Remembering Biko: Not for the Sake of it

“Merely by describing yourself as black you have started on a road towards emancipation, you have committed yourself to fight against all forces that seek to use your blackness as a stamp that marks you out as a subservient being.”- Steve Biko

The month of September celebrates South African heritage, but also marks the remembrance day of a dynamic leader that stood for a culture that celebrates one’s identity and heritage with an understanding of one’s worth in society, Steve Bantu Biko.

Giving performing arts a different and meaningful definition, activator Solitude Mayedwa and the Poetics team took the streets of Guga Sthebe, Langa on an in-depth Black consciousness journey on Saturday, September 12, 2015.

The creative artists group: Poetics “Music not for the sake of it”, hosted the Langa community at an event that was in commemoration of the life and in remembrance of the death of Black Consciousness activist, Steve Biko.

Steve Biko was an anti-apartheid activist who then founded the Black consciousness movement.

The aim of the event was to inform and gather youth in the community of Langa and conscientise them about the life of this leader, what he stood for and to engage them on the issue of Biko’s relevance today as well as lessons that the SA youth can carry forward to fearlessly exercise their identity and move forward in building a mentally transformed post-apartheid society.

To start off and create a base for the audience, the audience was shown a video clip from Steve Biko’s interview on rare TV, where he stipulated his belief of an equitable society. “We believe that in our country there shall be no minority, there shall be no majority, there shall just be people, and those people shall have the same status before the law…” were some of Biko’s words. The interview was then used as a springboard to discuss the issue of black consciousness and what it meant for young people in society today.

The response from the audience was insightful, thought provoking and rather in depth. A number of issues came out from the discussion such as the fact that white supremacy is still relevant and at its peak in the country and how that affects the inferiority complex amongst black people, and that in order for Africans to love and believe in one race, there should be harmony with one’s own people. Africans need to be rooted in their identity and be in solidarity when addressing social injustices. “A race-less society is not easy. Colonialism was not based on hate, but it was based on the survival of one race over the other”, was one of the responses from the audience.

Activate! Change Driver and facilitator Nqaba Mpofu also gave insight on how Black Consciousness can be decoded. “We need to understand consciousness means one was asleep initially, so we should consider the things that have kept us in that position; historical catastrophes that have shaped our condition as blacks, then we will understand our conditions of being black as our own identity”, he said.

As part of the heritage month celebrations, local artists, some of which are part of the poetics group, were given a platform to perform. Artists like Zanzolo, Mdu and Thabiso Nkoana graced the audience with home-brewed music and poetry.

There was also a networking platform during the break sessions at the event. Activators – who came in numbers from Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Jo’burg and KwaZulu-Natal- were coming up with collaborative strategies to tell African stories and to uplift the economy through social entrepreneurship. Personal development coach and activator Thembinkosi Matika said “Some of the issues tackled today are things we know, we are aware, we just never act on it. We need to learn to trust each other and work together to uplift our own economy. I am for that, I do not believe in working alone when I have so many African brothers and sisters.  That is how we will get to realise and be ‘awake’ as black Africans.”

The event was impacting to community members too. Andisa Mdlalotye (21) from Langa said that this is what the community of Langa needed. “I learnt so much from the people that were talking here and I am motivated to make my mark as a young person now. Thank you, and I am looking forward to more of similar events from Poetics”.

Solitude is a 2015 Activator who is passionate about using creative arts to educate and inform young people. “What is saddening though, is the fact that we have to pay for spaces that were meant to be for our own development. We have people that are not from Langa using our public spaces for their own benefits”, he says.

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