Mourning after: The inevitability of living legends

Mengwe has encouraged people to change their mind-set and celebrate their own especially while they are still alive PIC KENNEDY RAMOKONE
Mengwe has encouraged people to change their mind-set and celebrate their own especially while they are still alive PIC KENNEDY RAMOKONE

“There was a beautiful soul in her’, ‘his artisry was an inspiration’, ‘she was pioneer, mentor and mother figure,’ ‘the way he played guitar was unparalleled and magical’. These are some of the tributes people coin when their beloved legends in the creative industry pass on but they don't honor and pay homage to artists while they are still living, writes Arts & Culture Writer MOMPATI TLHANKANE.

From Tebogo ‘Tebby’ Sethomo, Tops Masole, Angus Mcneil and Sasa Klaas earlier this year to Lekofi Sejeso and Rabojalwa Keetile recently the year has seen mass mourning by the public for major arts figures. While COVID-19 related deaths continue to rise nationally, the country has seen profound losses in the industry of art, an industry which has been shut since last year in April.

It will take some time to fully appreciate the extent of the losses that the creative industry has experienced across the duration of the pandemic. As people continue to lament over the passing of the creative figures, it also exposes how unappreciated the latter were while they were still alive. Some players in the creative industry recently came out to express that this is not a healthy way to celebrate the departed legends that have lived creatively and left a huge legacy. “We continue to lose great talent of our generation at trying times.

The question that these untimely deaths raised on my mind is, have we celebrated them enough or this is a wake up call to humanity to treasure and embrace what you have before it’s all gone,” veteran music promoter Zenzele Hirschfeld told Arts & Culture in an interview recently. She said the legends paved a way for many of them in the industry therefore deserved to be recognised. Meanwhile, veteran drummer Arthur Makhwenkwe Mengwe also highlighted recently during the late ace keyboard player Lekofi Sejeso’s memorial service that they worked hard for the country to be what it is musically. He said Presidents such as Sir Seretse Khama had come and gone but as creatives they have always been there.


He said some people don’t value their importance in society.

“Trees don’t start as branches but there are roots. Nobody takes care of the old musicians, it is only the youth and yet they have to copy from us,” he expressed. Mengwe said he was even shocked not to see any government representative at Lekofi’s memorial and yet the latter worked so hard to build the music industry. He said to the government it is like legendary musicians do not exist and yet the same people have the audacity to celebrate foreign musicians when the die.

He encouraged people to change their mind-set and celebrate their own especially while they are still alive. Mmasonoko hitmaker Nnunu Ramogotsi recently said her wish is for the country to at least honor Sejeso post humorously so that his legacy can live on. Veteran poet Moroka Moreri also wished that government could do more to honor poets such as the late Rabojalwa while they were still alive.

Moreri said now that Rabojalwa is gone he would strive to erect a Poetry Park where legends such as Rabojalwa will be honored and remembered because they are part of a beautiful rich history.

The long calls for recognition of legendary figures in the creative industry are not something that arises as a result of the pandemic but key players in the industry have long called on the government to honor creatives. Some creatives like veteran music promoter Seabelo Modibe have in past even asked for living legendary guitarist John ‘Blackie’ Selolwane to be bestowed with Botswana’s second highest honor, Naledi Ya Botswana. Selolwane who is currently visually impaired and does not perform on stage anymore in 2018 got the first of what he deserves when the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport and Culture Development through their annual President’s Day competitions awarded him the Best in Mentoring (Performing Arts) prize.

While all living legends cannot receive the prestigious Naledi ya Botswana for their conspicuous service it is only justifiable to honor them in other ways while they are still breathing. In Sports living legends such as Isaac Makwala will have a mini sports complex named after them. Even the late jazzman Soares Katumbela died in 2017 before he could get his Presidential Certificate of Honor later that year. It is not just Bra John who has shown meritorious service but there are many legends in the creative industry that God forbid might pass on before any entity could honour them.

Some of the current living legends cannot make any more work. Since art has evolved their creativity has diminished over time but their work has touched so many. While people continue to outpour love for these legends after they are gone perhaps they should remember to brighten the living ones. Instead of mourning the ones lost, people should celebrate their achievements, and be grateful while they are still among us.

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