Saturday, December 07, 2013

#Nowplaying Asimbonanga - Savuka

Following the passing of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, I am re-posting this piece from June 2013 because for me the words and sentiments capture how I feel then and how I feel now.

The image of Nelson Mandela many of us grew up with

Asimbonanga--(We have not seen him)
Asimbonang' uMandela thina--(We have not seen Mandela)
Laph'ekhona--(in the place where he is)
Laph'ehleli khona--(in the place where he is kept)

Oh the sea is cold and the sky is grey
Look across the island into the bay
We are all islands till comes the day
We cross the burning water

A seagull wings across the sea
Broken silence is what I dream
Who has the words to close the distance
Between you and me

Steve Biko, Victoria Mxenge
Neil Aggett

Asimbonang 'umfowethu thina--(We have not seen our brother)
Laph'ekhona--(In the place where he is)
Laph'wafela khona--(In the place where he died)
Hey wena--(Hey you!)
Hey wena nawe--(Hey you and you as well)
Siyofika nini la' siyakhona--(When will we arrive at our destination) 

-Johnny Clegg and Savuka  (1987)
Video available here with footage of South Africa in the 1980s

It is playing over and over in my head. The song from the 1980s 'Asimbonanga' by Johnny Clegg and Savuka. The words capture the sentiments of many of us growing up in Southern Africa. In those days, the greatest South African that ever was had not been seen since being imprisoned in the 1960s. It is hard to imagine now that we had to rely on artists' impressions of Nelson Mandela or black and white pictures from the 1960s.

On 11th February 1990, this changed. South Africa and the world also changed forever for the better.

11 February 1990

Nelson Mandela had choices. After decades in prison and personal sacrifice, most people would have chosen the easier route. The route of vindictiveness, payback and revenge but Nelson Mandela chose a harder and almost impossible path; he chose to unite an extremely volatile South Africa and maintain peace. 

I will not listen to the analysis and all the talk that attempts to quantify the impact of Nelson Mandela on South Africa and the world. After all, I know the meaning and impact of Nelson Mandela on me personally. No one can take that away.


Jerome said...

Nothing can beat the personal experience of living through it. But even from a distance I still appreciate the extraordinary achievements of the man.

Abena Serwaa said...

Thanks Jerome!