UKZN Hosts Oliver Mtukudzi Memorial Lecture
As part of Africa Month celebrations, the School of Arts in collaboration with the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Arts and Culture and uMsunduzi Museum hosted the inaugural Oliver Mtukudzi memorial lecture in Pietermaritzburg.
A drama production by UKZN students, a performance by Hip Hop duo, Lio X Tiger featuring UKZN alumnus, Mr Bongani “Tiger” Ndimande, as well as an exhibition at the Museum titled: Music as an Art Form: Building a Divided Nation, formed part of the celebrations. The programme was facilitated by Music lecturer, Dr Andrew-John Bethke.
‘This is one of the School’s community engagement projects. We wanted to honour Mtukudzi, one of the music legends of Africa, who passed on earlier this year and whose music transcended African borders. He is popularly known for his song Neria featuring Ladysmith Black Mambazo,’ said lecturer, Dr Phindile Dlamini.
The lecture was delivered by accomplished South African writer and producer, Dr Duma Ndlovu, who is known for his work on many South African soapies.
Ndlovu paid tribute to Mtukudzi as a struggle icon who utilised music as a force to unite South Africa, Zimbabwe and the rest of the African continent. He also highlighted the role music can play in confronting xenophobia.
‘South Africa has lost the plot in terms of our African identity. Instead of welcoming our African brothers and sisters and all the possibilities they bring with them for our country, we are suspicious of them. We think we are better than them,’ said Ndlovu.
He believes that South Africans should be fighting inequality and that music is a means to change mindsets and bring people together. ‘People forget that music was the soundtrack of the liberation struggle and moved people to action. It can bring a divided Africa to a united Africa. Music is a unifying force. We must celebrate our Africanness through it.’
UKZN Drama students showcased a theatre experience that used dance, singing and chorus work to present an ode to the songs of liberation and their impact on our cultural construction as a society.
Said Drama and Performance Studies lecturer, Ms Pumelela Nqelenga: ‘The showcase was a way to understand the significance of African states as allies of the South African liberation movement. It celebrated the music of Mtukudzi and highlighted his cultural activism through his music. Students also used the many songs created in exile to carve a story of hope and freedom.’
Curated by Msunduzi Museum researcher, Ms Nosipho Gwala, the exhibition focused on music during the apartheid years, control and censorship of anti-government lyrics and the separation of radio stations into different language groups.
Ms Nadine Franzsen of the Museum said, ‘The exhibition highlights the different styles of music emerging in the townships of South Africa; how protest songs found their place in oppressed communities and how the world got behind South Africa with international concerts like the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute in London. It communicates the importance of music to uplift and encourage the human spirit.’
In his address, Dr Rajendran Govender of the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Arts and Culture, noted that museums need to be transformed to reflect the changes in society. ‘A museum should provide a place for the fine arts that would foster friendly relations between artists and art lovers and would stimulate, promote and spread artistic interest among communities,’ he said. Govender believes that museums should also foster peace, promote the ideals of democracy and transparency in governance in their communities and be part of the larger communities they serve.
Words: Melissa Mungroo
Photographs: Itumeleng Masa