Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Retold History

Prior to the grim contact between White and Black continents, merry-making, ecstasy and joy always filled the air. The old rejoiced amongst the young, reeling around them every night under fat-trees humorous riddles and hilarious folktales. In a compound, lived a husband with his wives and children who ate from the same wide moulded and calabash plates with happiness. During this period, in Africa, love was at its highest and esteemed by the proud Black race. There was communal singing. People rejoiced together and cried together, but the story changed and the rhythm of life cacophonously changed with it when our colonial masters named and tagged virtually everything African as barbaric, fetishistic and demonic.

Our colonial masters took power forcefully with their massive missiles and controlled the affairs of the Blacks. They dictated what African people must do and must not do. They punished them whenever they groaned or protested against their oppression. They dictated everything-- even when husband should hover over his wife. They condemned marriage of many wives and children. They damned our culture, our heritage and our ancestral beliefs, which they replaced with their total way of life. And wonderful things about the Black race ran into extinction and are still awaiting revival after about thirty years of their so-called freedom.

Stay united!
Fight united!
Bring senses to the white oppressors!

These poetically written clauses by the prisoners at Robben Island jail, a suburb of Soweto community in South-Africa, lyrically render the problem. “My heritage, My Curse,” a stage play written by Dr. Isibor, a senior lecturer at the University of Lagos (Unilag) comes to its climax when Kevin Mogetha, a member of the Mo family, is arrested by some black-policemen for not having his pass on him in his very home-country. The black bourgeoisie and traitors subject themselves to the white order to make end’s meat and command authority over their fellow Black folks. It was this situation that led to the Soweto Uprising in 1976 and the anti-apartheid struggle in South-Africa, which consequently led to the arrest of several active protesters and leaders. Some were killed whilst some were jailed till 1990 when they partially gained freedom from their Portuguese colonial masters.

The play that was packaged and performed by the Final Year, Creative Arts students of Unilag opened with a scene which synchronized the agility and vibrant dances of the Zulu people. Samatha, a Westernized Black lady and the protagonist of the play stood between two men who were prepared to sacrifice their lives to have her as wife. One of them was completely Black with Black parents whilst the other was biracial, having Black skin and tinted hair because of his white-rapist father (whom he had never met). Both of them were faced with the problem of identification documents in their home-country, South-Africa. Subsequently, the three main characters came to a realization, in one of their numerous meetings, that they were all one with Black skin and a single philosophy. Also, they questioned discrimination amongst themselves.

Along the line, Mogetha joined a protest group but was not ready at that point in time to sacrifice his life through fighting the oppression, degradation and mutilation of Black people. Samatha later challenged him when she asked the most severe question, “Have you ever cared to ask why you are a BLACKMAN“? This brutal question spurred him to action and got him involved further in his protest group. After he was apprehended and was unable to produce his pass on demand, he was tried in a court of law. Of course, he lost because he could not afford his lawyer’s fee and was sentenced to 15 years in prison…only to escape later from Robben Island jail with another anti-apartheid leader to Mozambique.

This tragic drama replayed the historical struggle of the South-Africans against the colonial master. The frequent dances through the drama projected the ecstatic mood and atmosphere of ancient African communities. It is indeed not an understatement to say that the drama was humorous and tragic: a true tragi-comedy. A number of questions overtook my entire mind outside the main auditorium of the school. These were: “Can racism ever be put to into past”? “Can Africans ever forget the maltreatment by the Western world towards their living and martyred freedom fighters”? Having read many books on African oppression, degradation and mutilation, my answer was a resounding “No!”

Ayanda Abeke
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