“IT is a story of three cen­turies,” said Joyce Si­wani, stand­ing at the grave­side of Nokutela Dube on Satur­day.

“Nokutela was born, lived and worked in the 19th cen­tury, she con­tin­ued to work and died in the 20th and was then for­got­ten. Now she comes to life in the 21st cen­tury.”

Si­wani, Dube’s great­grand­niece, was speak­ing at the com­mem­o­ra­tion of the cen­te­nary of the death of Nokutela on Satur­day in Brix­ton Ceme­tery, Johannesburg.

Nokutela Dube (née Mdima) was the first wife of John Lan­gal­ibalele Dube, first pres­i­dent of the ANC, founder of the news­pa­per Ilanga lase Natal and cre­ator, with Nokutela, of the Oh­lange In­sti­tute at Inanda out­side Dur­ban.

While her hus­band’s role in South African pol­i­tics and ed­u­ca­tion is well known, Nokutela’s con­tri­bu­tion had faded from mem­ory un­til re­cently.

Af­ter their mar­riage in 1894 the Dubes made sev­eral vis­its to the U.S. to raise funds to cre­ate their joint vi­sion of an in­de­pen­dent school for Africans.

John Dube had pre­vi­ously been ed­u­cated in the U.S. un­der the aus­pices of Wil­liam and Ida Belle Wil­cox of the Amer­i­can Board of Com­mis­sion­ers for For­eign Mis­sions.

The cou­ple re­mained child­less. “This brought about a con­flict of cul­ture and re­li­gion,” said Si­wani.

When Dube fa­thered a child by a stu­ dent in 1914, Nokutela left Inanda to work as a mis­sion­ary among black peo­ple liv­ing on white farms near Wakker­stroom. She fell ill in Jan­uary 1917 and her hus­band brought her to Sophi­a­town, Johannesburg, where they owned a house. She died on Jan­uary 25, 1917. Nokutela’s funeral was at­tended by many mem­bers of the fledg­ling ANC, in­clud­ing lawyer Al­fred Man­gena and future ANC pres­i­dent Pix­ley ka Isaka Seme. But her grave in the ceme­tery was un­marked.

“Then she was for­got­ten,” said Si­wana. “Un­til Chérif Keita came along.”

Keita, a pro­fes­sor in the French and Fran­co­phone Stud­ies Depart­ment of Car­leton Col­lege, North­field, Min­nesota, played a key role in re­turn­ing Nok­ utela to na­tional mem­ory. Af­ter mak­ing two doc­u­men­taries on John Dube and his con­nec­tions with the U.S. — in­clud­ing North­field — he made a third doc­u­men­tary de­voted to Nokutela. He re­minded how Nokutela taught self­re­liance and in­de­pen­dence to gen­er­a­tions, as well as help­ing to pop­u­larise Nkosi Sikele’ Africa. With the help of the Johannesburg Parks Depart­ment, he lo­cated Nokutela’s grave. A head­stone was erected and last year she was in­ducted into Free­dom Park, the na­tional shrine in Pre­to­ria.

Keita was un­able to be at Satur­day’s cer­e­mony, but it was at­tended by 25 Amer­i­can stu­dents and pro­fes­sors from St Olaf ’s Col­lege, North­field, cur­rently on a study tour of South Africa.


Onica Mak­wakwa, Buli Si­wani and Joyce Si­wani, great grand­niece of Nokutela Dube, at a cer­e­mony at Brix­ton Ceme­tery in Johannesburg, com­mem­o­rat­ing the cen­te­nary of the death of Nokutela Dube, who taught in­de­pen­dence to gen­er­a­tions.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.