Radical Spiritual Transformation from Zulu to All of Afrika

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

Add Quote from Impepho / Amalokotho Kanomkhubulwane*

Introduction:

I often wonder if modern historians, sociologists and anthropologists, black, white or other have ever read the works of Cheikh Anta Diop. I wonder if they have heard of Ayi Kweyi Armah, Magema Fuze, Walter Rodney, Noni Jabavu.

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.”

 Conclusion:

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:

  • Mythology
  • History
  • 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.

tbc

Menzi Maseko ©

www.greenankhworks.com

The Institute of Afrikology

 

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what music is and is not

Background: What differentiates the music of Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill ’em All Gang, Danny Brown, The Brother Moves On, Jedi Mind Tricks, Babes Wodumo, Lira, Nduduzo Makhathini, Black Coffee, Poor Righteous Teachers, Beyonce or Bokani Dyer ? Besides the varying levels of musicality, attention to detail or lack thereof and the labels that are often imposed on the artists, is there such thing as an Equal Music? In other words, if there is such thing as superior and inferior types of music, what does this mean regarding the progression or regression of our societies? Does music have any real impact on the Souls of people and state of the communities we reside in?

There is this thing called jazz. Some see it as the most austere and serious type of art, while some do not pay much attention to it. Others have called it the only real Art-form that the United States of America has ever produced. But there are so much political and sociological undertones and overtones related to its use and abuse by all and sundry.

Today, I drove through town listening to everything from A Brother Moves On to Mike Del Ferro. It is all just music. Its all just a matter of choice and our choices have exponentially increased since the age of the internet. While I still occasionally buy music at the few stores that are still miraculously standing, and from its producers, I get most of my music through electronic exchanges with friends and through downloading and online stores. In other words we share. But how much good quality music is being shared in the broader community and does this effect the behavior or the quality of our society?

Here is what I have recently shared on my Facebook timeline:

At first I was not too sure whether I should write this as a blog post in one of the sites I use, either AmaReflections or on this Green Ankh Works one I frequently post on, to little fanfare.
So I went onto the Blog and after re-reading this half-poetic, half essay, totally serious rant by the ingenious artist Nicholas Payton, it was decided that this is the platform …to put all these thoughts into perspective.
Here is the scenario.
I am listening to Carlo Mombelli‘s Stories album, with songs featuring Mbuso Khoza, among others. Its a brilliant album with many moods, textures and of course multi-storied. Earlier today after listening to Mike Del Ferro’s recordings with Khoza on vocals, I walked into the BAT Centre‘s library to meet an acquaintance, only to gush out at Xolisa Roro Gqoli-Dlamini about the beauty of the music I heard. I was particulary moved by a song called Umlolozelo, which is actually a heart-wrenching rendition of a traditional Zulu “nursery rhyme”, or lullaby…the lyrics are rather bleak and sinister for a children’s song, but as we know, there is always a deeper meaning and a lesson behind all these so called children’s stories.

“Thula mntwana / uMama akekho, uyothez’ izinduku / Azongishaya ngazo / Ethi ngidle amasi / Kant’ adliwe yinja / inja kaGogo emabalabala …”
We shall write some other time about how the immaculately talented Khoza recreates this song into a prayer to the Great Mother, to the Great Spirit, to heal the land that us rife with Child and Women abuse. He even mentions his daughter and calls her the most beautiful girl in the world, and also mentions Allende, the little girl who was raped mutilated a couple of years ago in this beleaguered country.

For now, I wanted to write about this phenomenon called JAZZ. What it is and what it is NOT. If indeed there is anything which it is not. Like the music called Hip Hop and even Afro-Soul and Neo-Soul, these labels hide beneath them far greater resources, greater knowledge systems and expressions than the names can ever depict.
How doe we label the Spirit, the Force, the Impact of Music?
But this is not even about Labelling, I am concerned about WHAT music really represents in our societies.
I often think of the varieties of so called jazz, the styles and forms it takes are as multifarious as the people who play it, the ones who use it and the ones who appreciate it for a multitude of reasons.

 

journeys within

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 …

 

 

Arts For A Change

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.

TBC

So What About Nature?

So What do we Not Write About?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

  • Kuyiqiniso kangakanani ukuthi kukhuna abantu abazelwe bengamaciko?
  • Ukuzalwa Uliciko kuxhumekeke ngangakanani ofuzweni
  • Luyini lona ufuzo?
  • Izikole ezifundisa noma ezicija amakhono zibaluleke kangakanani?
  • Ukufundiswa kwamakhono kuphelele yini uma kungafundiswa ngomlando okanye imvelaphi yamagama nezinsimbi ezisethseziswayo?
  • Ulimi esifunda ngalo ubuciko lubaluleke kangakanani ekwakheni isizwe?
  • Amaciko angaluthola kanjani usizo oluqhubekayo noma olunzulu olungenza imisebenzi yawo ivele ebantwini ukuze kube khona ubudlelwano phakhathi komphakathi namaciko/nobuciko?
  • Imvundo Ekhululayo nemahhala ingasisiza kanjani ukuthi silonde imvelo/umhlaba/namagugu esizwe?
  • Imvelo Ne-Tekhinoloji = Kuyosetshenziswana Kanjani Ukuze Okunye Kungachithi Okunye, kodwa kube khona ukubambisana?

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.

tree

For Bheki Hyacinth Mseleku

i have heard of that tree

hyacinth

ngiyawazi lowo muthi

ngiyayazi nembali yawo

kepha ngisalibele …

ubuhlungu bempilo nobuhlwempu bomphefumulu

kungenze ngafiphala

Sengaba kude nalowo owangitshala …

Rooted

I met an old man in the garden

And he told me

“Asparagacea”!

It is a flower from old glorious Babylon

Well they call her Iraq

these frail and fragile days

yes, beautiful Hyacinth

“Hyacinths are forever if you know what you’r doing …”

Deathless hue

these howlong blues

we are coloured by

history into names

nations, known unknowns

we are galactic beings

caught in the cruel current of the waves of time

and yet

our hearts melodies

our Souls harmonies

are timeless –

boundless energies bursting from the Source

IThongo!!!

Urging us closer

Closer to the Source.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are We AbeNguni or AbaNgoni?

potsA really brief history of who we really are and what our traditions and culture entailed before we were scattered …Because in out attempts to become Free to be who We truly are, we must first know what and who we were before colonial conquest. This is an unfinished story, but reveals a lot about aspects of Afrikan Being which has been suppressed by both foreign religions and capitalism:

ngoni