to celebrate and ventilate the works of many South Afrikans who have directly or indirectly contributed to our freedom of expression, let me turn to a particular article in this aforementioned book.
In the chapter, A Little Politics Perhaps? Why Not?, subtitled Frankly Indian South African, Miyeni touches upon a topic which is always approached but never really unpacked for its nuanced complexity. He first narrates a childhood story of how an Indian shopkeeper literarily short-changes an illiterate Black woman and how this episode made him feel so powerless and angry at a young age. He then states:
“There are many black people with these horror stories of black South African exploitation at the hands of Indian South Africans. None of these Indian South Africans have ever stood up, like the Afrikaner South Africans and the black South Africans at the TRC, and said, “We are sorry. We benefited largely from apartheid; at times we did horrible things to further exploit our fellow South Africans. We are sorry, and as the Jews say, ‘Never again'”. The Indian South African community has never stood up, spoken in one voice and acknowledged its apartheid sin, asking for forgiveness. And now Fatima Meer has the gall to stand up and blame black people for the lack of Indian South African support for the ANC. This is disgusting to say the least.” (p.201, O’ Mandingo – The Only Black at the dinner table )
What Miyeni is dealing with is a matter that can be stressed further towards many poles. We can either use the tools of analyses learned from our grasp of what Black Consciousness, according to Steve Biko teaches, or we can deal with it as he does from the standpoint of the African National Congresses embrace of a multi-racial democratic South Africa. Whichever tool we use, the Indian South African community will still fall short of the basic test of what it means to be humane. While there is a miniscule number of so called Indians in the ANC or who became members and meaningful contributors in the Black Consciousness movements, the collective amnesia and downright apathy and even cruelty of many of them towards Natives is appalling.
On a personal level, I have been struggling with the tendency of my South African Indian /Muslim comrades to fight for the rights of Palestinians, yet they remain silent or wilfully ignorant of the various struggles taking place all over the Black world, whether it be in the African continent or in Europe or America. It appears as if there is a selective focus on their own ethnic groups or even religious groups. How do I stand up for Palestine when I cannot stand up for Central African Republic, the repressed people of Swaziland or the Shack-dwellers all over Southern Africa.
The only person of Indian origin I ever see flying off to offer humanitarian assistance in African lands and even as far as Haiti is the CEO of the NGO, Gift of the Givers. This is a problem that we have dealt with during my days as an active member of the radical political movement, Black First Land First. We have had seminars where we invited everyone, especially tertiary students from UKZN and DUT etc to deal with the Indian Questions, but guess what, NO INDIAN ever attends. We end up debating among ourselves whether our open armed and BC based inclusion of Indians in our movements isn’t vainglorious?
But then again these days, someone may read this and say “But everybody has their Indian.”, citing the BLF’s defence of the Gupta/Zuma ‘faction’. Suffice to say, the enemies of Black peoples liberation and humanity are many, and even those we may think are for us can be our downfall.
I can go on further, and deal with how the relationship between the black people of Kwa-Zulu Natal and their Indian neighbours is far from healed and is a potential powder-keg just waiting for an accidental or incidental spark to blow up. Perhaps it is only through revolutionary violence that freedom is attained, but we must make sure that we do not turn against each other while the main architects of our division still remain comfortably white.
As he states in one of the essays, titled, Are White South Africans Nice People? “…Based on this definition of the word “nice”, my short answer to this tricky question is “No”. Most white South Africans are not nice people. But do I have any scientific research to back up this claim? Sadly, the answer to that question is “No”. So then, on wat do I base this contentious answer regarding my fellow citizens? Well, the explanation is complicated in its simplicity. It’s based on a little research and a little intuition that comes from this little research. First, the research part. I don’t know a single black South African person who does not have a horror story that involves a white South African person. These horror stories range from being beaten to a pulp for no reason other than being black…to having a chef coming out and asking people at every single table at his restaurant how they are enjoying their meals only to skip the only table full of black people, and then say he did not see them …” (p.24, The Only Black …)
There is still a lot that can be said about Miyeni’s vision of a non-racial society and whether it is realistic or not, but I would like to honour him while he lives, for daring to speak his truth.
At the Cape Town launch of The Initiation, a book heralded as “the first graphic autobiography by a Black South African,” Mogorosi Motshumi, in keeping with his character, gracefully sidestepped having to dwell in the limelight for too long. “Thank you and thank you,” he said to the packed audience before taking his seat.
But it is because Motshumi speaks sufficiently through his art and has done so throughout the last 30 years working as a political artist, beginning with The Friend newspaper in the 1970s. What better way to convey his life story than though the medium he communicates best in and has dedicated his life to. The Initiation is the first instalment of a three-part autobiography which has been ten years in the making – Book Two: Jozi Jungle and Book Three: Back to the Blues are still on the way – but when asked about it, he replied, humbly: “I’m a little bit worried that the lines are too thin, but that’s my fault anyways.”
The significance of the work is doubly important as, at the time of publishing, Motshumi had lost sight in one eye and the other is slowly deteriorating. Like many often overlooked and underrated South African artists, he has not reaped the benefits of a country still in transition. The work put into the book was done with minimal materials, living alone in Bloemfontein, in the home where his story begins.
In the opening pages, we are transported to Batho, a small township in Bloemfontein, and into the house of Oumama, Motshumi’s grandmother. The innocence and naivety of childhood is captured beautifully with lightness and humour, using simple, cartoonlike drawings for the early years of his life. Here we meet Motshumi’s family and discover his deep love for drawing and his respect for his grandmother. Her teachings are carried throughout. In one scene, he is found crouching on the ground in his backyard, drawing in the sand as he fondly recalls his brother teaching him how to draw. Boyhood is a long, sweet kind of nostalgia and through it we discover Gori, Golo, Gurah, Godda and many more of the nicknames he is called.
The story shifts between Bloemfontein and Zeerust, and the difficulty of moving around as a child. There is very little emotion revealed and we get only hints of the commonplace acts of racism experienced in daily life during apartheid.
This quietness that Motshumi possesses today comes after many years of rebellion. Finding his voice and identity begins at school, where among peers there is already motivation to stand up against figures of authority. One instance is pointed out, where he gets beaten by a teacher out of racial hatred rather than discipline. He states: “I grew up with a healthy disrespect for authority.” This loathing continues throughout his schooling career in various instances as he joins the student movement and uprising against an all-Afrikaans curriculum.
For a solid chunk of the book, the pace is slow, each day unfolding a life lesson. Haphazardly, lines get bolder as Motshumi grows older; shades get darker and time speeds up. A turn of a page could mean the jump of a few years and this lends to the later quickness of the read. A look into Motshumi’s earlier work, such as in Sloppy done in the 1980s, shows bolder stand-alone comic strips, whereas The Initiation reads rather like a stream-of-consciousness exploration.
The Initiation also details Motshumi’s political awakening and his involvement with the Black Consciousness Movement. Motshumi’s work as an activist and political commentator is also highlighted, showing the artist following the voice of his own mind, fiercely guarding his autonomy, even if it means falling out of favour with publications. One of the most chilling moments happens when he is arrested and detained by the security police. Motshumi illustrates his inner demons during solitary confinement in the form of amorphic figures, with only a spider on the ground as a companion.
The first part of the trilogy concludes with Motshumi being forced to move to Johannesburg and leaving his wife and newborn son behind. What is redeeming, though, is that the title graphic illustration of the book, showing three generations from boyhood to adulthood, was done by the same son, artist Atang Tshikare, with whom Motshumi reconnected years later over a joint love for music and art.
The Initiation is a transportation to a reality within realities, and manages to resonate even in another time, showing the brave nature of an individual’s struggles. Motshumi’s ability to recall these deeply personal early events of his life and transfer that via images is astounding. While he continues to keep a low profile, the most important result is that we now have an invaluable documentation of this work, with the story continuing in two more installations on the way.
This review appears in Chronic
Books Foods, a supplement to the Chronic (April 2017). An edition which aims to complicate the questions raised by food insecurity, to cook and serve them differently.
Food is largely presented as scarcity, lack, loss – Africa’s always desperate exceptionalism or exceptional desperation or whatever. In this issue, we put food back on the table: to restore the interdependence between the mouth that eats and the mouth that speaks, and to delve deeper into the subtle tactics of resistance and private practices that make food both a subversive art and a site of pleasure.
To purchase in print or as a PDF head to our online shop, or get copies from your nearest dealer.
It was a very moving experience reading Michelle Constants column in the April 2017 issue Creative Feel.
I was first enchanted by the Stompie Selibe artwork featured as the cover, I had not really gotten to the story yet, but the issues that Constant, who is the CEO of Business Arts SA, raised. She essentially wrote about the same kind of social challenges that Nduduzo Makhathini and I were speaking about lastnight.
Makhathini had called me late last-night as he could not contain himself after reading my spontaneous reviews of his latest musical offering, Reflections.
We basically spoke about the Healing and social responsibility of Artists such as himself. He mentioned the designer of Thandi Ntuli and Salim Washington’s albums. I mentioned the primary functions of literary works such as Paolo Coelo’s The Alchemist, Ayi Kwei Armah’s The Healers, KMT and also Baba Mazisi Kunene’s work.
I raised the point that The Alchemist reminds us of the importance of Intention. While there are many books, New Age and otherwise, that speak on this subject, it is the simplicity and rather traditional storytelling style of Coelo that captures the essence of this phenomenon.
So what is our collective intention? In broad terms, we intend to change our society for the better. We believe strongly in the intrinsic goodness and natural progressiveness of our people, the Afrikan people in particular. We know that our political and economic systems and conditions are inherited from an era of ignorance and desperation.
We were desperate for freedom and independence but many leaders and communities had not spend enough time meditating about what the quality of our desired society would be. For an example, how did we imagine crime-free communities where the scourge of violence against women and children is no more? How did we imagine a society free of vulgar patriarchy, sexism and intolerance?
Michelle Constant writes about the Goethe Institute and the newly established Henrike Grohs Prize for African Artists. Grohs died last year in March in vicious terrorist attack in the Ivory Coast. She mentions Mluleki Sam and Ncedile Daki among some other Artists who recently died under conditions of extreme violence too.
Constant also insists that despite the violence and cruelty in our society, we should never allow ourselves to neglect of forget the Artists, their role as connectors and healers in our society.
So What do we Not Write About?
ARTS and Nature ( Isigaba Sokuqala )
Firstly there is Nature, and the way all the elements of Nature are felt and are treated by we the human race.
Water, Food, Shelter and all the resources that we use to continue our explorative and exploitative lives; these are all almost wholly given freely by what some may call providence, but for some it is hard work and the wilful exploitation of Nature. How does Nature, Arts and Humanity interlink to find a harmonious and symbiotic relationship?
We may write about politics and the intrigues therein, we may have sincere opinions about what policies are correct and deal with matters of justice and injustices that we commit, we may try to correct others behaviour through many dialogues and theorize and set up various social and innovative business programs and projects, but if We do not write about our varied yet essentially dependent relationship to Nature/ Our Environment we are neglecting a really essential element in all our lives.
The spaces we inhabit in our various occupations, lifestyles, our psychological, political/social and private and even dream-lives are all secondary. They are all the stuff of our minds, our passions and ambitions as sophisticated animals. While our preoccupations or works may tend to divine who we are eventually, our initial or primary Well-being is all centred on our relationship with Nature, what it provides and what we make of it and how.
So then, when we write; it may be works of Art, Criticism, Opinion Pieces, Essays, Poems, Music, Stories of different kinds, we are telling just a fragment of the story. While each fragment or each facet of our human stories is relevant to a particular context, it is the collective reception, or the impact each story has on the individual that matters most.
Today I wish to write about the Collective Cohabitation of Arts – Spaces, places and the Ground beneath our feet, The Air we breathe and the quality of the lives we lead – My opinion is that every conceivable space is a platform for the expression of Artistry. Akukho sikhala noma shashalazi lapho ubungcweti nobuciko beSintu bungevezwe khona.Kepha umbuzo uthi siyihlonipha kangakanani imvelo, leyondawo esisebenzela kuyo siyazisa kangakanani, futhi siyayinakekela ngokufanele na?
Amaciko maningi, nobuningi bawo buluphawu lokugcizelela lokhu esengikushilo, ukuthi, Imvelo nendlela esiyiphatha ngayo nendlela esemukela ngayo konke esikuthola kuyo – ibaluleke kakhulu. Maciko kusamele sijule ngokwemvelo, sibuyele emhlabathini, othulini, ezihlahleni nasemithini eyehlukahlukene.
Iyini na imvelo, kanti futhi ihlangana kanjani nezobuciko?
Ngiyakholwa ukuthi konke esikwaziyo nokubambekayo sikuthola emhlabeni, umhlaba ophilayo nonothe ngendlela exakayo. Kukhona abanye bethu abamba igolide namanye amatshe nezinye izinto eziligugu emhlabeni osewakhiwa ngokuhwebelana. Kukhona abaziphilisa ngokuvuna izithelo zonke ezitholakala emithini, bephinde behwebe ngayo imithi uqobo lwayo. Eminye imithi isitshenziselwa ukwakha izindlu, nezakhiwo ezahlukahlukene, eminye kukhandwa ngayo amaphepha, amathuluzi nezinye izinsiza-kwakha, kuphinde futhi kwakhiwe nezinsimbi okanye izinto zokudlala umculo, ezemidlayo nokunye okuningi.
Esikhathini samanje esesivamise ukuthi izinto ebezakhiywa ngezandla zabantu sezakhiwa yimishini ngemishini, kuningi okusilahlekelayo. Izinto zibonakala sengathi ziba lula uma sisebenzisa ama-rubber nama-plastics kanye namathuluzi akhiwe ngezinhlobo-nhlobo zezinsimbi, kepha ngokweso elijulile kuyabonakala ukuthi siloke siqhela njalo kancane kancane kwiMvelo ekuyiyo imvelaphi yethu.
Lokuziqhelisa kancane kancane emvelweni, kungabonakala kuyimpucuko noma ukwenziwa lula kwezinto, kepha ukukhaxhumani noma ukungabi nabudlelwano noma ubunye nemvelo kuyasibulala singabantu, ikakhulukazi abantu bendabuko.
Ngifisa ukuloba ngomdanso, imisebenzi namakhono amaciko. Ngifisa ukubhala ngomculo, abaculi, abadwebi, abalaleli kanye nezingqinamba ezibhekene nokulalelwa komculo nokwamukeleka kwemisebenzi yamaciko emiphakathini yethu, kepha ngiloke nginomuzwa wokubhala ngeMvelo – nami anginayo incazelo eqonqile ukuthi lokhu kungani. Okungicacelayo ukuthi, vele imvelo iyikho konke. Siyayilondoloza noma siyayazisa na, ikakhulukazi thina esisemkhakheni wezobuciko? Sinendaba yini ukuthi ama-instruments ethu avelaphi? Siyazihlupha yini ngobunjalo bamathuluzi esiwasebenzisayo. Lombuzo unokuba nopupolitiki, kanti futhi singawubheka ngeso lezomnotho. Kepha ukuze singachezuki kakhulu ephuzwini noma emongweni wendaba, asike sizibuze imibuzo embalwa ngemvelo nobuciko.
And so we write a lot about everything else, but we hardly ever seriously write about Nature. We are caught up in our human affairs, much of it is really petty and insignificant and spurious and we neglect to write and talk and do works that help us to draw closer to Knowledge Of Nature.
As I have already stated, Nature is everything, Land is everything, Good unpolluted and undiluted Water is everything. The Air we breathe is everything. All else is trivial and honestly, a waste of precious time. But the so called intelligent animal, the human being, is pre-occupied with entertainment, and not attainment of a mutually beneficial relationship with the Natural world. We forget so easily that we are Water beings, Spiritual beings, Earthen vessels whether we acknowledge it or not.