This day on the South African calendar, means the world to me. Imagine that for the first time- ever- you are seen, heard and counted. I remember the excitement of my grandmother ‘Minnie’ and her best friend ‘auntie Sabia’. Both approaching 70 years of age on that day 27 April 1994. The air was thick with the excitement and pride in the weeks leading up to the first ever election in S.A. where citizens of colour were allowed to vote. I don’t know if ‘allowed’ is the right word. That vote was not only earned by the many who had prayed, fought and died for freedom, it was, and is, our birthright.
I saw my grandmother and her friend become bright eyed, rosy cheeked teens before my eyes, as my dad chauffeured them around- first to have their photographs taken for the first bar coded ID books that they had ever owned- and then to register to vote.
In the months leading up to election day, I worked tirelessly as the singer of Black Noise, traveling the country on the voter’s education tours that several South African artists were booked for. It was our job to create awareness and education within the communities to apply for ID books, register to vote.
At the age of 19, I had the opportunity to meet Nelson Mandela after one of our performances in Retreat, Cape Town. He had a jig on stage with us and took the opportunity to shake the hand of every dancer, every rapper, every musician in the band. He towered over me and took my little hand in his big warm brown ones, with the words ‘you are…a very good singer’. I had no words to reply with but for a moment we smiled gratitude into each other’s eyes, before he moved on to make his speech to the masses waiting to hear his voice over the sound system.
This was just weeks before election day. My heart was bursting inside with so much love, for my people and for my country. It was bursting with the excitement of change that was coming for everyone, whether we liked it or not. Whether you welcomed it- or ran from it- it was coming.
So the day finally arrived, the 27th of April 1994. My gran and her friend put on their best Sunday clothes, to stand in line, for the proudest moment of their lives. Patiently witnessing and embodying history, waiting to receive that dot of ink on the left thumbnail. They have both crossed over since- and I feel their spirits amongst us still, here on South African soil, now twenty years on, when even the change that came, has changed- and is changing still.