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Time for a new, great anthem

By Sibongile Khumalo | Jul 03, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

THE pent-up emotions finding cumulative expression in the public domain around our national anthem are telling signs to turn a deaf ear on.

THE pent-up emotions finding cumulative expression in the public domain around our national anthem are telling signs to turn a deaf ear on.

They bring with them so many questions about how a nation raises its monuments. There are a variety of monuments that talk to a past that many of us would rather forget. Many of these monuments we do not see, and so life goes on unhindered.

But we all have to sing the national anthem, and have done so for the past 15 years with relative ease.

Most people know how and why Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika and Die Stem van Suid Afrika were fused to become our national anthem. It was a noble act by way of creating a bridge that came with the new government in 1994 to create a sense of unity and reconciliation.


For many it was a conscious act of compromise and sacrifice. Compromise is a good thing, and can inspire those engaged in discourse.

But it does call for a concession to that which might not necessarily be to one's liking. Sacrifice calls for a giving up of something for the sake of that which is more important. It invariably entails a sense of loss.

Fifteen years later general acceptance of the national anthem is proving elusive. The compromise is not working as well as we would have liked.

Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika was written 112 years ago, a monumental piece that provided much-needed comfort and courage through many years of struggle. It was the official anthem for all the liberation movements.

It remains the national anthem of some African countries. In the name of nation building and reconciliation, a cut-and-paste exercise brought about a hybrid song that is our national anthem.

The act was not short of being an experiment, a searching willingness by the majority of this nation to forgive and transcend the past to give peace a chance.

We have a lot of healing and forgiving to do - on both sides of the divide yet our healing and forgiveness issues are not the same.

We need to find ways to let go of the pain, angst and hurt of the past. We have to debrief many years of trauma. In the meantime, we continue in our schizophrenic state, on one hand being the brave and courageous souls who bore the brunt of and fought oppression, while at the same time trying to be our oppressors' keepers.


There is no doubt that there are many who accept the current anthem as it is. Yet there are just as many who struggle with it and will not sing it in its entirety. The unease is evident on both sides. Consequently, the anthem is not the unifying catalyst it was intended to be.

How do we move forward and heal the pain of the past? This suggests that the cut-and-paste experiment is not working. Is it not time to think of a new song, a monumental anthem that speaks to the aspirations of the future, forward and upward looking, even as it acknowledges the past?

lKhumalo is an artist, singer and a member of Advancement for the Status of Women


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