Call to honour langa’s unsung heroes

Multi-award winning jazz musician Sylvia Mdunyelwa wants to honour the people of Langa.

One of Langa’s own daughters, Sylvia Mdunyelwa is on a mission to honour all those from the area who have made a contribution to the country in various fields including music, sports, teaching and nursing.

With the lack of heritage sites, mushrooming shebeens and high crime rate, Ms Mdunyelwa believes Langa is worth far more and something needs to be done to honour its legends.

The multi-award winning jazz musician is now calling on Langa residents and the government to recognise the area’s heroes from the past and the present.She wants people to come forward with the names and information about these people so that it can be placed on a website so young people can learn about them.

Ms Mdunyelwa said Langa’s history is not as prominent as it should be.She dreams of a wall of fame for Langa legends and a Heroes’ Acre like the one in Gauteng.

On the wall of her lounge at her home are pictures of her with other musical legends.

While talking to Vukani, she pulls out her cellphone to show more pictures she took with some of the late legends. She then invited Vukani to where she works with young people in storytelling and acting. The same offices at 10 Dean Street in Cape Town is where the website is being designed.

Rooted in her green chair, Ms Mdunyelwa says she is not happy about how Langa’s history is eroding with no one taking care of it.

She looks back at her experience of the township and says: “Remember Langa was the first big township. It has a rich history. It was warm and a home for everyone, a warm home. Sundays used to be special. Jabavu Street used to host tea parties where when domestic workers were off they used to look gorgeous in their clothes and stilettos. They were involved in dance competitions. Guess what was the prize, steam bread and umleqwa (chicken). On the other hand there were gentlemen, some going to the sports activities. It was nice and crime free. There were also jazz afternoons. That is why we need to document and embrace our legends,” she said.

She hopes that the government and funders will come on board and honour the Langa legends.

She said she would already have done this if she had the means and described Langa as a place where trends are set in almost everything, from music, acting and fashion to politics and sport.

“I would not like to mention names because I might leave some behind, something that is not right. But if you look at the history of jazz, you will know what I am talking about. That is why I dream of a day when our children are no longer fans of thugs and drug lords. They need to go to school and learn more. We need to organise an event to celebrate these legends too. In such an event, our youngsters need to sing and dance. On the day we should issue certificates to the families of the legends.”

She said Langa’s people have managed to develop their own sub-culture and leave a rich legacy for the youth, so now it is now time to honour them. She also called on young people to stay away from the influence of American popular culture and embrace their own heritage. “Have you seen the Heroes Acre’ where those who contributed immensely to that city are buried in? Why can’t we have that in Langa? Why can’t we have a wall of fame at Gugas’thebe. Why can’t we have murals in some walls of the area? If I have money, I would have at least have some of the above. But I call on all Langa people to unite like before and honour the late and living legends.”

She said the website includes all legends irrespective of where they come from.

Call 082 254 8984 for more information.