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Revolutionary Black womanhood in Jazz

 Revolutionary Black womanhood in Jazz

‘How do you fit in 50 years of a stellar career into a conversation? You can’t. We don’t talk about it enough. It’s on us to always remind each other.’ – Zikhona Valela

With Indaba Is, an 8 track album released in 2021, a musical gift from the current generation’s revolutionary voices in South African Jazz, we think Jazz is something that should be embraced in all its eras. The songs from Indaba Is, along with Sizwile by SPAZA, are currently on our South African jazz playlist and we will definitely be appreciating what Judith Sephuma will gift us on the 27th of March. In 19 days, Judith Sephuma will showcase her musical gift with us on the virtual stage of the Cape Town International Jazz Festivals’s online series, the JazzFix. And we hope that the significance of Jazz gifted to us then will be kept alive together with what we have been gifted now.

Since Judith Sephuma is a woman who is part of the revolutionary Black womanhood in Jazz, we thought it’d be best to share what we took from a conversation on revolutionary Black womanhood in Jazz and its significance.

On Thursday, the 4th of March 2021, a few minutes after the 22:00 news were read on Power FM, Zikhona Valela shared with us the story of Mama Africa. Valela expressed that Miriam Makeba, Mama Africa, was the branch of the tree of revolutionary Black womanhood of Jazz rooted in Dolly Rathebe. She believes that Makeba’s outpour of her musical gift with the world is an archival of Black joy and pain that should be shared and celebrated in our conversations. Mama Africa’s legacy is a portrayal of our history that cannot exist as an extension of who we are.

Our bodies and our minds are museums in which we should house our history. It is important that we sit down with each other to discuss how Mama Africa sang from a place within her about a space she only had spiritual access to. Valela voiced that Makeba was dispossessed from South Africa and sent somewhere she had no physical accessibility to home. ‘She used her body, her art and fashion to rally against Apartheid on the stage’ to feel as if she was standing with us in the streets and sitting with us wherever we were. It was her way of telling us she was home with us. For Valela, the stage was Makeba’s space of liberation. There, Makeba was free to own language and arrange the clicks of the Xhosa language to build nations and turn respectability upside down by singing about who she was in her drunkenness. She could be Mama Africa, she could be Miriam and she could soar into freedom. Her archival of Black joy and Black pain is an archival of our freedom. It is us and we do not talk about it enough.

We are the children of revolutionary Black womanhood and we cannot forget. It is our duty to uphold the continuation of our documentation and recognition of revolutionary Black women in Jazz. We are the ones who should write our history and retell our stories. And if we do not have the words to remind each other, ‘there are those who are doing the work of reminding us of who we are’, Valela expressed. We should enter the space we house our history in with Zoë Modiga, Thandiswa Mazwai and Koleka Putuma who are the branches of the tree rooted in Mama Africa. The branches need us to shelter who we are for centuries to come.
And so, by watching Judith Sephuma on the 27th of Mrach 2021 at 20:00, we will be honouring revolutionary Black womanhood in Jazz.

Tshedza Mashamba