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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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
Esoteric Africa Masterclass: Afrikans In Science Fiction
Facilitator: Menzi Maseko
Organisations: Green Ankh Works/ CineCulture / Mercurial Africa
Dates: 30 September 2017 (?)
Venue: Mangosuthu University of Technology (?)
- What is the purpose behind studying Esoteric African works?
- Which subjects did you do in high school and which institution did you start crafting an understanding of the facts and myths behind African cultures?
- How long does it take to gather information about Afrocentric characters to help heighten the environment they are surrounded by?
- How does Esoteric African study help influence the work black filmmakers create a world in a film believable?
- How do we create a solid voice in the industry that is young with regards to the Science Fiction genre?
Life is a collection of Stories, some stories are well told and available for all to hear and see, while others are seldom told or told falsely. Afrilka as the cradle of Humanity possesses some of the most ancient stories. Before there were the great legends of the Pharoahs and the ancient Egyptian/Kemetic Goddesses and Gods, there were mythological tales of the Creators of the universe.
They are still known by many names, but very few of us know the power and significance behind those names. It is in our own interest to search for those ancient stories and retell them with the benefits of new technologies, mediums and Artistic expressions.
Afrika is a land of many contrasts; perhaps we should simply call them contradictions. Many of these contradictions are not Self-Created, in other words, we as Afrikans have not invented much of the confusion and states of poverty we exist in. One of the most pervasive questions that come up in various sectors is the one concerning Afrika’s wealth. The Rastafarian revolutionary Artist best known as Peter Tosh puts it this way: “Africa is the richest place / yet still has the poorest race.” The Artist puts it as a statement and not as a question. In other words it is a matter of fact. But what is the cause of Afrikan people’s poverty? Surely there is a level of dysfunction or a serious discrepancy within our systems or our institutions.
We all know about the colonial and apartheid history that ravaged Afrika for centuries, some may say that the legacy of these evil systems continues today but the slavery is now in the minds and even Spiritual lives of AbaNtu/the Afrikans. The challenge we now have is Freeing ourselves from Mental, Systemic as well as Institutional slavery.
In this presentation we shall deal with Esoteric African systems. There may be many definitions to this term, but we shall choose to simplify it, hoping that we shall have more opportunity to delve deeper some other time.
Define: Esoteric denotes something that is hidden or concealed. Much of what I will mention is not new yet the essential and scientific value of it is un-explored. Esoteric Africa then is the knowledge of the hidden treasures of Afrika’s wisdom. Afrika’s knowledge is concerned with healing the person and the Earth from Within. We see ourselves as Ancient Spiritual beings, Divine beings having a human experience. The quality of that experience depends largely on how much we Know about our True Self.
We will utilize the multi-lineal methods that have been used by Afrocentric teachers, Pan Africanists, Black Consciousness scholars and activists as well as Healers from various Afrikological disciplines. The essence of Our Presentation is akin to a Healing Process as well as a Rebuilding process. We are healing from thousands of years of brutal detachment with the Land and the Ways of our Ancestors, Esoteric as well as exoteric traditions that ensured that we are still alive this very day.
As children of Afrika we shall begin with acknowledging our Ancestors and the Tree of Life. We Shall also Acknowledge our predecessors and present ourselves according to the values of Ma’at or UBUNTU. Ubuntu/Ma’at is what connects us both socially as well as cosmologically.
An Outline of Afrikology
An Outline of Afrikan Indigenous Knowledge Systems
Afrikology is essentially an Afrocentric methodology that incorporates various schools of thought towards creating a logical framework for the research, study and promotion of Everything Afrikan. Afrikology with a K is uniquely used by specific scholars who place Afrika and Afrikan women and youth especially at the centre of all solutions. In the words of professor Dani Nabudere:
“African scholars must pursue knowledge production that can renovate African culture, defend the African people’s dignity and civilizational achievements and contribute afresh to a new global agenda that can push us out of the crisis of modernity as promoted by the European Enlightenment.”
In keeping with these words of wisdom, the Institute of Afrikology continues on its mission to: “Provide an Afrikan Centred system of education, incorporating a practical approach to Indigenous Knowledge Systems, Afrikan Renaissance, Health, Organic Farming processes and in-culcating the philosophy of Ubuntu.” – Menzi Maseko, Rock ‘n Rule, 2016.
- Opportunities and Challenges Posed by Afro-Futurism
- Much of Afrikan knowledge is Oral and Customary. It does not take such a long time for an Afrikan child to imbibe and restore their sense of Afrikanness.
- As Long as the impediments and social constructions such as religion and colonial education are limited or eliminated, it only requires a knowledge of Self, Family line and choosing a Discipline to focus on.
- The Technological era presents great opportunities for learning as the internet has opened communication channels, one can download PDF’s from various Afrocentric teachers from Marcus Garvey, to Empress Afua to Ra Un Nefer Amen and Credo Mutwa, one can even join groups on Social Media where some Esoteric knowledge is transmitted through Animation and Meditation and Yoga classes.
- Filmmakers who are Afrocentric are few and far between but those that do exist remain part of the Documentary, Animation/Comic and Social Media platforms, but there is very limited number of Fiction/Science Fiction makers due to structural and budget constraints.
- Esoteric VS Exoteric Knowledge
- What are the phenomena that are known and measurable?
- What are the hidden phenomena that can only be subjectively and contextually experienced?
- What are the types of knowledge that should be Open to Public and Which Ones should remain within Afrikan Secret Societies and Initiation schools.
- Scope and Relevance of Afrikan Esoteric Concepts:
In everything we do we must evaluate the Need, Necessity and Value of it in today’s terms. How does knowledge of Afrikan systems help us to Create Better Lives, Better Arts and Sustain Ma’at or Ubuntu in all that we do?
- How does Esoteric African study help influence the work black filmmakers create a world in a film believable?
Afrocentric study is essential and enriching to filmmakers who are keen to develop a appreciation of Pre-colonial Afrikan knowledge. Many books by Black science fiction writers exist and many of them contain excellent and researched materials from the Global Afrikan sources.
- How do we create a solid voice in the industry that is young with regards to the Science Fiction genre?
The key is to develop reading and critical thinking skills. Reading material or books and digital information developed by Afrikans must be made available from primary schools to institutions of Higher Learning.
- The Orisha or Santeria System/ Candomble in Brazil
An outline of the concepts of the Yoruba originated Divinity system and its Global scope.
“THE IMPORTANT CONCEPTS OF ASHË, and IWA PELE. There are two concepts that are vital to the core beliefs of Santeria.
The first one Is Ashe (also known as Ase, Ache or Axe). It means very simply life force. “
Ashe is generative energy that Olodumare has blessed us all with. It is energy; breath, life force and we cannot exist without it. Ashe gives us the power to create and the wisdom to see things through. Without Ashe there is no life.
Iwa Pele, means in essence good or gentle character. For Santeria followers, initiated as priests or not, It is important to grasp the meaning and entity of Iwa Pele. Living with good grace is what gives us a purpose in life. As spiritual beings we are responsible for living the best life that we have been blessed with.” – https://oshunschild.com/2013/11/08/making-ocha-and-the-initiation-procedure/
- The Concepts of One God or Creator With Many Names and Attributes
“There is only One God. Like many modern religions, Santeria followers believe in just one God, the Creator known as Olodumare. It is neither a Polytheistic nor a Pagan religion, nor an animistic one. The reason why there is confusion is that many refer to the Orishas as Gods. Strictly speaking, the Orisha are not Gods but aspects of Olodumare that are manifested in the natural world around us.
It is thought that there are hundreds of Orisha, but there are some that are more popular in Santeria than others. Amongst the most well-known Orishas are Elegua, the trickster deity. Respect is paid to Elegua before any other Orisha. Ogun, the blacksmith warrior and Ochosi the hunter. They are collectively known as “The Warriors.
Yemaya, The Mother deity that rules the Ocean and is the mother of us all.
Oshun is the deity of the sweet waters and is also the patron of all that makes life worth living, the arts, music, love and sweetness.
Obatala is the King of the White Cloth, the Owner of all uninitiated heads and stands for wisdom, patience and justice. He also reminds us to respect our elders.
Shango is the King of the Drum, a deity who was once a King of Oyo. His Domain is Thunder and lightening.
Oya is the Orisha that guards the gates of the Cemetery; She is also Queen of the market place. There are many many others, all who have equal importance. Each individual is thought to be a child of one or other of the Orishas.” –
The Inner and Outer Life of Initiates and Believers
Dress Code, Hygiene and Sex:
White is the emblem of the iyawó and it must be worn for one year and 7 days after initiation; this is both in public and at home.
We Shall Explore How Various Afrocentric Divinity Systems Have Many Things In Common and How these Esoteric Symbols Have Permeated religious practices Globally. The Orisha System has a lot in common with Ubungoma which we shall also explore.
Female iyawós wear for the first 3 months a shawl, skirt, bloomers, panties, stockings, brassiere, undershirt, slip, long or calf length skirt, shirt with sleeves and no cleavage showing, white closed shoes, handkerchief and hat.
- Important Studies and Research Regarding Afrikan Spirituality
These days there are many scholars and writers interested in the revival of Afrikan spirituality. But there are few names that come to mind, such as Isanusi Credo Vusamazulu Mutwa, Dr Mdende, Dr Malidome Some and Shekhem Ra Un Nefer Amen and Dr V.V.O. Mkhize, but I shall mention the work of two lesser known researchers.
A study of literature on the essence of ubungoma (divination) and conceptions of gender among izangoma (diviners)
By Winifred Ogana; Vivian Besem Ojong Post-doctoral student, School of Nursing and Public Health, University of KwaZulu-Natal.
UBUNGOMA: “Literature highlights some personality traits are more apparent in females as compared to male izangoma. Among the Zulu a diviner is expected, first and foremost, to uphold high moral ideals. To this end, it is befitting for isangoma to be in ‘a state of light and purity in the profane world she lives in’ (Ngubane 1977: 86-87). A diviner is expected to espouse these attributes always in order to play the vital role in linking the living and their ancestral spirits. In illustrating the importance of upholding above-average moral values, the author observes that the diviner’s attire, which includes white strips of goatskin, are permanently strapped over her shoulders and breasts. In Zulu culture the colour white symbolizes good, but can also signify extraordinary goodness or power, which izangoma enjoy if they remain upright. Lee (1969: 140) offers a similar explanation when he says: ‘ Possession imbues an individual with social status, since his or her ways are clear’”
We shall also explore how Ogana and Ojong deal with matters of Gender equity and Power in their work.
Here is an extract from their Abstract:
In South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Province, the isangoma (diviner) remains firmly entrenched at the apex of the hierarchy of African traditional medicine (ATM). This review article raises two questions. The first interrogates the essence of ubungoma (divination), while the second focuses on gendered notions in this line of work.
The latter question probes four issues: why izangoma (plural for isangoma) are mostly women; whether these females possess disproportionate power as compared to their male counterparts; and whether such womenfolk possess their power by virtue of being female or izangoma per se. The fourth aspect addresses sexual orientation of ubungoma.
Plausible explanations for these questions were gleaned from a scanty – albeit fascinating information – collated through a literature search and personal communication.
Female izangoma were found to have attributes that outclass their male counterparts. This review also interrogates the manner in which African beliefs have been represented in literature. Western epistemologies have tended to misrepresent the realm of African beliefs by dismissing them as mere superstition. Alternatively, they create boundaries of intellectual segregation by treating African beliefs as cognitive false consciousness. In contemporary South Africa this form of misrepresentation has not deterred Africans from seeking the services of izangoma.
Keywords: Ubungoma, Divination, Izangoma, Divine, Initiation, Indigenous Knowledge Systems
At the beginning of the 21st Century most izangoma (diviners) among the Zulu in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal Province are almost exclusively women. Despite being female in a patriarchal society, the female izangoma remain at the pinnacle of the hierarchy of African traditional healers in the province.
Interest in the gendered nature of ubungoma originated from the findings of an earlier qualitative study, where among a sample of 10 izangoma, only one was male.
Over three decades ago, the World Health Organization (WHO 1978) officially acknowledged the importance of traditional health, recognizing its holistic approach encompassing the environmental, social and spiritual aspects of illness that biomedicine does not always take into account. In South Africa, among reasons for the reluctance to endorse African traditional medicine (ATM) earlier is that indigenous systems were, and still are, equated with negative practices such as witchcraft (Green 2005).
Nonetheless, in contemporary South Africa, ATM is gaining popularity as the prohibitively high cost of allopathic medical care coupled with expensive pharmaceuticals pushes patients to seek the services of traditional healers (Kofi-Tsekpo 2004). It is for such reasons that he dismisses the frequently touted figure that 85 percent of Africa’s people use traditional medicine, observing instead that the figures are much higher and continue to rise. The popularity of ATM can also be explained from other perspectives. In 2004, former Deputy Health Minister Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge acknowledged that traditional health practice had defied easy definition in legal terms (South Africa Government Information 2004). Hence, she borrowed the following definition used for ‘African Traditional Medicine’ from World Health Organization’s Centre for Health Development. African traditional medicine is defined as:
The dearth of information underlines the fact that while gender has become a major research focus in African Studies in the past two, men have rarely been the subject of gender research. If anything, the study of masculinity on this continent is still in its infancy (Miescher & Lindsay 2003). Hopefully in future, interested researches will fill this lacuna – “http://www.scielo.org.za/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1011-76012015000100004
Winifred OganaI; Vivian Besem OjongII
The FUTIURE NOW:
In Conclusion we must take a brief look at the Future of Afrikan Esoteric Knowledge …
Tricksters and Animal Fables. Many African myths feature a trickster. The trickster may be a god, an animal, or a human being. His pranks and mischief cause trouble among gods, among humans, or between gods and humans.
West Africans tell many tales of a wandering trickster spirit known as Eshu among the Yoruba and as Legba among the Fon. This trickster is associated with change and with quarrels; in some accounts, he is the messenger between the world and the supreme god.
Animal tricksters are often small, helpless creatures who manage to outwit bigger and fiercer animals. Anansi, the spider trickster of the Ashanti people, is known throughout West and Central Africa. Tortoises and hares also appear as tricksters. In one such tale, the hare tricks a hippopotamus and an elephant into clearing a field for him.
Other stories about animals show them helping humans. The San Bushmen say that a sacred praying mantis gave them words and fire, and the Bambara people of Mali say that an antelope taught them agriculture. A popular form of entertainment is the animal fable, a story about talking animals with human characteristics. Many fables offer imaginative explanations of features of the natural world, such as why bats hang with their heads downward or why leopards have spots.
Are there any stories that particularly influenced these novellas?
I started writing Binti when I was in a deeply bothered state. Much of the Binti series came from personal struggles, narratives, and imaginings. I can’t really name any novels that were a specific influence.
When I look back, I can see flashes of Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind in Binti. The character of Nausicaä has a lot of similarities to Binti: both are agents of change and mediators. Binti, however, is far more nonviolent. Also, some other elements from the graphic novels and animated films found their way into the DNA of the Binti trilogy. I’m a big fan of Star Wars, and my love for that series and world helped me find the courage to write my own space opera. Lastly, there was a cartoon I loved from the ‘80s called Galaxy High. It was about an intergalactic high school. I loved that cartoon.
The pursuit of Wisdom as a precondition to joy, happiness and proximity to the Divine is as ancient as the Step Pyramids of ancient Kemet and Nubia, older than the plethora of temples in all of the East and beyond. Humanity’s search for the knowledge that would free us from what we perceive as ignorance and suffering is remarkably archaic. But one wonders whether after so much has been learned, why is it that Self Knowledge remains ever so elusive to many people?
Today there is a huge commercial market dedicated solely to what is called Self-Help books. There are just as many Guru’s from India to Senegal, Mali to the heartlands of the USA and all imaginable countries – men and women who are supposedly the chosen ones, the messiah’s and light bearers whose sole purpose is to liberate all of us from the darkness of our own being. As I had just lamented to my younger brother Khaya, all of these Guru’s books are repeating the same message – it does not matter how unique one may claim to be, they are all saying the same thing with just a minuscule amount of personal touch or style. This evening I told my brother how shocked I was at what I read earlier from Osho*. Without saying too much let me just quote him:
“Capitalism is not an ‘ism’ at all; just don’t get too obsessed by the word. Sometimes words become too important to us and we tend to forget the reality. Capitalism is not an ideology; it is not imposed on the society, it is a natural growth. It is not like communism, or fascism, or socialism – these are ideologies; they have to be imposed. Capitalism has come on its own.” (page 69, Osho, 2003)
Needless to say, even though I am not surprised that this is coming from Osho, who plies his trade from proverbial shock and awe, I became worried about the impact that such misleading words might have on young impressionable minds, who read the rest of this mans work, which is clearly a mixture of the truth and blatant nonsense. My brother gave a clear answer: “Osho is a charlatan, he is like all these so called new age teachers, getting rich by exploiting ancient knowledge.” Suddenly it made so much sense, because Osho and all the New Agers like himself are in the business of selling something that should not be sold at all. They are like the pharmaceutical companies, ensuring that you keep coming back for the same prescription, and they are connected to the whole network of the sickness business. They are not at all at the service of humanity, but like a talented Artist who decides to satisfy his or her baser instincts, would rather make a quick buck instead of producing something Soulful and Authentic.
This is how Osho, prefaces his book, aptly titled Come, Come, Yet Again Come: “You have heard many people, you have read many people; but hearing me or reading me is a totally different experience, for the simple reason that I am not a speaker, an orator, a lecturer. My words are not important. What is important is your silent listening.”
Now can you imagine if one has to choose to listen to either Osho or Lenin, regarding the same subject of capitalism? Please read the following and make up your own mind.
Osho writes :”Capitalism is individualism, it is not a social structure, it is more than that, it is just democracy and freedom. Capitalism is pure freedom. Of course, everybody is not capable of creating wealth, hence it creates jealousy. But we should not be dominated by jealousy. Capitalism is not an ideology at all, that’s why I prefer it.” ( Osho, page 77, Come …)
Lenin writes: “Finance capital, concentrated in a few hands and exercising a virtual monopoly, exacts enormous and ever increasing profits from the floating of companies, issue of stock, state loans, etc., tightens the grip of financial oligarchies and levies tribute upon the whole of society for the benefit of monopolies.” ( Lenin, Imperialism, The Highest Stage of Capitalism, A Popular Outline, 1939)
Lenin continues to give examples of how pervasive and detrimental to human well-being and progress capitalism really is. To think that the one author writes at the turn of the 20th century while the other writes such hogwash at the beginning of the 21st century makes me shiver. But the point I am raising here is that there is more to the world than capitalism or communism.; yet to simply pretend that a system that has rendered the world a market rather than a home for the species, a system that has turned even water and many other natural resources into profit is the ultimate freedom, is lunacy.
Communism has its flaws, but at least it gives a cogent rationale towards making a world a better place, a more equitable and fairer place to live. The New Age Guru’s simply tell you to listen to them and take their opinion as the truth, because they are unique, possessing some uncanny wisdom.
I have just discovered this disturbing story from another blog:
( http://matthewremski.com/wordpress/boycott-satyanandas-literature-and-methods-until-reparations-are-made-for-sexual-abuse/ ) but I am also adding what I think is a great response from a reader: ”
“Now unto what under the heavens shall wisdom be compared? It is sweeter than honey, and it maketh one to rejoice more than wine, and it illumineth more than the sun, and it is to be loved more than precious stones. And it fatteneth more than oil, and it satisfieth more than dainty meats, and it giveth [a man] more renown than thousands of gold and silver.
It is a source of joy for the heart, and a bright and shining light for the eyes, and a giver
of speed to the feet, and a shield for the breast, and a helmet for the head, and
chain-work for the neck, and a belt for the loins. It maketh the ears to hear and
hearts to understand, it is a teacher of those who are learned, and it is a consoler of
those who are discreet and prudent, and it giveth fame to those who seek after it.
And as for a kingdom, it cannot stand without wisdom, and riches cannot be
preserved without wisdom; the foot cannot keep the p. 22place wherein it hath set
itself without wisdom. And without wisdom that which the tongue speaketh is not
Wisdom is the best of all treasures. He who heapeth up gold and silver
doeth so to no profit without wisdom, but he who heapeth up wisdom—no man can
filch it from his heart. That which fools heap up the wise consume. And because of
the wickedness of those who do evil the righteous are praised; and because of the
wicked acts of fools the wise are beloved. Wisdom is an exalted thing and a rich
thing: I will love her like a mother, and she shall embrace me like her child.
I will follow the footprints of wisdom and she shall protect me for ever; I will seek after
wisdom, and she shall be with me for ever; I will follow her footprints, and she shall
not cast me away; I will lean upon her, and she shall be unto me a wall of adamant; I
will seek asylum with her, and she shall be unto me power and strength; I will rejoice
in her, and she shall be unto me abundant grace. For it is right for us to follow the
footprints of wisdom, and for the soles of our feet to stand upon the threshold of the
gates of wisdom.
Let us seek her, and we shall find her; let us love her, and she will
not withdraw herself from us; let us pursue her, and we shall overtake her; let us ask,
and we shall receive; and let us turn our hearts to her so that we may never forget
her. If [we] remember her, she will have us in remembrance; and in connection with
fools thou shalt not remember wisdom, for they do not hold her in honour, and she
doth not love them. The honouring of wisdom is the honouring of the wise man, and
the loving of wisdom is the loving of the wise man. Love the wise man and withdraw
not thyself from him, and by the sight of him thou shalt become wise; hearken to the
utterance of his mouth, so that thou mayest become like unto him; watch the place
whereon he hath set his foot, and leave him not, so that thou mayest receive the
remainder of his wisdom. And I love him merely on p. 23hearing concerning him and
without seeing him, and the whole story of him that hath been told me is to me as the
desire of my heart, and like water to the thirsty man.”
– Queen of Sheba praising Wisdom in the Kebra Nagast