RETHINKING BLACKNESS: Black Thought Symposium members discuss issues that affect black students in teriarty institution such as Wits, UCT and Stellenbosch.    Photo: Nokuthula Zwane

RETHINKING BLACKNESS: Black Thought Symposium members discuss issues that affect black students in tertiary institution such as Wits, UCT and Stellenbosch.    Photo: Nokuthula Zwane

The Black Thought Symposium, held in the Western Cape, saw Wits students gather in their numbers to discuss the themes Songs of Struggle and Resistance Caucus last weekend.
Held in three symbolically significant parts of the Western Cape, Khayelitsha Kuyasa Stalls, University of Cape Town and Stellenbosch, students engaged in critical thinking about what song means to black people in the struggle and how it can or has been used as a method of resistance?
Black Thought Symposium is a collective that finds inspiration from the black radical intellectual tradition. Formed by a group of students who saw it necessary to create a space where black people can find ways of expressing who they are and what it means to be who they are in the world.
Black Thought member and fourth year LLB student Mbe Mbhele says, “Black Thought Symposium is not a talk shop.” The gathering is described as an event that does not have to happen in a lecture venue but “it is a spirit that lives in people and has to be nurtured and shared at all times,” says Mbhele.
The group’s spirit determines how often the discussions take place, where members of the group explicitly express that “everyone who has a black experience is allowed to participate”, says Mbhele.

“everyone who has a black experience is allowed to participate”

According to the group the caucus is interested in creating a dialogue between artists on the role of black acoustic practices in the struggle and wants to create a community of practitioners who will understand and carry the struggle songs in the black experience.
“The reason why we called it a caucus is because we wanted to have a conversation without eavesdroppers who listen to what we say and then distort it for their own interests that do not benefit blacks,” says Mbhele.
The theme for the symposium, Songs of Struggle and Resistance Caucus, is described by Sive Mqikela as “…a truly democratic and collective way of bespeaking the black condition and experience. The singing together allowed each participant to comment simultaneously on the musical fragment that makes up the collective struggle.”
“If anyone could ask what really transpired out of the fees must fall, we would have to listen to the struggle songs that came out of it, to really know what happened,” says Sive Mqikela.
Presentation were prepared by two keynote bands, Black Thought Music and Iphupho l’ka Biko, as well as prepared written pieces by Mbe Mbhele, Gabriel Letswalo and Sive Mqikela.
Kokesto Poho a member of the Black Thought symposium, musician and third year African Literature and Political Sciences student says, “We had a discussion with them about what does it mean to sing and can we think of song not only as a form of entertainment but as something significant and deeply embedded within our culture and experiences.”

“We not only focused on revolutionary songs per se, though it was centred around it but on jazz, gospel as a struggle song, basically black music,”

“We not only focused on revolutionary songs per se, though it was centred around it but on jazz, gospel as a struggle song, basically black music,” says Poho.
The next stop for the Black Thought symposium is expected to be in the Eastern Cape for a summit on Art & Politics in March. However, nothing is confirmed.
“Between now and then we have intentions of having an exhibition at The Point of Order gallery on what we have documented since we started exploring the idea of struggle songs,” says Mbhele.

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Wits Vuvuzela, Black Thought Symposium: Rethinking society. March, 2015.

Wits VuvuzelaCall for more black blood. March, 2012.