Friday, October 31, 2008

Nkosi sikelel' iAfrika

Bless up all people. I just read collection of poems "The Soweto I Love" by Sipho Sepamla, published in 1977 and banned of the Apartheid regime, which is dedicated to the victims of the Soweto Riots and all of the people of South Africa. You don't need any pictures to imagine the inexpressible terror commited by the white regime when you read the words of Sepamla. As a devotee of human rights and an activist of Black Consciousness he manifests his love for his countrymen and women and his sorrow of loosing his people to death and the western world.

The Soweto Riots were depicted in the movie Cry Freedom which deals with the great, great man and anti-apartheid activist Stephen Biko (Black is Beautiful and much much more; played by Denzel Washington) and his fight for the regime to stop the atrocities and oppression put on Black people (and to my annoyance, a white, liberal editor of a newspaper has a big role in the movie as well; it's like there MUST be a white actor in every movie about Africa or Black struggle or else the movie will be too black for white audience; The Last King of Scotland, Goodbye Bafana, Red Dust and so on; not that the movies aren't good because they are). It's a good movie and I like that the makers of the movie put in the names of activists killed by the government in jail and what the police wrote as 'cause of death'.
"Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known.
What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops." Matthew 10:26-27

Amandla awethu!

Continue educating yourself:

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Blessed Mo'Kalamity

Just a quick introduction to Mo'Kalamity and the band the Wizards. You wouldn't know her without listening to this amazing voice from France first. The album "Warriors of Light" came out last year and it is one of the best of 2007. Check out some of her songs on myspace and if you check out her cd then make sure you hear "Princess from the street", "Evolution", "Darling" and "Africa"!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Olympics history

Tommie Smith (center) and John Carlos showing the Black Power salute at the Olympics in 1968, 17 October in Mexico City after medalling in the 200 meter event. It holds historic importance for the Black Power movement and a moment for the innumerable enslaved on the middle passage boats, lynched Africans and Africans living in poverty and the events going on in the US at that time.

But Africans continue to impress the world stage at Olympics. This year Usain Bolt made three world records a long with plenty medals for Jamaica. Two other nations which exceled were Kenya and Ethiopia.
Pamela Jelimo, 18, showed incredible talent this year both in Beijing and in Addis Ababa for the African Championships in Athletics earlier this year the 30 April to 4 May. In winning three times 1st in the 800m at 18 years old, she has much more to show the world.

Ethiopia is a class of itself. There are too many talents to name but Kenenisa Bekele and his countrywoman Tirunesh Dibaba stood out. Bekele is the master of 5,000m and 10,000m twice, when he beat the world record in 10,000 by having 27:01.27 in time.
22-year old Tirunesh Dibaba won gold in 10,000m (with a time of 29:54.26) and 5,000m in Beijing Olympics plus another shiny gold medal in 10,000m in the African Championships.
Talent has its roots firmly planted in African soil.

An inspiring woman; Bessie Head

Great experiences and simply a natural that was Bessie Head. Some of her pain became something that everyone can share, in her works.
Born in Pietermaritzburg in South Africa, 1937 by a white mother and a black father was already a troublesome beginning of life. Her mother was put in a mental institution as she must have been crazy to be with a black man. Completely outrageous, and that were the times in Apartheid South Africa. She never knew her father, instead she was raised by white missionaries and educated as a teacher but later turned to journalism. An unfortunate marriage gave way to her book "Maru" where she plays the leading role in a sad story of racism and love but with an enlightenment so true that is breaks your heart.

She was a refugee in Botswana, where she discovered her brilliance in writing, for 15 years before she was granted citizenship in 1979 but the waiting did not stop her creativity from unleashing. She has written 11 books and in The Khama III Memorial Museum in Serowe, Botswana, have they devoted to her memory The Bessie Head Room where she wrote some of her greatest her-stories.
I hope her memory will live on forever because she was truly outstanding.

Bessie Head

Bessie Head's home in Serowe, Botswana

Serowe, Botswana in dry season

The principal library in Pietermaritzburg which will be renamed, after a decision made by the Msunduzi Municipal Council, to THE BESSIE HEAD LIBRARY

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Namibia; the first genocide in the 20th century

The Colonization of Namibia

The idea of Germany colonizing domains seemed remote as the government had shown no interest in expansion, and the chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, repeatedly emphasized that there would not be colonies ("So lange ich Reichkanzler bin, treiben wir keine Kolonialpolitik"). How did the chancellor have this change of heart? It could have been a diplomatic game in which the colonies were pawns as some historians view it, or it could have been traders and manufacturers who manipulated him. By 1882 Bismarck listened to the proposals of a trader called Adolf Lüderitz, and they made a deal. Bismarck would grant Lüderitz protection for land he might acquire in Africa, if he obtained a harbour and if the colonized territories were given clear titles, which meant that no other power could claim them.
By early 1883 Lüderitz set off, and in May he had bought the first harbour, and he still kept on buying land until the north of Angra Pequena (which he bought from a Nama chief called Joseph Fredericks; Angra Pequena later called Lüderitzbucht), which the British wanted to claim, or did not think the Germans were entitled to it. On the 24 April, 1884, Bismarck proclaimed Lüderitz’s right over his establishments, and that they are under the protection of the Reich.
Of all the German colonies German South-West Africa was the only one which both was a trade colony (primarily export of natural resources) and a settlement colony of large number of German immigrants. They became farmers, and it is estimated that around 1910, 13,000 Germans lived in South-West Africa compared to the total 200 Germans living there around the late 1880s and very start of 1890.
On 1 July, 1890 the Helgoland-Sansibar-Vertrag was agreed between the British and the Germans, which settled the borders between the British and German territories.

Before the Uprisings

The history of the great fights of the tribes in German South-West Africa against the Germans has not received the well-deserved recognition. If one look through the spectacles of the African peoples, it is taking the greatest historical event and their humanity from them. Why was their history hardly written detailed? Maybe the war between the tribes and the Germans was seen as just an ‘incident’ rather than an actual war. However, there is a mass of written records of history in German South-West Africa because the Germans were inveterate record keepers. These were used to justify the Germans’ actions.

The divide-and-rule policy was a way colonial powers created alliances with local chiefs and by doing that the colonial powers took advantage of animosities between the local people. The Germans tried hard to make Samuel Maharero appear like the paramount chief of the Hereros, even though no such term existed in the traditional Herero culture, because Hendrik Witbooi, chief of the Nama people (also called Namaqua; derived from the Khoikhoi people) was against the Germans from the start. By allying with the Hereros, using an old hatred between Nama and Herero, the Germans got what they wanted. In 1890 Maharero reinstated the German protection treaty which had been rejected two years previously.
Hendrik Witbooi (1838-1905) had put up resistance to the Germans (and the Hereros) before they even claimed the land, and he had a dream of uniting all the Nama tribes under one leader, fighting against the Hereros. In a letter to Maharero after he had signed the protection treaty, Witbooi wrote:

“[…] But dear Captain! you have accepted another government, and submitted yourself to that government, to be protected by a human government, from all dangers, the first, and the nearest, against me, in this war, which exists from long past between us […] and you shall eternally bear remorse , for having placed your land and government into the hands of the white people.
I know Dr. Göring [Imperial Commissioner] and you, you are of different nations, and you are from time long past not good and true friends with one another, but you have concluded this friendship, solely to destroy me, just like Herod and Pilate, so that they could remove the lord Jesus, they hid and downplayed their differences…”

Witbooi attacked Herero cattle post a month after, so Maharero appealed to their enemy’s enemy, the Germans, for help but they did not want to “get involved in native affairs”. The Germans’ protection treaty was a sham.
After many tribulations Witbooi was forced to sign a peace treaty in 1894 by Theodor Leutwein, who was made governor and military commander in German South-West Africa.

The Great Uprisings

The natives in German South-West Africa had many reasons to rebel for, and therefore it was only a matter of time before it all broke loose. The Germans had confiscated a lot of land and cattle from the Hereros, and in 1903 Leutwein had a plan to make tribal reserves or reservation, for that reason the Hereros were frightened that they would be left with the desert, Omaheke. Maharero wrote to other chiefs, for support of war against the Germans, including Witbooi.
On 12 January, 1904, the Hereros, led by Maharero, began their first attacks towards German farmers and stores. The Hereros were almost unarmed, but as Maharero said in a letter to a chief, “death has lost its terrors” because their conditions worsened, and they were ready to fight against the German injustice.
In February and March the German troops were reinforced with 1576 officers and men, weapons and horses, ready to counter-attack. “The March and April disasters” were nothing but victories for the Hereros, because Maharero was a good and smart military leader operating from a secure base. Up until April the Germans had lost 210 soldiers, and 250 Hereros were killed. The Germans licked their wounds, so the troops were out of action, and Maharero headed north to Waterberg.
The Battle of Waterberg, 11 August, 1904, was an important battle between the Germans and the Hereros, where the Herero failed resistance. The German forces under the command of Lothar von Trotha, who took over from Leutwein, made the Hereros retreat and fled into the desert where the Germans poisened the wells in the area so the Hereros died. The rest of the Hereros who were left behind on the battlefield (men, women and children) were either killed or kept as prisoners of war in workcamps. On 2 October, 1904, von Trotha promulgated that “the Hereros are no longer German subjects”, and if the Hereros moved within the German border they should be killed. Many were killed and lynched.
The Hereros were numbered to 80,000 at the time the revolt started, and in 1911 there were only 15,130 left and half of the Nama population died as well.
1,000 escaped to the British territory but most died of thirst in the desert. These events are called “the Herero Genocide”.

In September 1904 when Witbooi heard from nineteen Namas that the Germans were slaughtering the natives, rumours of a move against the Germans filled the air. October, 1904, Witbooi started an uprising (which was called “the Hottentot Revolt”, let's call it the Nama Revolt) after the death of a German official called Bezirksamtmann von Burgsdorff was killed. One-half of the remaining tribes in German South-West Africa had joined Witbooi, and the fact that they used guerrilla tactics made it very hard for the Germans to win, even though they had a force of almost 10,000 men, compared to Witbooi’s army of between 1,260-1,410 men. The far distance from the railroad prolonged the war because the Germans constantly lacked supplies.
In a fight on 29 October 1905, Witbooi died. His son, Isaak Witbooi, wanted to continue the struggle but the people were anxious to make peace. On 20 November a sub-chief of the tribes, Samuel Isaak, arranged with the Germans the conditions of surrender. They should give their weapons and ammunition to the Germans and be settled at a labour camp (which were established for other tribes as well), and only those men who killed white farmers would be punished. They agreed, and the following day the warriors rode into the camp “proud and upright, sitting on their horses with grim miens”.

While “the Hottentot Revolt” went on, Jakobus Morenga had already started small insurrections towards the Germans. Morenga and his men used guerrilla tactics as well as the Namas, and humiliated the Germans many times because the German force was much larger.
The great revolt died on 16 November 1906 when the Germans surrounded a group of Morenga’s men, and killed some of them. The rest were driven into the bush.
The German government declared German South-West Africa pacified on 31 March 1907.

Not only the Germans, but also other colonial powers, were in a catch 22 situation as regards to power. On the one hand they had unlimited chances to put violence onto their enemies (the African people whom they subjugated and whose land and resources they stole), but on the other hand no amount of weapons and violence can force their will upon another people. I think the Germans learned, to their dismay, that people would rather die as free men than live their lives in imprisonment by a foreign people. With their power they could kill but not convince.

On 9 July 1915 German South-West Africa was occupied by South Africa.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Gabriel Okara, "Once Upon a Time"

This poem is a good example of his theme about African culture meets European.

"Once upon a time, son,
they used to laugh with their hearts
and laugh with their eyes;
but now they only laugh with their teeth,
while their ice-block-cold eyes
search behind my shadow.

There was a time indeed
they used to shake hands with their hearts;
but that's gone, son.
Now they shake hands without hearts
while their left hands search
my empty pockets.

'Feel at home'! 'Come again';
they say, and when I come
again and feel
at home, once, twice,
there will be no thrice -
for then I find doors shut on me.

So I have learned many things, son.
I have learned to wear many faces
like dresses - homeface,
officeface, streetface, hostface,
cocktailface, with all their conforming smiles
like a fixed portrait smile.

And I have learned, too,
to laugh with only my teeth
and shake hands without my heart.
I have also learned to say, 'Goodbye',
when I mean 'Good-riddance';
to say 'Glad to meet you',
without being glad; and to say 'It's been
nice talking to you', after being bored.

But believe me, son.
I want to be what I used to be
when I was like you. I want
to unlearn all these muting things.
Most off all, I want to relearn
how to laugh, for my laugh in the mirror
shows only my teeth like a snake's bare fangs!

So show me, son,
how to laugh; show me how
I used to laugh and smile
once upon a time when I was like you."

Gabriel Okara, "You Laughed and Laughed and Laughed"

Gabriel Okara, born 1921, is a Nigerian writer, and artist, of modern African literature. His poems deal with the matter when the older African culture meets the European culture and they reflect the definite stages of the country's and his own development. Here's "You Laughed and Laughed and Laughed" from the collection "The Fisherman's Invocation":

"In your ears my song
is motor car misfiring
stopping with a choking cough;
and you laughed and laughed and laughed.

In your eyes my antenatal
walk was inhuman, passing
your 'omnivorous understanding'
and you laughed and laughed and laughed.

You laughed at my song,
you laughed at my walk.

Then I danced my magic dance
to the rhythm of talking drums pleading,
but you shut your eyes and laughed and laughed and laughed.

And then I opened my mystic
inside wide like
the sky, instead you entered your
car and laughed and laughed and laughed.

You laughed at my dance,
you laughed at my inside.

You laughed and laughed and laughed.
But your laughter was ice-block
laughter and it froze your inside froze
your voice froze your ears
froze your eyes and froze your tongue.

And now it's my turn to laugh;
but my laughter is not
ice-block laughter. For I
know not cars, know not ice-blocks.

My laughter is the fire
of the eye of the sky, the fire
of the earth, the fire of the air,
the fire of the seas and the
rivers fishes animals trees
and it thawed your inside,
thawed your voice, thawed your
ears, thawed your eyes and
thawed your tongue.

So a meek wonder held
your shadow and you whispered:
'Why so?'
And I answered:
'Because my fathers and I
are owned by the living
warmth of the earth
through our naked feet.'"


Commemoration; I could not come up with other words which summarize all I want to speak in this first entry. My intention is to big up African people, period.
Africa, the craddle of humanity, which gave birth to everything; the Bible, literature, oral tradition, philosophy, education, art and dance, monarchies, the greatest men and women of time, black pearls in every way and in every key word which I wrote down holds a love and inspiration which cannot be copied.
Beautiful African queens of every shade of black, they are the true mothers of mothers. They continue to be a part of every aspect of Life whether it be grass root movement, politicians, business or singers. Women of any color hold the possibility of change in themselves. They are the ones who give birth and bring up children, and in them is the future. Therefore women must be respected, educated, understood and admired because they have had their confidence taken away from them, especially African women. When I say African, I do not solely mean people IN Africa but Black people, at home or abroad.
Every journey begins with the first step, and the first step should start with the men, they are the fathers, husbands and brothers who must support their daughters, wives and sisters. Men cannot keep disrespecting women in music videos and make them sex objects. Conscious women must not be fooled by the media's vain image of beauty, and neither must men. True beauty comes from within (I am aware that it's kind of a cliche now) but when you are confident in yourself and your worth, it shines out to your outer appearance.
I kinda drew a bit away from my point, but given the long and painful hardships Black people have been and are still exposed to by white people mainly, it is inevitable to be anything else but amazed (and for me, grateful; make Black history month every month!) that they are so strong. Europeans (included Americans, Australian Europeans etc.) cannot apologize enough for the atrocities commited and the ones being commited this very instance.
I hope by writing this blog about pretty much everything from African culture/literature/music and news AND my thoughts will shed a little light on African awareness as I myself have been educated by Africans.

Jah guidance and blessings as we are given life yet another day
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