After they’ve fed off of your memories
Erased dreams from your eyes
Broken the seams of sanity
And glued what’s left together with lies,
After the choices and voices have left you alone
And silence grows solid
Adhering like flesh to your bones
They’ve always known your spirit’s home
Lay in your gentle sway
To light and substance
But jaded mirrors and false prophets have a way
Of removing you from yourself
You who lives with seven names
You who walks with seven faces
None can eliminate your pain
Tell your story
Let it nourish you,
And claim you
Tell your story
Let it feed you,
And release you
Tell your story
Let it twist and remix your shattered heart
Tell your story
Until your past stops tearing your present apart
We present this work in honor of the South African holiday, Heritage Day.
History is a heavy matter
It is a strange animal with multiple heads
Colours too many to ever count
The creature’s unique colours have a way
Of awakening the most indescribable pride
But others bring back such sad memories
The very worst memories
Of events that left our ancestors
And then it makes you feel so much joy
You hear massive drums pounding
Deep in your heart, with invisible hands
Beating a rhythm that goes Gu! Gu!
Another Gu! Gu! Another Gu! Gu!
Reminding you that these colours and faces and eyes
Are the proud heritage of a nation
They are shining, glittering brightly
And when one of the heads speaks directly
Come closer, go on and touch me,
Feel free to even caress me if you so wish
Yes, go on. Show off, tell the world
What a great achiever you are
Just by mentioning my name
Then remember who you are
Where you are from and where you are going
The warm glow of a happiness so overwhelming
The smile spreads down to your very toes!
And such indescribable pride about your history
But then one of the creature’s heads turns and shouts
Stop! Stop right there!
Remember that it is not only great events
That make up your history or that of any other nation!
Apply your mind, remember well the painful atrocities
And terrible mistakes
Learn, grow and be certain not to return to those times
That hurt your very soul
It is clear that the heart loves to suppress and cover well
This way it wants to avoid wasting precious tears
Oh, how they flow, unstoppable, when the heart breaks into pieces
As it sees the ugliness on the face
Of the multi-headed beast
Head raised up high, threatening, opening
The worst and deepest wounds
Prompting us to earnestly say
Indeed, history is a heavy matter
The maidens we honour here today
Died painfully fighting for their rights
The times were not at all like today
The laws of the land did not allow them
To even begin to open their little mouths
King Cetshwayo was unprepared for what happened
They defied the orders forcing them to marry old warriors
So he ordered them all to be killed
Today we honour the maidens of Ingcuce Regiment
Heroines we respect as we sincerely say
They did not lay down their lives in vain
Their memory inspires us to open our eyes
To face today’s challenges
It is time for us, young and old
To empower ourselves and each other to build the nation.
To make our ancestors in the land of Mthaniya proud
Yes, indeed, history is a heavy matter
But a great educator too
Courage, children of Africa, Courage!
We present this work in honor of the South African holiday, National Women’s Day.
She refuses to pack and leave
Every morning she prays out loud – twice – while
Standing in front of the massive wooden door
For the third time kneeling in front of the eternal flame
She tells them that the flame is her own fire
That she cooks her meals there and sleeps there on cold nights
That she taught herself to read by standing in front of the lettered door
She tells them that the colossal door is a superwoman
When they say she has lost her mind, she says that is a lie
Her home address is: “Hilltop”
And her name is Dedani.
We present this work in honor of the South African holiday, Youth Day.
Who is this? It is Yeye
with whom is he? With his father
What is he bringing for him? Sour milk
What is the colour of the container? Red
Where did she place it? In the cattle kraal
Which one? The big one
He who drinks is a fool!
He who drinks is a fool!
the water in the iron basin reflect her hair
it lie there
engrossed by the stare
of our mamma
our story teller
The sun shines on her voice
with rays of pleasantries
with strokes of plenitude
an air of delight
as she speaks with so much power
so much power and so much might
Our eyes survey her presence
and she asks that we not despair
this is about life
about the lives that was
and those to come
and those to regain
for pleasure and not shame
of lives and land
to reclaim and rename
of experiences unknown
untold but bold
tells the story
and so it unfolds:
We hear mamma talk about the shore
the tip of Africa — our home — our life
about the white man’s dreams
and oh, so galore
she tells their desires
of the young Black girls they admire
of the girls who they ask to parade
not in the sunlight
but in their shade
where they lie and compete
for fresh Black women’s meat
and so they explore
on every possible shore
forever and ever
for Black women for their dela
for their tings dat hang like grapes
for der tings dat hold dem men tings tight
for der dela brings delight
delight and pleasure
to the white man’s liesure
Der story is not finished
we are told dat there is more
we know all about der shore
about der rules and der law
about der women who lived before
about der times when we were more
Mamma tells about der times
when the rivers ran and ran
when they covered all the land
when der women washed in der shore
when they were grabbed and spoke no more
We want to cry
but mamma says “No”
there’s no tears for what happened
no tears for all der years
no time to reminisce
if we are only going to miss
the objective of the lesson
of the lesson and the story
of our pain and future glory
of the glory still to come
if we stand and fight as one
and build our hearts and hopes
and dream about the land that’s ours
and keep our dela safe ashore
in our bloomers
shut behind our door
and still our fight
in their hands tight
The plan is clear as daylight
our legs apart
our hearts crossed
our fists clenched
our mouths sealed
pressed hard against our will
our dela pinched closed
our teeth chattering to our spirits
our spirits racing to the future
racing for the day
when our dela can be ours
and only ours
to have and to hold
to savour and to fold
We clasp our hands together
and jpin mamma loud in song
it’s a pray and a story
a story and a song
a story overdue
In honor of Human Rights Day, we present this work by one of 20th century South Africa’s cleverest poets.
They called him Dan the Drunk.
The old people refuse to say how old he was,
Nobody knows where he came from – but they all
Called him Dan the Drunk.
He was a drunk, but perhaps his name was not really Dan.
Who know, he might have been Sam.
But why bother, he’s dead, poor Dan.
Gave him a pauper’s funeral, they did.
Just dumped him into a hole to rest in eternal drunkenness.
Somehow the old people are glad that Dan the Drunk is dead.
They say he was a bad influence on the children.
But the kids are sad that Dan the Drunk is no more.
No more will the kids frolic to the music that used to flow out of his battered concertina. Or listen to the tales he used to tell.
All followed him into that pauper’s hole.
How the kids used to worship Dan the Drunk!
He was just one of them grown older too soon.
‘I’m going to be just like Dan the Drunk,’ a little girl said to her parents of a night cold while they crowded around a sleepy brazier.
The parents looked at each other and their eyes prayed.
‘God Almighty, save our little Sally.’
God heard their prayer.
He saved their Sally.
Prayer. It can work miracles.
Sally grew up to become a nanny…
Just because I smile and smile
And happiness is my coat
And my song tuneful and strong
Though you send me down below
Into unbelievable regions
Of the blue rocks of the earth –
You think I am a gatepost
Numb to the stab of pain.
Just because of the laugh on my lips
And my eyes lowered in respect,
Pants rolled up above the knees
And my dark hair all dun-coloured
And thick with the roadside dust,
My hands swinging a pick,
And the back stripped out of my shirt –
You think I am like a stone
And don’t know what it is to die.
Because at the fall of dark
When I’ve unloosened the chains
Of my days long labour
And I fall in with my brothers
Stamping the ground in a tribal dance
And we sing songs of old times
That stir up our fighting blood
Driving away all our cares –
For you think that I’m a beast
That breeds its kind and dies.
Because I seem to you a simpleton
Knocked over by plain ignorance
and the laws beyond my understanding,
except maybe that they rob me.
And the house I built for myself
under the hang of the rock,
a hut of grass for my home,
my clothing an empty sack –
You think I am just an antheap;
and not one tear have I in me
to drip out from my own heart
and run over the pure hands
of the souls who see all.