I shit you not, you can Google Mam’Dorothy Masuku and ‘Masuka’ will pop up. Growing up, I’ve asked myself countless times what Mam’Dorothy’s correct surname is.
We live in times where assumptions of how someone’s name is spelt could land you in trouble. Not all Shabalala’s are slept with a ‘T’, in the same way Khoza can also be slept with an ‘S’. So I’ve always been unsure about the legend’s last name until I learnt that she was actually a Masuku.
In the 1950s, when the vocalist with an elegant voice began her career, a record executive misspelt her surname by adding the first letter of the alphabet at the end of her last name. The Caucasian executive butchered her Ndebele surname on one of her first records. Headlines today, carry the weight of the perilous ‘A’ at the rear of her surname. But this is because the young Masuku was told that Masuka will be her stage name. “She said she had kinda accepted it because in the Jewish language, the word Masuka means being happy, happiness or something like that. So she kinda let it slide,” said singer Tribute Birdie Mboweni speaking in an interview on Kaya FM.
Mboweni is one of the very few young singers that celebrated Masuku while she was still alive, by creating her own modern renditions of music originally done by Mam’Dorothy.
Born in 1935, in Bulawayo Zimbabwe but moved to South Africa as a 12 year-old and in less than 10 years in Mzansi, she was already touring the country as a 19 year-old. She passed away on Saturday the age of 83, surrounded by family. She’s expected to be laid to rest this weekend.
YOU would think the passing of icon Oliver Mtukudzi would, in some way temporarily ease tensions between the Government and Zimbabwe’s frustrated citizens, kodwa nex. The people don’t want President Emmerson Mnangangwa to use Tuku’s demise as an opportunity for politicking.
The shocking news of Mtukudzi’s passing came out yesterday afternoon, whilst people were reminiscing another African great, Hugh Masekela who died the same day, a year ago. A salvo of tributes from different parts of the globe having been pouring in for the 66 year-old. Also sending his condolences or merely being diplomatic was President Mnangangwa. “Today we said goodbye to a true patriot. Oliver Mtukudzi, your voice has given us comfort during difficult times, and will remain with us for posterity. Rest in peace comrade,” read his tweet.
Zimbabweans on Twitter didn’t take kindly to the President referring to the late musician as a ‘comrade’. Replying to his tweet, one Zimbabwean said “why are those who assassinated Sam Mtukudzi mourning with us today? Murderers who kill innocent people to cling on to power are here with us as Winky D is in hiding fearing for his life. Tuku was troubled for his song Bvuma.” Sam Mtukudzi is the deceased’s son who died in a tragic accident in 2012 and Winky D is a dancehall artist from Zim, who recently became an enemy of the state after releasing a single last year titled KaSong Kejecha, which fires shots at the Government for the country’s economic woes.
Mnangangwa made an early return to the country on Monday from his fund-raising trip abroad, due to the unrest in Zimbabwe. There have been ongoing anti-government protests in the country of Mtukudzi’s birth, since Mnangangwa decided to increase fuel prices. The protests snowballed into a three-day strike by the Zimbabwean Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU).
The loath that citizens of that country have for their government and ruling party is so bad they don’t want Tuku to get a national hero’s funeral. “Please don’t insult Tuku’s great work by burying him among perpetrators of the same violence and human rights abusers he sang against…Heroes Acre is nothing but a playground for Zanu PF, we all know this. Tuku deserves so much more,” one of Mtukudzi’s fans said in a tweet.
“Don’t give him the heroes status…he wants peace…he can’t be buried among murderers and thieves,” read another.
ECONOMIC and emotional instability, the disunity among Africans and the loss of sense of self are some of the symptoms of a colonial babalaas that most black people suffer from today in Africa.
Artists Ronald Muchatuta and Patrick Bongoy are addressing this monkey on the back of Africans in their exhibition, Feso A Thorn In The Flesh. Translated from Shona, Feso is a clandestine African plant which reveals itself through unexpected pain when stepping on it.
It’s known as the Devil’s Thorn because of its two distinct horn-like protrusions. Muchatuta and Congolese artist Bongoy see colonialism as an emotional feso etched in the lives of African people across the continent.
“The exhibition interrogates partly ‘Post-Colonial Theory’ using our places of origin including those of other African states , engaging with the effects of colonialism and current realities that post-colonialism has driven us to,” Zimbabwean born artist Muchatuta tells me.
“My work speaks in response to the global reality of literal and figurative environmental pollution. This encompasses the entire spectrum from the erosion of economic viability, the impact on community and individual behaviour and socio cultural decay of the rural and urban landscape,” said Bongoy of the exhibition. Feso A Thorn In The Flesh opens this Thursday at the Ebony Gallery in Cape Town.
A multi-disciplined artist, Muchatuta has been in South Africa for more than a decade now, based in Cape Town and hasn’t been to Zim in a number of years. “The political discourse in Zimbabwe is also an African discourse. The desire for the so called ‘sweet democracy’ that we wish as Africans affects us in many ways. The militant ways in Zimbabwe are a reflection of the oppressive apartheid era only difference is that it’s the legacy of the liberation leaders that’s devouring its citizens. That militancy inspires the proactive nature of my artworks,” he tells me.
Muchatuta is a qualified Master Mosaic Artist from Spier Arts Academy in Cape Town, where he completed his studies in 2012 and primarily works through the mediums of drawing, painting and creating mosaics. Currently, three of his artwork are up in the Melrose Gallery as part of a group exhibition Reinventing Materiality.
It is at that exhibition that renowned playwright, Mbongeni Ngema saw his work and asked to use Muchatuta’s work as his album art for his upcoming album. “I respect Mbongeni for his lifelong contribution to the South African theatre and music sectors and for the valuable contribution that his productions like Sarafina! Woza Albert and Asinamali made to promote the evils of Apartheid and the struggle for freedom to massive global audiences. It means In addition that there is a creative understanding and appreciation that my work has. The narrative of the work resonates with his music and one can only understand in that context,” Muchatuta.
Works such as this are the antidote to the hangover that a number of people suffer from because not only do the artworks aesthetically turn one one, but they spur conversations which give people the opportunity to engage with who they really truly are.
Like Moses who led the Israelites out of Egypt but never saw the promise land himself, so is the late Morgan Tsvangirai, who would’ve enjoyed casting his ballot together with millions of Zimbabweans in today’s historic election.
There was a time when the MDC leader was the only vocal critic of then president Robert Mugabe, when everyone else kept their silence in intimidation. Hearing current MDC leader, Nelson Chamisa’s bravado as he spoke after casting his vote, you get a clear picture of the stark difference between now and what took place a decade ago in that country when they had elections. “I represent the young and the new. My part is to play a positive role, in making sure that there’s peace in this country. Zimbabweans need peace, Zimbabweans need to build their nation. And I know that we’re winning this election…we have won this election, I’m here to confirm that we are ready to lead and ready to govern, we’re ready for a new Zimbabwe,” said Chamisa.
In the 2008 elections, Tsvangirai outpolled Mugabe by 48% to 43%. But Tsvangirai informed the electoral commission that he was withdrawing from the election after citing violence and the intimidation of MDC supporters. Threats of war, the participation of uniformed soldiers in Zanu-PF campaigns, the MDC’s lack of access to the state media, the banning and disruption of MDC meetings and rallies, the disenfranchisement of many voters, the barring of his party from rural areas and the electoral commission’s failure to ensure free and fair polls. Months later, the results came out that Zanu PF won the elections by 90%.
Tsvangirai said 86 people had been killed and 10 000 injured in the violence. About 10 000 homes had been destroyed, displacing 200 000 people.
Today’s elections have a different feel to them. International observers have the liberty to carry out their duties without any intimidation, while local and international media is free to cover every process of the election without looking over their shoulder.
There’s novelty to these elections, as it’s the first time in more than 30 years that former president Mugabe won’t be running for presidency after being removed from power last November by the army.
The aging Mugabe addressed the media yesterday outside his house, where he vehemently said that he wouldn’t vote for his former party Zanu PF. All this because party leader Emmerson Mnangagwa, worked together with the army to remove Mugabe from the presidential seat.
The door of change is opened from inside. And millions of Zimbabweans will have their hands on the door knob of change, as they cast their ballot in the country’s elections today. As a South African, I truly hope this election brings needed change to the people of Zim, as Tsvangirai had always dreamt.