Ok, We’ve Proven Our Worth in Music and Arts Now Let’s go into the Sciences

After almost 5 years I pulled out my Sankomota CD which I have stowed away and when I played it I was re-introduced to the soothing sounds of a music group which I believe, together with Stimela, are ahead of many if not all musicians this side on the southern Africa. Sankomota music was composed by music geniuses in the mould of Frank Mooki Leepa and Tshepo Tshola. Franks’s lead guitar proffers the balance and melodic arrangement that the group’s music is renowned for and it is just simply top drawer.

Ray Phiri (affectionately known as Bra Ray) together with his band of astute musicians, his lead guitar also titillates my listening taste and makes me beg for more. Who can forget Jimmy Dludlu with his George Benson-esque strumming of the musical piece, just makes me sit and take seriously the talent that our musicians have and many of whom the instruments they play were self-taught.

Need I say more about the legends like Bra Hugh Masekela, Bra Jonas Gwangwa, Bra Kippie Morolong Moeketsi, Bra Winston Mangungu Ngozi, Bra Ntemi Piliso, Mam’u Miriam Makeba, Mme Sophie Mgcina, Mme Thandie Klaasen, Mme Joyce Mogatusi and many, many talented African musicians.  They were and still remain pioneers in music industry and they will forever be talked about for generations to come.

King Kong the musical took place in the 50’s and starred the legendary Miriam Makeba alongside the Manhattan Brothers with Kippie Moeketsi and Hugh Masekela among others and saw the launch of the African people into the movies. The musical or if you like an African jazz opera its music was written and composed by Todd Matshikiza.

The list of African actors and actresses including John Kani who has toured many countries, Mshefane (Ndaba Mhlongo) and Joe Mafela, Sello Maake Ka Ncube. I will not be pardoned if I can forget Terry Pheto, critically acclaimed for the movie Tsotsi and went to star in the US soapie, The Bold and The Beautiful. The list is endless and certainly the names mentioned here do not begin to describe the landscape of South African music and arts.

As athletes we have also represented ourselves well even though we never got a chance to play international soccer until after 1992. But we had legends in the soccer fraternity like the legendary Kaizer Motaung, Scara Sono- father to Jomo Sono. The dibbling wizards Lucas ‘Masterpieces’ Moripe, Joel ‘Ace’ Mnini. The unpredictable ‘Teenage’ Dladla, the irrepressible Shakes Mashaba, the midfield maestro Ace Ntsoelengoe and the unstoppable Jomo Sono. The talent was vast and we later saw the likes of Doctor Khumalo, Daniel Mudau, the free kick specialist, Professor Mlungisi Ngubane, the hard-working John Shoes Moshoeu. These were the cream of South African soccer.
We are indeed a great nation.

Our attempt at being scientific

Now what we need to do is to venture into the field of science and technology in order to compete successfully with the rest of the world. But before I enter into this avenue, I am reminded by the words of the late great Steven Bantu Biko in his book, I Write What I Like, when he said that ‘Black people are a natural people and not scientific’. I am in no way agreeing with this statement, but somehow I am swayed and inclined to believe that ‘maybe’ there is an element of truth in what Biko said.

Without completing Biko’s words I want to track back to the time when black South Africans were living on their own without the infiltration of the white man. It was discovered by the University of Pretoria that there were black people who lived around 1200 in an area around the Limpopo river in the kingdom of Mapungubwe. It is reported that these African people were highly sophisticated and traded gold and ivory with China, India and Egypt. Mapungubwe is said to be a testimony of the existence of an African civilization that flourished before colonisation.

This provoked a lot of interest in the hearts and minds of the African people, probably the world over where blacks whose history has been written and regarded as inferior to the Europeans, were the first to be civilized. Professor Mcebisi Ndletyana who heads the Institute of Mapungubwe believes that as well. However the story of Mapungubwe fizzled as fast as it surfaced with many black people having forgotten about it or not having taken much interest in it.

But why would a people not get excited about something so ‘colossal and important’ in their lives such that they had stopped talking about? Shouldn’t we have immortalized in our minds the greatest feat ever achieved by Africans that would have catapulted us into the history books? Why the lack of interest? Are we confirming that what Steve Biko has said that indeed we are devoid of any scientific prowess but ‘highly’ depended on nature and what it offers us?

But can we blame ourselves for not ‘limping with joy’ since our achievement was eroded 400 years later by our capture and subjugation with the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck? How then does a nation that was ‘civilized’ before the  Europeans succumb almost with much ease to the ‘strandlopers’ in the mould of van Riebeeck?

Again if we were sophisticated, how come we had ‘forgotten’ about how a mirror looked like or clothes worn by those pale-faced would-be-captors? Surely the Chinese wore  almost linen clothes during our interaction at the time of Mapungubwe! If we knew how to melt gold, iron and copper how come we do not have indigenous names for these minerals except for iron – tshipi or insimbi? Something does not add up here. I do not wish to rubbish our success during the era of Mapungubwe, however something really does not add up!

Science and Technology

Are we really scientific people?

I believe that we are otherwise where do individuals like Siyabulela Lethuxolo Xuza come from? He who invented rocket fuel and once blew up his mother’s kitchen in the process when he was barely 10 and in 2009 and he has a planet named after him. He has since graduated from Harvard University and is now an energy entrepreneur, creating micro fuel cell technology which he wants used in cellphones to improve battery life by a day to a week or two.

If Xuza managed to achieve this remarkable feat, then our children should be encouraged to do Maths and Science at school and that will give us an opportunity to one day master the sciences.