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January 5, 2009


Q’s AFRICA week: 1. Johnny Clegg & the tale of 2 African presidents

by quaesitor

Having just returned from South Africa, my heart was stirred afresh by that great continent of life. So I thought that this week I’d celebrate with our very own QUAERENTIA AFRICA week. The Southeaster will lure us back in time I suspect…


Johnny Clegg has been called the White Zulu. And his is certainly an extraordinary life. Born outside Manchester in the UK, an early childhood in Israel briefly before moving to southern Africa where he has been ever since. And his music reflects all these different influences – singing fluently in English and Zulu, as well as occasionally in French and other South African languages. Having seen a poster for his outdoor gig at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens on the very day we arrived, we jumped at the chance of getting tickets (having heard him back in the UK summer at Mandela’s 90th concert). We had a right laugh going  – a few pix on our Flickr page here.

Here are 2 of Johnny’s protest songs which seem particularly poignant when placed side by side. The first, written in 1987 years before a multi-racial government seemed possible, is perhaps one of his most well-known in the UK: ASIMBONANGA. It is Zulu, meaning ‘we have not seen him’ and is all about Mandela’s imprisonment across Cape Town’s bay on Robben Island. But watch this clip – and see who appears! From Frankfurt in 1998, at Mandela’s 80th.

This one is more recent. Recorded in Jo’burg in 2006, this song is about another African president who was heralded at the start in terms not unlike those used of Mandela 10 years later. But how differently the tyrant of Zimbabwe is now regarded. This is: THE REVOLUTION WILL EAT ITS CHILDREN (ANTHEM FOR UNCLE BOB).

1 Comment Post a comment
  1. Jamie Read
    Jan 20 2009

    Hi Mark,

    You wont know me but might remember my sis. Anna, from Sheffield days. Just a brief word of thanks for these comments on your Africa Week section. I don’t regularly read your website, but you give some great links here (how to write about Africa… (Red)Wire etc.). I work at Bible Institute Eastern Cape (Port Elizabeth) and am very much still in the teething stages of life and ministry (thats 2 yrs now). Have you read Richard Dowden’s book on Africa? I’m still getting my head round things. Any tips/books/articles on culture and doing ministry would great. Keep on flying the Africa flag amongst evangelicals in the big smoke, and if you know of anyone interested in being the next principal of BIEC, or coming to teach for a few months – let me know! Your brother, Jamie Read.


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