The musical lecture, held in the Howard College Theatre, featured an opening performance depicting the Battle by Ikusasa Lethu, an ensemble of African Music and Dance (AMD) students, while the Afrikan Heritage Ensemble – an acapella unit of 16 strong voices formed in 2015 – accompanied Khoza for his lecture.
In the Battle of Isandlwana 140 years ago, Zulu warriors conquered the British army – the only time in South African history that the British suffered a decisive defeat.
Award-winning Khoza, also a heritage consultant, provided intimate details of the national psyche in the run-up to as well as during and after the battle.
‘As a heritage and music lover, I have always been fascinated by songs and activities from the past,’ said Khoza. ‘I conducted research on Amahubo – the 17th and 18th Century hymns that were sung by our people – and they are definitely the scrolls of our nation. These Amahubo contain vast amounts of knowledge on how leaders and their subjects responded to the advancement of colonialism, and how this has led to the kind of society we have today,’ explained Khoza.
He noted that in 1816 ‘there was a way black people used to sing and that changed around 1879 when we had colonial influences and started to sing like English people. The songs that were sung by Zulu people back then were of Anglican origin and that is not who we are. Now, when we travel overseas and present the core of who we are, the audiences are not used to it, so they appreciate it more.’
Khoza believes that music is one of the best and most effective methodologies to ‘instrumentise’ culture and heritage. He hopes that Amahubo is used to promote unity and that the Battle of Isandlwana is ‘considered to be a South African victory, story and heritage that will deter tribalism’.
He also challenged the government to do more for its people without the expectation of kickbacks and to work towards preservation of culture.
Dean and Head of the School of Arts Professor Nobuhle Hlongwa said: ‘We are grateful to the Andrew Mellon Foundation for allowing us to promote African scholarship through Art. At UKZN, we plan to revitalise Amahubo.’
Senior lecturer in the AMD programme Dr Patricia Opondo said: ‘It’s been an honour for the AMD programme to host Mbuso Khoza for the past three months as the AMD Andrew Mellon Foundation Artist-in-Residence. We have learned so much from him and he has indeed enriched our programmes through the establishment of the UKZN Amahubo Ensemble. We look forward to collaborating in future projects. Hosting Mbuso was a win for both the AMD Programme and UKZN for he epitomises the best in African Music Scholarship as a heritage practitioner and custodian of Amahubo.’