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By Paul Ntambara
There is something mystical about the last words or actions of a dying person. Well, I guess they never realise that they are saying their last words on the humanly earth or performing their last acts but after they have passed on, it suddenly strikes that there was an element of premonition in what they did or said.
The late Professor Francis Imbuga used the premonition device in his writings so much that when his time came he used it to foretell his own death! During one of his last interviews within his native Kenya, a reporter insisted on holding the interview at the professor’s home ‘[to] get an opportunity to sample his rich library’ to which Imbuga replied: “When people begin insisting we have to go to my home, then death is coming.”
Death came and Imbuga died:
With the advent of social media, people have foretold their own deaths on social networking sites like Facebook. A notable example is of 24 year old Sarah Grooves, a British blogger who, while on vacation in Kashmir, India, was stabbed to death this week. Before her gruesome death she had posted on her Facebook page: ‘Quit your job, buy a ticket, fall in love… never return!’
She never returned:
While all these may be categorised as untimely deaths, last words from loved ones while they lie on their deathbeds come with an added meaning. In such a situation you expect anything to happen. The only similarity being that one never knows that they are hearing last words until death strikes. That’s the absurdity of human existence. My father’s last words for me while he lay on his hospital bed were ‘Go well’. Little did I know that he was bidding me farewell. He passed on.
The 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi introduced a whole new dimension to these final moments. Here there was no premonition; the victim knew that they were going to be killed because they were Tutsi. Death was hovering over the victim. The last words or actions were deliberate. A friend whose father was killed during the Genocide narrated to me the last moments with him.
“He bought me a bottle of Primus beer and told me that now I had become a man. He said he was not sure if he would be with me for long. He told me that if I survived, I should keep the family name. He was killed in the courtyard and I survived. These words still echo in my mind.”
These words have shaped his life. Though his entire family was decimated, his only mission in life is to keep the family name in fulfillment of his father’s wish.
To some young Genocide survivors, last words from their parents were assignments; for example to take care of their siblings just in case they survived. Others wish they had the opportunity to hear these last words from their loved ones.
While some survivors have derived inspiration from these tragic last moments, many have been weighed down by this tragic past. Unfortunately some of these traumatic experiences are irreversible, they last a life time. We are powerless, we cannot undo death.
It is 19 years now since the tragic events of 1994. While this may seem a fairly long period of time, the reality is that the scars are still fresh. The graves are still open to take in the remains of genocide victims excavated from pit latrines, on the hills and trenches. Some will never be recovered.
There is no doubt that the resolve by Rwandans to rebuild their country and lives is taking shape. As we commemorate the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi it is imperative that we consolidate the progress made in the over 19 years. The dark past should be an inspiration to build a more united Rwanda for all. Helping vulnerable survivors; the elderly, the sick, widows and orphans should be a duty of every Rwandan as we strive for self reliance.
by Ilka Schlockermann
To celebrate the 75th birthday of Nigerian icon and Afrobeat originator Fela Kuti, as well as the recent release of new deluxe compilation The Best Of The Black President 2 and newly repackaged versions of Fela’s entire back catalogue, Knitting Factory Records are releasing this special limited edition 12″ single exclusively for Record Store Day on 20 April 2013.
This release includes the title track, the seminal Sorrow Tears & Blood, restored to its original, complete running time, following the recent rediscovery of the six-minute instrumental section preceding the entrance of Fela’s vocals. The B-Side is the super rare Perambulator, which has been unavailable for decades.
Afrobeat historian Chris May, who provides in-depth track-by-track commentaries for all tracks on the Fela reissues released by Knitting Factory, writes:
Sorrow Tears & Blood (1977) – an impassioned attack on police and army violence against political dissenters in Africa – was among the first albums Fela released following the Nigerian army’s destruction of his Kalakuta Republic commune on 18 February 1977. Characteristically, Fela came back fighting. One of the LP’s early front sleeve designs (there were two, about which more below) was a photograph showing Fela onstage in the aftermath of the outrage, his left leg in plaster from foot to knee. The police and army invariably leave behind them “sorrow, tears and blood,” Fela sings, and the backing vocalists respond, “dem regular trademark.” The album was dedicated, Fela said, “to the memory of those who were beaten, raped, tortured or injured” during the Kalakuta attack.
Fela’s record company, Decca, refused to release Sorrow Tears & Blood, fearing government reprisals. Fela responded by setting up Kalakuta Records and making the album the label’s debut release.
All this has led to the common belief that the album’s title track was written after, and concerns itself with, the events of February 1977. It certainly resonates with them. However, according to Fela’s friend and sleeve designer, Ghariokwu Lemi, Fela actually wrote the lyrics in the weeks following the South African apartheid regime’s crushing of the Soweto uprising on 16 June 1976. Sorrow Tears & Blood was added to Afrika 70’s set list the following month, and was probably recorded around August/September.
Ghariokwu Lemi was with Fela the night news came in of the Soweto massacre. Writing to me in 2011, Lemi said: “Early on the evening of Wednesday, 16 June 1976, we drove to Ikate, Surulere, in Lagos, to visit Fela’s immediate family: his first wife, Remi, and three children, Yeni, Femi and Sola. They lived away from all the drama at Kalakuta. I had shared a little goro (a weed-infused paste) with Fela earlier, and as we sat in the family living room exchanging banter, I was in a mental struggle to stay focused and keep my concentration. Then, at 9pm on television, came news from South Africa that shocked the world. Defenseless primary school students, protesting against the enforced use of the Afrikaans language, had been shot dead by police in Soweto. We all jumped up from our seats in shock at such beast-like brutality. We discussed this all night long and all week thereafter. A few weeks later, Fela rehearsed a new composition, inspired by a brutality-catalog consisting of his own experiences, clashes between the police and universitystudents, and other confrontations between the army and communities around Nigeria. He wove into this the growing repression by the racist police in apartheid South Africa. All this acted as material for a magnificent new song titled ‘Sorrow Tears & Blood’, STB, on the Afrobeat menu.”
By the time the song was eventually recorded, Lemi had listened to Fela perform it at the Shrine and other venues scores of times. “My mind was set on the approach to take on my cover art. Having been privy to the rationale behind the message, I thought I was home free with my concept, like always. Fela was ghoulish in his description of a typical scenario of a police or military raid and its effect. He was caustic in his admonition of a people who were too afraid to stand up for freedom and justice. Since Fela had composed ‘Sorrow Tears & Blood,’ a lot of water had passed under the bridge. Kalakuta Republic had been sacked by one thousand soldiers in a very horrendous raid in broad daylight. I put a bold, stoical and fearless Fela image on my canvas. My painting showed a crowd running away from an unseen cause; an empty road with a single military boot lost in the melee; a vulture waiting for a meal; soldiers meting out jungle justice; a screaming woman lost to fear.”
Lemi thought he had “nailed this cover for good,” but on presenting it to Fela for approval, “found it was not my lucky day.” Fela hated the sleeve, regarding it as defeatist: he particularly hated the detail showing a group of people running away from the police. The argument led to an estrangement between Fela and Lemi which lasted eight years.
Perambulator is one of the great “missing” Fela tracks. Until this Record Store Day special, it has been unavailable for almost 30 years. It was released on Nigeria’s Coconut Records in 1984, and then, apart from an independent Japanese release, which may have been a pirate, pretty much lost to history. There was no European or American pressing – in late 1984, Fela began an eighteen month spell in prison on trumped up currency smuggling charges, which made negotiating international releases near impossible. When he came out, Fela’s most urgent recording concern was rescuing Army Arrangement from the dog’s dinner Bill Laswell’s remix for Celluloid had created.Perambulator has an outstanding long-form lyric in which Fela ridicules the empty words and promises of politicians, asserts his belief in traditional African medicine, and urges African solutions to African problems. It’s eviscerating and funny with it. A blinder, back in circulation.
All renderings © smithgill
Another day, another proposal for a new Chinese city. The 1.3 square-kilometer Great City, designed byAdrian Smith and Gordon Gill will be a massive new development that is completely sustainable, affordable, and, most strikingly, car-less. The masterplan, which has been planned for 80,000 people, will be built around a massive transit hub at its center, with all destinations to be within a few minutes walk, a planning innovation that would make “Great City” China’s (and the world’s?) first pedestrian-only city. Read more.
Before drawing up blueprints, Smith and Gill had to find the perfect setting for this new, 320-acre green city. They discovered a plot outside the city of Chengdu with plenty of buffer landscape including forests, valleys, and bodies of water to integrate into the city. After delineating local farm land for its preservation, the designers meticulously drafted plans that partitioned the site into several zones, reserving 15% of the land for parks and green spaces, dedicating 60% to construction, and saving the remaining 25% for roads and walkways.
As for environmental factors, Great City will certainly live up to its name. The development is expected to use 48% less energy and 58% less water than a comparable town its size. It should also produce 89% less landfill waste and 60% less carbon dioxide. In addition to these features, the city will employ “seasonal energy storage” which can carry over waste summer heat and convert it to power for winter heating and hot water.
The key to Great City’s green success, of course, is not just solar panels and parks, but also its urban planning. The distance between any location in the hyper-dense city to another will be only a 15 minute walk (or less). This eliminates the need for cars, as the town is also built around a mass transit hub that connects to Chengdu and surrounding areas in minutes. The surrounding green buffer is laden with pedestrian and bike paths that weave in and out of the landscape and through the city core.
The project, expected to be finished by 2021, will hopefully become home to about 30,000 families, totaling 80,000 people. “Great City will demonstrate that high-density living doesn’t have to be polluted and alienated from nature,” says AS+GG partner Gordon Gill, “Everything within the built environment of Great City is considered to enhance the quality of life of its residents. Quite simply, it offers a great place to live,work and raise a family.”