South Africa has been in the news a lot recently, because of media coverage of the anti-immigrant unrest & violence. It followed reason that I would write about xenophobia. But I thought long and hard, and realised I wanted to show people the good part of South Africa, the part that tugs on the heartstrings and keeps me returning. It’s so easy to find the ugly and hateful, and I’d rather be the person that brings the ‘pretty’ to the table. My husband has wonderful memories of his life in South Africa. He sang with the Eastern Cape Children’s Choir. He got to meet Nelson Mandela (“a giant of a man”, in his words). Some of our best memories as a couple, and as a family, are set in South Africa. One of these memories is sitting down at the waterfront in Cape Town one Christmas, because our daughter was mesmerised by the choir singing on the open-air stage – “so many clicks, mama!“
In honour of that memory, X today will bring you one of the eleven official languages of South Africa: Xhosa. Spoken by about 20% of the population, it is also known as the ‘click’ language, for its prominence of click consonants. Even the word Xhosa starts with a click! I just take the easy way out and pronounce it ‘Khosa’. My husband, however, is one with the clicks. He suggested the famous Click Song (Qongqothwane), sung by Miriam Makeba, to introduce new listeners to Xhosa.
Another song which showcases Xhosa is the merged national anthem of South Africa. Since 1997, the anthem is sung in Xhosa, Zulu, Sesotho, Afrikaans & English, but the first segment is called Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika (God Bless Africa) in Xhosa. Have a listen here: National Anthem of South Africa (with lyrics & translation).
Did you read the lyrics? Did you get a little teary? I did. It breaks my heart that a country that has fought so hard to get to where it is, that is more advanced than many developed nations, should be almost back to square one with the hatred and infighting. Listen to your anthem, people. It’s your land. Make it a better one.