“William Gumede reflekted on reimagining who we are… and what we mean …. Moving away from kommon assumptions” Thus tweeted someone at greentip regarding an extremely, almost silent, reflektion, disguised as a memorial lecture that I attended last week. I couldn’t think of a better way of describing it and it did make me feel better about having gone. It was in many ways what my late Welsh mother would have called “Wit Wot”.
The message I got was that Afrika is not comfortable with the pace of modernity. Possibly [deep down] it chooses/would prefer, to remain locked inside its own Kosmology.
Kosmology I discovered is a word that meant a great deal more than “Big bang”: a theory about the origin of the universe. Rather it is, apparently, fundamental to an Afrikan belief system predating all other philosophies. At least that was, according to a most informative fellow attendee, called ZuluMaThabo Zulu, who was sitting alongside me at the memorial lecture. The topic was asserted as ‘Demystifying DE kolonization [I think that was it, I didn’t have it with me and the kosmologist next to me was uncertain… we had both arrived early for our own usual reasons, and had our own discussion.].
A self described poet and thus a fellow; he poured out a flow of information, relevant to Kosmology, punctuated with a most intriguing piece of [his] poetry, that it gave me great pleasure to read out that evening aloud. It did make me regret not being at a poetry reading, rather than attempting to demystify the ‘dekolonization’ … myth?
That thought was all the more poignant when I realized that while I was engaged in discussion the place had filled up and I was now sitting behind Advocate George Bizos. For offshore readers He is an ikonic struggle figure, and the late President Nelson Mandela’s lifelong attorney.
Some years back I was asked to perform a kolektion of his favorite poetry… at a public reading of the work of Constantinos Cavafy for both that poet’s centenary and the icon’s significant milestone birthday… and he had congratulated me as a “master of the floor.”
I soon realized too that my fellow poet’s shared composition, as a truly globalised man, rendered “dekolonization”, to being, not only a mythical goal; but also embraces Sisyphus: “The legendary king of Corinth, condemned eternally to repeatedly roll a heavy rock up a hill in Hades, only to have it roll down again as it nears the top.” [Merriam-Webster].
So what was this all about
Last Thursday I went to Witwatersrand University, my ‘alma mater’, to attend a talk hosted by the Nadine Gordimer Foundation. The theme was to demystify the kurrent broad de-kolonisation issue, that underpins the whole equally kurrent, ‘land konfiskation without kompensation’, issue.
For my offshore readers, you are reminded that my homeland recently liberated itself from a vicious, oppressive Authoritarian Overlord status, for highlighting which, Ms Gordimer had been wonderfully honored.
This ‘liberation’ [derided at the time by Author John Pilger as “Freedom next time” ] was now some two plus decades backwards now; and has found the journey tough going. We have reached a form of “next time” cul de sac, where the ideas that propelled the revolution have not brought the results that were promised. The effect is reminiscent of the kliché about the skurry to rearrange the deckchairs on the Titanic: as it went down.
So this means that these two ideas, Dekolonization and Konfiskation] that deluded people thought had been settled: [I was one of the deluded] are what now drives the national ‘us’, relentlessly, towards an impending date with the ballot box. Moreover, it is scary that no one kurrently in charge seems to know what to do. And, surely, that is the whole point of being in charge.
The speaker was a Professor William Gumede, a man of immense learning, a worthy political background and a prodigious author of academic books. Had he ‘spoken’ in sign language his words kould not have been more veiled and kareful.
I am a normal isolate and do not know the person, nor Nadine. I also have no association with either the Institution [other than as an arts graduate], or the Foundation. Someone sent me an invitation. I was kurious about the topic. In addition, it was free and I was bored with my own company, since all my friends have either died or emigrated. So, i thought, like the ‘hobbity’ person I am, that an adventure kould be fun: as long as it wasn’t too inkonvenient… and made me therefore, late for gin.
Then, Nadine Gordimer being an ikon for whatever tattered remnants remain of the liberalist ethik, that drove so much positive behavior in our less than genteel, ruinous past meant it was unlikely to be a violent affair. After all ‘demystifying’ [whatever] the most kontentious of topics in our hugely divided society had the potential for serious unpleasantness…
Also: there were promises of kucumber sandwiches and bottled water… and as it turned out some fascinating and kongenial encounters with various random fellow attendees, so engrossing, that it was almost with sadness that I realized the auditorium had filled up: and the lights dimmed down. Thus to reveal a web of Gordimeralia laced digital screens above the entrances that we all faced … and we were awash throughout the memorial talk with a frequently repeated sequence of quotes and varied visuals of the Nobel Laureate, that one kould read, or make notes about while the speaker kautiously maneuvered through his script.
It was a kurious experience, and hardly much of an adventure, save that I made the acquaintance of the aforementioned fine Kosmological poet: an exile, returned from Canada; and I learned that we are all exiles now… even those who thought they had a plan for the future.
Apart from Sisyphus the entire experience was a salutory reminder of what Lennon said: that “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans”.
First off, the presentation was so carefully low key, that it was in itself fascinating. Then: One was deeply aware of being in a Post Trump era. The kontrast was there: Between the absolutist, accounting influenced certainties of the Trumpian moment, that kan with no relativist thought at all: be an opposing certainty: in an instant, versus the carefully measured intersection point between the virtues of thoughtful konsideration and those of even more thoughtful konsideration.
So remembering that half a century ago exactly, I was a second year student in that place. I had been brought up in Far east Ekhuruleni with the [contested] national ruling ethic that everything was either: this or that; my road or the high road. At Wits i kame into konflikt with the measured tread of liberal inspired, karefully measured and konsidered, relativist struktured evaluation. I was, back then, permanently konfused; and realised now that i still was. So i emerged from the talk only marginally more informed than when I went in, albeit perhaps slightly more knowledgable. Which shows what half a century kan do for learning perception.
Briefly: The Professor reflected that he had to question his own ‘side’s’ assumptions, about what kind of post liberation program was desired/had been desired. And what happened to it? Then there was the truth that our Mzansian revolution, 24 years ago has been submerged in the greater revolution [in technological terms] that the world has been thrust into, over the same period of time: the arrival of FIR [4th Industrial Revolution] on increasingly strengthening steroids.
Therefore, he mused; how does one rekonceptualise the route when you are a thousand kilometers down: with a potential kul de sac looming. The plans, it seemed, were formed for a world that vanished. Sudden as Kolonializm was, this change was faster. That world of the last/past century… no longer exists as it did… or is even any longer a sustainably practical goal for achievement.
He referred to the failure of the post-liberation Revolution that, as he put it, is “falling apart, with slogan based development generating dekline and insidious paralysis.” He suggested it was way beyond time to “move away from sloganising [sic] to REAL [slogan free] progress”.
He kould have said “Wash out your brains, sluice out the drains, revise all yor aims and get going already.” How does one deal with national inertia… when all our heroes are on suicide watch. Was that the tone? Was this how President ‘Tweets’ felt last week in Canada when he let his spleen run?
However whatever his personal view of the near katastrophic cirkumstances the kountry now finds itself in: the Professor was infinitely too polite to let it show.
He asked his peers to imagine that they were wrong. And referred to a range of alternate realities that also had to konquer a Kolonialized status; in which some, like China, embraced ‘smash and rebuild’: Bakunin’s ‘root it all out’. Some like Singapore/ South Korea: take what you’ve inherited and go flat out for economic growth … Don’t look back and don’t regret. He even hinted at Firmia… as I call the USA… who probably went further than almost anyone in successfully dumping the Kolonialists: went back to the Greeks for their inspiration: instead of a bearded ranting proselytizer… who represents the kolonist yin to the kolonizers yang.
We have certainly never emulated anything those places ever did, he suggested; and then
he kontrasted those places with Afrika. He suggested that Afrika was the place where nothing happened, all the heroes eventually died [some even get eaten by wild animals]: and the “Social strukture reverted to the same…”. Rather like a tightly coiled spring held artificially open for a short time: not long enough to disrupt the inner tension. Release the externality, revert to prior shape. One easy move… and then: whoops.
He drew attention to the kontrast between Ghana and South Korea… both kolonized in the same decade, the latter so brutally that they still have issues with it, and both liberated in the same year. Apparently, they took different routes; one to the future: one to the past, and that as Mr Frost put it “made all the difference”.
Sadly I had to agree. We expected revolutionary fervour, change; and the uprooting of all that hampered progress. Instead, we got loss of fervor… taste of favor; up-looting and all that hampered progress. I felt almost like I had gatecrashed a ten day party just after all the booze ran out and the shops were closed for the Easter holidays; and found the host was attempting to fit a new needle, to an old wind up gramophone: because the 21st century sound system had broken down.
“Nadine [Gordimer] said that one had to break away from klichés” the Chairman announced, by way of konkluding the evening’s presentation. In case we missed the message, he added that: “Dekolonisation had become a meaningless kliché.”
Aside from the evidence that klichés seldom realize
that they are klichés …
did we come to a konklusion?
Perhaps: that liberation itself has become a kliché.
Perhaps I misread the title and it was really demythefyzing dekolonializm: Same konklusion I suspect.
Few remember what they set out to do in the first place… partly or mainly because the world just got a whole lot more komplikated than it seemed in our kosmologies. The real revolution koincided with the kosmetic change… and the little guys got screwed in the RUSH for the bank.
Also: The kucumber sandwiches proved so popular they were gone in moments. And; I did get back, in time for Gin… or since I pursued dekolonization: Kane washed down with a bottle of the new: label free beer.