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Artist Spotlight: Mazisi Kunene

Mazisi Kunene (South Africa)

As many of his former UCLA students, Ben Caldwell remembers his time under the tutelage of Professor Mazisi Kunene as one of his most formative at UCLA. The exiled Freedom Fighter and poet from South Africa, had many lessons for Black Americans fighting their own battles with racism. An inspirational figure for many, Kunene’s written work often celebrates the illustrious Zulu past as a counter to Apartheid years which saw Black people across South Africa subjugated to dehumanizing discrimination. His epic poem Emperor Shaka the Great reflects on theZulu exploits in their own style of oral tradition. Retiring after 17 years teaching African Studies and Zulu language at UCLA, he returned to his homeland 2005 to be further lauded as the South Africa;s first poet laureate.

"Remember" by Masizi Kunene

Remember to call at my grave

When freedom

Finally walks the land

That I may rise

To tread familiar paths

To see broken chains

Fallen prejudice

Forgotten injury

Pardoned pains.

And when my eyes have filled their sight

Do not run away for fright

If I crumble to dust again

It will only be the bliss

Of a long-awaited dream

That bids me rest

When freedom finally walks the land

Another poem by Mazisi Kunene


We saw a soft light

Coiling round the young blades of grass

At first we hesitated, then we saw her footprints,

Her face emerged, then her eyes of freedom! 5

She woke us up with a smile saying,

‘What day is this that comes suddenly?’

We said, ‘It is the first day after the war’.

Then without waiting we ran to the open space

Ululating to the mountains and the pathways

Calling people from all the circles of the earth.

We shook up the old man demanding a festival

We asked for all the first fruits of the season.

We held hands with a stranger

We shouted across the waterfalls

People came from all lands

It was the first day of peace.

We saw our Ancestors travelling tall on the horizon.

Join Zosukuma Kunene in conversation with Don Mattera and Ben Caldwell on Sunday, July 12, 2020 at 9:30AM PDT:


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