Sekunjalo—Time to be Frank

I have been in hibernation. Alas, I have not really rested.

A lot has happened and is continuing to happen. It would seem the time to be frank has arrived. There is a need to think and re-think matters if we, Blacks, are still invested in a change that affords us dignity. 

This need to (re)think matters has caused me to meditate deeply about Frank Leepa’s Sekunjalo.

As some have come to know, I am a serious fan of Frank’s work. Frank has entrenched a deep understanding in me that the South African questions are indeed Black/African questions. He gave me a firm understanding of intersectionality–long before I learnt such a term existed.

So, based on the events of this year alone, I am of the opinion that Sekunjalo qualifies as an intersectional #BlackLivesMatters song. It is a protest song, but also a prayer. This comes out very clearly to me when the youth represented in the song declares that his determination to bring about change is, in a sense, a reason for the loved ones to pray.

If we consider how the song begins, these loved ones are the women being left behind; the father, though not explicated, is probably in Marikana.

I know this sounds like a leap. However, if you take Frank as nuanced and intersectional, you know there is a reason the father needs to be informed about the son’s departure. In fact, based on his style of writing, one should intuitively get that the reason has been omitted deliberately. My thinking is: to possibly aid the amplification of the single short line of “pray it”!

In my opinion, this line is loaded with meaning. It is a reminder to think about the women and the struggle. A reminder that many are forced to pray, fend for themselves, and hold on to radical hope that the men and children will return home.

Interesting for me is also how the “pray it” line is preceded by humming and the line: “I want to hear you sing”. This reminds me of the value of song/singing.

When I attended the Highway Africa conference recently, it dawned on me how much song is not understood in the context of a struggle. This is what happened: the Black Student Movement (BSM) entered the conference singing; there was a slight mild panic; and it occurred to me that in the imagination of some, protest singing is strongly linked to violence (despite the body language of those singing speaking a contrary truth). 

This troubled me. I couldn’t really explain to myself, why? My Senkujalo meditations have shed some light. Singing and spirituality are linked in my mind, even in a protest context. For me, singing is a deep spiritual act for expressing unison—or solidarity if you wish. Above and beyond solidarity, I also believe singing serves to soothe; and for this reason, I find it hard to understand the possible associations with violence. I mean…if I am making efforts to soothe my pain, do I really hold the intent to be violent?

This is a very pertinent question for me. It makes me wonder how much we understand Black pain.

Just so we are clear, I do understand how sometimes this pain comes through as anger—anger that seems to stem from nowhere, except this would be a lie. The anger comes from an embodied knowledge that one’s own truth in some spaces can/will easily be denied and delegitimized. This is knowledge of being rendered invisible. (At a very personal level, this knowledge has often caused me to speak in angry tones—because as I have often explained to myself, my body goes into internal convulsion mode to give weight to the spoken word.)

I have digressed. The point really is that Sekunjalo, for whatever reason, paints for me a clear picture of the moment we are in. Basically, the song makes me appreciate that 40 years of the Soweto uprising will be about the youth declaring:

We are the leaders
[Elders, there is] no need to be afraid
Batho bana ba re tlolisa khati!

And, without bothering with the actual translation of the conveniently bolded line, it gets idiomatically understood that it will take a stick to deal with the anti-transformational human beings. For, the carrot has clearly failed.

From the youths vantage point, with this failure, the only prayer left is for the elders to prepare, if needs be,”to put out the fire”. For, “with defensive guts [and] determination”, they shall forge ahead to bring change and reclaim the throne for Black people. Senkujalo, beloved elders…sekunjalo!

A Tribute to African Rocks

As you may know, today is women’s day. It is a day we remember and celebrate the courage and the role played by women in building the new South Africa. Specifically, it is a day we remember the birth of an inspiring song for all women: “wathint’ abafazi, wathint’imbokodo”! Translated in context: “you strike a woman, you strike a rock”!

This song is an apt reminder that women, like rocks, are impenetrable and cannot be moved easily once geared for action. Their intimate knowledge of oppression, pain and joy fuels their inner strength, creating a bond which enables them to be rooted in their action.

With the above said, allow me to specifically pay homage to the ordinary women of Africa. I believe they are absolutely amazing beings 😉

I salute you, ordinary women of Africa! You are the rocks, the heart and soul of our continent. When hope ceases to exist, you become the embodiment of hope. You dig deep within you to find the strength to overcome the challenges and struggles of life. Through your actions, I know that the extraordinary comes from the ordinary. And through you, I know the African dream is realisable. African women, you rock!

Africa, my Africa!

“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops” — Henry Adams

Today, I am taken back in time, to ntate Oliphant’s class, when I was half my age. He is reciting the poem, Africa by David Diop. As he recites this poem, his voice is heavy, reverent and amazingly captivating; its almost like it is the first time I have ever had him speak but it isn’t! It is merely the first time that I am awakened and connected to my identity. I am awaken to what it means to be an African and challenges that lie ahead in order for Africans to stand tall and not with their backs bent!

Ntate Oliphant, thank you for reciting this poem as you did:

Africa, my Africa
Africa of proud warriors in ancestral Savannahs …
I have never known you
But your blood flows in my veins …
Africa, tell me Africa
Is this you, this back that is bent
This back that breaks
Under the weight of humiliation
This back trembling with red scars
And saying yes to the whip under the midday sun? (ll. 1-2, 5-6, 11-16)

Happy Africa day to all! May we all continue in small ways to work towards an Africa that is peaceful, prosperous and democratic. Mayibuye iAfrica!

Came for a Reason

Africa without any boundaries is my home. However, once in a little while I meet someone who makes me question whether South Africa is my home.

South Africa is my temporary domicile (until my studies are complete). As a proud Lesotho citizen, I have all the intentions to go back home and when that time comes, no one will have the benefit of saying to me: “khomo, boela hae u holile”. This literally translates to: “cow, go home you have grown”.

In the meantime, to anyone who is intent on making me feel like this is not my home, I came here for a reason. My reason is not to play a game like morabaraba (a strategy driven board game); my reason is to get a dose of knowledge. So please listen to my plea (captured poetically below) and let me be!

Moleko, tloha ho ‘na!
Ha ke ea tla morabarabeng.
Ke tlile ngakeng:
Ke tlisitse sebono eteng.
Ha ke ne ke tlile morabarabeng,
Ke ne ke tlare:itekanye mesikaro!
Ke namane e ts’ehla;
Motho a ka thiba ka ‘m’ae,
Kapa a thiba ka monoana!

Moleko, haeba o na le litsebe, libule,
Haeba o na le mahlo, le oona a bule,
Le kelello haeba e teng, e sebelise!
Hoba ke namane e ts’ehla;
Ha ke rore feela, ke ea loana!

Translation of the above, without getting into the depth of the language is as follows:

Evil one, get away from me!
I didn’t come here for morabaraba.
I came for the doctor:
For my arse to be injected.
If I had come for morabaraba,
I would say to you: weigh your “capabilities”!
I am a yellow calf; 1
A person could defend with their mother, 2
or defend with their finger!

Evil one, if you have ears, open them;
If you have eyes, have them open as well;
And if you have a brain, use it!
For I am a yellow calf;
I don’t just roar, I can fight!

The bold part of the translation is arguably inaccurate. Doctor is ngaka in Sesotho. Ngakeng refers to any place that a doctor practices his/her craft e.g. hospital or sangoma’s chambers. People go to these places to see doctors; hence, my translation. Actually, to be exact, they go there for cure. Just to be indulgent, in the above context, the disease that needs cure can be regarded as either poverty or ignorance. Its all a matter of interpretation!

  1. Yellow calf is a term of endearment for a lion/lioness.
  2. The potency of this statement is lost in translation.