Loading...
Henry Rollins!

Henry Rollins: The Column! South Africa's Present and Future

Comments (0)

By

Thu, May 24, 2012 at 4:00 AM

click to enlarge Rollins_300.jpg
[Look for your weekly fix from the one and only Henry Rollins right here on West Coast Sound every Thursday, and come back tomorrow for the awesomely annotated playlist for his Saturday KCRW broadcast.]

A few hours from now, I will be climbing onto the stage at a venue called the Bassline, here in Johannesburg, South Africa. This will be my third time performing in this country. The audiences have been, in all the cities I have played here, really good. South Africa is a relatively new stop on my tour. I now come here after my shows in Perth, Australia. The 11-hour flight and time change leave me a little dazed for a day or two, but I turn around pretty quickly.

I'm currently staying in a place called Melrose Arch. It looks like a gated city-state. I think I am put up here for insurance reasons, or perhaps it gives my great promoter John one less thing to worry about. The bodyguard, Zenzo, he's definitely part of the insurance package.

Yesterday was a day off. I went with Zenzo to Soweto (South West Townships) and we walked around for quite a while. Most interesting was visiting Nelson Mandela's old home there.

With every visit, I learn a little more about the amazing Mr. Mandela and always wonder if this will be the last time I will be in South Africa while he is alive. He is over 90 now. I have stood in his prison cell on Robben Island, where he spent 18 years, been to his foundation building, read from some of his Robben Island-era notebooks and had a chance to check out his office. Behind Mr. Mandela's desk were two photographs, one of him and President Clinton and one of him and a pre-presidential Obama. It's an indescribable feeling being in and around this kind of history and the aura of Mandela. He is in the air; he is everywhere here.

Most moving was the monument dedicated to an event called the Soweto Uprising, which took place on June 16, 1976. Thousands of students took to the streets, protesting the Afrikaans Medium Decree, which forced schools to use Afrikaans for a majority of lessons, English for lesser subjects and indigenous languages for religious purposes. A 13-year-old boy named Hector Pieterson was shot and killed by a policeman. The famous image of his body being carried by Mbuyisa Makhubo is on display at the memorial. It is a hell of a thing to look around the sprawling Soweto under the blue sky and try to imagine all of this going down.

There is a song from here that I have heard sung twice, once in a church in the Imizamo Yethu township in Hout Bay (near Cape Town) and once in a backyard in Langa, a suburb of Cape Town. The name of the song is "Senzeni Na?," which basically means "What have we done?" The title is spelled differently, and the lyrics are sung differently, but a man named Afrika Monie from the aforementioned township told me it basically goes: "What have we done/What have we done/Our only sin is the color of our skin."

Related Content

Now Trending

  • Stryper Tribute Bands We Feel Should Exist

    Tomorrow night, July 31, your favorite Christian hair metal act Stryper plays Whisky-A-Go-Go. Say what you will about the Orange County collective, but you have to admire them for sticking to the script for three decades —  or is that scripture? Putting out new music as recently as last year,...
  • The Best Los Angeles Metal Shows to See in August

    Saturday, August 2nd Morbid Saint The Black CastleWhen the beer ran out at last year’s Thrasho De Mayo festival, hundreds of metalheads were incensed. But their anger subsided when Wisconsin thrashers Morbid Saint hit the stage, unleashing a relentless fury in their first SoCal appearance after a 20 year hiatus...
  • Fanatics! Rock the Omar

    RADIO BROADCAST #279 08–03–14 Fanatics! Good radio is what it’s all about on this show and tonight, we again deliver the goods. You will notice the slightest of concepts here as we rock Omar Souleyman on both hours. He will be in LA on Sunday night. I will be interviewing...
Los Angeles Concert Tickets

Slideshows