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Khaya Sibeko

Football.Bookworm.Cinematic Music. “The greatest contribution from Africans will be to give the world a more human face” Bantu S. Biko,

The Ties That Bind The Black Experience

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Prof. Mbulelo Mzamane, Mr. Raks Seakhoa, Dr. Nadine Gordimer, Mr. John Tsebe and Prof. Nhlanhla Maake

Prof. Mbulelo Mzamane, Mr. Raks Seakhoa, Dr. Nadine Gordimer, Mr. John Tsebe and Prof. Nhlanhla Maake

There’s a generally held perception that Africa people have largely been more spectators and less of participants in the literary documentation of their experiences. In fact, the perception is so strong that some people think that the idea of literature on the continent is a post-colonial phenomenon. So when I got email informing me of the wRite Associates’ African Century Literary Art and Orature Public Lecture and Dialogue Series, I immediately signed up to attend the inaugural event which was held at the National Library in Tshwane. The initiative comes against the backdrop of the governing ANC’s centenary celebrations but the intention of the wRite Associates’ is to focus on how the literary art became an effective instrument of liberation. The Lecture Series, according to the wRites Associates’ managing director Morakabe Raks Sekhoa, is scheduled to visit various institutions of higher learning as the year unfolds and has named Dr. Wangui wa Goro;Dr. Hugh Masikela; National Poet Laureate Keorapetsi Kgositsile; Prof Chinua Achebe and Nobel Literature Laureate Dr. Nadine Gordimer, who was present on the night, as its distinguished patrons.

Prof. Mbulelo Mzamane, Dr. Nadine Gordimer and Prof. Nhlanhla Maake

Prof. Mbulelo Mzamane, Dr. Nadine Gordimer and Prof. Nhlanhla Maake

Amongst the public figures who also attended the well organized gathering were South Africa’s Lady of Song, Sibongile Khumalo; writer Sipho Mahala and former PAC President Dr Motsoko Pheku along with literary critics; academics and enthusiasts of the written word. The invaluable address given by the encyclopaedic Prof Mbulelo Mzamane warranted more ears than those who filled the plush auditorium but that didn’t at all dampen the mood of the evening. Prof Mzamane themed his address by quoting another renowned member of the literati, Prof Njabulo Ndebele, wherein that: “A revolution, it is a blind progeny that acts without indebtedness to the past.” Mzamane went further to ask “what is South African about South African education?” He said if the same question asked to a Japanese or Jewish child, they would easily be in a position to respond accordingly and that’s because within their education systems are histories of their predecessors experiences and the impact they’ve had in the shaping of the present. Could the South African child, especially of African descent, be expected to conclusively do the same as their Japanese counter? But how is the South African child, as a product of the current education system, supposed to know any better when the governing party, in its centenary celebrations advertisements, continues to drum home a historical embellishment to the effect that “the liberation struggle began in 1912”? When there’s mentioning of the important role the African Diaspora played in the liberation of South Africa then people will think that our history is limited to our borders. It was at Booker T Washington’s Tuskegee that the ANC’s first president, Langalibalele J Dube, got the inspiration to establish his own Ohlange Institute in his Natal. This is also true of how the Harlem Renaissance writers like Langston Hughes, its music and fashion inspired the legendary Sophiatown days as documented by the likes of Can Themba; Nat Nakasa; Es’kia Mphahlele. Was it not Reverend Trevor Huddleston who gave Masikela a trumpet from the jazz icon, Louis Armstrong? It really shouldn’t shock us when young people become indifferent and begin to act like “a blind progeny that acts without indebtedness to the past” simply because they wouldn’t have been informed of the greater story of the history.

Prof. Mzamane and Dr. Motsoko Pheko

Prof. Mzamane and Dr. Motsoko Pheko - consciousness.co.za

When the then Deputy President Thabo Mbeki, at the adoption of the final Constitution on May 8 1996, declared in his famous speech that “I am an African”, he wasn’t the first to do so. In fact, 90 year earlier a certain Pixley ka Isaka Seme also declared, at a graduation day at Colombia University, that: “I am an African, and I set my pride in my race over against hostile public opinion.” Seme’s speech was titled “The Regeneration of Africa” and he went further to state that “Yes, the regeneration of Africa belongs to this powerful period. By this term regeneration I wish to be understood to mean the entrance into a new life, embracing the diverse phases of a higher, complex existence. The African is not a proletarian in the world of science and art.” Another testimony of the relationship between Diaspora and how it assisted Africans is the story of one Charlotte Maxeke, who in 1905 became the first black woman in South Africa to obtain a Bachelor of Science when she graduated from Wilberforce University in the US. As fate would have it Ka Seme would be a convener of what would later result in the formation of South African National Native Congress 1912.

Khaya and Prof. Mbulelo Mzamane

Khaya and Prof. Mbulelo Mzamane - consciousness.co.za

Mzamane asserted that great figures of the African Diaspora such as West Indian lawyer, Henry Sylvester Williams who, while living in England at the end of 19th century, convened the first Pan African congress in 1900. Don’t forget people like George Padmore; Marcus Garvey and WEB Du Bois, they must be as recognizable in our history books as former President Mandela, Walter Sisulu and Joe Slovo. Mphahlele wrote in Es’kia Continued:”Credit must go to WEB Du Bois (1868-1963) the famous African-American sociologist, for giving reality to the long-standing dream of Pan Africanism, which is based on the belief in a bond between the black people of Africa and the external areas to which the slaves were sent. Between 1919 and 1945, Du Bois was mainly responsible for the five international (Pan African) congresses. For more than 30 years, he nurtured the growing Pan African congress with a passionate sense of mission.”

The shared history and reciprocal initiatives that went on between continental and global Africans ae critical in us trying to understand South Africa’s struggle for democratic governance and they must be reflected in the education of system of the Republic if we are to answer firmly and confidently the question, “what is South African about South African education?” The wit, charm and intellectual vigour with which Prof Mzamane delivered the inaugural lecture has certainly set the tone for what is a necessary conversation which will culminate with a conference from the 7th – 10th of November in Mangaung.

Khaya Sibeko and Prof. Mbulelo Mzamane

Khaya Sibeko and Prof. Mbulelo Mzamane - consciousness.co.za

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The Ties That Bind The Black Experience, 6.0 out of 10 based on 2 ratings
  • fende

    I think one of the most efficient methods or channels would be the media and entertainment. If we take a look at the western world, most of their mythology and history is passed down to the younger generation through film and other forms of entertainment. today every western child knows about hercules and shakespeare. you look at the Afrikan child who knows nothing about Sundjata or Mweene Mutapa, but would tell you everything about Perseus and Theseus. I think if we exploit entertainment to tell our history we mightjust spark enough minds to start an inferno of knowledge. this once worked – every kid in south africa now knows about Shaka Zulu because we once had a series and films about him. i anticipate the same results if we use the same channels to tell Afrikan history. but it’s just one of the ways to skin the cat.

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  • Khaya Sibeko

    @Fende,I agree with you.If you ask the ‘average’ person about Kemit,Nubia and the like,you are likely to be met with a blank stare.There was a breaking of the chain between Africa’s achievements pre and post Islamic and Christian slave trades.Prof Mzamane contextualized his address in that perspective.Simply because Nat Nakasa was misunderstood in Harlem doesnt invalid the positives that came from Diaspora.It is up to those who have books on Africa’s greatness to spread the word that how history didnt start in the 1400s when we were supposedly discovered.

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  • @Fende, i guess the question is: is it possible to seperate the two? is it not possible to teach and learn both? The Diaspora and Afrika will forever be intertwined (even back when we were Kings/Queens the diaspora existd), so yes i agree that there is nothing ‘Afrikan’ about our education systems and that has to be addressed by us finding these books, duplicating and spreading them ourselves amongst the families, networks and hence communities…question is where do we get this treasure of history, this literature that has been hidden? and how do you spark the interest of the youth?

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  • fende

    I think written Afrikan History goes way beyond the start of the Pan African movement at the beginning of the 20th century. We must remember that if we speak of Afrika as a whole, writing was invented in Africa (Egypt and North Sudan/Nubia). Maths, Science and Medicine were also invented in Egypt, before the Ptolemaic dynasty – when negroids still ruled Egypt.
    Unless we are only talking about talking about Southern Afrika, I fail to agree that we Africans have been spectators in own ‘literary documentation of our experiences’. We have some great historical literature forms such as the Malian ‘Epic of Sundjata’ and the Abbysinian ‘Books of Kings’. the reason these document are languishing in oblivion is because we don’t teach them at school. we don’t even mention them at any point during literary discussions. instead our school chose to teach ‘Macbeth’ ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and such.
    We may look up to the Diaspora as our influence in Africa, but I’m saying Afrika had its own political views, literature and history long before the first ship landed the Cape of Good Hope. Sol Plaatjie had long documented the effectiveness of political negotiations and co-operation between racial and territorial lines for social gain and freedom fighting in ‘Mhudi’ before any of the American Intellectuals mentioned in this article ever had a voice.
    I’m not disregarding the works of Mr T Washington, Du Bois and such in the revival of black revolution but we cannot always look up to the mind outside Africa to ever shape our own future. They are fighting their own wars and we should fight ours. Nat Nakasa realized this when he was in Harlem – every black nation throughout the diaspora see us as wimps and duds because we are always crying for help or shifting our responsibilities to external ‘gods’. Nat Nakasa committed suicide in New York; according to his writing, he had been disillusioned by the hopelessness of the situation here at home, and the way his fellow blacks perceived him in Harlem – an embarrassment to the black nation. they never saw the world through his eyes; they could never understand because, even though they had gone through the same racial torture, they could never understand the effect of living under oppression in your own continent and country.
    before we teach of any history about the Diaspora, we must look at our own world first. Africa is a buried treasure of history, and all of that has to be dug out to the sunlight.

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  • Khaya Sibeko

    Thank you,guys.There’s another part of the African Diaspora that hasnt been given significant attention and thats the Africans who were enslaved in what is called the Middle East.

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  • I agree Sonasha, in Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto it is mentioned right at the end of the movie that a nation/people will not be conquered externally unless it is in conflict/not united within…we are human beings first, than Afrikans…it is without a doubt though that we need to unite to take our rightful place in this world – i believe that in itself will lead to a more united human race…the diaspora and the continent need to unite and be of one heart…brilliant article Mr Sibeko, yet again

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  • Sonasha

    Incredible writing…. and incredible message. The Diaspora influences the continent as the Continent influences the Diaspora. We are the same people.. and it is only in our unity that progress can be made. Divide and conquer was foundational to keeping us separated and distracted. With a common goal of mental, psychological and spiritual emancipation and growth, we will be and have always been unstoppable. Thank you Khaya.

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  • fende

    I think one of the most efficient methods or channels would be the media and entertainment. If we take a look at the western world, most of their mythology and history is passed down to the younger generation through film and other forms of entertainment. today every western child knows about hercules and shakespeare. you look at the Afrikan child who knows nothing about Sundjata or Mweene Mutapa, but would tell you everything about Perseus and Theseus. I think if we exploit entertainment to tell our history we mightjust spark enough minds to start an inferno of knowledge. this once worked – every kid in south africa now knows about Shaka Zulu because we once had a series and films about him. i anticipate the same results if we use the same channels to tell Afrikan history. but it’s just one of the ways to skin the cat.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  • Khaya Sibeko

    @Fende,I agree with you.If you ask the ‘average’ person about Kemit,Nubia and the like,you are likely to be met with a blank stare.There was a breaking of the chain between Africa’s achievements pre and post Islamic and Christian slave trades.Prof Mzamane contextualized his address in that perspective.Simply because Nat Nakasa was misunderstood in Harlem doesnt invalid the positives that came from Diaspora.It is up to those who have books on Africa’s greatness to spread the word that how history didnt start in the 1400s when we were supposedly discovered.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  • @Fende, i guess the question is: is it possible to seperate the two? is it not possible to teach and learn both? The Diaspora and Afrika will forever be intertwined (even back when we were Kings/Queens the diaspora existd), so yes i agree that there is nothing ‘Afrikan’ about our education systems and that has to be addressed by us finding these books, duplicating and spreading them ourselves amongst the families, networks and hence communities…question is where do we get this treasure of history, this literature that has been hidden? and how do you spark the interest of the youth?

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  • fende

    I think written Afrikan History goes way beyond the start of the Pan African movement at the beginning of the 20th century. We must remember that if we speak of Afrika as a whole, writing was invented in Africa (Egypt and North Sudan/Nubia). Maths, Science and Medicine were also invented in Egypt, before the Ptolemaic dynasty – when negroids still ruled Egypt.
    Unless we are only talking about talking about Southern Afrika, I fail to agree that we Africans have been spectators in own ‘literary documentation of our experiences’. We have some great historical literature forms such as the Malian ‘Epic of Sundjata’ and the Abbysinian ‘Books of Kings’. the reason these document are languishing in oblivion is because we don’t teach them at school. we don’t even mention them at any point during literary discussions. instead our school chose to teach ‘Macbeth’ ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and such.
    We may look up to the Diaspora as our influence in Africa, but I’m saying Afrika had its own political views, literature and history long before the first ship landed the Cape of Good Hope. Sol Plaatjie had long documented the effectiveness of political negotiations and co-operation between racial and territorial lines for social gain and freedom fighting in ‘Mhudi’ before any of the American Intellectuals mentioned in this article ever had a voice.
    I’m not disregarding the works of Mr T Washington, Du Bois and such in the revival of black revolution but we cannot always look up to the mind outside Africa to ever shape our own future. They are fighting their own wars and we should fight ours. Nat Nakasa realized this when he was in Harlem – every black nation throughout the diaspora see us as wimps and duds because we are always crying for help or shifting our responsibilities to external ‘gods’. Nat Nakasa committed suicide in New York; according to his writing, he had been disillusioned by the hopelessness of the situation here at home, and the way his fellow blacks perceived him in Harlem – an embarrassment to the black nation. they never saw the world through his eyes; they could never understand because, even though they had gone through the same racial torture, they could never understand the effect of living under oppression in your own continent and country.
    before we teach of any history about the Diaspora, we must look at our own world first. Africa is a buried treasure of history, and all of that has to be dug out to the sunlight.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  • Khaya Sibeko

    Thank you,guys.There’s another part of the African Diaspora that hasnt been given significant attention and thats the Africans who were enslaved in what is called the Middle East.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  • I agree Sonasha, in Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto it is mentioned right at the end of the movie that a nation/people will not be conquered externally unless it is in conflict/not united within…we are human beings first, than Afrikans…it is without a doubt though that we need to unite to take our rightful place in this world – i believe that in itself will lead to a more united human race…the diaspora and the continent need to unite and be of one heart…brilliant article Mr Sibeko, yet again

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  • Sonasha

    Incredible writing…. and incredible message. The Diaspora influences the continent as the Continent influences the Diaspora. We are the same people.. and it is only in our unity that progress can be made. Divide and conquer was foundational to keeping us separated and distracted. With a common goal of mental, psychological and spiritual emancipation and growth, we will be and have always been unstoppable. Thank you Khaya.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)
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