'The Scatterlings of Africa'
Copper sun sinking low,
Scatterlings and fugitives,
Hooded eyes and weary brows,
Seek refuge in the night.
They are the scatterlings of Africa,
Each uprooted one,
On the road to Phelamanga,
Beneath the copper sun.
Each and every one,
In their hearts a burning hunger,
Beneath the copper sun - Johnny Clegg.
To be African, truly African, born and bred in a continent that pulses with an energy so raw it's almost palpable is an experience in and of itself.
Stepping off a plane after leaving her upon your return her overwhelming mass ignites your senses and her almost frenetic energy engulfs you, your pulse quickens ever so slightly and you know that she is trying to draw you into her ample bosom.
She is known by many as "Mama Africa" and akin to many mother-child relationships, relationships with her are frought with complexities, intricate memories and a push-pull between leaving the comfort of the past and an urge to catapult into the stratosphere of the unknown future, much like Persephone, a favourite Greek Goddess who had to cut off ties with her mother to acquire a sense of her own individuality which bought forth an eventual balance to the world within the seasons, the eventual harmonius natural wonder of the four seasons as we now know them.
Now don't get me wrong, I am not describing leaving Mama Africa as descending into the underworld or taking a trip down the Styx with no oars, left to flounder about like Orpheus without his Eurydice.
Oh no, quite the contrary.
Sometimes it is good to break away from the confines of ones comfort zone and experience the sensual offerings of another country.
South Africa, whilst glorious in many ways has become somewhat claustrophobic in her political and social situations especially of late.
Her bosom has seemed overbearing, smothering even, leaving a lot of her children gasping and in some cases pleading for positive air.
Being directly involved in the metal sector and feeling the effects of the metal strike and the fear and the pure helplessness that engulfs workers who are not part of the unions who want to work but cannot because of FEAR of VIOLENCE is heart breaking to say the least.
Honest men who want to work to feed their families, who come to work with a smile on their faces thrown to the river Styx, without oars.
I am not qualified to comment on the unions and their reasoning behind the strikes and their requests, they are FULLY entitled to demand higher wages, however I do feel free to comment on the VIOLENCE that plagued the strike and South Africa as a whole and the effect it had on Mama Africa's children.
I do not want to delve to deeply into my past or the issues of crime that I have faced, stemming from the age of 11 when my mother, an ex-wildlife teacher, who was planting trees in a township, did not pick me up from school because she had been hijacked, to a shooting that happened at a family business during my final exams, where miraculously my father and uncle survived, to a hijacking that occurred when I had moved out of home and was finding my feet for the very first time to most recently an armed robbery that occurred on a girls weekend away in the game reserve.Thankfully I am (touch wood or anything like it in the immediate vicinity) one of the lucky ones who is here, strong and still able to love Mama Africa although after a recent trip to Canada I can understand why Africans would make the choice to head for "Phelamanga".
The Urban Dictionary, whilst yes I agree, is no Oxford Dictionary, defines "Phelamanga", as a 'place at the end of lies, or where the lies finish'. I believe that Johnny Clegg was referring to a place or time in Africa when the lies would finish, ghastly apartheid would be dissolved (the song was penned in 1982) and Africans, whatever their creed or colour could find a safe space to call home, a bosom to rest their weary heads and a place to flourish without fear.
In 1982, when the legend that is Johnny Clegg (he's to SA what Jagger is to the UK or Bono is to Ireland - just to bring you up to speed) wrote about the "Scatterlings of Africa", weary, uprooted and seeking refuge I wonder if he knew that some day a South African woman would interpret his song as an apt description of all the beautiful, African loving, ex-south Africans forced to search for a version of their own "Phelamanga" in Australia, England, Canada, America etc?
There is a freedom, a joy, a beauty to be found in walking the streets late at night and feeling safe.
I feel we are still waiting for this to happen in South Africa and while my heart physically hurts writing these defiant words, akin to a child speaking ill of a family member, it also physically hurts thinking of all the beautiful families, the beautiful scatterlings who are split apart, because Africa could not transmute into "Phelamanga" in due time.
I like to believe, as a realist idealist, that with the right government in place "Phelamanga" could be an African reality.
A freedom to be found in leaving your front door unlocked or your handbag in your car.
A freedom to be found in being a woman, driving alone at night, with your window open and the breeze caressing your cheek.
In the interim however, after arriving back from Canada and drawing on past London experiences I believe, support and love all those who have sought and fought to find their own "Phelamanga", wherever in the world it may be.
For, there is one thing you can never take away from us, one thing that bonds us, as South Africans on SA soil or abroad, we are all and always will be "Scatterlings of Africa,
Both you and I,
We are on the road to Phelamanga,
Beneath a copper sky,
And we are scatterlings of Africa,
On a journey to the stars,
Far below we leave forever
Dreams of what we were"