By Andile Mngxitama
There is a consensus amongst those who are close to me, it is said that I don’t like music. Truth is, good music upsets me and I don’t like being upset, so I generally stay away from such. Perhaps the only real musician I cared to pay close attention to was the late great jazz maestro Zim Ngqwana. Even then, I took it in small doses. I still remember how one afternoon, I don’t know what for, I landed at the Zimology Institute. The Institute was hosted on a little plot about thirty kilometres from Johannesburg towards Vereeniniging. Anyway, we were seating under a tree on the farm and I was explaining to Zim how one mad night I was playing nonstop his favourite protégé’s song “Die Maan Skyn So Helder” by Kyle Shepherd. I was telling him how boundaries where crossed and other worlds imagined and the impossible seemed possible. When I looked up, I found the face of the master covered in tears. It was a love story.
From that day on, I understood the impossible depths of the art of music.
So uncultured I am, one year I was singing along with Riri (Rihanna) on that Cheers to the Freaking Weekend song, to the embarrassment of my more refined friends who speak with sacred tones about John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington and and and… Well, when my cultured friends go to dark places with Ella Fitzgerald I wait impatiently on the shores with things superficial. I need to keep my head clear. Poetry and music cloud my head space and steer my soul. The cry of Busi Mhlongo on a good day pierces ones heart and obliterates the soul. But didn’t God Zim say the point of music is silence?
Anyway, I haven’t listened or watched Lemonade but I have started reading on it. I like Formation a lot and had my issues with it but since we live in times of superficial mediation on everything, I can’t remember my own take on the matter except that when whites started calling her a terrorist I thought, “time to embrace whatever she was doing”. I was reading on Lemonade when I was struck by a powerful charcoal image of black heads deep in water with absolute serene yet determined faces. The image is cut into two. the upper part is Beyoncé with a group of women walking as if into the ocean and the bottom is the charcoal. It’s a striking image even for a philistine like myself.
I went back to the image again and read around the piece representing one of her songs, which according to the write up is titled “Love Draught”. No I have not seen or heard the song. But I read. In our time of visuals with no substance, one can be caught up on the consumption of images like one does a plastic burger from a drive-in order at McDonald’s. As soon as you have swallowed your poison you forget about it and imagine yourself full. It’s the same as the filing of stadiums by Pentecostal pastors and political pastors.
The charcoal image is a creation of Donovan Nelson. The story behind the image is even more evocating. Basically, a group of recently enslaved Igbo people had been sold off and were to be transported on a boat to the plantation. This is 1803. Check that date, because as you would recall in 1804 is the great year of the liberation of Haiti, only to be enslaved even more brutally up to today. The blacks of Haiti shall never be forgiven for defeating the great white leader Napoleon. Haiti is still paying for its stunning victory. It’s said that in 1803, these Igbo newly enslaved revolted on St. Simons Island, Georgia. One account goes: “A group of Igbo slaves revolted and took control of their slave ship, grounded it on an island, and rather than submit to slavery, proceeded to march into the water while singing in Igbo, drowning themselves in turn. They all chose death over slavery. It was an act of mass resistance against the horrors of slavery”.
We are here again facing the choice of continued social death with no end or taking things into our hands and going down with our capturers.
I learned about the great IGBO LANDING from sister Beyonce. We give thanks!