Xhosa Chronicles: Sondelani sizwe sa kwaXhosa!

Xhosa Chronicles: Sondelani sizwe sa kwaXhosa! Photo: Thandolwethu Gulwa/Cue.

Xhosa Chronicles: a factual written account of important or historical events, of amaXhosa,  in the order of their occurrence.

Before civilisation, iingxaki zoluntu, zazisonjululwa ngokwesiXhosa (amaXhosa used indigenous solutions to fix African problems). AmaXhosa lived on their homesteads -independently- as a union. Clans and clans of people occupied patches of land. They followed their customs, believed kumanyange (in their ancestors) and they had their own cattle. An ancient saying of abeNguni goes: “Ubuhle bendoda zinkomo zayo” (A man’s wealth lies in his livestock).

The stage sets a scene of life in a village. Ubuhlanti (kraal) stands on the middle of the stages with ixhanti (a family homestead where family elders meet to speak to the ancestors) stands tall and proud as a symbol of the eternal connection between amaXhosa and their ancestors.

The prominent colours of amaXhosa, brown and blue, dominate the stage in headwraps, imibhaco nentsimbi yesiXhosa (isiXhosa couture and isiXhosa beads). The performers wear animal skin like in the olden days.

Xhosa Chronicles tells a moving, true account of the arrival of “the visitors” (Europeans) in South Africa. The play decodes how Western civilisation came on a boat to South Africa and dismantled everything concrete that was there. The performers, with black fists in the air, sing in protest “Ngeke sibayeke bathathe umhlaba wethu. Mayibuye, iAfrika!” (We will not let them take our land. Let Africa be brought back to it rightful owners!).

Songs of protest, dental, alveolar and lateral clicks which form the bold isiXhosa language are used to convey the pride that amaXhosa have in their language. The clicks impel one to sit and listen as they tap your eardrum. The performers look into the future an point as if they see a mountain, where they communicate with amanyange (ancestors).

Xhosa Chronicles takes one afar, where isiXhosa was not watered down and where it was not merely referred to as ‘ the click language’. The play addresses the tools which have been used to distort the truth about amaXhosa and isiXhosa.  

Spiritual conversations between the people and amanyange mirrors the spirituality and beliefs of amaXhosa in those who came before them. A disjuncture between amanyange and the new generation canvasses an image of how foreign belief systems have influenced the youth. The enrolment of children to English schools conveys the message of how isiXhosa loses its tongue to English. “Siyanibiza ke nkundla, nisondele. Abazukulwana benu bazo balisa ibali. Sondelani sizwe sa kwaXhosa” (We call upon our ancestors. Your grandchildren are here to tell a story. Come closer Xhosa nation).

“When our first visitors came, we welcomed the. We dwelled together in peace. We smoked together from the same pipe”, say Sisonke Yafele during the performance. “A ship travelling with hungry, sick men and they are seeking what is not their own”.

The lights go off. The show ends. Chosi!

By Thandolwethu Gulwa