“If you want to tell me that I am disabled, then I will ask how was I abled and who disabled me. I am visually impaired, not disabled. I do not use the word disabled but rather the word impaired”
IN CELEBRATING Disability Awareness Month, the Pride of Ubuntu Arts Centre hosted three South African music legends to entertain and motivate pupils from various disability schools in Kimberley.
Pupils from Jannie Brink Special School, Elizabeth Conradie School, NJ Heyns, Boitumelo Special School, Emang Mmogo High School, Retlameleng Special School and the Kimberley Training Centre were on Friday graced by the presence of Steve Kekana, Joe Nina and Babsy Mlangeni.
The chairperson of the centre, Olebile Mothelesi, said that they brought the three musicians to the city to motivate pupils living with disabilities to reach for their dreams.
Kekana, who is an advocate, told the pupils that although his journey to music stardom and his desire to practise law were not easy, he did not let his blindness stop him from achieving his dream.
Kekana said that he does not believe that any person is disabled.
“If you want to tell me that I am disabled, then I will ask how was I abled and who disabled me. I am visually impaired, not disabled. I do not use the word disabled but rather the word impaired,” said Kekana.
“Before I got my law qualification, I told a lawyer that I wanted to study law. The lawyer told me that it was not possible for people like me to study law. I believed in my mind and heart that I would be able to become a lawyer and I did.
“People with impairments should believe in the power of their mind. If you know your mind, then you can forge ahead. I was told to get my eyes fixed before I could become a lawyer. If you know your mind than you will not be afraid, even if the voice of someone in authority addresses you. If I had listened to the voice of authority, I would not be an advocate, a musician and a lecturer today.”
Mlangeni shared the same advice with the youngsters.
“Some people believe that blind people should stand on a corner and beg. They do not see that we can do anything we set our minds to. When I went around looking for a recording deal, the producers would ask me how I would sing as I am blind. I asked them if their eyes could sing. Sometimes people would even be scared to touch you in fear that they would also go blind,” said Mlangeni.
He urged the pupils to write songs, books and poems about the struggles they face.
“I wrote songs about the difficulties I was going through in order to spread the message and bring awareness about my condition. As youngsters living with impairment, you cannot let the world control you and tell you how to live. There are many opportunities for people with impairments and many of us have shown the world that we are able to do anything,” said Mlangeni.
Nina said that a car accident that left him temporarily wheelchair bound made him realise how easily one can be overlooked and disregarded.
“It was not an easy time for me. I found myself having to rely on people to assist me in doing things that I took for granted. Luckily today I can walk again but that experience has left unforgettable lessons in my life. I realised we are all differently abled,” said Nina.
He said music can change people’s perceptions.
“When I fell in love with music, fame was the last thing on my mind. We get songs from God and songs should always have a message. We have so many challenges and problems in our families and communities and we use music to address these problems.”
The trio said that they are spreading the message that people with an impairment should not be shut out.
They said the spirit of ubuntu needs to be revived when addressing matters of people living with disabilities.
“The wheels of government are turning very slowly when it comes to addressing challenges of those living with impairments. We are however spreading the word that those living with impairment are part of society. There is a lot of talk about the social ills facing our communities, yet the challenges of the impaired are still left in the background. Our leaders never come to our special schools yet they want our votes. Everyone seems to forget that they can also easily end up with an impairment. There is still a lot of work for us to do to bridge the gap,” they said.