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.
Read more in his obituary from the LA Times https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2006-sep-19-me-kunene19-story.html
"Remember" by Masizi Kunene
Remember to call at my grave
Finally walks the land
That I may rise
To tread familiar paths
To see broken chains
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
"FIRST DAY AFTER THE WAR"
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.