BUSANI NGCAWENI: They burn libraries, and books

A poem by Busani Ngcaweni on the burning of books and ever-lasting lifespan of ideas.

They burn libraries
I wish to write about it
But the pen is dry
Perhaps it's a nervous condition

Or just the recognition of the complexity of problems in higher education
If not in our polity at large, where books are burnt too

Something cooking in their minds
The ever restless minds of students
In our country
Born free to vote,
Imprisoned by inequality
Something strange but understandable
With deep roots in the political economy

Complicated by thuggery masquerading as youth leadership

Anti intellectualism
Of Saharan proportions

Maybe we don't get it
Maybe we do
Like the Tibetan Monks
Self-immolation has become
our zeitgeist

Burn it today
Demand a new one tomorrow

Books contain ideas, noble and objectionable
Before you burn it, have you read it?

Where did it all start
Where will it ever end
The revolution
Economic freedom in our lifetime
Bring back the land, and the knowledge

They burn libraries, and books
Burn burn burn!

They call it a revolution as
They burn knowledge,
Whose knowledge is it anyway

Slavery burned and banned our knowledge, and being
Colonialism and apartheid too, burned books but ideas triumphed,
Ideas outlive fire, and headlines
Flaming the fire of resistance
Freedom! Freedom!

Here we are wrestling with
Ontological dislocation
Our language died too as our
Knowledge systems were Incinerated

But the pen is dry
At UKZN the colonial archive lies in ruin
Flames rage burn and consume
Rhodes has fallen
Fees too but
The pen is dry

Burn burn burn, books, libraries, but ideas will always live!

September 2016

Busani Ngcaweni is co-editor of 'We are No Longer at Ease: The Struggle for #FeesMustFall'. Follow him on Twitter: @busani_ngcaweni