EASTERN CAPE COMPOSER'S DAY

"AMAQHAWE ETHU"


ADDRESS BY
MANGOSUTHU BUTHELEZI, MP
MINISTER OF HOME AFFAIRS AND PRESIDENT OF THE INKATHA FREEDOM PARTY 
ON THE THEME OF

SHARING PRINCESS MAGOGO’S DREAM

FEATHER MARKET HALL, PORT ELIZABETH : MARCH 18, 2000

I wish to thank the Minister of Arts and Culture, Mrs Nosimo Balindlela, for extending an invitation to me to come to the Eastern Cape for this important music festival. She has done me a great favour in bringing me to the Eastern Cape which is where I spent my formative years as a student at the University of Fort Hare. We had a saying in those days that no one was really educated if he or she has not been educated here in the Eastern Cape.

I further wish to thank the organisers of the Eastern Cape Composer's Day for having introduced in today's programme a slot to honour the memory of my mother, Princess Constance Magogo Sibilile Mantithi Ngangezinye ka Dinuzulu. As this occasion is about music and not words, I shall limit my remarks to a few significant features of Princess Magogo and her lasting legacy. I do so not only as her son, but indeed as one of her pupils. I do so on behalf of a large number of her pupils on whom, throughout their lives, she bequeathed the precious gift of music. Princess Magogo was one of Africa's greatest composers, musicians and singers, and for these qualities she is rightly remembered. Her music remains as compelling now as it was during her own lifetime.

There is a story about my mother which is quite significant. In Zulu society when a young woman gets married, there is a meeting called UKUKHULUMA UBULANDA, where her people and the family of the groom gather for her people to formally hand her over to her new family - her in-laws. At these meetings the bride's people will state that she is in perfect health, if that is the case. If she suffers from migraine or any other ailment, her people must be frank and say so. The story is that on that day of UKUKHULUMA UBULANDA my mother's people stated that she was in perfect health. They went on to say that her in-laws must please forgive her for she cannot stop singing, since according to Nguni culture a newly married woman is not allowed to sing. So in her case her commitment to music was stated to the in-laws as something she could not stop doing, and which they were asked to accommodate, even though it was contrary to Zulu custom.

Her greatest contribution to musical development in South Africa is perhaps her constant training of pupils. She was the spring from which flowed a river of music. To her pupils she conveyed not only the knowledge and appreciation of music, but also a dream which is now carried forward by many throughout the country. That was the dream that the human and spiritual conditions of our people can be uplifted through music. It was the dream which is still our dream, that the beauty of music can give us the strength and the inspiration to improve on the social and economic conditions of our lives.

My mother's music still plays within my heart. It has never left me. At my mother's knee I learned the songs which would sustain me in spirit through the many trials of public life. The inestimable gift of Princess Magogo to the world of music somehow escapes measure. Her haunting voice and talent continues to enrich my own life, yet it does not belong to me alone. Through her memory, and through the work of her many pupils who have now grown to domestic and international fame, the gift of Princess Magogo, cast like a pebble into the deep waters of art, extends ever outwards in concentric circles to touch South Africa, the African continent, and the shores of the international world. That is why when she passed away in 1984, her obituary was published in 'The Times of London' by an internationally renowned musicologist, Dr David Rycroft from the School of African and Oriental Studies, in London.

My mother's voice has been heard in countries where her language is not understood, yet the sentiments of her soul are revealed in much the same way as they are to her own people. It is a privilege for me to speak about the vision which carried Princess Magogo's voice into the hearts of diverse and foreign people. While the expression of love, faith, dignity, endurance, pain and loss are conveyable through the artist's gift as universal emotions of mankind, present in every culture, language, nation and tradition, Princess Magogo forever remains the treasure of South Africa.

We may take pride in the fact that our soil gave birth to such a precious jewel. In no other place and at no other time could history have given us the likes of Princess Constance Magogo. Her music stemmed out of the suffering of our land under the yoke of oppression, and the hopes for our redemption. Her dream was carried through those sounds of music which spell out the feeling of redemption. It is redemption from the sins and the mystery of life, and the glory and peace of our afterlife. It is redemption from the plight of oppression, and the hope of our political liberation which she knew would soon come. It is also redemption from the yoke of poverty, ignorance and abject social and economic conditions, so that one day all men and women could finally be free. This dream of redemption continues to inspire all our efforts. The music brings people together to sing the prayer that we shall all one day be free in a country in which economic prosperity and social stability are equally enjoyed by all our children. The beauty of this hope is the beauty of the music which we learned from Princess Magogo.

An air of beauty and unconquerable dignity shrouded my mother throughout her life, adding a unique dimension to the treasure of her voice. She intimately understood the heartache and loss which permeate many of her songs and her soul continues to speak of these through the cadence of her voice, even years after her passing. We are privileged, on the centenary celebration of the birth of Princess Magogo, to still have early recordings of the countless tales told through the music my mother composed and the music she sang. Her voice will never be lost, for the ear which hears it conveys it directly to the heart.

I believe that Princess Magogo's noble stature speaks of more than her royal heritage. It is true that my mother was the sister of King Solomon ka Dinuzulu and was born to the great King Dinuzulu who, in his youth, was banished to the Island of St. Helena because of his struggle against colonialism. There, my mother's two brothers, Prince Solomon and Prince Mshiyeni ka Dinuzulu, were born. My uncle, King Solomon ka Dinuzulu, gave to my father, Chief Mathole Buthelezi, who was then Prime Minister to the King, his own sister, Princess Magogo Mantithi Sibilile Constance ka Dinuzulu, to re_emphasise the historic ties between the two families and with the intent of creating the very blood ties which bind us together. Her grandfather, King Cetshwayo ka Mpande, took on the British who had the mightiest army of the last century. At Isandlwana King Cetshwayo's regiments defeated the British army on the 22nd of January 1879. When the British finally defeated the Zulu regiments in Ulundi on the 7th of July 1879, King Cetshwayo was transported to Cape Town where he was incarcerated in the Castle and later, on the farm 'Oude Moulen'. The Commander-in-Chief of the Zulu forces was my great-grandfather, Premier Mnyamana Buthelezi.

So in this way, Princess Magogo became the symbol of the deep and historic bond between the royal family and the Buthelezi clan. Through the talent she displayed from her youth, she came to express the essence of the Zulu Nation, conveying through her voice and songs the multifarious day-to-day experiences of our people. However, she also expressed the universality and inclusiveness which is so much part of the culture of the Zulu Nation and which has always motivated us to look beyond the immediate ambit of our nation and reach out for all the people of South Africa. In this sense, Princess Magogo was a true Zulu, a true South African and a true African, who regarded all our people as her audience and concern. We have all enjoyed the music of all the great composers who are honoured here today. Their music is in our hearts and bones, just like our own Zulu music, as Africans and as South Africans.

It has often been remarked that Princess Magogo was seemingly able to manipulate her voice to sing with the thin cry of a widowed young wife, or the robust throng of a wedding party. I have preferred to believe that the deeply spiritual stirrings within my mother's soul spoke with their own voice and simply found their expression through the willingness of my mother to sing. I believe that she had access to the long history of her people through a memory deeply rooted in all of us, yet expressible by very few.

Princess Magogo must have felt the healing in her music, and its potential to sew up old wounds by speaking of the circular nature of human history. The tales she told through her songs are stories that happen again and again in the course of human events. Death is not a new occurrence, and so then neither is grief. Relationships have seldom lasted, thus loss is not a new emotion. Joy has travelled through the ages, so too has sorrow, fear, inspiration and hope. I believe that we tap in so easily to the stories she told because they are fundamentally familiar, whether we have known the experience or not. My mother, however, knew that she was not merely telling a story, but revealing the very nature of our emotional development and social growth.

Thus, Princess Magogo's dream was to use music to strengthen her people. Hers was not the great oration which moves nations, but the simple truths which speak quietly into individual hearts. Her music breathes hope into the heart of oppression and love into the midst of fear. The identity and sense of belonging which her songs convey, remind us that we do not travel the difficult road of life alone, but are intricately woven into the tapestry of social living. Thus, we are given the opportunity to receive strength and comfort from those around us, while fulfilling the social obligation of building up, encouraging, inspiring and uplifting our own families, communities and country.

Throughout my long commitment in politics I have always relied on this strength. I have been vilified and made the object of hideous propaganda. I have found the strength to survive in the core of beauty that music laid deep into my heart. I knew that even living in a world with so much evil and ugliness, there is always an element of beauty that no one can take away from me. For this reason, I have always nourished the gift of music which I received from my mother. I have always sung in church and whenever the occasion would offer the opportunity. I have always been surrounded by good music, which I appreciate in all its forms, including classical music and jazz.

I believe that it is our responsibility to bestow upon our children the knowledge that music is more than a jangle of popular tunes. Indeed, attention must be given to the development of arts and culture within South Africa. In our efforts to rebuild our country and establish a new society based upon the principles of goodwill, co-operation and joint commitment, we must remember that great nations are not constructed merely on technology, science and mathematics, but also on the foundation of art. Self-expression is perhaps our greatest asset, for the energies of our people, our determination and our dream of an African Renaissance must be sustained, and must find outlet.

Our people have been carried through the most trying challenges by an inner strength, which is mirrored and displayed in our artists, musicians and poets. We see in these our own potential to overcome, to stand and to conquer. Among the greatest gifts we may give to the next generation is the ability to learn and to teach music. It is no coincidence that in teaching a child, music offers infinite possibilities. Music is a vital part of a child's formation, development and growth. It teaches us to express our thoughts, reveal our emotions, identify with a group and recognise harmony in working together. If we wish to raise our human potential to ensure that we, our children, and our children's children may become better South Africans in a better South Africa, we cannot forget the power of music.

It is the songs of all the great artists whom we are gathered here to honour today who sustained us in the dark days of oppression and during the apartheid era. It is a wonderful coincidence that I am asked to speak from the same platform as some of the musical giants of our times who are also guests today, such as Professor Mzilikazi Khumalo. I single him out for he is busy just now composing an opera on the life of Princess Constance Magogo ka Dinuzulu, which will probably be performed some time this year when she would have been 100 years old, had she lived that long.

With these few thoughts, it is important now to let words subsume so that music can rise again and fill our hearts with merriment and joy in a world of possibilities.

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