“Even when the burning coal and dust blackened out the sun, we still had music to sing out sorrows.” – Dr Hugh Masekela, Still Grazing (his autobiography).
In true township style, the University of Johannesburg (UJ) in collaboration with wRite Associates took the 2nd Annual Hugh Masekela Lecture to one of UJ’s leading campuses, in heart of the Soweto Township, the newly re-developed Funda UJabule school facility on Wednesday 9 September 2015.
The lecture, an ode to the award-winning Dr Hugh Masekela, fosters ideas that are rooted in African epistemology that address the critical needs and aspirations of South African society and Africa in general. This year’s lecture was delivered by Dr Sibongile Khumalo with respondents and legends of the South African music fraternity Don Mattera and Sipho Hotstix Mabuse.
“We continue to nurture this campus and demonstrate that it is indeed possible for us to construct meaningful, substantive, beautiful-facilities, and intellectual enterprise particularly in this township that was critical in the final phase of the push towards democracy,” said Prof Ihron Rensburg, the Vice-Chancellor and Principal of UJ, in his welcome address.
Under this year’s theme “Of Riches, Wealth and Powerful Minds: Reaching Deep into the Wealth of Our Country and Owning Its Riches”, the multi-award winning Dr Sibongile Khumalo made a call for the re-languaging of thoughts that have an impact on reality. “We talk about being against things, rather than being for something. Perhaps we need to stop and consider how the elders and the ancients did it. This is wisdom we must reclaim for the restoration of our being. And not censor our native languages, our arts and crafts, the foods and herbs that are yielded by the soil we till. These are repositories of valuable lessons and insights,” said Dr Khumalo.
She continued her lecture with recommendations: “Let us be the vanguard that protects and promotes our heritage with pride. We are a caring, compassionate and empathetic people. We have a strong sense of situatedness and respect, for self and others. These are important attributes that underpin our quest for being, for dignity. These are some of the riches that we own, that make us a wealthy people. Ownership of ubuntu bethu is not an accident of nature. It is something we have been bequeathed by the ancients.”
The singer known for her impeccable classical tone pointed out that by daring to dream and imagine, society would excel and prosper. “We need to restore our ability to respond positively and powerfully in making right our circumstances, and move beyond the desolation and despair that even the education system seems to promote.”
She concluded that society should go back to sharing and empowering the community with skills that would bring everyone on par. “Ubuntu tells us that we are links in a circle, and that the circle is as strong as the links that keep it connected. Communities are as strong as the individuals who are part of it. Strong and healthy links keep the circle tightly knit. And so, for our times, the communities we find ourselves in, whether by kinship, fellowship or work related fraternities, are the circles we need to keep in as healthy a state as possible. They are the circles that we need to empower with knowledge so that we keep the broader community knowledgeable and informed about local and broader issues for its development and prosperity.”
The legendary respondents, who have nurtured long term relationships spanning decades with Bra Hugh Masekela, cited personal anecdotes from their interactions both locally and abroad.
Dr.Mattera lamented on the woes of a lost generation that is so different from the yesteryear and pointed out in his poetry quote the need for redemption for a morally stable society. Hotstix Mabuse told the audience of the level of celebrity that Bra Hugh commanded abroad even in the earlier years of his career. The recollections from early days by the panel had the audience in stitches as amazing stories of Bra Hugh’s humour, stature and legacy were narrated. Dr Barbara Masekela, sister to Bra Hugh, closed the proceedings by standing in for her brother and thanked Write Associates and UJ for the honour bestowed upon her brother whilst he was still alive. She commended the level of preparation and diligence that was put in the lecture as a tribute in itself.