“If you are hungry you eat, if you are tired you sleep, if you want land you take it”.
Masello Motana, founder and leader of Matlama Anaha which means soldiers of the land, began her journey to reconcile with land some few years ago.
She founded the task team Matlama Anaha to address issues of housing through art and occupation of abandoned buildings. Her first attempt was unfortunately met with an arrest of the dubbed, “Noorwood trio” made up of Masello, Gugulethu Bodibe and Ntsikelelo Lokwe after being criminalised for occupying an abandoned house in the Southern suburb of Johannesburg in 2016. Motana at the time had declared the arrest only heightened her quest to reunite herself and others with land.
Two years after the arrest, Azibuye was staged at what Motana calls “prime land” in Observatory, Johannesburg. The project is regarded as an experiment in emancipatory use of expression through occupation.
The artistic performance of occupying spaces seeks to address the spatial injustices that Africans still face 163 years since the first legalized act that dispossessed Africans of land. These numerous “legal” instruments through staunch legislation played a pertinent role in legitimizing systematic land dispossession.
Azibuye is meant to address concerns of the artists’ livelihood, who do not make monthly incomes but survive on hand to mouth. This industry does not enable them to pay rent on a monthly basis, nor qualify for financing or be eligible for public housing since they do work.
“The homeless artist will through occupation of land, attempt to take art practise out of standardised commodified cycle of the gallery system. It intends to bring forth a challenge to private ownership patterns in the most unequal society in the world through a class based African analyses” emphasizes Motana on the collective’s mission.
The collective of artists aims to speak to the continuation of spatial injustices not only through occupation but also through dialogues, readings, historical re-enactments and other forms; by interrogating significant historical characters and events, and their consequence in the current narrative of land reform.
The occupation of suburban private property per the collective’s reputation is to address the issues of many South Africans who work in the cities like Johannesburg, and yet are veered into the edges of the city into townships like Alexandra and Soweto. The few who live the city and pay rent Motana concludes that they participate in their own oppression.
Motana’s choice of the “prime land” is to dismiss the continuous occupation of inferior land by skwatta camp dwellers which is in areas that always underdeveloped and overcrowded. To understand such peculiarities that the indigenous people of South Africa find themselves in one must go back into the past, into the history of land dispossession and how Settlers accumulated the land and the wealth. However, one will also have to go into the current condition of the law and leadership to have a clearer understanding.
The 14 different land control system constructed by the Apartheid regime as noted on the walls of the occupied property by the collective, have not been countered by new laws to ensure a proper land reform that close the spatial inequalities long assembled by the apartheid regime.
While the occupation in Observatory by Motana maybe be considered a small act, it is essential in challenging racial land ownership patterns which continue to favour whites a quarter century after the end of apartheid.
Azibuye is a necessary and pertinent movement which not only serves to speak truth to white power, by addressing issues of dispossession within the city but also a force that edges the ruling party to address and heal the spatial wounds inflicted by the apartheid regime.
How does one begin to commemorate a giant such as the late Veronica Sobukwe?
A woman whose contribution and selfless sacrifices have been erased and hidden from the public eye, so much so that we know her only as a wife rather than the strong, resilient and fighting activist that she truly was.
Born on July 27 in 1972, Zondeni Veronica Mathe was born in Hlobane (now known as Kwa-Zulu natal).
Her contribution to the liberation struggle began in her youth, where she was at the forefront of championing a labour dispute between nurses and hospital management. At the time she was a trainee nurse at the hospital and due to this strike she was expelled from Lovedale College, the (Fort-hare) ANCYL deployed Veronica to go and deliver a letter to Walter Sisulu informing him of the unhappy nurses and their cries. It was at this time that she and Robert Sobukwe, built a close bond, and in June of 1954 Veronica became Zondeni Veronica Sobukwe as she and Robert Sobukwe got married.
From the days of her youth, it is evident that Veronica cared about people more than she cared about herself. She continued to be the backbone and strength of the community, as she selflessly served and gave hope to the hopeless black community. Like many other unsung heroines, she carried the burden of a fatherless community on her back, she was the embodiment of courage to the women whose husbands were in prison or dead somewhere in South Africa.
Whilst being the strength of the community, she was raising her children, alone as her husband was in prison on Robben Island.
She was consistent in fighting a white-racist apartheid regime, and evidently so when she would challenge the government under the leadership of Voster and his collective, demanding the release of her husband and other prisoners. She wrote endless letters to the offices of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Justice, her letters were not only rejected they were ignored. She fought to keep the name and legacy of Robert Sobukwe alive.
During the TRC in 1997, she again challenged the apartheid regime, questioning the death of her husband. She believed that the government had poisoned his food and as a result caused his untimely passing. She was determined to fight for her husband.
It is heart-breaking that the names of great women such as Veronica, Albertina Sisulu, and Winnie Mandela are erased, that the history books in schools mention them as wives and mothers-that their immense contribution the liberation movement and the liberation of South Africa is downplayed.
Mma Sobukwe never turned a blind eye on the needs of the black people, and selflessly ensured that she did what she could to ensure that they were met.
Today we see her images flooding social media and the media at large, because the society we live in recognizes people when they’ve passed on. If only people could take time to truly get to understand her immense role in the struggle and fall in love with her downplayed legacy. If only young people could take upon the heavy baton she has now left behind.
Mma Sobukwe had to live in the time where she witnessed the freedom she fought for being tainted. Where young people are imprisoned and deprived of an education for fighting for equal and free education, where young girls live in fear of men in their own country and where children still live in fatherless and motherless households.
Mma Sobukwe has been consistently isolated and neglected, from the time her husband was imprisoned, to the time he was announced dead all the way to when she was announced dead, on August 15 2018 at the age of 91.
The Baton passed over (A letter to Veronica Mathe)
Oh Mama Azania, Imbi Lendawo, when you die they flood your images on social media but they failed to celebrate you when you were alive, they let your contribution and existence fade into thin air They ignored your sacrifices They feared the legacy you were to leave behind, the baton you would pass over to another generation of women
Your life teaches us to be women of courage, of fortitude, of resilience and of strength, to fight fire with fire, to fight fearless. uQinisile mbokodo
Mama Lendawo Imbi, you lived in a time where you witnessed the freedom you fought for bought at the price of gender based violence, and wrapped in patriarchy. Mama you witnessed the freedom of your people tainted by corruption and self-seeking leaders Mama you witnessed the black nation dying, the young people imprisoned for fighting for their educational rights, whilst rapists and criminals roam free. They failed to put in words your immense contribution The baton young women carry in their hands is heavy, but we will fight patriarchy, mama we will tackle, and champion gender based violence, we will expropriate the land.
May you stir up in us your courage, strength, selfless, compassionate and caring nature, to conquer, to challenge and to shake this world We will not weep for you, we will ensure your feared legacy continues to shake tectonic plates, we will ensure the history books don’t forget your name. Qhawekazi, siyaku bonga.- Boitumelo Thage
It had nearly been a decade since Miriam Makeba released any project, when she gave the world her classic album Sangoma in 1988.
Mama Africa, as she was known throughout the world, was a superstar of note. She is credited, alongside Youssou N’dour, Salif Keita and Hugh Masekela and others, for being the first globally recognized African musicians.
Sangoma was as a follow up to Comme une Symphonie d’amour that came out in 1979. She was the first world superstar to come from Mzansi, who never lost touch with her Africaness, regardless of where in the world she was.
During her time in exile, after being banned by the South African government, a number of countries became an abode for her. She was issued passports by Algeria, Guinea, Belgium and Ghana. She held nine passports and was granted honorary citizenship by at least 10 countries.
True to her moniker Mama Africa, she was the only performer invited by Halie Selassie to perform at the inauguration of the Organisation of African Unity (what it today known as the African Union) in 1963. A book could be written on her life as a political activist, alone. She was married to Stokely Carmichael, who was a prominent member of the Black Panther Party, and was very vocal against the apartheid system in South Africa, from wherever she was in the world.
In her Grammy award winning album with Harry Belafonte in 1966,one of the stand-out songs there was Ndodemnyama Verwoerd! which lambasted one of the architects of the oppressive system.
She had style, poise yet at the same time, abrasive when it came to things she was passionate about. Often misunderstood, much like her friend Nina Simone, she left a legacy that a lot of African artists live off today.
Her influence couldn’t be captured in one article. But as Sangoma celebrates 30 years since its release, here are some of the songs that came with the album.