The Art of Remembering Ntumba

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This year’s student protests, have been one of the big events of 2021 thus far. On 17 March 2020, the student protests took the form of art and memorial performances by a number of artists lined up to rescue a semblance of human honour for brutally slain Mthokozisi Ntumba.

While Ntumba’s death is not a first at the hands of the police, the traumatic experience was condemned by many sectors, outside university circles. It also moved organisers to set up and appoint an event in remembrance of the slain man.

The event, named ‘Remembering Mthokozisi Ntumba’, took place at De Beers street which student activists have renamed ‘Ntumba’ street, in honour of the deceased and people at the memorial were asked to sign a petition for the street to be renamed officially. The spot where Ntumba passed was covered with a beautiful carpet and laurel flowers. There was also a banner with the slogan, ‘Another Man Dies, F*** Tha Police’ which some in the crowds echoed in between performances.

The line-up included the likes of Makhafula Vilakazi who is well-known for his provoking poetry; Ayanda Mabhulu whose artwork has been the talk of town with every piece he has unveiled and the youthful jazz act known as Iphupho L’ka Biko (meaning ‘Biko’s Dream’), who recently released a single based on a struggle song called ‘uThixo uKhona’.

The performances kept the crowds wildly entertained and featured live jazz, poetry, nad street theatre. Using live music, childhood games, physical theatre and actors on stilts, the street theatre piece dramaticised how the state machinery, appearing as the police, take orders from high ranking officials, gripping the audience completely. These instructions were shown to lead to police brutality, with the officer killing a student and shooting at the families left mourning the dead.

The poets demonstrated a long memory reminding the audience about Marikana when the state shot and killed 34 striking mineworkers and injured scores more.

One of the organisers, Zukiswa White, said that with the event they wanted to re-energise activists as art has an important role to play during and also when demonstrations are not taking place.

A young man present at the memorial, Musa Sithole, noted that music and art in general should help the movement to further politicise issues and attract new recruits, including those who may place political activism below their passion for art. He said that over time it could help the movement win over recruits as political debates and conversations at such events.

This article was submitted on 19 March 2021. You may republish this article, so long as you credit the authors and Karibu! Online (, and do not change the text. Please include a link back to the original article.

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