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We Sing

by Mlilo Mpondo / Illustration by Sasan / 17.04.2013

There is a witchcraft of sorts hovering in between the air we breathe, the dust roads we trod upon, in the pages of policy and the government it serves, the price of brown bread and the disparate realities of the rich and the poor. This is of course a metaphor; witchcraft itself is a metaphor, it is the only explanation we have when trying to make sense of the nonsensical. We grab at its threads in hopes that it will perhaps rationalise the pathetic hand that we have been dealt. It must be understood that witchcraft is the extortion of livelihood for the sole gain of its architect. The hands that meddle in it appropriate the right to play god for a moment, to create imbalance, to cause want and desperation to those for whom it has been dealt.

It is a lonely and sad affair for those who fall victim to it. Onlookers stare from a distance in pity, always wondering why him, what could he have done to deserve its wrath, its disease, its erosion, its silence. For it is a silent drifter, rebuked in pews by church choirs that exalt Christ’s name into the heavens, a familiar acquaintance to vagabond drunkards whose relief is in the warmth of sun burnt pavements and a menace to sturdy women that stir pots of mieli meal in zinc compartments whose husbands, sons and in-laws have all fallen prey to it. And silently we are always in prayer. Fingers crossed behind our backs, mpepho burnt in our homes, crucifixes painted on our doors and heads lowered in reverence to the Almighty in faith that the depravation it has caused us will soon meet its end.

The solace of the slave, the displaced, and the poor has always been at the bottom of empty bottles in beer halls, on bended knees in corrugated homes and in the song they carry on scathed hearts. We drink, we sing and we pray. Sadness is a beautiful song, its misery lies heavy on the heart but when it is released it breathes like the stifled breath of a new born. A sudden and overwhelming gasp of relief. And that is why we sing, said the choir, the drunkard and the woman stirring a pot of mieli meal in the squalor of her zinc compartment. We sing because song is the only remedy that can wash away uncanny blood stains off of fourteen year old girl child cotton panties torn by emasculated desire. We sing because it is the prayer that we chant when marching through cities, burning tires, or holding shovels on mine hills in protest of the bullshit freedom we are served every day.

We sing because song replaces the sound of running water that we are yet to bath our bodies in or quench the thirst of our children with. We sing because song provides the shelter we were promised by our government twenty years ago, a shelter we still await in bated breath. We sing because our voices are stifled by the witchcraft we live in everyday. From classrooms that are designed to make our children fail, to the politics that sell us dreams when we know that we have learned to live only in nightmares, the hospitals we are sent to die in, to the witchcraft that drains our blood so that they can drink from our wells of struggle and this is what they call AIDS. We drink sing and pray because it is the way of our people, the way of the enslaved, and the rebellion of the poor.

If only the rain would stop just for a moment so that our voices could be heard and our minds stilled, then maybe we will finally learn to chant the witchcraft away.

* Illustration © Sasan

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  1. Mandisa says:

    Sadly we are so caught up in fulfilling our ‘desires’ that we have fallen prey to this witchcraft, we cannot hear our own voices nor comprehend our own thoughts. If only we could take a minute to be quiet, listen to our voices, make sure the words in the song capture our real thoughts, then we can chant with confidence, so loud not even the rain could distort our message.

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  2. Mandisa says:

    Very well written Mlilo

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  3. Thato Tsotetsi says:

    I love this…I haven’t read anything like this in a while, quite inspiring Mlilo.
    Thank you.

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  4. Muddebunker says:

    Poetic and wondrous – even if so sad; thank you

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  5. mlilo says:

    Thank you so damn much

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  6. Ayanda says:

    The art of writing about the ‘ordinary’ in such an extraordinary way. Poetic, heartbreaking and in it’s own way inspirational. Beautifully written Mlilo!

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  7. R32 says:

    why was my comment removed?
    Thats not cool. Just cos you don’t want comments that you do not like?

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  8. Andy says:

    R32, we don’t delete comments. They get put directly in the Spam folder if they have more than one link though? Repost. Have your say.

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  9. Brown Rice says:

    So vividly portrayed

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  10. R32 says:

    Thanks Andy. Will do.

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  11. debongz says:

    mlilo ngowase durbanfinest….well done gal

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  12. Swai says:

    Thought-provoking master piece. Unbelievably original.

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  13. Malak says:

    呀, 係哦, 有d位錯左哦, 對唔住呀, 下次會醒少少當幫忙既啦 :p 等我更正更正先…你係正宗既— 滿州鑲白旗鵝風子無得同你比 Carrie, 明是非善好惡, 如斯女子係真真抵錫! 風子黨? she is my good mate, don’t she inform u this mei? 😛

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