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  • Small Deaths”Thobela (repeat)/Sishayi’ thobela (repeat)/“
  • Panashe Chigumadzi (bio)

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Cut Head Queen. ©Khan Nova (Mathieu Saunie).

[End Page 148]

Growing up, I thought Cape Town was a Boom Shaka music video. Blame it on the fact that the first time I saw an image of Table Mountain was during a Selimathunzi (or was it Jam Alley?) broadcast of Thobela. You must appreciate that, at the time, I thought my older cousins from Soweto were Cool As Fuck, because, while I was holed up in the suburbs watching KTV, they were gyrating and screaming along with Thembi, Lebo, Junior, and Theo in bum shorts, box braids and baby hairs (oh my!) as they did the Thobela on Camps Bay telling everybody It Was About Damn Time we listen to these Young Black kids.

Who were they waving to? The yt onlookers confused and enraged by the Arrival of these Young Blacks looking a little Too Free on their beach? (It blerrie well isn’t even Boxing Day! Who gave these Blacks the day off?) The Black onlookers excited and encouraged by the Arrival of these Young Blacks? (It isn’t even Boxing Day! It’s true, uTata Madiba fought for us!)

Whoever it was to, I wanted to wave at them and do the Thobela on Camps Bay beach, too.

Thebe’s boom: “Thooobela!”

Thembi’s remixes: “Thobela-top-top-top!”

Junior’s reggae-cool: “To the left, to the right! To the left, to the right! To the left, to the right! Boom!”


We’ve Arrived.

We’ve Arrived.

We’ve Motherfuckin’ Arrived!, we announced with each Thobela.

Soon enough, a more sober image appeared. Table Mountain became the striking mesa above the Mother City which lorded over another monument, which, thank Our Dear Black Jesus for Her Faithfulness, is no longer there. [End Page 149]

On my first day at the university, after passing the stump of Rhodes’ statue, I come across a silent protest by the Rhodes Must Fall students titled “Black Death.” I stop and watch the figures of Black Women, bodies painted black and draped in black sheets, still and silent, in formation across the steps.

In time, a short dreadlocked young woman appears in front of the crowd gathered to take questions. I immediately recognise her from a newspaper profile on Rhodes Must Fall leaders. I don’t remember her name, but I do remember that she’d self-described as “the illegitimate child of Brenda Fassie and Dambudzo Marechera.” Watching her impatiently answering questions such as whether there was such a thing as Yt Death (“Yet again, Black people are talking about Blackness, you yt pipo choose to centre ytness”) or whether she was suggesting Black people are the walking dead (“I’m suggesting that to be Black in an Anti-Black World is an oxymoron”), I remember feeling unnerved by her praise of Marechera’s plate-smashing “revolutionary ethic.” I put my hand up and she nods at me.

A little intimidated by Brenda Marechera, I hesitate until she nods at me again, “Isn’t it a little irresponsible to glamourise depression? I love Marechera’s work as much as anyone, and I wish I smashed plates and chandeliers at awards ceremonies, but don’t you think it’s a little selfish to romanticise his life? We all know he was a deeply troubled man.”

Brenda Marechera looks exasperated, “Comrade, what’s your name?”

I bristle, thinking of how another member of the crowd had retorted that she wasn’t a “comrade”, but if she insisted on calling her something, “colleague” would do, “It’s Khanyi.”

“Comrade Khanyi, decolonise your mind. That’s what yt pipo say to dismiss him! We know that he was a revolutionary. Marechera chose death by decay, A true Black revolutionary knows that there are only two honourable ways to die—either you must destroy the world or it must destroy you!” A lone dread tied to a cowrie shell quivered over her forehead. “Comrade Khanyi, aren’t our deaths, if we choose them, ours and ours alone? If we aren’t at death’s mercy, we aren...


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