This poem was written not for this recent onslaught against the Palestinians, but remains relevant. Materra is a South African Poet – the bard of liberation.
Palestine, O Palestine
land of miracles wondrous,
of idols stern and ancient
a plundered place of plenty
of scourged, purged prophets,
and histories of blood, battery and bondage.
Today, when the feet and hands of Africa
are still bound by ethnic enmity,
and most states enjoy sovereignity
and belong to the global family
but you, beutiful, beloved Palestine
are orphaned by the tyranny of Israel
and their Martian masters.
Africa sings from its deep heart
Africa, that witnessed the first outbreak of creation,
the same Africa
that gave succour and sanctuary
to the Chosen Messengers of the Book
Lo, the stars dance over Jerusalem,
a mesmerising moon swoons in Gaza
as children challenge chicanery
with slings and stones,
torn flesh, bruised brows and broken bones.
Palestine, O Palestine,
Your hour is come…
Besieged, beleagured Palestine,
not here, are we to decry
your solemn, dynamite reapers
the ultimate harvest of their sacrifice,
nor say what anthems
may speak or measure the devastation
by an unheeding, unfeeling world.
Even this frail poetic fragment
cannot assuage your loss
nor renew the lost days and broken nights
but did not our caring breath
keep fresh the flowers of your affliction,
and memory, write the scroll
of your patience and conviction.
We know the remembered carnage
sucks deep the soul of Palestine,
that the yearning for nationhood
should be made a mockery
and your cause, a compromise
when so much was given by you
yet so little gained.
daughters and sons
of beautiful, beloved Palestine,
is for you,
sung from the deepest soul of Africa…
by Don Materra
About the poem and the man, briefly
Although written 10 years ago, it remains both fresh and relevant, facing bullets and stale words of zionist propaganda, let’s join bra Don as we sing for Palestine. This poem was written during the late PLO leader Yasser Arafat’s official state visit to the Republic of South Africa, where Don Mattera, the bard of liberation, was his guest. Date: august 1998.
I was born into the struggle. When the first Dutch came here in 1652 and engaged with the people, that was the start of the the struggle. The struggle to me has no phases. The struggle began when colonialism began in this country and the aborigines of this country were oppressed. My grandmother comes from the Xhosa and the Khoikhoi and in her time the struggle was there, in her mother’s time, the Khoisan women, the struggle was there. It was in my genes. The fact is I was born in a certain family and classified by the apartheid overlords. It stands to reason that that is when the struggle began, from the time of my birth. However, I graduated, I am sure, at a specific point.
I became a street kid and a gangster fighting in the street and we saw this political parody being played out before our eyes. We heard the leaders speak out against the system of apartheid and its progenitors as well as its functionaries. For me, Don Mattera, it was just a matter of time before I would break the hold of the street, the poverty, the gangsterism, and the socialisation process that was taking place at the time.
In 1950, 1951, 1952 Sophiatown was a hub. Sophiatown is the legendary township outside Johannesburg city and a great cosmopolitan population of people including Italians, Scots, Jews, you name whatever European tribe, lived there. This is where I came from. In 1952 there was the defiance of unjust laws campaign.
(For more of the interview with Madi Gray go here)
PS ABOUT THE PHOTO: The post carries a beautiful photograph of the poet by Anton Hammerl, which you can see in his blog along with other of his works. We reproduce here the text that accompanies the picture: The Sophiatown tree, an English Oak believed to be over 100 years old, survived the removals of the cosmopolitan community in the 1950s and 1960s. Members of various gangs living in the ghetto suburb used it as a meeting place. Poet, writer and former gangster Don Mattera refers to it in his book Gone with the Twilight. Religious leaders and activists also used to rendezvous under its branches. However, there is also a sad side to its history. It became known as “the hanging tree” when two people hanged themselves from its branches, one objecting to the forced removals from Sophiatown.