In 4 days, it will be the 12th of September, 39 years since Steve Bantu Biko was assassinated. I turned 28 this year and when Biko was assassinated, he was 30 years old. I get cold shivers up and down my spine in knowing that I am round about Biko’s age when he was assassinated. I’m saddened that I did not have the privilege of living in a time when he was alive.
When I read about how Steve Biko succumbed to his wounds from the beatings and torture he was subjected to in prison, it riles me to the bone and I feel bilious with disgust. Instead of rushing him to a nearby hospital, it is said that Apartheid police dumped him at the back of a bakkie, naked, and DROVE 11 hours from Port Elizabeth to Pretoria so he could receive ‘medical attention’ at a prison hospital for a supposed hunger strike. This feels so unreal for me to comprehend, I cannot even wrap my brain around this information.
Bear in mind, this is what was recorded from the so-called evaluations of the Apartheid police and I shudder to think of all the other accounts of detainees that South Africans do not know about and will never know of. As the years go by, I worry the truth behind the horror gets buried deeper and deeper in the convoluted brains of those in the know, many of which are already 6-feet under.
1994: A new dawn for South Africa achieving democracy but with the heavy burden of too many people who ‘vanished’ from South African soil without a trace or with patronising explanations such as ‘he died from a hunger strike’ or ‘she committed suicide’ without any accountability 22 years later. In my opinion, if Biko were alive today, the politics of this country would have turned out very differently. However, due to the magnitude of his existence, the Apartheid police had to destroy and remove the great phoenix that he was from rising to new heights.
Art, in whatever shape or form, is meant to disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed otherwise it loses its impact, hence I bought this tote bag (see feature image). I see this bag as an uncomfortable yet powerful reminder of the man who was so great, he had to be forcibly removed from this World before his calling was completed. A grueling reminder that when greatness is instilled in you by a power beyond any human ability, though they may take your life, your greatness alone rebels and defies their actions. I often wonder if the families and descendants of the men that killed Biko ever feel anything knowing that through the actions of one of their own, South Africa was stripped of a force that could have transformed the course of this country beyond our wildest dreams.