Friday Feature: 3rd Annual Steve Biko Memorial Lecture, Europe

Hugh Masekela Delivers the Lecture at LSE

Diamond Biko

By Hugh Masekela

Bantu Biko’s life was yanked from us as brutally as was that of Lumumba, of Sobukwe, of Makana, of the Mxenges, of Sharpeville, of the children of 1976 and millions of people of the continent of Africa for whom there is nary a plague anywhere.

But Bantu Biko’s ideals, his dream refuses to fade, his legacy says “no” to the death sentence through constant torture and assault that was suffered upon his being.The time is indeed emerging again, where African people will strive to revive the constant visibility of their heritage.  We will create academies where we will be enabled once more to learn our languages, where We will be taught the songs of out great-great-great-great grandparents, where we will play the drums, the mbiras, the marimbas, the Balotons, the Ouds, the shakers, the Koras, the bells, the violins, the tam-tams and the talking drums of our ancestors, dancing to the choreography they have sculpted us for. We will build academies where our remaining aged will come and recite for us their oral proficiencies withdrawn from the banks of their very lasting recalls of where our roots are still blooming.

We will build establishments where today’s old and new generations will go and learn of the Songhay empire, the Mali empire, the Ghana empire, Maphungubwe, Monomotapa, Mozambikhe, Khoi-San, Ituri, Dogon, Ashanti, Maasai, Peul, Igbo, Maninka, Nama, The Nile, the Zambezi, the Kalahari, the Congo, the history of Africa according to Africa.

We will build monuments for those who were massacred during the Atlantic crossings of slavery, those who were murdered for refusing to go West by force, for those who jumped overboard rather than land in New Orleans, South Carolina, Mississippi, Caribbean, Brazilian, South American, European slave markets. We will fashion conservatories wherein we shall bring back Louis Armstrong, King Olivier, Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Duke, Count, Ella, Sarah, Billie, Bird, Miles, Etta, Marvin, Sam Cooke, James Brown, Miriam Makeba, Franco, Fela, Ebenezer, Obeyi, Zakes Nkosi, Dorothy Masuku, Victor Ndlazilwane, The Manhattan Brothers, The Dark City Sisters, Lemmie Mabaso, Spokes Mashiyane, Dolly Rathebe, Ntemi Piliso, Samba, Bob Marley, Fela Kuti, Demba, Tabu Ley, Dumisani Maraire, Chiwoniso Lucky Dube, Kippie Moeketsi, Alan Silingan, Alpheus Nkosi, Kandia, Salif, Youssou and all the gods of our music. 

We will construct institutions where we will learn again our praise-poetry, where we will reclaim our names where the teaching of our ancient design, culture, cuisine, artisanship, sculptures, furniture, household goods, arts and crafts will be as accessible as iPads, computers, cell phones, apps, iPods television, radio and glossy magazines, where our presence on the aforementioned screens will be more frequent than the daily news, the wigs, the extensions, the skin lighteners and the urbanisation, and brainwashing of our psyches. We will be as visible as Victorian Falls, the Sahara, the Namibian Dunes, the Serengeti Plains, the Big Five and Kruger National Park. We will construct Museums where our art treasure will be in view, where our stolen artifact adorning European, Western and Asian Museums will tour the exhibition halls of our academies of heritage restoration. The world will sieve to fear the return of a universal Africa spanning the whole wide world and ushering in an era where our future generations will not say; “It is rumored that there used to be Africans long ago.”

We will not abandon the pursuit of learning about other cultures, albeit without mimicking or imitating them but we will have our own heritage as a mirror against them totally consuming us to the point that we conceive our own as savage, heathen, pagan, backward, barbaric or primitive. Yes!! We will zip up our boots and go back to our roots. We will be our original selves again where we will return to our own frontiers which were in place before the European invasion and colonisation.

It is then that we will cease to be manipulated into going into war over frontiers and countries that were decided through courtesy of the Kaiser of Germany in 1886. We shall let the world finally realise that who we are is not only harmless, but beautiful, educational and very civilising. That our society possesses the most diverse cross-section of cultural content in the world and that the time for its restoration is now, that its time has come. That is not to be feared for it is not a threat but a major asset to the possibility, the possibility of humanity being re-civilised back into an environment of peace and harmony. We shall achieve this dream, which Bantu Biko was crucified for and when we do, Bantu Biko will be smiling where he is, singing, dancing and living in us, with us for Africa. 

This was the Steve Biko Memorial Lecture, Europe, delivery by Mr. Hugh Masekela on 28 October 2014 at the London School of Economics.

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