By Yousuf Cajee
The audience at “Verses for Biko & Imam Haroon”, held on 28 September at the Nana Memorial Hall in Crosby, Jozi, was riveting as the audience was treated to soul-stirring poetry by Gillian Schutte, Siza Nkosi, Mandla Motshweni, Mphutlane wa Bofelo aka Sehoja Mokubung wa Mabula and an insightful and provocative talk by academic activist, Shaheed Mathee. In his tribute, Shaheed Mathee spoke on the significance of the activism and martyrdom of Imam Haroon and Bantu Stephen Biko. Mathee exposed and lambasted the vulgarization of Black Consciousness into racial consciousness rather than a consciousness of the material and ideological forces that drive and sustain racial capitalism, white supremacy and privilege. He asserted that the Blackness of Black Consciousness is a political and rehumanising Blackness and not a racialist, ethnicist, tribalist and polarising blackness. He further emphasized that, as Bantu Biko had said, Blackness is not about skin pigmentation or a racial category but a political, mental and psychological attitude about being human and having respect for humanity and all people.
In her natural rendition – filled with smiles and tears, Siza Nkosi spoke words that included reminders of life growing-up as a girl in Soweto and decried the deadness that has assailed the musicality and vibrancy of the Soweto landscape and mindscape. Mandla Motsweni read fresh and new poems from his upcoming poetry anthology. Mphutlane wa Bofelo read an extract from “All You Need is Love – song for Farouk Asvat, in which he uses beautuful imagery and thoughts to light-up our historical consciousnesses to the political significance of memory:
“why interrogate the past?”
because to interrogate
the past is to understand
is to cast light on the future
because the past is not in the past
because the past is with us
we must remember to remember
because amnesia must fall
because memory must prevail
for history not to repeat itself as a tragic farce
The programme was hosted by the National Writers Association of South Africa, with the support of AwqafSA, the Imam Abdullah Haroon Education Trust, Kgwebong Consulting and the Suleman Nana Memorial Centre.