Academic journal article Journal of Literary Studies

The Self-Invention of Hugh Masekela

Academic journal article Journal of Literary Studies

The Self-Invention of Hugh Masekela

Article excerpt


This article examines the self-invention of Hugh Masekela as a troubadour of music and the frames through which the construction of the memory process is allowed to unfold. It argues that unlike straightforward resistance autobiography, Masekela's Still Grazing (2004) is an odd mixture of resistance autobiography, minstrel self-invention, skollie impishness and the internationalisation of his self. This odd mixture hides as much as it reveals about the subject intent on an ongoing process of self-invention. The text abounds with the celebration of Eros, debauchery and discursive manoeuvres of the exilic condition. In the process, the idea of national identity and crises is subsumed by the skollie metaphor to distance hideous episodes, which it craftily records and rationalises. In the true fashion of the skollie framing, the autobiography ends on a note of reform, borne by a serious confessional mode for past indiscretions and yet another reinvention frame as survivor of the ravages of time.


Hierdie artikel is 'n ondersoek na Hugh Masekela se vind van sy self as 'n musiektroebadoer, en die raamwerke waardeur die konstruksie van die herinneringsproses toegelaat word om te ontvou. Daar word aangevoer dat, in teenstelling met outobiografiee wat onbetwisbaar weerstandsliteratuur is, Masekela se Still Grazing (2004) 'n ongewone mengsel van weerstandsliteratuur, sy vind van homself as troebadoer, van skollie-agtige ondeundheid, en die internasionalisering van sy self is. Hierdie sonderlinge mengsel verhul net soveel as wat dit openbaar oor Masekela en sy verbintenis tot 'n voortgaande proses van selfvinding. Die teks wemel van Eros-vieringe, brassery en beredeneerde maneuvers van die uitgewekene. In did proses word die idee van nasionale identiteit en krisisse ingetrek by die skolliemetafoor met die doel om afskuwelike episodes te distansieer. Laasgenoemde word op vernuftige wyse weergegee en gerasionatiseer. In die ware gees van die skollieraamwerk eindig die outobiografie in 'n toon van hervorming, gedra deur 'n ernstige belydende trant met betrekking tot die onbesonnenhede van die verlede, terwyl nog 'n verdere raamwerk vir vind van die self na vore kom: did van die man wat ontkom het aan die tand van die tyd.


The world hailed the end of official apartheid in the year 1994. As South Africans experienced an outpouring of euphoria for the liberation of the country from oppression, this catharsis revealed the immense possibilities of reinvention of the society based on principles of equality, egalitarianism undergirded by a fraternal spirit for "settlers" and "natives" alike, that is, those who were made Africans by history and ethnic Africans. In the brief period before the inaugural hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC)--set up by the Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act of Parliament 34 of 1995--during the days 15-18 April 1996 in the Eastern Cape Province, the infectious mood was demonstrated in musical festivals and political rallies all underscoring enthusiasm for the incumbent Government of National Unity led by Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. The subject of this article, Hugh Masekela, was profoundly involved in mediating the transition to the future and was a much sought-after entertainer at festivals, gala occasions and in institutions tasked with designing the role of arts and culture in the new dispensation. It was a heady time for all concerned. To read Still Grazing: The Musical Journey of Hugh Masekela (2004) after the momentous occasion of the first democratic elections is to partly reflect on these times but also to raise questions of how the subject came to be where he is. The autobiography recounts "the musical journey" within the framework of resistance autobiographies, and it is in this manner that the self-invention of the subject becomes apparent.

South African autobiographical writing stretches as far back as the Dutch colonial intrusion with diaries, travelogues and anthropological/ethnographic observations being key descriptive aspects of this process. …

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