Idyllic Zanzibar

Zanzibar brings to mind clear blue waters, coral reefs and idyllic days in the sun while sandy beaches and beach hotels stretch out on either side as beautiful Masai stroll by. This is the memory of Nungwi beach during the daytime. Daytime memories also include an excursion to a nearby island to enjoy a seafood beach picnic, snorkeling among what seemed like mountains of coral reefs while seas of tropical fish swam about. Nungwi beach was also famed for its new moon parties where locals and tourists alike came together to dance the night away.

Travelling by road to Stone Town, we move into a much more modest world than the beach clad beaches would have you believe was possible. The Islamic influence still holds sway in the town which strictly observes the annual Ramadan period.

While you consider the Islamic influence, take some time to acknowledge the fact that Stone Town is a UNESCO heritage site and the evidence of why this is so is all around. The buildings with their arched doorways, intricately designed woodwork and narrow streets filled with pedestrians and cyclist ensure that you engage yourself at a slower pace that the bustling city you may have come to visit from.

Along with the architecture, the Islamic influence on the Zanzibar archipelago is one of slavery, as evidenced by the remnants of the last open air slave market which was openly operational until 1873. Slaves bought at the market were initially exported to Arabic nations. However in the 1820’s some of these slaves began to be engaged in the farming of cloves for the burgeoning world spice trade.  The spice agriculture and trade were responsible for Zanzibar gaining the nickname Spice Island.

The flip side of slavery was the resultant opulence in which the Arabic slave traders lived. This can be seen in the  Palace Museum, for Zanzibar was the headquarters of the Omari Empire.

Among the many historic buildings, you will find is Ngome Kongwe, the Arab Fort which was originally built by the Portuguese after they occupied Zanzibar. It has since been used as a church, a jail house and even a ladies tennis club!

Taking a dhow boat ride on these calm waters reminds us that the dhow was the means of travel that allowed indigenous entrepreneurship to flourish in East Africa, especially among the niche markets that Arabs and Europeans could not access. While contemplating the ocean, you can swim with dolphins, observe endangered monkeys in the mangrove forest and enjoy the sun set in the west, into the ocean off the eastern coast of Tanzania.

With such beauty, so much history, all located on one geographic area, it is no wonder that Zanzibar is favorite island destination.

June 16 and The Struggle For Local Language Preservation

Language is such an integral part of who we are. Not only is it what we use to express ourselves, but we find culture, history and behavior embedded into its very structure and delivery. I do not know whether the Youth of Soweto were considering all of these intricacies when they decided to protest against the introduction of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction. Afrikaans, a language that the students deemed to be the language of the oppressor , the language of a government which denied African people the right to vote, the right to own land, the right to live in places they wished to, the right to go where they wanted and when they wanted. In protesting against the introduction of this language to provide them with an already inferior education, on 16 June 1976, the students embarked on actions that would impact South African history and be an integral step in the fight against an oppressive apartheid regime.

Photographer Sam Nzima captured the emotional photo of the young, 12 year old Hector Pieterson being carried in the arms of a distraught Mbuyisa Makhubo, as alongside Pieterson’s sister Antoinette , he runs from the police who continue to fire into the crowd of protesting students. This photograph would later become a symbol against the struggle for apartheid and now stands tall at the Hector Pieterson Museum on Khumalo Street in Soweto.

Sam Nzima's photo that captured the globe
Sam Nzima’s photo that captured the globe

The Soweto uprising would grow to encompass neighbouring townships, towns and eventually the entire country. It would be the impetus to international sanctions against South African apartheid government and political pressure which led to the unbanning of political parties- a long struggle which culminated in the first democratic elections in 1994.

All this, for the love of language. Yet looking back, I ask myself the question “what does the landscape for South African languages look like today? Do we still so fiercely protect our right to engage in our local languages? Are the languages growing and evolving as we grow and evolve?” A look at the website of the Pan South African Language Board shows that although they have only 8 of the 11 official languages of South Africa represented in text, there are several organizations country-wide working towards language preservation through research, documentation, and integration with more modern methods of delivery.

Let this be a call then, to the youth of today to contribute towards the youth of tomorrow, through building on preserving the language integrity which the youth of yesterday so valiantly fought for.

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What’s In A Name?

Gqeberha is the windy city, with beautiful harbors and beaches, found along the southern shoreline of South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province.

Until recently called Port Elizabeth, Gqeberha has got a name entrenched in a rich cultural heritage, and enveloped by a history which is a reflection of those who live in it.

Early Days of European Settlers in Gqeberha

That history starts off with the Gqeberha River, a river whose name is worth examination. Breaking down the word Gqeberha to its parts, we find that “rha” refers to the water that was at the river mouth, water being integral to human life and human settlements world over.

Also found hidden in this word is “Umgqeba”. The umgqeba tree, known in English as Buddleja saligna is used traditionally for the healing of many ailments. However, being water-wise, it is not often found near water. Therefore it’s location near the river mouth became an easy reference point – and from this, the name was spawned. 

Umgqeba Tree (Buddleja saligna

The place became a meeting venue, for various clans-people to converge and engage in all manner of cultural and commercial discourse during ancient times.

Located at a harbor, it was an advantageous place for Europeans to establish themselves for a continuous supply of fresh water and other resources while en route to the trading East.

Therefore Fort Frederick was built in 1799 and also served as an offensive post against the Xhosa people who continued to engage in a series of intermittent Frontier wars (1779 – 1879) against the Dutch and English settlers.

When the Napoleonic wars began in 1803, the already operational Fort Frederick was seen as an advantageous position to ward off any potential attacks from the French (luckily the French ignored this outpost).

Fort Frederick

Over time, a formal English settlement was established in the area around the fort. This settlement grew, to become the second-oldest colonial city in South Africa.

Sir Rufane Donkin was the first governor here, a post in which he served from 1820 to 1821. His wife, Lady Elizabeth Donkin had fallen ill while they were stationed in India. She passed away in August 1818, prior to Rufane’s secondment to South Africa. In memory of his deceased wife, he renamed the new settlement Port Elizabeth (1820), and from here he welcomed some of the 4000 settlers who arrived in South Africa’s Cape Colony from England.

Old Map of the area around the Baakens River

In this century (2020 onwards), with decolonization a pertinent narrative, which seeks to embrace the national heritage and identity of the original people, the re-adoption of the name Gqeberha  is an integral step towards self-definition for those that have had so much of their roots whitewashed, glossed over and nearly forgotten.

Aerial view of Gqeberha

Visit Gqeberha

Read Further: (radio  audio file)

Africa Day 2021

On the 25 May 1963, the Organization of African Unity was formed. This is the reason why we celebrate Africa Day on this day.

The Organization of African Unity, later became the African Union.

In this year, 2021, the second decade in this century, there are two Afro-centric initiatives which come to mind when I reflect on African Unity.

The first is AfCFTA, the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, which seeks to increase the level of trade between member states as well as strengthening Africa’s common voice from a global trade perspective.

The Charter for African Cultural Renaissance , is the second. This charter seeks to promote freedom of expression from a cultural perspective, as well as inter-cultural and inter-generational dialogue.

Read more:

The Charter for African Cultural Renaissance:



Sankofa - The Flow Factory

How can we be sure what direction we are truly headed in, if we do not know the direction from which we came? It is therefore useful to re-tell our history and come to an understanding of our forefathers.

This sentiment is beautifully crafted in SANKOFA, the Ghanaian Akan word and Bono Adinkra symbol. The writings on this page are a tribute to this ancient concept, which inspires us to craft a better tomorrow by learning from and about our past.

Natural Wonders Tour Mpumalanga

Our trip to Mpumalanga province was a welcome getaway towards the end of the year. With two of us coming from Johannesburg and the other two coming from eSwatini, this was a most enjoyable girls weekend away.

Misty Dawn in Mpumalanga
The Saturday morning – A Misty Dawn in Mpumalanga

Despite having driven through the dark mountain roads on a Friday after work to reach our lodge destination, I could not resist waking up to witness the misty dawn. It was the absolute first treat in terms of admiring nature, especially having escaped from Johannesburg’s concrete jungle.

The rest of the Saturday was spent exploring Blyde River Canyon and all its offerings. Most memorable for me were: God’s Window , The Three Rondavels and the swim in the Natural Rock Pool.

Three Rondavels, Mpumalanga
Three Rondavels, Mpumalnga

My friend from eSwatini marveled at the potholes and the long swing but was too chicken to give the swing a go, especially as it meant dropping into the middle of the gorge and waiting for somebody to come and rescue you. She wasn’t playing no damsel in distress card!

Potholes, where water gathers in little pools and where we dipped our feet

Too many sights to list, a group of fun loving people, a braai in the cool evening air and storytelling into the wee hours makes this a trip I would gladly repeat!