A love letter to Brenda Fassie, Vinolia Mashego + Lebo Mathosa
Words: Lesego Ntsime | Images: Getty + Supplied
Whether or not you can recall the first time you saw Brenda Fassie, Vinolia Mashego (V-Mash), and Lebo Mathosa on your TV screen, in the newspaper, or on a magazine cover, you can be certain that their presence was undeniably pervasive.
We may have not been familiar with the phrase “take up space” then, but we needn’t be - because right there, right then, gracing our screens with their voices blasting from every speaker and screen across the country, these icons did.
At a time when the entertainment industry was dominated by men, Brenda, V-Mash, and Lebo would set the tone for the trajectory of powerful and unapologetic black people for decades to come. How their fervour has informed our bold stance on being true to ourselves - at whatever cost. Brenda once maintained in a statement; “No way, I’m not going to start justifying my character. The way I am is the way I am, if I want to do anything with anyone that’s nobody’s business, mina I do anything I want to do.”
Witnessing black women reclaim their autonomy over their lives, bodies and stories under the gaze of public scrutiny, and being deemed “controversial” while doing so - their journeys epitomised pure valiance in the face of unwavering judgement. Yet in some unfathomable way, they remained committed to their truth. When there’s an incessant desire to dim your light, it can only be courage that compels you to shine even brighter. As the saying goes “they walked so we could run.” And walk they did, topping charts, breaking records and redefining what it meant to be all black, all woman and all powerful.
We’ve housed a never-ending list of feelings towards these icons. Adoration, wonder, discomfort and grief to name a few, but the most potent one ought to be gratitude. Gratitude for not only telling, but embodying a story we didn’t know we needed until much later.
So to MaBrrrr, V-Mash, and Madibuseng; thank you.
Knowingly or unknowingly you shifted and controlled the narrative of black personhood. Regardless of the differing perspectives imposed upon your existence, you proceeded to proclaim your right and freedom to be completely and utterly you. The dresses of shame people attempted to limit you to, you transformed into an art form of unfiltered expression.
Rebellious, unorthodox, out-of-this-world, the labels attached to you are many but the most powerful one we seem to forget is “human” - truthfully and uncompromisingly human. The bar with you was never perfect - only authentic. Your energy affirmed that there is indeed power and grace in being yourself, and that there is no greater honour than sharing that with the rest of the world.
The fight is far from over, we continue to implore the world to make room for us and see us as we are. But when the lyrics of Istraight Le Ndaba and Free are summoned by the mind, professing "Indaba yam istraight" and "I wanna be free from these chains that abide in me" a fierce spirit is evoked in us. We are far from where we’d like to be but because of you, we are a step closer.
As DRUM celebrates 70 years we remember the ripple effect of your dedication to storytelling and story-living, and the manner DRUM carried you throughout all the versions of yourself you occupied. We did not have to know you to know you - and in the essence of that silent, all-embracing camaraderie that still lives on here’s one voluminous "Iyoh bangani, iyoh!"