Ostentatious cripples...

2012-01-13 14:31

Walking the streets of Mangaung in step to the ANC centenary

celebrations last week, I found myself slipping into nostalgic recollections of

my childhood heroes.

You see, during the 1990s I was a wild child thrust into the

tumultuous energy of a changing world. Freedom was a tasty word while kwaito and

hip-hop coloured our mood in the hood. Jazz was still the music of our fathers

back then.

As impressionable teenagers looking to shape ourselves a meaningful

experience of the times, we looked for proud, “unreconstructed” black men to

admire and imitate. I’m talking about uncles who knew what time of day it was,

the no-nonsense-with-a-fist-in-the-air types that made racists nervous. These

superheroes stood the moral test and their love for the people was

unquestionable. Mythologised as they may have been, we admired their heroics.

Think about the gallant memory of Bantu Biko and Onkgopotse Tiro martyrdom. Even

the energetic and intellectual focus of Thabo Mbeki and the rebelliousness of

Peter Mokaba, all of them wrapped in the radiant glare of Mandela’s dream.

I remembered these teenage venerations as the ANC marked its four

hundred seasons of struggle and liberation. Only this time they were much more

tempered by the reality of fading dreams of economic freedom and a cancerous

corruption in government. My heroes seem to have been upstaged by bling-bling

vandals and other ogres out to capture the national imagination with all sorts

of frills and thrills.

Our judicial capital was teeming with these types too last week.

So I plunged into the revelry with a gathered mass of partying

people at Mahungra Car Wash, including Juju and his ilk. Big cars, flags and

expensive booze everywhere. Skimpy skirts, pot bellies and loud laughter

permeated the air along with the music.

Then I saw this creature of a man, a large bloated figure leaning

against an SUV with a bottle of whiskey in his hand. His greasy skin was glowing

in the dark as he hurled jubilant jive into the air. He became my tragicomic

semiotic of the times.

Ghanaian writer Ayi Kwei Armah’s ostentatious cripples came

to mind as I considered ideas and spectacles of a vulgar existence. Looking at

it through the eyes of a younger more innocent self, I knew we needed a politics

of redemption in honour of rested martyrs of our freedom movement.

History teaches us that it took collaboration from some of our

ostentatious cripples for the strange ones to enslave and colonise

us. It will take the same lot to steal our dreams of doing better as a nation.

Evil thrives when good men and women do nothing about it, dressed in borrowed

dashikis waiting to have a tough dialogue with the future.

» I’m on Twitter @Percy_Mabandu

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