What is Liberty?  

Is it Spokes Mashiyane in 1953 creating music which revitalises?
Is it the strong melody of his pennywhistle in a world which insists that he has no right to create?
Is it him daring to create, to be excellent, anyway?
Is liberty Spokes daring to stand firm in his creativity against a world which tells him: stay in the
garden, Boy?

Is it him leaving the garden to electrify and revive with his kwela vibes?

Is liberty excellence?

What is liberty and what does it feel like?
Does it feel like the electric jive to Dorothy Masuka’s Pata Pata, after a day of bowed backs and Yes
Bass, Yes Madem?

Does it feel like an erect moment at the end of a long day of cowering?
Is liberty that moment where a man can order a beer and be served, without admission being
reserved?
Where he can sit on a chair and not the pavement?
Is it where a man can sit down and enjoy his beer, and not be a Kaffir or a Boy?
Is it where he can reclaim a piece of his dignity, even if it’s very little and for a brief moment?

Is liberty dignity?

What is liberty?
Is it a woman brewing beer in her backyard?
Is it her making a living against voices and laws which say:
you’re too black to live;
you’re too black to be; to occupy space, to own space;
you’re too black to trade, to transact;
your vagina is lodged between black thighs
get a dompass;
stay in the Madam’s kitchen;
know your place, Girlie?
What is liberty? Is it her defying the voices and establishing economic freedom for herself, anyway?

Is liberty economic freedom?
Is liberty defiance?
Is it turning your obstacles into fuel?
Is it your loudest hell no in the faces of those who say that you can’t?
Is it unshackling?
Is it un-bowing?

What is liberty to you and what is liberty after liberation?
What is liberty after liberation when the struggle isn’t over?
What does liberty look and feel like when the war is over but hasn’t been won; when the fight stands
and remains to be fought?

What is liberty then?

Is it the upright stand atop obstacles and oppressive structures after every success, after the winning of
each battle?

What is liberty after liberation when the struggle isn’t over?
Is it a young black man who grew up dreaming of making the world a happier place with inspired
socks, and then went ahead and built his brand of happiness, kicking off hurdles?
Is it a young black woman who has always known that food security isn’t the exclusive club of white
skins in khakis, and every day ploughs through discrimination and…lack; lack of resources, lack of
support, lack of market, to see a harvest and then another?
And when they said nude and showed us pale, is liberty after liberation when the struggle isn’t over, a

young black woman who said: not for my people, and made better for her sisters and brothers?
Or is it the little sis who bought a home in that gated place where they say we can’t live, where all
forces and structures work their large discriminatory asses off to keep us out; is liberty after
liberation when the struggle isn’t over, little sister getting herself that home, anyway?

Is liberty after liberation when the struggle isn’t over, battles in a long war where each battle won
declares:

We are coming for that success;
We are claiming that excellence;
We are coming for our freedom;
We are coming for our dignity;

We are coming for it all;
We are coming for everything?
Is that what liberty is?
Is that its face?
Is that its sound?
Is that its feel?

And what is its taste?
What is the taste of the spirit of excellence, happiness, freedom, defiance?

It’s bravery;
It’s ruffling feathers;
It’s breaking away and breaking through;
It’s making new rules and shattering old ones;

It’s Liberado.

Writer: Nomfundo Shezi                Photographer: George Gladwin Matsheke

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: