LETTER | Calata statue the first act in honouring an icon

The Eastern Cape government honoured and celebrated the role played by Canon James Calata in the liberation struggle by unveiling a memorial in Keiskammahoek in 1895.
The Eastern Cape government honoured and celebrated the role played by Canon James Calata in the liberation struggle by unveiling a memorial in Keiskammahoek in 1895.
Image: ASANDA NINI

Every human being is born for a particular purpose and in many cases, that purpose is only realised decades after their passing. The biblical understanding of human origins is from the creation story in the book of Genesis..

The creation story details how humans, guided by a moral leader, struggle for liberation. The most important qualities of a good leader include integrity, accountability, empathy, humility, resilience, vision, influence, and positivity.

The life of Reverend Canon James Arthur Calata resembles a high-quality human being created in the image of God. On Heritage Day premier Oscar Mabuyane honoured him by unveiling the Canon Calata statue of remembrance at St Matthews Anglican Church, Keiskammahoek.

Some people were surprised by the efforts of the South African Council of Churches to lobby for a statue of the most revered leader of our time to be erected at St Matthews.

Calata was from Rabula village, Keiskammahoek and a student leader at St Matthews High School.

He later became a priest at the historical St Matthews Church. Now the memorial stone lies next to precincts of the missionary founders.

The Calata family is overjoyed by this symbolic act of honour because it has revived a reunion of the family that had disintegrated through circumstances.

Calata worked the longest time in Cradock and there became the man he was in politics. Calata was honoured when the ANC provincial offices were named after him.

Calata was but a humble village boy raised in poverty, he worked in poverty, struggled in poverty, and yet had a profound character that led by example and humility.

Many may ask why it was significant to create a monument for Calata? 

His grandson Lukhanyo Calata, said “it is only the beginning” of more things to come. Indeed, his life should be celebrated at his birthplace.

Finally, this historic event is an affirmation of what missionaries found in Africa: people of deep faith grounded in African religion.

The statue is a symbol of “the province of legends” during our lifetime not only of political icons but also profound religious leaders who lived in time and continue to live beyond time.

Calata, the politician is a struggle icon from humble beginnings, a teacher, and local rural parish priest who rose to fame because of determination to liberate SA.

Professor Lulama Ntshingwa is chair of the South African Council of Churches — Eastern Cape.



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