on sunday morning i listened to a CD of south african music...all the old national anthems like mama tembo's wedding, from ipi tombi, and shosholoza and the click song (miriam makeba) and nkosi sikelele...i stared out over the maasai steppes, into the blue and quite suddenly and extraordinarily became emotionally overwhelmed and started blubbing over my coffee.messily...thinking i am now as north as north as any north going zax could be. oh and there were also excerpts from mandela's speech when he walked the line...
the thing is, all this music takes me back to zululand days, to my mother, to my grandmother, to south africa - a place i have walked away from. i never looked back. i haven't been back in nine years or longer. only in dreams. also a long time ago...where i flew through the old farm house, through the rafters and down the back hill. i decided not to.
zululand was my mother's country. i remember seeing the tugela river for the first time, brown and wide and furious, and my mother explaining that this was the boundary between zululand and the rest of natal. the rest of the world, as far as i was concerned. i was new from zambia. different. i remember her explaining why all the farm houses were on hills. because of floods. i remember her showing me the beaches for the whites, and the beaches for the coloureds and the beaches for the indians and the beaches for the blacks and she wasn't really able to explain it satisfactorily. she muttering about apartheid, the bloody nats, terrible, not like in zambia, difficult to understand darling, mumble mumble mumble "oh you'll love the garden when we get there!"... driving slowly over the rolling hills in our old diesel peugeot 504 up the north coast, through a sea of turquoise sugar cane, passing the ngoya hills, gnarly and prominent, who cast an ominous rain shadow over our farm, which was called majaja...after the rain queen, apparently. the clouds would build and bruise and those hills would take it all...until all my friends thought we were onion farmers. not sugar farmers.
this music makes me remember those hot zululand summer nights, countless fat yellow moon rises over the thorny hills, the elephant hill, the motor car hill, distant drums in the hot nights - old zulu war songs, faint and distorted. the cane fires exploding in dry storms and the stabbings. monkey shoots, tennis clubs, chistenings, weddings, cattles sales. and funerals.
my grandmother, granny isabelle, was a full blown alcoholic, with a wit which grew sharper as the cane bottle grew emptier, who owned a fat smelly sausage dog called cindy, who smoked rothmans like no-one has ever smoked them since and wore crimpolene dresses and bata flip flops. her farm was called perseverance and she did not suffer fools gladly. when she finally succumbed to the rothmans and the cane, it was the first time i ever saw my mother really really cry.....mama tembo's wedding from the ipi tombi double LP was Granny Isabelle's favourite keep your feet on the ground and reach for the stars all time Number One Best...and woe betide anyone who tried to skip it or change the track... the music takes me back to christmases with piles of boy cousins and tins of quality streets and iced watermelons and swimming for hours in the warm green pool with the water scorpions and the frogs. until our toes had blisters on their pads and our fingers were wrinkled, our faces burnt crisp and tight...and granny "sleeping" in the doorway between the lounge and the breezeway........and the grownups getting pissed under the jade vine on the verandah....
it took me back to driving between eshowe and melmoth, after hearing my mother had just died and the zululand hills washed in blue and dotted with searing red aloes, a crystal sky shining, burning above us. i remember thinking how perfectly beautiful it was. how everything was so juxtaposed. it had to be a dream. my life was too perfect. i should've known.
oh the music dug up all these deeply buried memories...and then to make it worse, i started reading The Bang Bang Club - about the years leading up to the south african elections, ANC and the IFP, the township wars and the bastard Nats and more old wounds split open.. another entirely long and different story....
eeesh. seff efrica hey? i am only recovering from the daze now. a daze. yes. it has all been completely unexpected. how lovely. who would ever have thought?
so tooodely old toot, You. bisous, aloe red ones X.X.X. j