Mi S'dumo Hlatshwayo (1951 - ) grew up as an "illegitimate" child in a working-class household in Cato Manor/ M'Kumbane - a sprawling shack settlement in Durban. His family's poverty caused him to leave school by Standard 7 and search for a job. As he told FOSATU Worker News all his dreams were sunk: "... I wanted to be a poet, control words, many words, that I may woo our multi-cultured South Africa into a single society. I wanted to be a historian of a good deal of history; that I may harness our past group hostilities into a single South African history ... After 34 years of hunger, suffering, struggles, learning and hope, I am only a driver for a rubber company" (FOSATU Worker News, June 1985, no.35).
He continued his self-education by reading whatever came his way: from Biology primers to Zulu history books. He learnt about poetry through the eCibini (or St John's Apostolic Church) which was famous for its healing rituals. He had joined the church after being healed from a serious illness. In that independent African church of the poor, he experienced for the first time in his life a community of concern and care. He also experienced in the church's emotional gatherings his baptism in "words of fire": the lay-preachers, men and women who were imbued with a prophetic and messianic vision, had integrated the imbongi tradition of Nguni poetry in their religious sermons. He was discovering there, the power of language and poetry - where Christ, sometimes a furious black buffalo cut through the shrub and gorged to proclaim his victory on earth. He started participating in efforts to organise the Clermont community and later joined MAWU when it started organising at Dunlop Sports where he was working. But, if anything, it was the Dunlop strike of 1984 that triggered him to cultural action. After hearing Qabula perform his izimbongo of FOSATU, he realised that one did not need to be somebody from the university to write poetry. In fact, he was schooled through the church in the tradition himself, without knowing it before. He composed 'A Black Mamba Rises' to praise the Dunlop workers' struggle. He then joined Qabula and others to form the Durban Workers' Cultural Local.
He has since composed more poems, written and directed plays and initiated many projects. In October 1985 he resigned his job at Dunlop Sports to become the Local's fulltime cultural organiser. Hlatshwayo is the current CEO of the Durban Arts Association.
The Black Mamba Rises
The victors of wars But then retreat The Builders of nests, But then like an ant-eater You then desert. Heavy are your blows, They leave the employers Unnerved On your side are your Brothers even at the new Jerusalem Let it be workers! They say, The heaven above also Approves.
Ngudungudu, the woman Who married without any Lobolo, Busy boiling foreigners' Pots Yet yours are lying cold.
The humble bride, Affianced without the Bridegroom's consent Yet others are affianced With their fathers consent, Even the Japanese have now Come to be your bridegrooms, So! Bride why are you entwined by chains, Instead of being entwined With gold and silver like the others?
The Black mamba that shelters in the songs Yet others shelter in the trees!
Ancestors of Africa rejoice, Here are the workers coming like a flock of Locusts, On rising it was multi-headed, One of its heads was at Mobeni, Njakazi, the green calf of MAWU can bear me out Another of its heads was at baQulusi Land at Ladysmith, On rising it was burning like fire
Even Sikhumba - the leather that Overcomes the tanners, Sikhumba who knows no race Who stabs an old man and A young man alike, Using the same spear Who stabs a man's bone, Inflicting pain in the heart But he is now showing a Change of heart Here is the struggle, Sikhumba and Mgonothi are mesmerized, Asking what species of old mamba is this? Dying and resurrecting like A dangabane flower. It was stabbed good and proper during the Day, At Sydney Road right on the premises,
To the delight of the impimpis, And the delight of the police There were echoes of approval there on the TV at Auckland Park saying: Never again shall it move, Never again shall it revive Never again shall it return Yet it was beginning to tower with rage.
The old mamba that woke up early in the Morning at St. Anthony's Let's sit down and talk, he Now says
The spear that thundered at Dawn at St Anthony's, The spear that devoured the father and the sons And the daughters Then the men came together, Devouring them whilst singing Yet the songs were just a decoy.
Rife are the rumours, That those who defied the Unity have sunk, To the throbbing hearts of the Employers You black buffalo Black yet with tasty meat, The buffalo that turns the Foreigners' language into Confusion, Today your're called a Bantu, Tomorrow you're called a Communist
Sometimes you're called a Native. Today again you're called a foreigner, Today again you're called a Terrorist, Sometimes you're called a Plural, Sometimes you're called an Urban PURS
You powerful black buffalo, Powerful with slippery body The buffalo that pushed men Into the forest In bewilderment the police Stood with their mouths open
Rife are the rumours That those who defied Being pushed into the forest In exile they are, One Smit is in exile across At the Bluff, One Madinana is in exile across The Umgeni river, Both can bear me out.
Praise poets, messengers Observers, Run in all directions, Stand on top of the mountains, Report to Botha at Pretoria Report to out heroes on the Island, Report to the angels in your Prayers, Say unto them - here is a Flood of workers, The employers have done what Ought not to be.
Why tease the mamba in its Century old sleep? The writing is on the wall, No stone shall stand on top Of the other till eternity, Tell them - the borrowed Must be given back Tell them - the chained Must be chained no more Tell them - these are the Dictates of the black mamba, The mamba that knows no Colour, Tell them - these are the Workers' demands, By virtue of their birthright Dunlop workers I'm taking My hat off, I'm bowing to you with Respect.
(Dunlop Strike, St Anthony's, November 9 1984)
1986. Black mamba rising : South African worker poets in struggle : Alfred Temba Qabula, Mi S'Dumo Hlatshwayo, Nise Malange.
Author Map (Cato Manor)
Wednesday, 07 February 2007 04:08
Mazisi Kunene (1930 - 2006) was an epic poet who lived in KwaZulu-Natal. He studied at the University of Natal, and won the Bantu Literary Competition Award in 1956. He left South Africa in 1959, taught in Lesotho, and years later gained the distinction of becoming Professor of African Literature and Language at the University of California in Los Angeles. More recently, he was based at the University of Natal, Durban. For Zulu Poems (1970) Kunene collected and translated into English his early poetry. Evolving from traditional Zulu literature, the poems reflect the importance of this social and cultural inheritance. With the publication of Emperor Shaka the Great (1979), an epic poem inspired by the rise of the Zulu empire - Shaka's royal kraal was located at KwaDukuza - followed by Anthem of the Decades (1981), a Zulu epic dedicated to the women of Africa, Kunene earned critical as well as popular recognition. His reputation was further enhanced by the elegiacal poems collected in The Ancestors and the Sacred Mountain (1982). Acknowledged for his commitment to the language and history of his Zulu heritage, Kunene will undoubtedly continue to be a major voice in African literature. His more recent works include Isibusiso sikamhawu (1994), Impepho (1994), Indida yamancasakazi (1995), Umzwilili wama-Afrika (1996) and Iziyalo zomtanami (2007).
In 2015, Kunene was the recipient of a South African Traditional Music Achievement (SATMA) Award which took place at the University of Zululand.
Was I wrong when I thought All shall be avenged? Was I wrong when I thought The rope of iron holding the neck of young bulls Shall be avenged? Was I wrong When I thought the orphans of sulphur Shall rise from the ocean? Was I depraved when I thought there need not be love, There need not be forgiveness, there need not be progress, There need not be goodness on the earth, There need not be towns of skeletons, Sending messages of elephants to the moon? Was I wrong to laugh asphyxiated ecstasy When the sea rose like quicklime When the ashes on ashes were blown by the wind When the infant sword was left alone on the hill top? Was I wrong to erect monuments of blood? Was I wrong to avenge the pillage of Caesar? Was I wrong? Was I wrong? Was I wrong to ignite the earth And dance above the stars Watching Europe burn with its civilisation of fire, Watching America disintegrate with its gods of steel, Watching the persecutors of mankind turn into dust Was I wrong? Was I wrong?
1970. Zulu Poems. New Jersey, United States: Africana Publishers. 1979. Emperor Shaka the Great: a Zulu epic. Nairobi: East Africa Educational Publishers Ltd. 1981. Anthem of the decade: a Zulu epic. Gauteng: Heinemann Publishers. 1982. The ancestors and the sacred mountain. Gauteng: Heinemann Publishers. 1994. Isibusiso sikamhawu. Cape Town: Via Afrika. 1994. Impepho. Cape Town: Via Afrika. 1995. Indida yamancasakazi. Pietermaritzburg: Reach Out Publishers. 1996. Amalokotho kanomkhubulwane. Cape Town: Via Afrika. 1996. Umzwilili wama-Afrika. Pretoria: Kagiso Publishers. 1997. Igudu likaSomcabeko. Cape Town: Van Schaik Publishers. 2007. Iziyalo zontanami. Durban: Mazisi Kunene Foundation.
Author Map (Durban)
Wednesday, 07 February 2007 04:07
Mandla Langa (1950 - ) was born in Stanger, Durban, and grew up in KwaMashu township, whereafter he studied for a BA at the University of Fort Hare. After being arrested in 1976, he spent 101 days in prison on a charge of trying to leave the country without a permit. He was sentenced, skipped bail, and went into exile in Botswana.
He has participated in various arts programmes and conferences through Africa and elsewhere, and has lived in Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Angola, where he did MK military training, Zambia, Budapest and London. In 1980 he won the Drum story contest for 'The Dead Men Who Lost Their Bones' and in 1991 he was awarded the Arts Council of Great Britain Bursary for creative writing, the first for a South African. He has held various ANC posts abroad, such as Cultural Representative in the UK and Western Europe.
He has been Vice-Chairperson of the successful Africa95 Exhibition in London, and a weekly columnist of the Sunday Independent. He was the convenor of the Task Group on Government Communications. His published work include Tenderness of Blood (1987), A Rainbow on a Paper Sky (1989), The Naked Song and Other Stories (1997) and The Memory of Stones (2000). His musical opera, Milestones, featured at the Standard Bank Festival in Grahamstown in June 1999. He has been the editor-at-large of Leadership Magazine and the Program Director for television at the SABC. He was the Chairperson of the Independent Broadcasting Authority from April 1999 to June 2000. In July 2000 he was appointed as the Chairperson of Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA). In 2014, he released his novel, The Texture of Shadows. The book was later longlisted for the 2015 Sunday Times Barry Ronge Fiction Prize.
A former board member of the SABC, Mandla Langa sits on the boards of the Business and Arts South Africa (BASA), the Foundation for Global Dialogue (FGD), Horizon Strategies, Institute for the Advancement of Journalism (IAJ) and the Rhodes University School for Economic Journalism. He is a trustee of the Nation's Trust and the South African Screenwriters' Laboratory (SCRAWL). He also serves as the director to Contemporary African Music and Arts (CAMA). In 2014, Langa was appointed as Executive Vice President of PEN South Africa.
From "Zizi" in The Naked Song and other stories (1996)
On this wet Monday morning, we queued at the bus rank. By the time we were inside, we were soaked to the skin. The interior of the bus was overwhelmed by Jackson's cigar smoke. He was a thin Malawian, as black as tar. It seemed that he smoked the evil-smelling cigars to irritate the women who were on their way to the madams' kitchens. They were discouraged from opening the windows because the cold air carrying icy raindrops was more unbearable than Jackson's fumigation. 'These MaNyasa,' the women would hiss, 'coming here with their strange ways!' MaNyasa was a derogatory term used for people who came from Malawi. If Jackson heard this, he did not let on. He puffed on, his ebony face as serene as a river. We certainly couldn't say anything to him because Jackson was our key to the shipyard construction company to which we were going. The bus roared on, picking up passengers at every stop until it was so packed that breathing was difficult; an auntie dared slide the window open to let in respirable air. We passed the brace of industrial buildings near The Point; a few feet to the left rose the grim greyness of The Point prison, its walls as sturdy as a fortress. We followed Jackson out two stops farther up. He led us to a clearing where a barracks-style prefabricated building stood forlornly. He knocked on the door, took off his hat and went in. 'What do you think will happen?' I asked. 'We'll see,' Siza said. 'Just don't get nervous. Jackson knows what he's doing.' 'Water is seeping in through my shoes,' I complained. 'Bugger the water,' Siza said. He was nervous despite the show of bravado. A few minutes later, Jackson came out, followed by two white men in hard hats. One was big with a beer belly; his companion was as thin as a rake, but there was something about them, the way they regarded each other, which made them seem like brothers. The thin one cleared his throat. My father always cleared his throat before making a long speech. 'My boys,' he said, 'I don't know what Jackson has been telling you. Be that as it may, we are here to work. I'm taking you to the docks, we are going to sweat there, make no mistake. You'll be paid hourly. If you work hard, we'll get along fine. If you don't, you'll soon know why men have given me a certain nickname.' A white van with the company name stencilled on the side panels pulled up. We were waved into the back. Jackson sat in the cab with the thin white man and an African driver in bluedenim overalls. We could see traffic along Congella, the brownstone building of the Electricity Supply Commission, the smoke billowing from the twin towers of the Hulletts sugar company.
To the right, people were already queuing up to enter the King Edward VIII Hospital. We were headed for Mobeni. 'What is his nickname?' I asked. 'People call him Mlom'wengwenya - the mouth of the crocodile.' Zizi seemed to know everything. 'I wonder why he's got a name like that.' 'You'll have enough time to find out,' Siza said. 'In the meantime why don't you all shut up, maybe we can hear what they're cooking up in front.' We pricked up our ears but could hear little above the roar of the traffic and the bone-rattling bumps as the wheels hit the pot-holes. Soon enough we were passing through Clairwood, the gum- trees and wattles paving the road, bougainvillaea and jasmine drooping in the rain. Indian and Coloured people milled about, some ducking the downpour, throwing themselves under bus shelters. Some schoolchildren in uniform emerged from the houses, satchels knocking against young, bobby- soxed legs and Bata shoes. The settlements were waking up. We reached the industrial site at 6.45 a.m. Men were already preparing themselves for work, stripping off their ragged street clothes to put on even more ragged overalls. Sandblasting equipment began to whirr; then a powerfully built man, whose torso glistened with perspiration and rain, started the siren. It was one of the loudest sounds I had ever heard.
1987. Tenderness of Blood. Harare: Zimbabwe Publishing House. 1989. A Rainbow on a Paper Sky. London: Kliptown Books. 1997. The Naked Song and Other Stories. Claremont: David Philip Publishers. 2000. The Memory of Stones. Claremont: David Philip Publishers. 2004. Moving in Time - Images of Life in a Democratic South Africa. Gauteng: KMM Review Publishing Company. 2008. The Lost Colours of the Chameleon. Johannesburg: Picador Africa.
2014. The Texture of Shadows. Johannesburg: Pan Macmillan.