Artists lament miners' tragedy

COMPASSIONATE: Zuluboy has a song dedicated to fallen miners.  Photo: Tshepo Kekana
COMPASSIONATE: Zuluboy has a song dedicated to fallen miners. Photo: Tshepo Kekana

"As musicians, we are mirrors of society"

ARTISTS in various fields are beginning to react to the massacre of 34 miners by voicing their opinion on the matter through fashion, music and benefit concerts.

Cultural activist Professor Pitika Ntuli says artists should be the most sensitive sector of our society and highlight all manner of prejudice and injustice.

"Any occurrence that affects their senses and dehumanises a group of people in society persuade artists to react through their various art forms."

Ntuli says he also sculpted two pieces immediately after the shooting to convey his outrage through art over how inhumane the Marikana incident was.

"I think what hit us the most as a society is that we thought the era of mass killings was over with apartheid," he says. "To have our own democratic government allowing this to happen is shocking."

Ntuli has been joined by artists such as designer Craig Native, who dedicated a show to the miners at the recent AFI Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.

Greg Francis of Kehonka Music and founding member of legendary 80s outfit Ozila - and at present leader of the jazz band Madzeve Dzeve - recently organised a benefit concert at Bassline in Newtown, Johannesburg. He raised about R20,000 for the families of the fallen miners.

Francis says the wealth of this country is directly derived from its mineral resources. He laments the fact that miners doing the dirty work are still being exploited.

"As a civil engineer in the mining industry for the past 30 years I have always felt uncomfortable and somewhat guilty about this ugly state of affairs, which was carried over from the 'old' South Africa. The Marikana incident prompted me to do something by way of making social statements through music and also raising funds by hosting a benefit concert."

Music legend Chicco Twala released a song, We Miss You Manelo, in 1987 as a cry for the release of former president Nelson Mandela. Though the title did not name Mandela, the public knew that "Manelo" was actually Mandela.

Speaking to Sowetan about the role of artists during times of discontent, Twala says music is a catalyst to deal with injustices, and that this strategy worked very well during apartheid.

"Music can reach many people and produce instant results to motivate, inspire or convey a message."

Twala argues that the season of unrest is partly to be blamed on poor communication from the government.

"A department spokesman will go to a talk show radio to promote a campaign or convey a message. Do poor people listen to talk radio? All these factors are contributing to the state of unrest currently witnessed in the country," Twala says.

Mxolisi Majozi, popularly known as Zuluboy, also has a song titled Marikana in his latest album, Crisis Management.

"I wrote the song (before the massacre) about a young boy who had to bury his father and had nothing. This was the situation with the families of miners who died at Marikana," Majozi says.

"As musicians we are mirrors of society and we must stay relevant and compose songs that reflect our current societal context."

Fashion designer, Craig Jacobs of the Fundudzi label, says his latest #Protestcollection was not specifically inspired by Marikana, though his fans thought it was.

"We showcased the spring summer range in March, long before Marikana, but it just so happened that the collection landed in boutiques across the country just as the mine protests were happening.

"So, it was quite surreal to see things play out the way they did."