Today, I want to write about the South Africa I love. Not about Malema and Zuma, the travesty of the ANC legacy post-Apartheid or the shocking images of Platinum Miners in South Africa mown down by security forces (warning: graphic video) last week.
I want to write about the South Africa that has so much to offer in terms of its Spirit and I feel this will be the first of a series of posts about it.
Since I saw this horrifying raw piece of footage, I have pulled out all my music, novels and poetry collections to remind me of why SA is still a life changing place to visit.
My personal connection to South Africa is linked to something ethereal. I think. South Africa was my first visit to the African Continent in October 1994, just after the abolition of Apartheid and inauguration of Mandela. My returns since have been connected to the most important thing that has influenced me as a human being and that is the country’s passion of Creativity – turning the Struggle, concepts of Freedom and Liberation into breath-taking Art, Music and Theatre and Dance. I will always be grateful to Pops Mohamed, Busi Mhlongo, Moses Molelekwa, Madala Kunene, Bheki Mseleku, the Xhosa Singers of Lady Frere, Dizu Plaatjies, Kheti, Thandiswa, Zim Ngqawana, and Vusi Khumalo for the music they have given me.
Recently, I was asked by the Kassiani Lythrangomitis from the South African Tourist Board for an interview about my life as an artist and my relationship to SA. Below is the podcast.
In 1998, I was on tour with Pops Mohamed and the NGQOKO Women’s Cultural Group of Lady Frere – from the Ngqoko Village in the Eastern Cape. This choir is one of the last practitioners of the Umngqokolo (overtone) singing – an ambient trance song that made my hair stand on end, stirring the spirit in my very bones. I remember our tour to Zurich, Germany, Paris…. My mind was so alert as I was taught how to play Umgube (mouthbow) and some of their deep-rooted traditional songs whilst riding the tour bus. These Women knew how to party. One prominent memory of this tour was shopping in Paris. Parisiens stared as they walked through the chilly moist streets near Monmartre in layers of blankets, beads and headwraps and I was flipping mental somersaults speaking in broken french to market vendors translating their utterances into my even more scanty Xhosa to help the ladies get the right sized clothing for their children. But it worked. My brain was so alert. It was a time and tour I will never forget.
One of the other highlights of my SA connections in poetry and music was recording with the late, great Busi Mhlongo – one of the most powerful women I have met. She was a giant on stage. In 2000, still very early in my poetry writing career, I was lucky enough to be asked to contribute a poem to her internationally acclaimed album, Urbanzulu.
The track itself is epic and seemed to call for an epic poem – one that was declamatory and rousing.
To be continued…