Coco Tea was doing his thing on the Vintage stage but amidst the thousands in the Oval I was distracted by a young man approaching me. He looked as though he was wearing one of my shirts.
As he drew closer I realised it was my nephew and he was indeed wearing my favourite shirt. I had not worn that shirt for over 20 years. I can’t quite remember where I got it. Probably my brother had sent it from Canada. Or maybe my mother had made me a gift of it when she had returned from a visit to Zambia.
Whatever its origin, there was a time when it was like a uniform to me. I wore it to all the African Liberation Day events that I assisted in organising. I wore it to the rallies and marches demanding freedom for Mandela and an end to apartheid. Then Mandela was free, apartheid came to an end. The Liberation movements in Africa all came to power. The crowds thinned. Mugabe became a tyrant and the movement slowed to a crawl. My shirt was carefully placed into storage.
As my nephew drew closer I realised that he had altered the shirt to suit him physically and to make a modern fashion statement. It was the same shirt but cut to fit the times. His generation has been much criticised for their apparent emphasis on careers and their individualistic attitude towards wealth creation. I am swayed by the alternative view that the struggle continues in a different shirt, a different form, a different time but it continues.
So my shirt may never appear at another African Liberation Day rally. The question is: How, when and where will future generations wear it? For as the Portuguese liberation fighters used to say — “A luta continua!”