Cultural Evening: A Song for Rodney

Many of the themes & ideas Walter Rodney wrote about in his short life persist and have relevance today. The last day of the Walter Rodney series fell on South Africa’s Youth Day. We therefore curated a cultural programme – a ‘Song for Rodney’ that featured young artists grappling with issues of decoloniality as a cultural celebration of black intellectual and creative thought. We commissioned original poems from two young artists: Koleka Putuma and Mbongeni Nomkonwana. We asked them to think about the following questions as a prompt for a poem:

  • What does an anti-imperialist politics mean for young people in Africa today?
  • What does development in Africa look like outside of a capitalist paradigm? 
  • How does neo colonialism influence culture?

The two poems here reflect complex themes connecting a brutal colonial history with a defiant present.

Koleka Putuma – Today peaceful, Tomorrow warlike, The next day warlike again

Photo credit: Kike Para
Koleka Putuma is an award-winning theatre practitioner, writer and poet. Her bestselling debut collection of poems Collective Amnesia took the South African literary scene by storm. Since its publication in April 2017, the book is in its 12th print run, and his been translated into 8 languages. Her second collection, Hullo, Bu-Bye, Koko, Come In, has forthcoming translations in Dutch, Danish and French.

Mbongeni Nomkonwana

Mbongeni Nomkonwana is a published writer and translator. He is a spoken word artist who has performed on many stages, both locally and internationally. He is also co-founder, Managing Director, and resident poet at Lingua Franca Spoken Word Movement, one of Cape Town’s premier poetry collectives, with a unique fusion of spoken word poetry and authentically South African music. 

Zoe Moelelekwa & Open Mic

Jazz in the Native Yards supported Tshisimani in hosting, young maestro Zoe Moelelekwa, son of Moses Moelelekwa, in a solo performance reflecting on the struggles of the ’76 youth. Zoe is a pianist and composer, currently studying at the Manhattan School of Music as a Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholar. This was a his debut performance in South Africa as a solo artist returning from New York. Zoe is young and emotive and captures the hopes and disappointments of young people today through his music.

Zoe Moelelekwa performs a piano solo at the Song for Rodney event.

Based in Gugulethu, Jazz in the Native Yards is a collective keeping the revolutionary spirit of jazz on the Cape Flats alive by curating events with jazz musicians based on themes of community, solidarity and cultural resistance.

Find out more about their work here : https://jazzinthenativeyards.co.za/

The Open Mic event presented a moment of expression to young people involved in the program. Here we heard activists through song, slam-poetry and performance.

The event was attended by young students and learners from all over Cape Town. It was hosted at the Surplus Radical Bookshop in Albert Road, Woodstock.