Thursday, August 23, 2012

Marikana Miners' burial song (South Africa)

Marikana broadcasted live during burial of 44 miners killed, 34 of them shot by police.

12.32 local time

"The cage moved downwards till it was out of sight and there was a vacant hole where the cage had been.
Xuma had known it would happen. Yet it shocked him. His heart pounded. His hands wre clammy with sweat"
Mine Boy, Peter Abrahams 1946. Heinemann Johannesburg

To the 44 miners
by philo ikonya

In death
It is impossible for this poet
to break words like kola and
wrap you with oil squeezed from seed
I have heard the miners blood crying as priests sing salve
and their shroud I must make with no cheap justice
from speaking minds we must get liberation
Racing beyond fears for a loss so deep
I weep at your burial from the north
violence the robber black and white
and anger that you have gone
chokes me in songless silence
All miners and the 44 miners killed in Marikana
I still hear your worksong unfading and tearing the world
and I pray you sing it till they in power tremble
We perish our tears and grab your struggle

So simply you asked for your rights
which so long all miners have deserved
Behind a rock you stayed put
holding on to tough ancestry
hands triggering smooth bullets
get you down forever
and Afrika has become lesser
she shrinks in my praying hands
Undressed in pain and moaning
Leaving widows carrying sticks
crying unclad in gold and children who know not copper
Like your blood devoid of diamonds
You writhing no more in rigor mortis held

And I stand up to make your tiaras
with same hand I open word power curse
To them that kill you so
To powers that standby and watch
Afrika raped and killed no matter when
entertaining your leaders in fine wine
To hearts and minds unmoved
All Africa should be in demon stration
Not enough to pencil evil: ballot castration
To churches and peace elders quiet
To young people waiting in violent dreams
Change this course as soil covers these miners
Change this shaft of blood, change these cages
And let us open up new ways so old
Let the miners keep singing till they break power drums

Without aparted salary, destroy apart wages
Join the cry of ages while anger still rages
Injustice must depart no new color can it wear
This nation can pay and it must pay now
Chile and China saved her trapped miners
You shoot ours dead and leave the rainbow bleeding

All Miners, your eyes you must not close
Blaze your fire beyond death and drill ruling brains
Blaze it beyond church prayer and free silenced lips
Occupy and occupy the world
Raze with your spirits a new path build and pave
for peace for your children and ours. Rest not now
Rest not. The bugle cries the world over
that together we shall not perish.


  1. Now this is an honorable tribute to the fallen, the slaughtered miners, the strong men who build the nation digging deep, deep into the earth.

    Theirs came early but somehow, inside, they knew it would, it could happen. (Just like Xuma somehow knew....)

  2. It is the audience that makes this poem be what it is because it is about these miners. Why do I say that? I was humbled and privileged to read this poem in Poetry Africa in Durban South Africa on 17th October 2012. The poem became sacred ...holy in me. That was the case too when I read it at the South African embassy. It will never be the same for me... there is something beyond it... Bookslive reported this here. Here:

    Last up before interval, Philo Ikonya, a Kenyan poet, showed a strong rootedness in human rights activism. She said she was glad to have had the chance to get a suntan, and braided hair, from “fabulous” Durban. She refuted claims that an activist is like a “female Anopheles mosquito, a blood sucker looking for donor money”, instead noting that the “word is powerful / this optic fibre is here,” and emphasising her belief that a “person is a person because of other people”. Ikonya’s poem dedicated to the 44 miners killed at Marikana was hair-raising, as she brought the audience in to sing “Senzeni Na” (what have we done). Calling for better pay for miners, she said simply, but powerfully, “let us open up new ways/let the miners sing new songs”. In closing Ikonya said she had Mandela’s face in her mind as she performed that poem, she thanked the audience for singing and connected her with the feelings. (I add...Will always be special because someone told me that was the moment of silence for the miners, our remembering them and the audience had done it.)

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