Original anthem ‘remix’ not legacy for posterity

2017-10-05 06:01
OpinionThembile Ndabeni

OpinionThembile Ndabeni

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Nkosi Sikelela iAfrika is an anthem sung in South Africa and by other African states like Zambia, Tanzania, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

It became the national anthem of South Africa after the African National Congress adopted it as its anthem.

This anthem reflected the sufferings of Africans and that’s why it was also perceived as a radical programme challenging the oppression of the Africans.

It was composed in the Nancefield hostel 120 years ago by teacher and lay preacher Enoch Mankayi Sontonga.

The symbolism around the anthem should not be forgotten, for how can we sing a national anthem without knowing its history?

How can we celebrate the national anthem without acknowledging and honouring the composer? History cannot be phased out at schools with learners not knowing the symbols and people of the country.

The national anthem is one of the leading symbols of the country.

Yet many people don’t know much about it. What kind of a nation are we?

It’s not only supposed to be respected as a symbol in South Africa but also in other African countries that sing it.

Respect must also be accorded to Sontonga.

He was only 24 when he wrote Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika. He died at 32.

It was seven years after his death that the African National Congress launched his hymn as an anthem of the Africans’ struggle against national oppression. When his grave was located in Braamfontein, President Nelson Mandela called for the erection of a memorial to Sontonga as the first post-apartheid Heritage Day. Then Minister of Arts and Culture Pallo Jordan started the mammoth task of bringing together the life of the composer.

It was also applauded that a ceremony was held for Sontonga’s centenary of passing on.

The national anthems that were there in the past reflected Colonialism/Apartheid, God bless the Queen represented British Imperialism/ Colonialism.

Die stem van Suid Afrika represented Apartheid/Afrikaner Nationalism. .

After 1994 President Mandela declared both “Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika” and “Die Stem van Suid-Afrika” would be integrated to form the new national anthem.

The criticism was that this was a victory for the former oppressors and an insult to the former oppressed Africans.

This view noted that “Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika” was for Africa and “Die Stem van Suid-Afrika” was exclusively for Afrikaners.

It’s also good that Nkosi Sikelel’iAfrika’s centenary was acknowledged under our democracy.

If Africans say they want to retain their identity, their values and want to rediscover themselves, there is no way that they can do that without their original national anthem.

Generations to come must be left with a legitimate legacy instead of a ‘remixed’ national anthem like was the one adopted after liberation.

.Thembile Ndabeni is a freelance writer, researcher and commentator.

He holds Master’s Degree in South African politics and political economy from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.

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