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Author Masego Panyane talks the legacy of 'The Black Consciousness' movement

Masego Panyane. Picture: Itumeleng English

Masego Panyane. Picture: Itumeleng English

Published Jun 16, 2020


As we commemorate Youth Day, forty-four years on, we remember and honour the young people who took to the streets of Soweto, to fight for the removal of the Afrikaans language as the medium of instruction.

To mark the significance of this day, we got into a conversation with one of the young people who, through art, creative writing and storytelling, have contributed immensely to the history of this country.

We caught up with Masego Panyane, the co-author of “The Black Consciousness Reader", to talk about her journey as a young writer and how she became part of this remarkable book.

The Soweto-born writer, singer and content creator says the book is about the “legacy” of the Black Consciousness movement.

The 26-year-old writer said, “The book came about as a conversation that the co-authors and I were having, about what the Black Consciousness Movement looks like, 40 years after the death of one of its more prominent leaders, Steve Biko.

"We thought it would be a good idea to find all the activists and champions of the Black Consciousness movement to have that conversation with them. And to take the story forward by looking at how the philosophy of Black Consciousness keeps playing a role in South Africa today."

Panyane’s chapter in the book is titled “Conscious Women”. Elaborating on the inspiration behind it, she said: “Often when liberation movements and political activists are spoken about, women activists are but a footnote in this conversation. 

"The aim of the chapter was to start the process of reminding us all of the bold, seemingly fearless women who were a part of the BC movement. I will readily admit that this chapter is but a drop in the ocean -I believe there's still more to be said about the women in the history of the BCM.”

She added: “We then sought to find young activists who were in ways influenced by the Black Consciousness Movement in modern-day SA. The end result was conversations with powerful and inspirational Black women, across ages and time."

When asked about some of the women who stood out to her during these conversations, she explained: “Zulaikha Patel who was a teenager at the time left a powerful impression on me. 

"I was struck by just how young she was, yet so committed to fighting for her right to exist. It was also a bit touching because I realised that as adults, it is our responsibility to ensure that we fix the country so that our children have the opportunity to be just that, children.”

As for the relevance four decades on, she revealed: “It is relevant because in some ways the fight that the youth of '76 began all those years ago, continues today. 

"And if we forget that lives were lost in the fight for access to quality education (fighting inferior quality of Bantu education and the usage of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction) the fight for the right to self-determination among other things, we will forget that the many rights and freedoms we enjoy today, came at a great price. 

"Beyond it being a public holiday, we must use the day to educate generations to come about the crime against humanity that was apartheid.“

Panyane also contributed to Nelson Mandela’s granddaughter and social activist Ndileka Mandela’s autobiography titled. “I am Ndileka: More Than My Surname".

She enthused:” With Ndileka's book, my job was to help her bring her words to life. She told her story, and it was an eye-opening experience for me because it helped me learn a little more about her experiences as a member of the Mandela family and the challenges that come with that.”

“The Black Consciousness” was compiled by Masego Panyane, Baldwin Ndaba, Therese Owen, Rabbie Serumula Janet Smith, with Paballo Thekiso as the photographer.

The book is available in all major book stores and online retailers.

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