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Music has the Power: Mandela, Robben Island and Music in the Apartheid Prisons

Lecture by ~ Janie Cole, PhD University of Cape Town/Music Beyond Borders

Developed for the Nelson Mandela 2018 Centenary Celebrations #BeTheLegacy #Mandela100

6pm – Join us for soup
7pm – Lecture starts promptly

Cost: R120 pp, booking essential
R100 pp goes towards Music Beyond Borders

"It is said that no-one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones - and South Africa treated its imprisoned African citizens like animals" (Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom, 1994)

Join Dr Janie Cole on this journey into the role of music in the apartheid prisons. Drawing on the wider historical context of South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle, Janie’s ground-breaking multimedia lecture explores music’s critical role as a force for resistance and survival in the liberation movement, in particular at the maximum security prison on Robben Island and in the women’s jails like Number 4 at the Old Fort in Johannesburg. Incarcerated and tortured, political prisoners sacrificed all for their belief in racial equality, democracy and human rights. Janie traces the development of musical activities over three decades, and reveals how black music performance – from African indigenous genres like isicathamiya, maskanda and mbaqanga to freedom songs, Cape jazz, traditional migrant work songs, classical, rock, reggae, and Indian ragas – provided resistance, critique, community, therapy, memory and identity for political prisoners, transcending political, linguistic and ethnic differences to unite an oppressed people against a common enemy. Night and day, political prisoners sang whatever was in their defiant hearts through torture, despair and hope, and united as one they could not be defeated. Here, communities diversified by tribal, racial and language identities turned political oppression and physical imprisonment to political advantage via the idiom of African sacred and popular song. Developed for the Nelson Mandela 2018 Centenary Celebrations, this presentation, combining original music, historical images and curated extracts from moving new interview footage, brings the South African struggle against racial oppression, conditions at Robben Island Prison, the role of women in the struggle and female prisoner treatment, and the role of music to life in vivid relief. Dr. Cole and her organization, Music Beyond Borders, are documenting crimes against humanity, their work will assure that a collective memory will be preserved in this important South African cultural heritage preservation project. It is about the power of music in fighting for human rights.

“Music has the power to elevate and liberate us. It sets people free to dream. It can unite us to sing with one voice. Such is the value of music” (Nelson Mandela)

Dr Janie Cole, PhD musicologist/lecturer
University of Cape Town
South African College of Music/Centre for African Studies
founder/executive director
Music Beyond Borders LLC
Music Beyond Borders