Profile of Amandla Cultural Ensemble
In September 1978, the International Festival of Youth and Students took place in Havana, Cuba. South Africa was represented by a group of youths who were members of the African National Congress (ANC) studying in various countries in Europe, Africa and America. They also included members of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) based in Angola. These groups had to combine and perform as one united group of the ANC.
The success of their performances so reverberated throughout the world that the BBC had to remark ever favourably about the beautiful performance of the South African delegation. The leadership of the ANC, taking the cue from the Cuban successes, took a decision to have a permanent cultural group whose centre was the band component of the group.
The leadership also took a decision that the membership of the group should be members of MK because of the military discipline factor. The group started with those seven members of the band and a recruitment drive was conducted to increase the group to about 40 members. All members had to multitask as musicians, dancers, and actors.
South Africa’s struggle for liberation rested on four pillars, with international mobilisation ranking among the most important. In this regard, Amandla’s main tasks were:
• The mobilisation of the international community. ANC President Oliver Reginald Tambo, after seeing an Amandla show in London, said that it took him 20 years to do what Amandla did in two hours – to promote South Africa and the struggle for freedom.
• The Amandla group was a powerful instrument to showcase cultural heritage and its diversity after a long period of colonial op¬pression which was accompanied by cultural oppression to destroy national pride.
The show of Amandla was a chronology of important events starting with a peaceful era before the colonisers came to our country. It continued with colonisation and subsequent industrialisation of our country down to the formation and conscientisation of the working-class population.
Amandla travelled to more than 60 countries, educating people all over the world about our country and was invited repeatedly in certain countries. Countries like Holland and those in the Scandinavian region invited the group over and over, with some people in Europe following the group from city to city and country to country.
Plans to relocate Amandla in an organised way after the advent of democracy never bore any fruits, although the group managed to converge and did a few performances. All other efforts of trying to revive the group have not been successful.
It remains a wish for most who knew this group to see the Amandla Cultural Ensemble taking to the stage again in whatever form, for there is still a big role that a cultural group like them can play in educating people about the importance of cultural artistry.
We are proud to honour members of the Amandla Cultural Ensemble who are still alive and those who have passed on. They are the following: Nora Mapule Pitsi (Dikeledi Mokoena*), Daisy Nompumelelo Tshilwane (Fortune Nala*), Thokozani Maureen Magxwalisa (Julinda Klaas*), Mandisa Blossom Mphati (Louisana Gugwini*), Doctor Pooe (Bethuel Khoale “Mosquitoe”*), Refiloe Dyer (Prudence Masuku “Nanas”*), Nonkululeko Beauty Mraqisa (Viola Mkhize*), Nocawe Nomalizwe Merriam Doshane (Angela Moa*), Mantoa (Belinda*), Lorraine McClare (Mamonkie Simelane*), Stella Mbentshe (Noluthando Pungula*), (Dudu Mbanjwa*), Sibusiso Judas Mabaso (Mbongeni Dingindawo*), Mikkie Lebona (Sandile Khumalo “Skhulu”*), Joe (Joe Mthembu “Mrashushu”*), Jabulani Magubane (Patrick Sithole*), Msimang (Jeniffer Mothwa*), Nomathemba Ramncwana (Nelly Kota*), Wiseman Ntombela (Livingston Tikwane “Santana”*), (Welile)*, Welcome Msomi*, Sandisile*, Lemmy Nkuta (Selina Binda*), Jonas Gwangwa and Promise Nkosi (Pinki*).
We are proud to honour the Amandla Cultural Ensemble collectively with the Order of Ikhamanga in Gold for their cultural contribution to the struggle for liberation in South Africa and for spreading the message all over the world about South Africa’s rich and diverse cultural heritage.
(*) denotes combat name.