Since the emergence of an Black middle class in the mid to late 19th century there have been iconic publications that have expressed the aspirations and the views of this section of the Black populace. It is not that the other sections of Black people could not identify with these aspirations but in my opinion what made them special is that these publications often carried a mixture of contradictory impulses. While they were nationalistic they were also cosmopolitan, they were published by the elites but claimed to speak for the majority of Black people. Amongst these these were Imvo Zabantsundu and Ilanga laseNatali. Tribute Magazine belongs to this illustrious lineage of publications.
Throughout the 90’s this magazine certainly articulated the hopes of the aspirant Black population. My only gripe with it is that it tended to universalise what Black people ought to aspire to. The ostentatious display of wealth often displayed in this glossy magazine, I thought, tended to alienate readers who did not subscribe to the same idea of success or Black advancement.
In retrospect the value of this Tribute was to offer a counter narrative of Black life to what publications such as Bona and Pace had to offer. After a near-death experience in 2003 the magazine was brought back from the brink of extinction in 2006.
Sadly, the grim reaper just won't leave Tribute alone. Even though Tribute may be well and truly dead now (we certainly hope this is not the case) its philosophy and legacy lives on in more recent publications such as Baobab and Afropolitan (whether their publishers admit it or not).
While we mourn the loss of another quality publication we must wonder why such publications seem to have such a limited shelf-life.