I have been asked to write about someone I loved that recently passed away, a legend, icon and a PEACE activist, the Kenyan graffiti artist Solomon Muyundo, alias Solo 7. To honour and give justice to his legacy I have interviewed people, read articles and watched several videos and documentaries.
Solo 7 was born in Bungoma County but relocated to Kibera slum in 2003 after his family couldn’t afford to pay his fees for Secondary School. In Nairobi he turned to art and made a living as a sign writer. Solomon shortened his name when he started to work and walk ‘solo’ as he got engaged in the post-election violence that erupted in 2007, which resulted in more than 1000 persons killed in Kenya. He added seven to his name, as it was a special number to him: he was born in the seventh month of the year in 1977, his names contained seven letters each and he was the seventh born child.
‘We could have waited for a donor to appear, but we believe in the spirit of self-development and confidence. We are not so poor that we are unable to carry out this project’- Benjamin Mkapa, on the construction of the Unity Bridge, January 2005.
On 24 July 2020 President Benjamin Mkapa passed on to another world.
I first met Mkapa during my days at the University of Dar es Salaam in the 1970s. He was a close confidant of President Nyerere and often accompanied the President to the University whenever the Mwalimu came to address the students.
In 1995, Mkapa was elected President of the nation. He was strongly backed by Nyerere. Soon after taking over the Presidency, he launched an anti-corruption fight under the Prevention of Corruption Bureau.
It has been a tragic year. We have lost so many people. A month ago, Annar Cassam also left us. She passed away in relative obscurity far away from her home country of Tanzania. Adarsh Nayar, the personal photographer of the first president of Tanzania, was the first one to break the sad news in the social media. ‘REGRET informing my friends and colleagues Mwalimu Nyerere’s personal assistant Annar Cassam,’ he posted on Facebook, ‘seen here speaking with him, passed away at 05.00 am this morning in Geneva, Switzerland, after a long illness.’ In that photo (reproduced below with permission) one gets a glimpse of the extent in which she was not then obscured in the Tanzanian political scenery. ‘Annar, who was in regular touch with me,’ Adarsh recalls, ‘had moved to Geneva after Mwalimu’s retirement in October 1985 and worked for the United Nations.’ Yet so little is known, especially among my generation, about this daughter of Tanzania.
We should honour Professor Ernest Wamba dia Wamba by carrying on his life's work.
In the early hours of July 15, 2020, at the University Hospital in Kinshasa, a brother, comrade, philosopher, historian, thinker, healer, and dreamer left us physically. But like a star in the firmament, he is still there to help us navigate through the current and future times, assuming we understand what he had been trying to accomplish in his life, and how he understood the senselessness of the managers of a dominant system that presumes it must control and own everything.
From wherever he is, Professor Ernest Wamba dia Wamba would have welcomed the launching of SENS, on August 3, 2020, in Burkina Faso, a movement aimed at ‘servir et non se servir,’ which translates as ‘to serve and not to help oneself’. This is counter to the practice of so-called leaders in many African countries, where the state has become the trough. Is it possible to put an end to these kinds of situations? That is one of the questions that dominated Professor Ernest Wamba dia Wamba’s life.
In 1964, Denis Goldberg and other ANC comrades were on trial for their lives at what became known as the Rivonia trial. Against expectations the judge did not impose death but gave them several concurrent life sentences instead. The young man shouted out jubilantly to his mother, ‘It’s life! Life is wonderful!’
Denis was born of Jewish immigrant parents, both communists. After involvement in local racially unsegregated civil rights movements in the 1950s, he joined the communist party. He was arrested and imprisoned for four months together with his mother following the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960. They had been supporting strikers in black townships in the aftermath of the massacre.
Bhikaiji Rustom Cama was born Bhikaiji Cama in Bombay (now Mumbai) into an affluent and influential Parsi family. In 1885, she married Rustom Cama, a wealthy, pro-British lawyer. In October 1896, Mumbai was hit by bubonic plague. Cama volunteered to provide care for the afflicted. She contracted the plague but survived and was sent to Britain for medical care in 1902.
In London, Cama met a circle of radical opponents of British rule in India. She helped to set up the Indian Home Rule Society in 1905. She could not return to India unless she signed a statement promising not to participate in nationalist activities. She refused. Cama moved to Paris where she co-founded the Paris Indian Society. She wrote, published and distributed revolutionary literature and sheltered many world revolutionaries, including Vladimir Lenin.