first published here: http://mg.co.za/article/2015-07-02-the-youths-sacrifices-must-not-be-in-vain
July 4, 2015
July 3, 2015
July 1, 2015
“A people who free themselves from foreign domination will be free culturally only if, without complexes and without underestimating the importance of positive accretions from the oppressor and other cultures, they return to the upward paths of their own culture, which is nourished by the living reality of its environment, and which negates both harmful influences and any kind of subjection to foreign culture. Thus, it may be seen that if imperialist domination has the vital need to practice cultural oppression, national liberation is necessarily an act of culture.”
June 30, 2015
June 27, 2015
June 25, 2015
It is true that the book, or more accurately the library, had successfully challenged and undermined age and even the living as the keeper of memory. But the privileging of the written over the oral also had roots in the relationship of power in society and history. [...] The dominant social forces had become identified with the civilized and the written. With colonization the same binary opposition was exported to Africa, with the written and the civilized being identified with Europe as a whole, while the rural, the oral, and the ahistorical were identified with Africa. The product of the oral no longer belonged to history because quite clearly the colonizer did not want the colonized to have any claims to any history as the basis of his resistance and affirmation of humanity.
Ngugi Wa Thiong’o
June 19, 2015
So a state, any state, is conservative by its very nature as a state. It wants things as they are, for it is constituted in the first place to ensure stability in a society with contending social forces and interests. Even in times of revolution the emerging state, after settling scores with the old regime and institutions, soon relaxes into safeguarding the gains and the new institutions from further changes. There is no state that can be in permanent revolution. Art, on the other hand, is revolutionary by its very nature as art. It is always revising itself– the avant-garde overthrowing old forms. Even in the work of the same artist there is a constant struggle to find new expression — a continual striving for self-renewal. And as for its relation to content, it looks at things not only as they are, but more essentially as they could be. [...] But content is never still. It is constantly undergoing change. Art strives to capture the essence of reality, which is motion. It celebrates motion. Art is simultaneously stillness in motion and motion in stillness. The state strives towards the perfection of the form of things, such as the legal system, even where this is in conflict to changing content. It wants to arrest motion, to continue with the repetition of the movement, supervise the known and the familiar. Stillness without motion: that is the essence of the art of the state.
Ngugi Wa Thiong’o
Penpoints, Gunpoints and Dreams
Harmolodic = Highest Instinct
Something to Think About
When I speak of rhythm I’m speaking about the oxygen for the notes. The beat or the time is the constant format. It’s the mechanical part of motion. Rhythm is the freest part of that motion. The beat is the cement for the road. It’s the road that you’re traveling on; the road doesn’t necessarily ever change. Rhythm can be harmonic or melodic. Most listeners and players think of rhythm as the drums and think of non-rhythm as sound or words. To me they’re the same. You can be moved rhythmically or non-rhythmically.
I mprovising is a word used to express music that is not being written and calculated at the moment. Once I heard Eubie Blake say that when he was playing in black bands for white audiences, during the time when segregation was strong, that the musicians had to go on stage without any written music. The musicians would go backstage, look at the music, then leave the music there and go out and play it. He was saying that they had a more saleable appeal if they pretended to not know what they were doing. The white audience felt safer. If they had music in front of them, the audience would think that they were trying to be white. So that’s what I think about the word improvising. It’s outdated. The term doesn’t describe the musician’s individual struggle for expression. Usually the person improvising has to use some sort of vehicle to let you know he’s doing that. It’s a limited term. Memory has a lot to do with improvisation. People enjoy the music they’ve heard before, much more than the music they haven’t heard. To me that’s like memory. The same sensations that made them enjoy what they liked in the past, when it was the present, wasn’t memory. That was an experience.
from Free Spirits: Annals of the Insurgent Imagination (1982).
June 18, 2015
June 16, 2015
June 11, 2015
Last Thursday in ‘Andere Tijden’ [TV documentary ‘Other Times]: Roemersma [former Rara = Revolutionary Anti-Racist Action] vs. Duyvendak [former activist]. Roemersma from Venezuela, and Duyvendak here in The Netherlands. And then this question pops up: What do you think about the fact that Korthals Altes [at the time Minister of Justice] called the arsons of Rara terrorism? Roemersma , surprised, could not conclude any different than to say this was and is nonsense, and that nowadays you can be labeled a terrorist much faster than in earlier times. Then Duyvendak: Of course it was terrorism, and he distanced himself from the slogan ‘Your legal order is not ours!’ So he considers ‘the legal order’ to be his and calls Roemersma a terrorist.
Now, who’s legal order is it, I have asked myself once again. I will leave the matter of terrorism for what is for now, because these days we are all terrorists or at least extremists, or otherwise criminal, repeat offender, or just scum. So be it. What’s in a name. But the legal order, how does it turn out for people? And I do not mean the privileged and the ones that sucked themselves up in this society, such as Wijnand Duyvendak.
For instance, take the ‘immigration’ policy. Less reimbursement for lawyers that appeal against detention: the result being that less often appeals are filed. Reversing the burden of proof: nice plan of the new government Brown 1 [First ‘brown’ government (2010-2012) consisting of a coalition of the 3 most right wing parties: Liberal party (vvd), Christian party (cda) and extreme right wing Freedom Party of Geert Wilders (pvv) 2010-2012]: now you have to proof why and along which route you have fled and otherwise: return straight back to misery. But ah, in fact it always worked like that: the IND does not have to prove the things they did or did not do, the ‘alien’ always has to prove all kinds of things. The pronouncement of undesirability: you no longer have to be criminal. To be found without papers in this racist and nationalist swamp for a second time is enough.
Expansion of the powers of the immigration police: a plan coming from Albayrak (previous state secretary of immigration) just like the above. The executioners can soon do everything: house searches, cavity searches, read out mobile phones, and this has nothing to do with investigating criminals such as the members of parliament of the pvv. No, this concerns undocumented people. You exist, therefore you are punishable. The legal order, is it there on behalf of these people? I do not think so. How can former activist Wijnand Duyvendak be so insolent as to renounce the thought ‘Your legal order is not ours’? Well, I would rather be a terrorist than a power corrupted wanna be politician!
Obviously, we the white privileged Dutch with a passport are not bothered by all this injustice so we could state that this legal order is indeed ours, it just is not ‘theirs’. This means that this legal order is full of xenophobia. I have not even begun to mention the many acts of violence against undocumented people, on the street, in police stations and in detention centers. I have not yet mentioned the acts of despair, the hungerstrikes and suicides,the swallowing of razor blades. I have not yet mentioned the violence during deportations, the use of cuffs on hands and feet and the use of ‘bite masks’, the intimidation, the Frontex charter flights.
There. Now I díd mention them. Still your legal order, Duyvendak?
I prefer Roemersma, who refuses to distance himself from the Rara fires that after four times led to Makro’s withdrawal from South Africa’s apartheid. Roemersma: “Successful? The apartheid regime was not gone”: He was right, of course. Only one small cog wheel had been taken away. But one is better than none.
The documentary closed by stating that violence works. But is setting fire to a company that makes money from apartheid actually violence? I do not think so. And the same goes for all those capitalist exploiters that are being supported and recognized for their contribution to ‘our economy’ by our Western democracies. A business premises burning down is not violence, it is the beginning of justice. Now you may call me a terrorist, Duyvendak, because I express this opinion.
Rara [rara in Dutch also means: “guess what”], who’s legal order is it? Not mine, although it is being forced upon me. This legal order, it is there for those who posses money and power, it is there for lobbyists and politicians, for bosses and goody-goody slaves (fees are allowed and bribes as well). This legal order is rendering people chanceless and once they have become chanceless real good, this legal order calls them useless and criminal and strikes them with punishment and measures.
Duyvendak does not want to hear about it, and Roemersma has stepped aside in Venezuela. The first I resent, the second I do not. No matter what: time for a new generation to stand up and continue to carry Rara’s torch!
Joke Kaviaar, November 20, 2010 (translation January 27, 2013)
(Between [ … ] are explanations not found in the original text)
first published here: http://13-september.nl/inciting-texts/rara-legal-order-it/
Last week African refugees massively stormed the Spanish enclave Melilla in Morocco, occupied territory in fact, just like the whole of the US has been snatched away by fortune seeking Europeans.
I remember the images of bleeding people climbing the barbed wire fences from the previous time. It is a bad sign that people keep trying it, over and over again and at the risk of their lives. But why not? Their lives were worthless anyway, just as the lives of all those people that try to reach the European continent in sinking sloops.
In the same week, on Saturday June 21, the death of a 41 year old Tunisian in a deportation prison in Vincennes, near Paris, led to protests of the imprisoned undocumented people. A solidarity demo followed, prisoners set fire to the center and many escaped.
Europe was ablaze, it seemed for a moment. That would be more than justified, because only last week the European parliament unanimously agreed on a plan to bar migrants coming from outside of our high erected walls. It is called: The Returns Directive. All it still needs is a formal approval.
No longer the European nations pass each other the ball of the ‘refugee problem’. No, ‘we’ join hands: ‘they’ are not coming in and ‘they’ will leave as soon as possible, or ‘they’ will be locked up as long as possible.
Resistance is required. But in The Netherlands of the Schiphol Fire all we do is hiss at the Proud of Orange tour of the Nationalists, led by Führer Verdonk. The tragedy of that is, that in the meantime Verdonks successor seems to be able to go ahead undisturbed.
This has got to stop! It is time for – as the French say – a considerable incentive for resistance. Because, how can it be that Albayraks neo-fascist changes of policy are so little being noticed?
How can it be that the only thing Dutch politics care about is the fact that Dutch detention centers are being pimped up as much a possible by bragging architects and artists. How cozy it all is. So humane and friendly. And so we intimately polder [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polder_model] on, while in the meantime the incarcerated migrant does not understand what it means: polderen.
It all neatly fits in the European apartheid politics and we do that in our very own way, with healing words and soothing prayer. We all contribute to the dam that has to stop the flood of all those ‘aliens’. Ecclesiastical organizations sweet talk people into not protesting both inside and outside the walls of the centers, and organize their own project for ‘voluntary return’. It is all the will of God, you see. The government speaks of ‘intensive guidance’ and makes sure not to mention the word coercion, speaks of ‘freedom restricting locations’ and certainly not of prisons.
The new policy devised by Albayrak pretends that prolonging the asylum procedure with a few days, will be to the benefit of ‘the alien’, while the true goal is to justify and to veil the restriction of appeals, because: “Experience shows that the longer aliens can postpone their departure, the more difficult expulsion becomes.”
In the meantime the security forces of jailer Albayrak are taking “adequate” action against protesting prisoners in the Bijlmer prison. It must be very safe there now. Even her whining guards have nothing to fear. It must be okay when a government official uses the word ‘adequate’. Albayrak learned that from Verdonk [Verdonk used the word “adequate” to describe the actions of guards during the Schiphol fire in which eleven imprisoned migrants died]. The next uprising in another prison in this countries capital city is impending already, but questions are not asked anywhere.
Will the Dutch rebellion be stimulated by precisely those people that already have no way to go, that can simply and unobserved be forced back into their cells by the states thugs? Or will finally the free Dutch people go out into the street because they realize that in a country of increasing repression they themselves might be next? Identity control. Pre-emptive body searches. Raids. Or will the people only rebel when ‘orange loses’ [refers to the color of the Dutch soccer team]?
Where is the Dutch rebellion? Who is coming along to storm and empty the offices of the IND, to pour gasoline over the archives and computers in order to obliterate them by fire? Who will be helping to make the modern Gestapo stop filing the undesirables. Who is coming along to break down the walls of deportation camps and prisons, with demolition hammers and bulldozers? Who is coming along to distribute wire cutters that can be used to liberate people from fences and barbed wire?
Where is the Dutch rebellion? It’s about time!
first published here: http://13-september.nl/inciting-texts/dutch-rebellion/
June 8, 2015
June 7, 2015
1770 : Boesman as plaag verklaar en deur kommando’s uitgeroei asook die Koranas en die Griekwa Bergenaars. Wet gewing in 1798 van die wetboeke gehaal.
1775: Inboek wetgewing wat bepaal het dat kinders van Slawe en Hottentot vroue vanaf ouderdom 8 tot ouderdom 18 ingeboek is.Dit het ook later Hottentot kinders ingesluit. Hottentot kinders is in 1795 van die wet uitgesluit maar die kinders van slaaf en hottentotvroue is eers in 1799 gestaak.
1797 : Hottentotte verplig om houtpasse te dra wanneer hulle tussen plase beweeg.
1809: Caledon Kode of die Hottentot Proklamasie wat Hottentotte verplig het om passé te dra wanner hulle van een plek na die ander beweeg het. Was later herroep met die instelling van ordinansie 50 van 1828
1812: Die inboek van dienskneg Proklamasie van Goewerneur Cradock wat Hottentot en Boesman kinders wie wees, verlate of op Blanke werkgewer se plaas gebore is in te boek vanaf ouderdom 8 jaar tot 18 jaar.
1818: Proklamasie wat plaas werkers wie nie wil werk nie beboet het met 25 riksdaalers en ‘n 2de oortreding lyfstraf kan toedien.
1819: Proklamasie wat die inboekstelsel verder op inheemse kinders van toepassing gemaak het.
1828: Ordinansie 50 wat Boesmans en Hottentotte effektief van hulle taal kultuur en geloof beroof het deur dit as heidense gebruike aft e maak. Verder het die Engelse hulle as die inheemse volke se verlossers beskou. Inheemse kinders kon nie ingeboek word sonder hulle ouers se toestemming nie.Passe was afgeskaf vir inheemse mense. Hul reg tot grond eienaarskap was ook hierin omskryf.
1834: Vabond wet wat rondloper Hottentotte en Boesmans saam met slawe tot rondlopende kwaaddoeners geklassifiseer het.
1841: Die heer en Arbeider Ordinansie 1 wat ordinansie 50 van 1828 vervang het. Het boete van 20 sjillings vir onwettige inboek van inheemse kinders bevat.
1856: Meester en Arbeider Wet no 15 wat ordinansie 1 van 1841 net so oorgeneem het wat boetes van onwettige inboeking van inheemse kinders tot hoogstens 20 sielings beperk het. Hierdie wetgewing is eers in 1974 van die wetboeke geskraap en is een van die wette wat ons inheemse mense die nadeligste getref het.
1872: Proklamasie wat inheemse mense verbied het om diamantkleims te besit of te bekom
1873: Meester en Arbeider Veranderde Wet wat uitsluitlik teen inheemse plaasarbeiders gediskrimineer het wat slegs hulle onderworpe gemaak het aan harde arbeid of klippe kap, skaars diete, allen opsluiting.
1909: Boesman Wet wat bepaal het dat daar geen boesmans bestaan wat nog van hulle nomadiese gewoontes leef en veldkosse versamel nie.
1926: Meester en Arbeider Veranderde Wet wat plaaseneienaars uitgebreide magte oor hul plaaswerkers gegee het.
1926: Die parkewet wat inheemse mense van hulle gronde afgesit het sodat parke daar gevestig kon word.
1927: Lokasiewet wat in 1933 toegepas was wat inheemse mense van hulle grond ontneem het.
1950: Bevolkings Registrasie Wet no.30 wat inheemse mense effektief van hullle inheemse identiteit beroof het deur hulle onder die diskriminerende naam van Kleurlinge geklassifiseer het.(Hierdie wet is in 1991 deur FW de Klerk van die wetboeke geskrap.) Die huidige regering diskrimineer teen inheemse mense deur hulle steeds as Kleurlinge te Klassifiseermet hulle gelykheidswet van 2005 soos deur president Mbeki geproklameer.
1950: Groepsgebiede Wet No 41> Hierdie wet is een van die mees gehate wette wat inheemse mense total verarm en onteien het.
1953: Aparte geriewe Wet No 49 of die sogenaamde “Slegs Blankes” wet wat van ons agterdeur burgers in ons eie vaderland gemaak het.
1956: Suid-Afrikaanse veranderde Wet No ( wat inheemse mense total van die stemrol afgehaal het.
1959: Uitbreiding van Universiteit Opleiding Wet No 45 wat rasgebaseerde universiteite daar gestel het.
1973: Proklamasie op die Groeps gebiede Wet No 228 wat weereens ons mense verskuif het tot die verste woon gebiede uit die sentrale dorp gebiede uit.
1991: Gedurende 1991 was die Bevolkings Registrasie artikel 30 van 1950 sowel as die Groepsgebiede Wet van 1950 van die wetboeke geskrap.
2005: Demokratiese Regering gebruik artikel 30 van 1950 (geskrapte wetgewing) in hulle “Equity Act of 2005” en klassifiseer ons weereens as Kleurling.
June 5, 2015
It is one of the many ironies of the 1994 “negotiated settlement” that a large number of white South Africans can stigmatize the project of “transformation” at the same time as they continue to feel entitled to their privileged position in society. They are willing to fight for their constitutional rights, but they are not ready to contemplate, and deal with, the accumulated atrocities on which these privileges rest.
For centuries, whites in South Africa – and not only Afrikaners – enjoyed unfair advantages in the labor market. As in the United States, they were able to rig the rules of the game and control access to jobs and promotions while closing off access to training or education for blacks. The disempowerment and dispossession of black people goes further back than earlier processes of proletarianisation in the nineteenth century. The introduction of the pass system, the institutionalization of the cheap labour system, the exclusion from property ownership – these tactics were instrumental to the accumulation of white wealth, land and power on the one hand and the development of patterns of dispossession for blacks on the other hand.
To protect white privilege, boundaries were created that took the form of laws, customs and traditions. A deeply embedded racist ethos helped to justify whites’ loss of feeling for human fellowship with blacks. This is how white privilege came to be seen as an entitlement that was hardly ever contested. Over many centuries,whites developed an ability to pass on to succeeding generations the spoils of racial violence and atrocities. These took the form of monetary or property value, banking practices, housing and land assets, educational resources, cultural capital, insider networks, good jobs, a sense of self-esteem, dignity and superiority.
The process by which white privilege was legislated has been well documented. It started as a genuine concern for the real problem of white poverty. But from the early 1920s, the more concerned the state became with alleviating white poverty and rehabilitating the white poor, the more racist it turned out to be. Already with the Pact’s victory in 1924, W.F. Hertzog wanted to replace large numbers of cheap black labor with unskilled or semi-skilled whites. “Uncivilized labor” was replaced with “civilized labor” at “civilized wages.” Such was particularly the case in the railways, harbours, post office and local government.
Employers who hired “whites only” received preference for state contracts. Under the policy of import substitution, customs were relaxed for protected industries which employed a certain percentage of whites. A Wage Board allowed the state to enforce minimum wages. Meanwhile, the trades were closed to blacks as a result of the Apprentice Act. Welfare was reorganized. Extended state assistance was provided to the white poor in the form of public works, vocational guidance, health services and housing, social clubs, pensions for poor mothers, old age pensions or sick and disability grants.
Later, the capital accumulated in farming flowed into financial institutions, which in turn helped greatly to diversify the range of Afrikaner commerce. A recapitalization of the education sector, especially at university level, expanded Afrikaner involvement in a whole range of professions in the public and private sector. A new generation of Afrikaner entrepreneurs spearheaded upward social mobility. Sanlam and Trustbank, amongst others, gave Afrikaners a footing in a commercial world dominated by English corporations. Anglophone mining houses made space for Afrikaner-controlled corporations to buy into this sector.
Per capita income amongst Afrikaans-speaking whites was less than half that of English-speakers in 1946. In the late 1970’s, it had risen to 80 per cent and was heading towards parity. This is how white South Africa came to enjoy a standard of living equal to that of the richest countries in the North.
Today, large sections of the South African white population can no longer see the advantages they gained from these arrangements. Indeed, in order to oppose “transformation,” the past has to be erased. The element of cruelty and brutality it took to maintain white privilege has to be forgotten. Whites have to be discouraged from understanding the benefits that still accompany their own skin colour, including in the new democratic dispensation. Instead, in a typically neo-conservative move, they are encouraged to absolve themselves from the sins of the past and to perceive themselves as the new victims of a corrupt and incompetent black government which, in addition, is “soft on crime.”
Apartheid Futures and the Limits of Racial Reconciliation
June 4, 2015
“People of a same period and collectivity, who have lived through the same events, who have raised or avoided the same questions, have the same taste in their mouth; they have the same complicity, and there are the same corpses among them.”
What is Literature?
May 30, 2015
Terwyl die bloed drup uit die loop van die geweer~
Verdwaas geskok gille wat klief deur die hemelruim bloed wat stort weer en weer
~N masjien wat dreun om vragte aan te ry~
Om die verlies te vermy~
Terwyl die bloed drup uit die loop van die geweer.
Klop hul mekaar op die skouer en se
Ons doen dit weer en weer~
Die bloed wat wegsypel in die grond~
Duur gekoop in minerale reg onse grond~
Bloed bloed bloed…
May 28, 2015
May 21, 2015
keep reading this review here: http://constitutionallyspeaking.co.za/at-the-venice-biennale-an-ugly-condescending-scream-on-the-wall/
May 20, 2015
By Maakomele R. Manaka (the title is a line borrowed from Lesego Rampolokeng’s poem.)
“One good thing about music when it hits, you feel no pain.” Bob Marley’s statement summarizes the epitome of ‘Nyilo Nyilo: A vocal museum’, Masello Motana’s ingenious live performanceor rather a call to the redefinition of memory through music, at one of Johannesburg’s foregrounds for culture, the Afrikan Freedom Station.
Growing up in the township, music was an integral part of our lives. And because we lived so close to each other, every Sunday morning, music from every home would find its way through the congestion, filling the street with a kaleidoscope of sounds, from gospel,jazz, RnB, kwaito, to the loud Zionist church choir in a school across the street from my house, all at the same time. And even in the games we played as children, the presence of music was consistent. In many ways those rhythms from our homes, shops, tavens and our games, created a strong sense of belonging, feeling like you were part of something bigger than yourself, part of a community.
Through coming from the past and looking back at the future, the present is indeed ‘a dangerous place to live’.
And with all the PS4’s, DSTV‘s, MP3’s, the influx of drugs and the reckless public drinking, the congested spaces have become even more congested. The music in our languages seem to lose their flavors because many of us have forgotten how to listen, and have become spoiled couch potatoes and self-absorbed iPod junkies.
I suppose protecting oneself from this unpleasant present, ‘memory is the weapon’.
And just when I thought this decomposing present was becoming defenseless, a non-conforming radical voice of a hummingbird, Masello Motana restored the primary colors of our memory through melody.
Before the songbird led us through a musical journey, she began to unchain our minds from today’s socioeconomic political debris, exposing the importance of music in the shaping of a people’s culture and the fragility of its memory. She called one of her friends up to make a very poignant point about how interwoven music has always been by playing a game, many of us sang along, “By so, by love you baby….”. At that moment, our culture church, the Afrikan Freedom Station had been transformed into a playground and as the hummingbird stripped off all our adult tensions and masks, we all became children. Singing along to familiar tunes we used to play to.
And just after introducing the instruments of melody, like a rapid rattle of a rifle, she and the wielders of rhythm shot through time and space with their first song, “Ntyilo Ntyilo” Written by Aalan Silinga, and popularized by Mariam Makeba. Over the years there have been many different versions, though for me personally, Johnny Dyani’s version takes the prize. A Xhosa song about a little bird singing a beautiful melody of wanting to break free, Motana could not have been more in tune with the times in choosing the song to kick start the prayer because in a way many of us feel like that “Nyitlo ntyilo” longing to be free from the present and its lies. She delivered the song with a strong upright voice, driven by an emotional trombone over a melancholic baseline. The marriage between her and the music evoked those little birds inside each of us that are dying to be heard.
True to her name, Masello mothered our cries of longing to be reconnected to our long lost forgotten true history of our cultures. Her vocal museum is more than just a singer with a band in front of an audience she is an historian with a band of librarians telling our untold story of this land through music.
“When music hits you feel no pain”. What happens when music is painful?
When she began to sing “Thina sizwe”, it started to drizzle almost as if the ancient ones of this soil were in agreement with her, and us all. The pianist with a soft yet angry underlining tone in his keys carried with it a people’s plight that stretches over a century. Her ability to control the high and low pitches of her voiceover a wailing piano, accentuated the cry: “Mabayeke umhlaba wethu”.
On a table that fills with white supremacy and inequality, the message in “Thina Sizwe” could not be more relevant.
The vanguard hummingbird kept flying backwards, singing us through her thesis of the country’s historic musical landscape. Articulating the present’s condition through a dub version of Winston Mankunku’s “Yakhalinkomo”. The bewitching trombone and the rhythmguitar together with the drums along side a very punchy baseline uplifted the passion in her voice when she bellowed, “khaba le nja”. And as if she was not in the rhythm of relevance already, she and her band of librarians took us through an almost forgotten chapter of Strike Vilakazi’s “Meadowlands” reminding us of the forced removals that took place around the area where the Afrikan Freedom Station is situated.
We moved through the pages of music, and creating a nostalgic time capsule. Journeying through the spirit from Brenda Fassie to Lebo Mathosa and to the distinctive sound of Durban’s house music. Though the genius was in the taste of a very eclectic pudding, as she fused John Coltrane’s ‘Love Supreme’ baseline with lyrics from Professor’s popular song “Jezebel”, and bluesing up one of Boom Shaka’s hit tracks of the 90’s “FREE”.
The lyrics of “FREE”, written by Thembi Seete, express what many of us along with Masello still feel like today 20 years into the new South Africa, “I wanna be free from the chains that are binding me”.
After her last song, we all screamed for ‘one more’, and like fertile soil she humbly gave us one last song. Then she walked off stage like a slender sa ma catalogue on the runway, as we cheeredand stood up to honor her vocal museum meanwhile the band continued to play. We sat outside in the presence of memory covered in cigarette smoke and a cloud of nostalgia, recalling our childhood days and the music that shaped many of us.
Though amidst all the the exciting nostalgia in the presence of memory, the poet in me could not help but feel a hint of sadness creeping from the pavements, that even after such a memorable journey of the spirit we remain a dispossessed and a disconnected people.
And as the poetic statesman once said when restoring the archives of ancient scrolls in Timbuktu, “A people without a knowledge of self, is a people without a sense of direction”.
Masello Motana is without doubt, one of the strongest most candid voices of our generation, and it is with great faith that I pray we not only dance shout and marvel at her genius though rather we actualize her cause: To equip ourselves with the necessary tool that Mattera calls a weapon so we can begin to reclaim the land and rewrit eour true story. Because, many of the congested spaces we call home are overflooding with substances, institutions and systems that teach our children how to forget.
And so it is through memory that we can begin the struggle of reconnecting with the music in our indigenous languages, and Masello’s “vocal museum” is one of the true testaments to that possibility.
“Our true history is before us, for we have yet to build, to create, to achieve. Our very oppression is the flower of opportunity”- Can Themba
May 18, 2015
For these reasons, the emerging consensus is that our institutions must undergo a process of decolonization both of knowledge and of the university as an institution. The task before us is to give content to this call – which requires that we be clear about what we are talking about.
(This post is informed by two documents: the paper delivered by Achille Mbembe at Stellenbosch University on 30 April 2015, and a ‘work in progress’ article by George King, as well as discussion of these documents at a meeting of the MusicSymposiumSA on 14 May 2015. Both documents are available on request).
Something is brewing at our universities. Students are defacing statues; they are staging silent protests; they are staging loud protests; they are handing over memorandums. The students are raising their voices. And it is high time.
One might ask, why now? Have learners at our institutions of higher learning suddenly become disenchanted with the status quo, or have these discontents been simmering for the past twenty-one years? Is there something particular about the present historical moment that facilitates or enables these instances of dissent?
I don’t have an answer to these questions, nor do I want to try to engage with them in general. This blog deals specifically with music in South Africa, and this post with music education at South African tertiary institutions. And what is true, I believe, is that the present historical moment presents us with an opportunity: to answer the appeal articulated so well by Achille Mbembe, to ‘give content’ to the call for transformation and change at our institutions of higher learning.
It is perhaps inevitable that the first post on this blog will be a contentious one, dealing as it does with issues of music teaching practice at South African universities. We are, however, admittedly living in interesting times, and these issues need exploring. The ideas put forward here are ‘unfinished’, and this post does not attempt to present a single thesis or viewpoint. I welcome engagement with all the points made here.
Three assumptions inform this post. One: curricula, approaches to teaching and course content at music departments in our universities are in serious need of transformation. Two: such transformation is being actively resisted by members of music departments at our universities. Three: there are ideological reasons for this protection of the status quo.
Dissenting voices from within South African music academe have been present for a while. George King mentions that, already in 1983, Chris Ballantine from the University of KwaZulu Natal (University of Natal back then) raised a number of issues relating to what he saw as the future for music studies in South Africa. In a paper presentation at the Fourth Symposium on Ethnomusicology, Ballantine proposed that music departments in South Africa respond to the radical and progressive restructuring of South African society by asking the question: ‘how could we orientate ourselves academically, how would we find our bearing, if we should decide to align ourselves with the progressive movements for social change in the 80s?’
More than twenty years on, Ballantine’s call for academic re-orientation, for a shift in paradigm at South African music departments, does not appear to have resulted in the kind of debate, transformation or change he had envisioned. His own department was one of the very few to implement significant curriculum changes before the 1990s; during the past twenty or thirty years, most music departments have been resistant to curriculum changes that would shift the focus from Western Art Music to include popular and indigenous musics within their BMus offerings. Although most departments now do include jazz, indigenous and popular music in their courses, the emphasis remains in most cases on Western Art Music. Traditional Western music theory based on the so-called ‘common practice’ period dominates music theory curricula, with little or no space for alternative approaches (and in spite of the fact that this kind of common practice theory has little or no bearing on composition, performance and music-making practices carried out by most South Africans today). ‘Music history’ deals, in most cases, with the history of Western art music, and few attempts are made to discover and include alternative ‘histories’ of music, particularly histories from our own continent and country, in the curriculum. Africa is not a-historical, nor is its music history something which should be relegated to the realm of ‘ethnomusicology’ or ‘cultural studies’ alone – it has a history that simply has not yet been actively researched and articulated.
Why is there such active resistance to transformation and change in our music departments? Why is there such active investment in the protection of a monoculture that favours Western art music above all other musics? Different scholars have suggested possible answers to this question; it is certainly too big a question to attempt to answer in this space. My doctoral dissertation offers some possibilities; it can be viewed here http://scholar.sun.ac.za/handle/10019.1/71885
Mbembe argues that universities tend to view knowledge as separated from the knower: the idea that knowledge can not only be taught from the top down, but generated by those actively involved in the knowledge project, seems anathema to many university lecturers. If we could manage to make a paradigm shift in this regard, and search for ways to provide students with tools for learning rather than just information, we might go a long way towards evening out the power imbalances that exist at our institutions.
How could this be done? In music, a holistic approach where academic and practical work is seen as integrated, mutually informative and equally significant parts of the education process could yield much. This could mean that, for example, a piano student would learn about composition techniques by interrogating the techniques present in the works she is performing: Messaien’s approach to rhythm ceases to be an abstract concept, and becomes something the pianist is intimately acquainted with. Or: the same piano student, after being exposed to Zimbabwean mbira music in an ethnomusicology seminar, experiments with improvisations on the piano incorporating similar scales and rhythmic patterns. Same pianist searches for ways to use performance to interrogate social issues such as accessibility to concert performances, by staging performances outside of the traditional concert hall. There are many possibilities; what these three examples have in common is the notion that learning can happen ‘from the ground up’, through discovery and experimentation, and that knowledge does not necessarily have to be delivered ‘from the top down’.
Such holism could further enable also a bridging of the typical juxtaposition of ‘modern’ and ‘traditional’ approaches to music, allowing music students to be (in the words of Sol Plaatje) both ‘global actors and local citizens’. The hierarchy between ‘Western art music’ and ‘the rest’s music’ must be broken down – on a level playing field, engagement with all musics becomes possible. It is time to move out of the strictures of inherited practices and approaches, and into a space of experimentation: is it more important for a music student to know the correct way to notate a chord progression on a music stave? Or perhaps rather to be enabled to compose a piece of music, using improvisation, electronic resources, found objects or (and) musical instruments? An experimental space allows for new ideas, new ways of knowing to be constructed, rather than existing knowledges to be simply transferred or delivered, ready-made.
Students at South African universities are insisting on change. As role-players in music academe and the music world at large, we have the opportunity to take up this call for transformation and change, for their sake as well as ours. We cannot afford to miss such an opportunity again.
(Mareli Stolp, 15 May 2015).
May 17, 2015
At the age of 21, Sophie Scholl was executed by the People’s Court in Germany on Feb. 22, 1943, during the Holocaust, for her involvement in The White Rose, an organization that was secretly writing pamphlets calling for the end of the war and strongly denouncing the inhuman acts of the Nazis.
In May, 1942 German troops were on the battlefields of Russia and North Africa, while students at the University of Munich attended salons sharing their love of medicine, Theology, and philosophy and their aversion to the Nazi regime. Hans Scholl, Alexander Schmorell, and Sophie Scholl were at the center of this group of friends.
Attending the same university were two medical students, Willi Graf and Jurgen Wittgenstein, who had served in a military hospital in 1939, with Hans, Sophie’s older brother. Along with Christoph Probst, a married soldier and father of three, they eventually joined The White Rose.
Sophie Scholl was born on May 9, 1921, in Forchtenberg am Kocher, where her father Robert Scholl, was mayor. At 12 Sophie joined the Hitler Youth, but became disillusioned. The arrest of her father for referring to Hitler as ”God’s Scourge,” to an employee, left a strong impression on her.
To the Scholl family loyalty meant obeying the dictates of the heart. ”What I want for you is to live in uprightness and freedom of spirit, no matter how difficult that proves to be,” her father told the family.
When the mass deportation of Jews began in 1942, Sophie, Hans, Alexander and Jurgen realized it was time for action. They bought a typewriter and a duplicating machine and Hans and Alex wrote the first leaflet with the heading: Leaflets of The White Rose, which said:
”Nothing is so unworthy of a nation as allowing itself to be governed without opposition by a clique that has yielded to base instinct…Western civilization must defend itself against fascism and offer passive resistance, before the nation’s last young man has given his blood on some battlefield.”
Members of The White Rose worked day and night in secrecy, producing thousands of leaflets, mailed from undetectable locations in Germany, to scholars and medics. Sophie bought stamps and paper at different places, to divert attention from their activities.
In 1933 Hitler was elected chancellor of Germany. Many Germans who were uncomfortable with the anti-Semitic ranting of the Nazi party, appreciated Hitler’s ability to bolster pride in a shamed nation.
The second White Rose leaflet stated: ”Since the conquest of Poland 300,000 Jews have been murdered, a crime against human dignity…Germans encourage fascist criminals if no chord within them cries out at the sight of such deeds. An end in terror is preferable to terror without end.”
Sophie’s brother Hans spent two years in the military, studied medicine at the University of Munich, and was a medic at the Eastern front with Alex, Willi and Jurgen in 1942.
Jurgen transported stacks of pamphlets to Berlin. The journey was dangerous, ”Trains were crawling with military police. If you were a civilian and couldn’t prove you’d been deferred, you were taken away immediately,” he recalled.
No one in the United States can comprehend what it is to live under absolute dictatorship. The party controlled the news media, police, armed forces, judiciary system, communications, education, cultural and religious institutions.
The third leaflet demanded: ”Sabotage in armament plants, newspapers, public ceremonies, and of the National Socialist Party…Convince the lower classes of the senselessness of continuing the war; where we face spiritual enslavement at the hands of National Socialists.”
The Nuremberg Laws of 1935 had demanded expulsion of anyone who was not Aryan, declaring Jews as non-citizens. The international press had begun to report beatings in the streets, so Hitler moved the arena of cruelty away from cities to concentration camps.
On November 9, 1938, 30,000 Jews were beaten and arrested, and Storm Troops burned 191 synagogues on Kristallnacht, ”the night for the broken windows,” causing 200,000 Jews to flee to the countryside.
When Alexander Schmorell was asked to swear an oath to Hitler, he asked to be discharged from the army. Willi Graf turned to passive resistance like the rest, after serving as a medical orderly in Yugoslavia. He was assigned to the Second Student’s Company in Munich, where he met Sophie, Hans, Alexander, Christoph, and Jurgen.
Christoph Probst was the only member of the White Rose who was married with children, so the others tried to protect him. In the fourth leaflet they wrote: ”I ask you as a Christian whether you hesitate in hope that someone else will raise his arm in your defense?…For Hitler and his followers no punishment is commensurate with their crimes.”
After the German defeat at Stalingrad, in 1943, and Roosevelt’s demand for unconditional surrender for the Axis powers, an Allied invasion was weeks away. That night, Hans, Willi, and Alex painted ”Freedom” and ”Down with Hitler,” and drew crossed-out swastikas on buildings in Munich.
Their philosophy professor, Kurt Huber, was shocked when he learned of the state-organized atrocities committed in Germany, and he worked on the final White Rose leaflets. He was also motivated to lecture on forbidden subjects, such as the writings of the Jewish philosopher Spinoza.
Each leaflet was more critical of Hitler and the German people than the last. The fifth mentioned: ”Hitler is leading the German people into the abyss. Blindly they follow their seducers into ruin…Are we to be forever a nation which is hated and rejected by all mankind?.”
The Gestapo had been looking for the pamphlets’ authors as soon as the first ones appeared. As the language in the leaflets became more inflammatory they stepped up their efforts. They arrested people at the slightest hint of suspicion.
Sophie and Hans brought a suitcase of the final leaflets, written by Professor Huber, to the University, and left them in corridors for the students to discover and read.
Jakob Schmidt, University handyman and Nazi party member, saw Hans and Sophie with the leaflets and reported them. They were taken into Gestapo custody. Sophie’s ‘interrogation’ was so cruel, she appeared in court with a broken leg.
On Feb 22, 1943, Sophie, Hans and Christoph were condemned to death by the ‘People’s’ Court, which had been created by the National Socialist Party to eliminate Hitler’s enemies.
Hans Scholl’s last words shouted from the guillotine were, ”Long live freedom!” In an unprecedented action by the guards, Christoph Probst was allowed a few moments alone with Hans and Sophie before they went to their deaths. After months of Gestapo interrogations to obtain the names of his co-conspirators, Willi was executed. His final thoughts were: ”They shall continue what we have begun.”
Alexander Schmorell was arrested in an air raid shelter and executed at Munich Stadelheim. Kurt Huber became one of the defendants at the trial of the People’s Court against the White Rose. Survivors remember Huber’s last words, an affirmation of humaneness.
Jurgen Wittenstein was interrogated by the Gestapo, but they couldn’t prove his involvement so they let him go. He got himself transferred to the front, beyond Nazi control and was the only one to survive. After the war, he relocated to the United States, became a doctor and received an award from the Government of West Germany for his bravery.
”How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause,” Sophie said. ”Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go,” she continued, ”but what does my death matter, if through us thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?”
”The White Rose is a radiant page in the annals of the 20th Century. The courage to swim against the stream of public opinion, even when doing so was equated with treason, and the conviction that death is not too great a price to pay for following the whisperings of the conscience,” writes Chris Zimmerman in The White Rose: Its Legacy and Challenge.
Two hundred German schools are named for the Scholls, and politicians such as former New York Mayor David Dinkins invoke their names, and visit their graves. With the rise of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and violence against foreigners in Germany, the anniversary of the executions is a powerful reminder.
Sophie Scholls sister Inge Aicher-Scoll wrote: ”Perhaps genuine heroism lies in deciding to stubbornly defend the everyday things, the mundane and the immediate.”
Sophie Scholl and the White Rose, by Jud Newborn.
Oneworld Publlications, Oxford, 2006.
They Died to Defeat the Reich
by Gabriella Gruder-Poni
New York Times – June 12, 1993
A View From Within The White Rose
German Life – May 31, 1997
The Story of a Rose: The Remarkable Life of Sohie Scholl
by Elizabeth Applebaum
Baltimore Jewish Times – November 24, 1995
The White Rose: It’s Legacy and Challenge
By Chris Zimmerman
Rescuers – Germany during WWII