This past Friday’s week’s “word” over at at Lisa-Jo’s Five Minute Fridays was: Reflect
and so I am linking up again with this writing ‘flash mob’ to reflect on a great man and the state of my heart!
My sobs over Mandela’s passing surprised me….
His death was not unexpected to me or the world.
It must have been a relief to his poor ailing body and the family who loved him.
Even though it is unlikely the world will see such a unique man again, even though I am overwhelmed by his sacrifice and his forgiveness (two traits I’m not able to consistently emulate, even with the indwelling Divine) my choking-moans as I watched the coverage of his death and legacy surprised me…
I remember missing the Southern Cross most desperately when I first moved north across the equator. The constellation had always been a symbol that grounded me: the first thing I looked for in the night sky. It seemed unappreciative to my new culture to mention its absence and the longing in my heart.
We were in the Great White North when Madeba was released from prison and in spite of having been active in the anti-apartheid movement and having anticipated the glorious moment of his freedom I remember a dull quiet ache as I watched my hero leave captivity behind. I contained my disappointment of not being able to share more actively with those I had stood alongside in the struggle and so I watched from afar in my heart.
This December our family will gather in the Caribbean for Madeba’s funeral and watch this iconic man being honoured and buried in part of a faraway country that owns much of our hearts. We live disconnected lives, with fragments remaining everywhere, close relationships scattered globally, loss and pain continually repeated. These official days of mourning will be added to the list of those times where the pain of separation, from a country and people we love, is deeply felt.
Personally, his death has exposed me.
I mourn this humble, noble man who achieved great things but it is clear there is more to my loss. I have a sense that I am also be laying to rest some of the longings and dreams I have in relation to this place at the tip of the continent of Africa… the yearning within me for that red soil and those unmistakably African sunsets; the melodic, throaty music and songs of celebration and resistance; the poverty, pollution, smog, dust and wildness of the continent; and the dreams I walked away from….
In a few months we’re moving… to a beautiful new home, with a wonderful view and lots of clean, white space. In the meantime, we are clearing out cupboards and giving away things we no longer use or want. Having a practical personality and having moved countries twice and homes seven times (this move), I am not controlled by huge bouts of sentimentality….therefore getting rid of “stuff” is relatively easy for me.
Nonetheless there is a tension within …
One of our school set-work poems “The Discardment” by South African literary giant, Alan Paton, still haunts me. It is a brilliant work of words that shaped my social consciousness and influenced my heart towards political activism. Studying it at school changed how I thought and eventually how I acted as a person in apartheid South Africa….It came to mind while I was writing my 5 Minute Friday post on the 17th May: Cry the Beloved Country.
I have wanted to share it ever since…..
We gave her a discardment
A trifle, a thing no longer to be worn,
Its purpose served, its life done.
She put it on with exclamations,
Her eyes shone, she called and cried,
The great bulk of her pirouetted
She danced and mimed, sang snatches of a song.
she called out blessings on her native tongue
She called out to her fellow-servants
To the strangers and passers-by
To all the continent of Africa
To see this wonder, to participate
In this intolerable joy.
And so for nothing
Is purchased loyalty and trust
And the unquestioning obedience
Of the earth’s most rare simplicity.
So for nothing
The destruction of a world.
Under African blue skies,
on the red soil of the continent of my birth,
they sang and danced,
their song turning poverty into art!
This is the way of things….
The complexity and the conflict.
To appreciate their melodic voices and enthusiasm for the task,
while hating the exploitation and vulgarity of the begging.
My heart sings the song of Africa…..
It knows the tension…
ashamed but proud
beauty in the messiness
glory amongst the indignity
pain and Love entwined
Under African blue skies,
my heart’s song:
“Cry the Beloved Country”
Today I’m linking up again with the other writers at Lisa-Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday (a flashmob of writers who write for five minutes on a prompt without over editing, backtracking or worrying too much about getting it exactly right AND then go on to encourage others who have participated)
This week’s word: Song….