This week Khulumani received a sculpture of Steve Biko produced by Khulumani associate living in Kwaggafontein in former KwaNdebele, Mr Abraham Mampane, a local wood carver who has produced a collection of representations of iconic South Africans. Mr Mampane’s sculpture was produced as a trophy for the annual Grahamstown-based Steve Biko Speech Competition held each year in September and organised by Xolile Madinda, who has spearheaded many powerful initiatives for young people in Makana Municipality, including the annual Fingo Festival (founded with the support of Khulumani Support Group) and the Puku Children’s Book Festival supported over the years by patrons Zakes Mda and Elinor Sisulu.
Xolile was a founder of Khulumani’s Interactor Citizen Journalist Programme and produced Khulumani’s Hip Hop CD entitled OFFICIALLY OFFSIDE as a contribution to the Music4Justice focus demanding Corporate Accountability using the global focus on South Africa as host of the 2010 Soccer World Cup.
- The CD is a compilation album of compositions from artists using hip hop as a tool for promoting social justice from 14 different countries across the world, including Uganda, Chile, Iran, Sweden, South Africa and others. The CD can be accessed online at https://redcardcampaign.wordpress.com/music-4-justice/
On 17 August 1977, Biko accompanied by his friend Peter Jones set out for Cape Town to meet Neville Alexander, the New Unity Movement leader. They were detained on 18 August at a roadblock erected outside Grahamstown and were delivered to Port Elizabeth’s notorious security branch. Biko’s torture took place in Room 619 in the Sanlam Building, alongside the N2 Highway in Central Port Elizabeth, and by 11 September 1977 Biko was so badly injured that he was transported comatose, naked and manacled with a severe head injury over 1,000 kilometres to the now Kgosi Mampuru Correctional Facility in Pretoria where he died the next day.
Biko and Alexander shared a great deal intellectually, yet they never met. Both modelled a deep sense of humanity, both were brilliant, both exhibited a keen sense of humour and both were committed to education for liberation and for justice. Both also believed in the value of working with under-resoured communities to set up health committees, reading groups and community action groups. Both shared a vision of an Azanian uhuru beyond a glib rhetoric of national liberation.
As we remembered Biko on 12 September in the multiple tributes that appeared in the print and electronic media and Alexander at the 5th Annual Neville Alexander Commemorative Conference, held at the University of Johannesburg on 8 September 2017, where the themes of language, education, history and decolonisation were explored, there was a recognition that the challenge continues to be to work from the ground up to understand how society works and how it can be changed from the perspective of the common experience of the excluded, of those confronting political and economic oppression and the ‘insult to human dignity’ that these impose.
Biko and Alexander modelled for us all the nature and cost of this continuing struggle to realise a society in which there is real equality with freedom from hunger, want and avoidable diseases.
Ernest Mandel, the Belgian Marxist socialist activist, said, “Do not succumb to despair, resignation, or cynicism, given the terrible odds we all have to face. Do not retreat into ‘individual solutions’. (While) philosophers have interpreted the world in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.” This remains our task today, a task to which Khulumani remains committed today and into the future.
1. Saleem Badat, Black Man You Are On Your Own.