By Sinothi Thabethe
Local History Museums has been fortunate to have a special donation of a musical instrument used by one of the mothers of our nation, Mama Nokutela MaMdima Dube, first wife of the first President-General of the African National Congress, Dr. John Langalibalele Dube. Nokutela was a gifted musician.
She was born in 1873 in Inanda (KZN) and was educated at Inanda Seminary, one of the most progressive and successful missionary schools in the area. After completing at Inanda Seminary she eventually taught at the same Seminary for few years before receiving additional training at the Union Missionary Training Institute in Brooklyn in the United States, between 1896 and 1899. Some of her specialities in school were Music and Home Economics where she excelled in both fields and managed to impart such knowledge she had accumulated to her community members and learners back at Inanda. Through her music, she was successful in promoting African culture, history and education in the United States and is known to have inspired so many Africans especially black women to pursue their educational dreams without any fear for them to be better pillars in their families and society at large.
The musical instrument was presented to the Museum by Cherif Keita who resides in 1205 Cannon Valley Drive, Northfield, Minnesota, 55057 USA. He is a revered Professor of French and Liberal Arts, documentary filmmaker from the French and Francophone Studies Department of Carleton College. As a prolific researcher of note he played a very significant role in identifying Nokutela’s grave in Johannesburg which was marked KC which is believed it meant ‘Kaffir’ Christian. Presenting the instrument to the Museum he expressed his joy and happiness that the instrument would be looked after, preserved and made accessible to the wider public but most importantly it would be exhibited at Ohlange Heritage Centre where Mama Nokutela once lived. The instrument is an antique Oscar Schmidt Autoharp.
According to Professor Cherif Keita the musical instrument was the special type played by the late Nokutela MaMdima Dube on her fundraising performances across the USA and South Africa, between 1896 and 1914. Furthermore, such instrument assisted in building the renowned Ohlange School, at Inanda. Nokutela used to play the instrument for fundraising initiatives which she then sent back home to build the independent school in Inanda, KwaZulu-Natal. The musical instrument will be exhibited in the Chapel at Ohlange next to Nelson Mandela Statue.
Nokutela passed away on 25 January 1917 and was laid to rest in Brixton Cemetery, Johannesburg, South Africa.