SA through Nat Nakasa’s eyes

2014-09-14 15:00

South Africa has spent the past month bringing Drum writer and son of the soil Nat Nakasa home from the New York cemetery he was buried.

He is now at rest in his home town of Durban.

No longer the Native of Nowhere, as he called himself in one of his final columns before his death at the tender age of 28 in the US in 1965.

The department of arts and culture, its staffer Siphiwo Mahala, as well as US academic and activist Gail Gerhart are heroes for securing his return.

Transported to today, what might the sardonic, sharp-tongued and mischievous writer make of our country? If you know him by his two columns – Do blacks hate whites? and Do whites hate blacks? – Nakasa might sigh and say: “I missed nothing.”

Race relations remain fragile, and divisions marked by fear and mistrust continue to haunt us, as they did him.

But if he looks at the robust democracy, the plural and diverse media, at the open debate and at how South Africans in general are not very good at being told what to do or what to think, he might wink and say “my people”.

We can imagine how he might have chronicled the exploits of the Economic Freedom Fighters, whose brash youth and take-no-prisoners style would be his joy to pick apart and praise, in equal measure. Or how he might have liked those parts of South Africa (what he used to call the “fringe country”) where people live in interesting and mutual respect, rising above their respective melanin counts.

Writers like Eusebius McKaiser, Fred Khumalo, Bongani Madondo, Jonny Steinberg, Zukiswa Wanner, Sisonke Msimang, Gabeba Baderoon, Ranjeni Munusamy and our very own Mondli Makhanya, Gugu Mhlungu and T.O. Molefe channel his spirit.

Among others, they are living testimony to his and our struggle for free words, free expression, free thought and free movement.

#RIPNatNakasa, you are no longer of nowhere.

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