June 16th

A few years ago, at the height  of my artistry and my failure I was presented with another means to grow, to expand. A good friend of mine had a connection to stage a play, I think in Worcester, the theme being June 16th.

At that time, I had failed at varsity and  was adamant to prove to my parents that I was still  worthy. Worthy of their love? Worthy of their respect? Perhaps both? And so emerged the journey of “Lest we forget”.

Lest we forget was a play created in remembrance of the struggle of June 16th 1976,now dubbed youth day in South Africa. It marks when youth conspired amoung themselves to stand up  against the presiding government, for their decision to administer education  in Afrikaans. Afrikaans then  being foreign, not innate to the majority  of South Africa’s means of communication and an oppressive language.

The youth centralised themselves to fight, on that day against this atrocity. Lives were lost, humans were wiped out with force because of their opposition to a language and furthermore a system.

“Lest we forget” therefore proved a difficult task to create. How could we relate 30 years later to the struggle of youth – younger, more vulnerable and less protected than us?

We had to tap into the hurt, the so-called empathetic imagination and put ourselves right there. It was tough. We had vigorous rehearsals where one would sit on a chair and the other would interrogate their motives in a dim-lit room devoid of help. We created a past, present  and future so scenarios of how freedom is experienced. This play would have brought me to tears, alas, it  was never staged.

The marches, the hurt and passion of the day never leaves me. I cannot create a better social milieu, you cannot, lest we forget.

I wrote a poem for the day. Read it, and dare not forget:

Lest we forget

this land is  blood soiled

scarlet hugged and pain bound

echoing memories of lives gone

in throbbing chests of women

who will never be grandmothers.

Lest we forget

Teas gas, no longer visible

olfactory organs pick up no scent

of blinded comrades penetrated by rubber bullets

running by bodies who have struggled and are now spent.

Lest we forget

mass funerals, communities in turmoil

hearts pain stricken

oblivious to recovery

after mother , father sister and brother

are buried for issued passes as lesser beings.

Lest we forget

songs of freedom,

marches to Union buildings,

boycotts of inferior schooling,

imprisonment for twenty-seven years,

noble rebellion of minority rules.

Lest we forget

the belief we are similar

mirror images

reflecting Gods,

souls of furnace ,connected in likeness-

no dilution will incur

perpetuating rivers of the hurt

that run rapidly

repetitively, cognitively and inwardly.

Lest we forget

we will regret current times

where censorship of truth is contracted by law

without our permission,

remaining reminiscent

of our blood soiled land

scarlet hugged bound by pain,

lest we forget.


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