What makes you African?


THIS week I had written on a number of matters pertaining to our arts and culture.

At the last minute I found a piece that resonated with me to the extent that I decided to just put it out as I read it.

It was written by firebrand pan-Africanist poet and activist Ntsiki Mazwai of South Africa. She happens to be the sister of another firebrand artiste and singer Thandiswa “Red” Mazwai of Bongo Maffin fame.

What exactly is it that makes you African now that you have denounced everything African?

“So let me get this right . . . you wear white people’s hair; you bleach your skin; you wear suits; take your kids to white schools; you don’t know your languages, customs and traditions; you swopped izangoma for Christianity; you prefer white neighbourhoods and look down on places where there are many blacks; you laugh at blacks who don’t know English and call them backwards; you even replaced your pan-African anthem with one they killed you with; you don’t know your own history, but know Europe’s history; You hail everything which is not African and then you have the nerve to say ‘it does not make me unAfrican?

(Excerpt from an open letter by South African poet and activist Ntsiki Mazwai published in the Sowetan recently).


How can you be African when you are just a European clone and Western ambassador?

You confuse me when you are in denial of the over 500 years of brainwash we have endured. My logic tells me that if I am told for 500 years that I’m ugly . . . it’s either I’m going to believe it or I am going to spend the next 500 years emphasising my beauty so that I balance my own feelings about myself.

When the bath water is too hot, you add cold water. You don’t endure the hot water, you alter the temperature.

When do we get to alter the way white people made us feel about ourselves? When do we unlearn the bulls**t?

My problem is when a whole nation says one thing, but acts in another way. You say you are African yet you follow and grovel at the west. You spend all your money just to be like them.

How does that make any sense?

Let’s look at the Indians and the Chinese . . . they have not lost their sense of identity despite suffering similar oppression (but absolutely not the same).

Not only that, but the Chinese have gone on to become a world superpower and they are not imitating the West.

If anything, their strength and power comes from holding onto their identity. While we are promoting a 30% pass standard in a Western educational system- the Chinese learn about themselves and are running the world in Mandarin!

Thina siyakopa and siyafeyila  . . . nice!

The Western culture is represented and has monopolised our generation . . . is that OK with you? Ufuna ukuba ngumlungu omnyama?

Personally, that is not my aspiration. I come from a rich culture and I think Ubuntu is the most beautiful way of life in the world.

I don’t want to give birth to children that will not know their mother tongue and stories of Queen Anna Nzinga and Nandi Langeni.

I want my children to have access to other African countries for there is more to Africa than South Africa.

I want to raise black children that take pride in what they look like. I want my kids to have role models and celebrities who are not wearing other people’s hair.

The biggest injustice we have done to the little black girl is to make her believe she needs to look white to be beautiful.

I want to see black people own their own businesses and not always be the consumer.

I want to see black people claim themselves and own up to being African.

The truth is, if you are ashamed of what you are and what you look like . . . you’ll never be at the top of the food chain. it means you need to be led.

So black people . .  . who are you?

You are so busy behaving white; do you even remember who you are?

End of letter
Not predictably, many readers are not happy with the letter from our African sister Nontsikelelo (which means the mother of blessings).

Born in 1980 to journalist parents who were politically active as part of one of the liberation movements, the Pan-Africanist Congress.

She would have drunk from the cup of Biko ie black consciousness.  Mazwai is a firebrand artist who may have stirred a hornet’s nest.

Her message harks back to the sixties civil rights and liberation era zeitgeist: Say it loud, I am black and I am proud. The late Godfather of Soul even sang a song of the same title. Netsuke’s words resonate today.

Parting Shot
Mazwai’s works can be found on these following links:

My album: MaMiya — https://itunes.apple.com/au/artist/ntsiki-mazwai-aka-mamiya/id266608811

My book: “Wena” — http://www.amazon.com/Wena-Ntsiki-Mazwai/dp/0981 439 810

My website & beadwork: http://www.ntsikimazwai.co.za