Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

A Letter Signed by Steve Biko Is Up For Auction—and No One's Talking About It

The bidding starts at $3,000.

Another letter signed by Steve Biko will be auctioned Thursday, Nov. 16 (as in, tomorrow), with the bid starting at $3,000 by Los Angeles-based Nate D. Sanders Auctions.

The letter, dated Jan. 12, 1977, was written from King William's Town regarding the death and investigation of Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) member Mapetla Mohapi.

The South African government barred Biko from leaving King William's Town because it viewed the BCM as a threat and wanted to stop Biko from organizing anti-Apartheid activities around the country.

He requested permission to meet with Mohapi's attorneys regarding his inquest, since he died in police custody in 1976.

Biko wrote:

"I have been asked by the attorney representing the Mohapi family in the above matter to make myself available for consultations on the 16th January with their Counsel as well as attend the inquest which has been set down for the 17th and 18th January. / Kindly grant me the necessary permission to enter the premises of the King William's Town Magistrate's Court on the relevant dates and to attend the consultations, which will be held somewhere in King William's Town. I do not as yet know where exactly Mr Mxenge plans to have the consultation."

Months later, on Sept. 12, 1977, Biko was beaten to death by South African police forces.

Photo courtesy of Nate D. Sanders Auctions.

OkayAfrica touched base Wednesday with Nate D. Sanders Auction Manager Michael Kirk to inquire if any cultural establishment or the South African government has contacted the auction house regarding the letter.

"No official government entities have reached out to us," Kirk says.

He adds that he hasn't received much press requests about the letter at the time of our conversation. Kirk also confirms that the letter is authentic.

"It even has the stamp that it was received from the government," he says. "It's a unique item. Everyone of course knows Biko's name; that he was trying to get to the bottom of another activist's death—not knowing that he was going to experience the same tragic fate. It's a very poignant letter."

One would think letters such as this would be permanent fixtures in museums, or national archives. So, how would one put a monetary value on such a rare document?

"It's tricky," Kirk answers. "It's an imprecise science. What we often do is look and see what other items have sold in the past for a particular figure, and so there is generally a range that these things go for. However, it really depends on the content of whatever the object is; the context of what it is. You won't know until you put it up for auction what collectors value and what they're interested in."

Just last month, the National Heritage Council of South Africa tried to prevent a UK-based auction house from selling a letter signed by Biko in 1973.

"This will be a permanent loss to the country's national memory. The country will lose the piece of evidence to prove that freedom was taken away from even the most reputable leaders and activists at that time," the Council said in the statement. "We are not going to stand aside and watch the wealthy community exploiting our heritage. The Biko letter should be the property of the state."

Is this another piece of South African history where steps should be made to ensure its preservation?

Stay tuned for more updates.


Sarkodie Is Not Feeling Any Pressure

The elite Ghanaian rapper affirms his king status with this seventh studio album, No Pressure.

Sarkodie is one of the most successful African rappers of all time. With over ten years of industry presence under his belt, there's no question about his prowess or skin in the game. Not only is he a pioneer of African hip-hop, he's also the most decorated African rapper, having received over 100 awards from close to 200 nominations over the span of his career.

What else does Sarkodie have to prove? For someone who has reached and stayed at the pinnacle of hip-hop for more than a decade, he's done it all. But despite that, he's still embracing new growth. One can tell just by listening to his latest album, No Pressure, Sarkodie's seventh studio album, and the follow-up to 2019's Black Love which brought us some of the Ghanaian star's best music so far. King Sark may be as big as it gets, but the scope of his music is still evolving.

Sonically, No Pressure is predominantly hip-hop, with the first ten tracks offering different blends of rap topped off with a handful of afrobeats and, finally, being crowned at the end with a gospel hip-hop cut featuring Ghanaian singer MOG. As far as the features go, Sark is known for collaborating mostly with his African peers but this time around he branches out further to feature a number of guests from around the world. Wale, Vic Mensa, and Giggs, the crème de la crème of rap in America and the UK respectively all make appearances, as well as Nigeria's Oxlade, South Africa's Cassper Nyovest, and his fellow Ghanaian artists Darkovibes and Kwesi Arthur.

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