Babalwa Mhlauli

Lovelight flower Babalwa

My Heroes - Grandparents

"One of the outstanding human victories of the century.

The time for the healing of the wounds has come.

The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come.

The time to build is upon us."

  Nelson Mandela, Inauguration Day 1994

My Dearest Beloved Grandfather

I see the loveliness of your face as I scribe away this love letter to you.

 

I'm bursting at the seams with laughter and unspeakable joy, your mere presence does this to me even today after all these years. Some things never change. How's my Granny? Give her a kiss for me. I just cant stop laughing, you are my heart's desire for all time to come.

 

Tamkhulu (Grandfather) you and Granny were my very first teachers. Your religion was love and kindness. Not in words but through your deeds. Mother tells me that when they were children you'd buy heap loads of food and you'd distribute it for the needy as well as neighbours who weren't needy in your community. You'd also share the food that you and Granny planted in your garden.

 

You took care of everyone in your close knit community including solving problems that were brought to your attention. The honorable and trustworthy man who was given a position of leadership by mere virtue of his highly exalted conduct. Mother also tells me that when different schools gathered in your neighbourhood to perform different songs for a prize, the school principal would always ask you to be a treasurer because they trusted you completely.

 

My Grandfather was a wealthy man, benevolent beyond measure. He even payed dowrie for some of his adopted brothers who wanted to get married but couldnt afford the cows required by the family of the bride (this is a custom that is practiced to this day by some African people). This is astonishing to me given my grandfather's background. He was removed from his biological parents as a child. Lived from one house to another, ill treated terribly and deprived of a good education because one of his chores was to take care of other people's children. He lost contact with his entire family during forced removal that took place throughout South Africa. Clearly the good Lord restored my grandfather and blessed him with the fullness of life including reuniting him with his biological family in his 80's, although the only surviving members were nephews and nieces. Throughout all his struggles, he abounded in love. Grandfather, your most striking quality is that you embraced all races, and the white farmers you worked for trusted you completely. When one of the community members tried to rob another farmer, and he came to your bosses looking for you saying you owe them money, your bosses stood up for you, saying you would never do that. And when a meeting was called for you to face your accusers, your accusers admitted that it was a different man who used your name.

 

My Granny on the other hand was of royal descent, an equisite, highly educated woman. A teacher, preacher and mentor to many. I once asked my mum who her role model is, without thinking she said "my mother". I say the same thing too. As a kid I'd watch my Granny in her kitchen baking nice buiscuits with so much joy and enthusiasm. I'd watch her clean her home and cook thanks giving meals everyday for her family. She was again the only one in her community who'd host noblemen like the ANC Secretary General, James Calata. She welcomed everybody in her home and treated them the very same way. My Granny celebrated the human spirit, she loved to see others succeed.

 

My mom tells me that once a woman who couldn't read was asked to read something at church. So my Granny sang a song and moved ahead to the pulpit to read that verse, as well as preach. This was all done to shield the other woman from a situation that might have embarrased her.

Later in life my Grandparents came to visit us in Oudtshoorn, they were now living in Port Elizabeth. They too lost their wealth and land through forced removal.

My Granny had suffered from a stroke but she could still do some things. We went to a small town called George, where there was an ocean, mind you everything was still segretated and there were whites only beaches. My parents went about doing their errands while my Grandfather walked my Granny on the beach. They were a picture to behold, strolling down the whites only beach like a fairy tale love story. Instead of being chased away from the beach, the white folks admired them, and spoke to them. When my parents came to pick them up, they showed them the amount of money they were given by white people who admired them.

Ohhh, they were just too delightful!

 

Even children ran to my Grandfather so he could solve their conflicts when they encountered some problems amongst each other, while playing. Its so funny really. He  was an OASIS of LOVE and everybody felt loved and valued around him. His youngest son's university friends called him Professor.

When I was about 10 years old, I recited a poem i had learned at school for my Grandfather. He listened very intently, very serious like he was listening to someone special and very important. soon as i finished my recitation he said  "uyimbongi", you're a poet.

 

Later in life i would gravitate towards revolutionary poets like Mzwakhe Mbuli, the voice and the words stopped me in my tracks. I'd stand still no matter how badly i wanted to play with my friends and be dirty on the dusty streets of our community.

 

As a teen I hired the movie poetic justice and I heard Phenomenal Woman recited by Janet Jackson. i hired that movie 23 times just to hear the poem.

 

I was flowing withing the rhythm of my calling. Today Princes, state presidents, first ladies, nobles of the earth as well as ordinary people have been a part of my audience through world wide media and private perfomances.

 

I thank God for the spirit of beloved Grandparents, my parents, Maya Angelou, our ancestors and all loving souls everywhere for this experience. Its a an amazing gift for life is trully a gift to be cherished.