Let’s ask? What did Mandela do
Except sit in prison for 27 years?
Let me tell you
I will let Walter Sisulu tell you
I will allow Oliver Tambo to chime in
Listen to the voice of Desmond Tutu
Africa died a few nights ago
Africa will be buried three moons from now!
I wish we had Mandela for roads
I wish we had health care called UTata
I wish we had Madiba in our courts
As the supreme judge…
This was part of the poem recited by poet Oduor Jagero-Koa on the evening of Monday 9th December 2013 in what was dubbed an evening of tribute, poetry, music and art in celebration of Mandela’s exemplary life.
Groups of young poets, musicians and poetry lovers gathered on the rooftop of PAWA 254 under the open evening skies to bid farewell to the late Mandela in the best way they knew how; poetry and music.
The huge graffiti painting of the fallen hero on the wall, music from live bands and poetic pieces recited in English and sheng’ provided the right atmosphere for a legendary send-off.
The underlying message in the poems and songs was concordant to the sentiments of the rest of the world about the South African freedom fighter; filled with praises for a man who provided leadership that was so dignified that one of the poets couldn’t help but dub it ‘un-African’.
It was also clear throughout the recitals that Mandela was looked up to by many young men and women.
From Mahatma Gandhi to Martin Luther to Mother Teresa, Mandela’s name was favorably placed alongside those of historical heroic figures in poems and prose colored with his numerous wise quotes.
And poetic names he was called; from ‘pacesetter of pathfinders’ to ‘a cocktail of Martin Luther king and Obama’ to ‘outspoken dissenter’.
Were he here, The man who was described as having taught us values through the loudest words-‘action’ would have marveled at the wisdom the talented youngsters were drawing from his exemplarity life.
The poets married humor with witty advise challenging the audience to think about what their children would see if they dared google them in future.
Mtoto wako ataona nini akikugoogle? Ngatia a popular sheng slam poet asked. He then went ahead and advised African leaders to emulate Mandela and not waste time speaking ‘nonsense in foreign accents’.
One would undoubtedly dub the event a revolutionary poetry eve as the poets beseeched their audience to stop ‘Incompetent Citizenship’ and steer clear of vices like greed, corruption, hatred and the culture of silence and instead embrace peace and forgiveness like Mandela. ‘If we all sit still and do nothing to try better the world, who will make the difference? Asked Rix Poet, the organizer of the event, in his poem ‘Lust for Lost Causes’
Renown musician Juliani, the guest performer , advised the youth against pointing fingers at others and shifting blame, ‘it takes me and not anyone else to make a difference,’ he said.
Award winning Photographer Boniface Mwangi urged the poetry lovers to believe in themselves and create positive change, ‘ The world needs more Mandelas’s, and we can all make a difference through the little actions that we take . The only reason Mandela was successful was because he believed in a cause and followed it, passionately. So instead of sitting still and complaining, be the change that you want.’ Said the art lover whose dream is to see art rising in Kenya and beyond.
The audience was then treated to a very lively dancing session by two bands,Sarabi the band and Hart__the Band who composed a special number ‘Diary ya Madiba’ in which they hailed Mandela for heeding to the quote that ‘In war it doesn’t matter who is right but who is left’ and hence saving many lives that would have otherwise been lost had he persisted on being ‘right’.
Late in the night, watching the youthful crowd disperse, I could only hope that Mandela the history writer, whose long life had finally been punctuated by the full stop of death, had, even in death, inspired the audience enough to bring to life the prophetic words of a brilliant Nigeria Poet, Christopher Okigbo, who died young fighting in the Biafra War:
An old star departs/leaves us here on the shore/gazing heavenward for a new star approaching……beyond the iron path, careering along the same beaten track.