Gérard Sekoto, In Memorium: 1913 – 1993

Gérard Sekoto, In Memorium: 1913 – 1993

by T. Wignesan


Would that anger subside
                      anger fed on pride

pride of I against You
     who is right: I not YOU
meum et tuum

Some words hastily released on the verge of angry pride
Tear from us a part of our flesh
                                   a part of our cells
Leaving us lesser men forever pitted against the
                                                                             I in You
                   forever wanting to be right
I above You

You may not – yes, now I know you didn't – have meant it
Your words were stony arrows sunk in the mud of my hurt
splitting even before they found the unintended target

There may yet have lingered then a little bit of the malin in you
That ultimate grace-saver in your embattled loneliness
           I didn't stop to think
              I had to show you I was hurt
I didn't realise your hurt was legendary
    already formed and contorted in the aeons of darkness
each in our indelible separateness

Your age   your despair    your self-abandonment
in the gorge of medicines
in the crises that felled you
careering through terrifying electric storms
leaving you year after year worsted
wiping duster-strokes of your memory clean

I didn't stop to think


Your demise is the passing of an age
is the passing of a people's pain

In your veins you take with you a hundred years
   of hurts and slings
       of dismemberment and mindlessness
             of lost chances anguish and despair

driven into your lonesome corner
upright against the inroads of a Rhodes
or the pitted power of Buthelesis

finding in the milling Seine
in the plucky rhythms of an ebony-and-ivory keyboard
in the hidden skeins of your eyes
                                                    a pulse

beating with the heart of downtrodden generations
      the infinitely pulsing look of defiance
that ultimate refusal of defeat


Long are the years you have lain your easel down
Longer still the sun at Botshebelo burnishing your skin

In the soft autumnal retreat of your heart
You could still hear children playing in the mission station
You saw with what glee they jigged in Sophiatown
And bled for your brothers enchained in District Six

Away in the quiet slumber of a land you loved
You wrought the blazing colours of a secret rage

                            of man's will thriving in his limbs
                 of an enduring passion for hope
         in the dance of stoic joyousness
in the embrace of a Mandela

Not a shaft of light escaped your hunt for
traces of your childhood
were lost the spare airs that filtered through shanty-towns

Your world was a world of people
                                                      simple people
going about their chores with premeditated caution
                              oppressed people
endowed by need with the guile for survival

People for whom you lived
People who live on in your veins
                 uninterred in your carved canvasses

(Poem read by the author at Sekoto's funeral in Neuilly-sur-Marne, France)


T. Wignesan



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