Wits University today conferred an honorary doctor of music degree on music icon Hugh Masekela.
The honorary degree was conferred on Bra Hugh at the Great Hall, the same stage where he performed as a 19-year-old member of the orchestra in the opening concert of Todd Matshikiza’s landmark jazz opera King Kong.
In acceptance of the degree, Masekela said: “I am deeply honoured and honestly humbled.”
Masekela implored graduates to become the “new pioneers of African heritage restoration at a time when we seem to be leaning on the brink of being wholly swallowed by most Western culture and several Middle Eastern and Eastern civilisations to the exclusion of our own traditions”.
He also told graduates to learn and teach “our own history” instead of the European education that still consumes us – something that has left us convinced that our heritage is “backward, savage, pagan, primitive, barbaric and uncivilised”.
The jazz legend was speaking to graduates in the faculty of humanities graduating with their bachelor of arts with honours and those graduating with their masters degrees within the faculty.
Also in attendance was former student representative council president Shaeera Kalla?. The known advocate for free and decolonised education latched on to every word that Bra Hugh uttered and shared the wisdom with other students via her official Twitter account.
The Wits graduate offices expressed joy in recognising Masekela: “We are honoured to have the opportunity to pay tribute to one of the true greats in South African music, Bra Hugh Masekela.”
In keeping to his passion for music, Masekela cautioned: “We have long relegated our magnificent vernacular literature to the dust and insect-infested floors of crumbling old warehouses in favour of imported writings, hip-hop, rap and other forms of trending fashions that distance us as far as possible from our rich traditional legacy.
“The time is now for Africans to rediscover and regenerate the existing wealth of their artisanship … wish you all the greatest futures go out there and kick some booty!” concluded Masekela.