Debrief After A Literary Pilgrimage

How do I start a gratitude piece for all the bountiful harvest that I have partaken in? That is the question that has been pushing me closer and closer to debriefing from a truly magnificent and perfect-in-every-form-ten-week-whirlwind of an American rendezvous. Well, as the trip fully and without any compromise demonstrated to me, perhaps I should start by thanking myself for the sheer tenacity, determination, courage, faith, and pure passion that has driven me to be still and hear, and be fully awake to see the signs as they presented themselves to me; to have trusted my perception instead of doubt it; to have shunned any inkling of doubt or fear; and to have honoured my own voice that has consequentially led me to my own truth.

I feel validated in my beliefs, gratified by my journey, closer to my relentless vision, and inspired to be extraordinary. I have seen in clear daylight the intensity of my own power; the unparalleled spark of possibility lying, dormant, seeking engagement with those driven by pure intentions to be creators in their own worlds; the spontaneous combustion between possibility and determination, initiative and faith, knowledge of self and passion; and the sheer magic that can be woven and witnessed in one whose higher self is in direct alignment with self. I am now possessed by a thousand thundering voices that speak with me, and through me. Where I once had shoulders I now have wings…

I am now more certain that ever that we are one with all living entities; the earth and its magnificent solar systems (this is no joke; the full moons and mercury in retrograde had me in full grips, begging for ‘normality’), the animals, plants, and human beings all form a cosmic and holistic part of who we are. I only exist because of all those living things. And there is no living without the dead—the persistent balance and harmony of life—so I have tasted the sweetest connections of them all; being awake in more worlds than this physical one; hearing, seeing, and feeling the intensity of the moment; but most importantly, trusting the moment and taking notes that I consequently use as a blueprint of my vision and dreams. Let no one succeed in convincing you your physical body is all you are!

I have grown spiritually, emotionally, mentally, intellectually, and cosmically on the literary pilgrimage I took from Amsterdam to New York, to Washington DC, to Chicago, to San Francisco/Oakland/Berkeley, to Los Angeles; following and being followed by the footstep of a sage whose guiding hand, embrace, and mentorship—felt, heard and seen without his physicality—has led me to treasures of my own soul, of the larger cosmic world of our people, of the South African literary landscape, and of the broader black diaspora. The magnitude of the alchemy on this trip is to be fully experienced in the forthcoming months of writing this dissertation, this book, and producing this documentary. I have grown creatively too. I am decidedly embroiled in the cosmic world of the arts, where being a writer has so seamlessly and without any fear or favour led me to being a filmmaker: an art form that I have enormous respect for.

I trust myself more than ever. I am not the chosen one, but I chose myself to be the one for this task. Perhaps I should rephrase and say InI (I and eye—third eye perception and reception. I’ve explained this in detail here https://uhurumahlodi.wordpress.com/2013/03/15/ini-self-n-divine-self/ ) chose myself; perceived of self as capable, and received the ordained calling as my own. As the wisdom of the elders does state clearly, we exist in duality, like any product of nature and life—the yin and the yan, the body and the life force, the physical and the metaphysical—must be in unison. My life force and metaphysical self, the other ‘I’ in InI, are now lounging languidly with my physical self, at one, in perfect harmony, pregnant with larger-than-my-physical-body possibilities. My voice is stronger than ten weeks ago, and my resolve is only perfectly demonstrated by the image of being possessed by a thousand thundering voices. I move because I am moved…

What follows is a continuation of a photo essay that started here

https://uhurumahlodi.wordpress.com/2014/09/16/the-golden-years/

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I travelled to Washington DC to interview poet, legendary jazz critic and literary historian A.B. Spellman, who was warm and happy to walk down memory lane with me

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Karen Spellman was an active member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which Keorapetse Kgositsile joined seamlessly when he arrived in the States

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I went to meet my mentor, Professor James Miller, at the George Washington University. He was the first person who ever introduced the term ‘Black Atlantic’ to me at Wits in my Honours year, and I have been dreaming about conducting research in this field since he ran a fascinating course mapping the similarities in black South African and black American cultures in the 20th century

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Fall/Autumn is pumpkin season and America has quite a family of them I tell you. All shapes, colours, textures, sizes, and flavours…

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…but what do you do with so much pumpkins? Well, they have all kinds of pumpkin yumminess like pumpkin chai tea/coffee, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin pie, pumpkin waffles, etc. Pumpkin chai tea with hot milk really moved me to tears

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Of course while I was in town I thought I’d pop in and have tea with my girl Mitchelle, but the security guards had something else on their minds. They’ve since been fired 🙂

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Maybe something major was happening at Mitchelle’s house! I mean snipers on top of her house?? Really??

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The area between Capitol Hill and Lincoln Memorial gave way to an area of feeling deep in my heart. I was filled with all kinds of conflicting emotions from disgust to triumph

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I really really love how artists engage with the city, especially at the Washington Square in New York. It is a beautiful square with all kinds of artists, and they are well-respected if the tipping is anything to go by

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The student becomes the teacher. The interviewee becomes the interviewer

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On my last night in NYC I managed to score tickets to a Talib Kweli performance. What an amazing experience to hear him, feel him, and be entertained by him in his native New York…

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Kweli is a lyricist extraordinaire, and I was pleased that the sound at the legendary Blue Notes did justice to his flow

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I have been to quite a lot of jazz performances and festivals, but never have I seen a trumpeter display such barbaric devotion to his instrument – breaking all the rules

Common Sense Concert

I arrived in Chicago on the 20th September, and the next day I prepped to dance away at this dream line up. The special guest was Kanye West, and I have to admit that I absolutely enjoyed his performance despite my better judgement of the man

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In Chicago I managed to link up with my brother Ignatius from Polokwane. It was great to speak Sepedi in Chicago and crack ourselves over the mundane and magical

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Sterling Plumpp – the man who made almost everything worthwhile. He led me in the right direction and guided me gently into the very dense jungle that is the political and cultural life of Keorapetse Kgositsile. I am forever indebted to him

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During this interview with Keorapetse Kgositsile’s daughter, Ipeleng Aneb Kgositsile, we were visited by fireflies, hummingbirds, and butterflies. It was beyond magical. In that hot Oakland weather I was suffering (with pleasure) from chills

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The way I loved the bay area – San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley – was truly special. It will forever remain my dream destination and crush address

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Don’t even ask! Okay, I’ll tell you. I went into a shop, looked around, and next thing I know there was an impromptu photoshoot and wine #hides

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The beauty of the bay area. It reminded me of Cape Town with all its beautiful hills and mountains, winelands, botanical gardens, and laid back culture

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I missed this documentary to celebrate 20 years of Illmatic the album, and as I was minding my own business buying books I came across this poster and immediately heeded the calling

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Ipeleng Aneb Kgositsile

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We caught Fourplay at the legendary Yoshi’s Jazz Bar in Oakland; one of the most reputable jazz bars in the world. The owner, Yoshi, is a Japanese beauty of soul and spirit whom I’ve been fortunate enough to spend an intense afternoon with.

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The saxophonist and trombonist are from Oakland School of Arts, a public school where I have had the pleasure of teaching a literature lesson on Kgositsile. 51 Oakland, an NGO ran by Jason Hoffman and Yoshi, helps with putting arts and music back in public schools. These are the results of their work. These public school learners are playing with a legendary Latino band

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I felt the power of this NGO’s work. This youngster from a public school displayed so much skill on the trombone, and all the applause certainly gave him positive self esteem and motivation

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My lens caught this wonderful child

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Universe please conspire!! I need to live here, even if it is for a two year fellowship, or even better, getting a post at the Berkeley campus of the University of California…

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This is the NGO in discussion, 51 Oakland, and one of the co-founders Jason Hoffman. I met Jason through Ipeleng, and he was jsut so generous and kind enough to host me at his house during my stay in the bay area. There was something magical in our interaction, which has led me to my own treasures

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I helped out at the event where the students were playing; selling T-shirts and garnering support for the organisation. This has moved me to decidedly be more involved in the caring for others and making a difference in the less fortunate’s lives. A challenge I take on keenly

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Nugget #2

Uhuru sliceWe all have power we must not be tentative to use. We must not defer the responsibility for the power we possess. When we make an entrance into this world we break a silence and announce our arrival with our individual voice, here to stay. We tell the world that where there was space there is now energy. There is energy that I will be responsible for, and energy that will propel me from this child-state to great destinations. We are given names that point to that power; we are groomed to live up to that power; we are released to the world to invest in that power, sow it, reap it, and enjoy its fruits.

Power has not much to do with the ego. Where the ego strives to take over the pillar of power in your life, the true self diminishes. You are made of self (consciousness) and the true self (subconscious, metaphysical, transcendental, higher self); what can be understood as the physical body and the soul. The soul is energy that reverberates with our truth. It may reverberate through intuition, a power that nourishes our incompleteness; a power that charges our physical conscious thoughts and elevates them to a level of indisputable truth. Your truth, stemming from your authentic voice.

Therefore, the deferral of responsibility of our power, which may reverberate in various mediums atop intuition, is to defer the power of our true selves. It is the repudiation of our agency. This results in true death resonant in the following truth: everybody dies but not everybody lives. When you accept unaccountability for your own power you denounce the path of your life; you become a passive participant in your own life as opposed to a present divine force that has transcendental power to shape magic in your own life. If you have a name you have power; if you have a name you should have a voice, and consequently you should speak your truth and determine the cast that will mould your passions and dreams.

Nugget #5

KnowledgeThere are innumerable reasons for valuing knowledge of self, one of them being that you will recognise the insults from others as their personal insecurities as opposed to internalising them. I see no bigger reason for being here than knowledge of self. It is resonant in nature, which we are a part of, that we shall wake up every day, like cycles, and face the seasons of our lives with malleable energy and grace. Those who have absconded responsibility for their power will seek to come between you and your gracious journey, and when you are there, when you are so validated by the journey of your life, you will expose them as dull lights that seek to efface yours.

Furthermore, I wish to highlight that knowledge of self does not take very kindly to labels, since, like nature, we are ever-changing and ever-evolving. That is the nature of identity; it is not fixed and seeks no stasis. Defining oneself with labels can be very limiting and can, by abstraction, take away from the various facets of who one is. Self should strive to make self with uncaptured vocabularies of self, as opposed to have the world prescribe those vocabularies. I am therefore not woman or man, not homosexual or heterosexual, not black or white, not vegetarian or meat-eater, not normal or abnormal, not Christian, Rastafarian, neither am I human or animal, plant or moon—I do not strive to be accepted socially; I am content with being on a quest to be acceptable to myself.

Nothing But The Truth

van goghTruth is power. Truth is power precisely because truth cannot be disputed. You cannot wage a war against someone’s truth. Truth is a place of solace, of forthrightness, and conviction. To tell your truth is to stand firm in a sacred place of non compromise. To articulate your own truth is to exert your entire self in total humanity that lacks any holes or discrepancies. Truth is a practice in honour and self-love; it is a total regard and exaltation of self in the face of potential malfunction.

Lies are malfunction. Perhaps I should say not telling your truth leads to malfunction as lies are not exactly the opposite of truth. Lies are to be avoided altogether. Lies can be dissected and exposed for the malady they always posit. They are structured by impure intentions and only (mal)function to dim your light. They weigh heavily on a place of sanctity and self-worth in you so much that they can paralyse your inherent strength and lead to malfunction. Therefore lies are profane and vile, and can defile your soul.

Truth is liberating. There is no threat in truth, there is only truth. Truth casts a better light on self, and brings forth wayward solutions and enlightenment. Truth is a place where the thread that ties us together as humans takes roots. To tell your truth with conviction is to honour the divine in you and the divine in the recipient of your truth. In your particular resolve to be propelled by truth you are moved closer to your higher self, to a place of godliness achieved through purifying your temple in the baptism of truth.

Everyday encounters with others are not to be taken for granted. We open in ourselves doors that have potential to free others from their long-forgotten entrances to themselves. The access to self can be barred by the lies we tell since those lies distance ourselves from a place of truth where our true selves reside. There is no value in entering relationships built on lies for the only outcome is malfunction. You cannot hold someone who lies to themselves and to you accountable for a truth that emerges—as it surely will always surface—if you consciously entered into that contract based on lies. There was never anything truthful, pure, sacred, or honourable to begin with.

Be responsible for the energy you bring to others’ lives, and through that sensibility you will detect any malfunction that comes your way. Truth starts with self and is sustained through discipline, self-worth and self-respect. These are the pillars of self: knowledge of self and determination. One should wage a war with self in order to define their truth. Through discipline and determination you may carve your voice and distinguish it; without any resolve you can only extinguish your truth. When your truth is extinguished you get trapped in a perpetual lie and forsake your agency and simultaneously your right to be respected and loved—by self and others. Through concerted effort to omit your truth you are like s/he who sows seeds in the wrong season.

Let your truth heal you, empower you, and endow upon you an unmistaken voice of honour and wayward resolve…

While you’re at it, wash your ears with mama’s truth:          

For Thine is the Queendom…

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You are an intricate being that is unique and diverse in your own special way. Spirit asks that you be gentle with yourself and accept the delicate nature of who you are. The spiralling energy is here to remind you that there is a great power and strength in your softness and it is here to assist you in healing on all levels. It is also here to remind you that you are a divine being of light who is deserving as any other human being on earth. Smile and recognise your own authenticity and beauty in all your glory.

When I prick my ear to listen closer to my spirit—through plunging in its depth via movement, wellness, meditation, and belly laughs—it reminds me always to be gentle with myself in the process of exploring the unique and diverse tapestries of who I am: a fulfilling journey even in its partial darkness. Through that darkness, my own delicacy ripples through my essence and reminds me of my vulnerability; it is only then that I’m confronted with weakness and find the courage and faith not to shy away from my pain, but to stand up to it.

Faith47Growing up through and under apartheid—a system that sought to clip our wings before we could take flight; a system whose mandate was to distance ourselves from who we are, and from our greatness—has constructed a fallacy that being hard equals being strong. We grew up finding no value in our softness and gentleness, and in fact concealing the soft and the gentle in us; putting a lid on it in fear of being vulnerable. The consequences of internalised violence and hatred under apartheid, on both public and personal levels, still lies concealed and plastered by the hardness in us. It is never too late to recuperate.

There is no value to be found in masquerading gross masculinities or aggressive femininities. There is an urgent call for gentleness all around. We only perpetuate the apartheid narrative when we continue in its legacy of alienating ourselves from who we are, when we live in and through violence, and normalise it; when we are not honourable to ourselves and neglect our responsibilities to our neighbours, parents, and children. We have not found the courage and the faith to open the hardness born of pain in order to come face to face with that which threatens our inert humanity.

There is great power and strength in our softness that can assist us to heal on many levels. We have often been exposed to situations that called for strength born out of hardness, but when we recognise ourselves as divine beings we repudiate aggression and hapharzadous emotions that only serve as energy vampires. We have the power to harness strength born out of our gentleness and softness; out of a place of resolution, beauty, light, and determination. We can only move towards our inner light if we are light (not heavy, and not dark) ourselves. And there lies our divinity and glory.

BIllie Holiday2

Today I thought I’d honour Faith 47, the artist who painted the opening image – she’s a gentle street artist whose work of activism bring beauty to the otherwise ugly scars on the face of Cape Town and South Africa.

Also dedicated to my sister Madikana who sent me the first paragraph of this blog yesterday morning; forwarding it from her spiritual teacher…

Reflections on 2010 World Cup

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2010 was the best year of my life, yet. I had just met the love of my life in February, and we spent a romantic yet hectic-with-work 7 weeks together in Cape Town and surrounds; and had decided immediately that we want to spend our lives together. So I managed to allow love to spur me on, to the Dutch embassy in Pretoria to apply for my visa, and follow the love of my life to the northern hemisphere, missing the most important tournament to land on our beautiful shores.

The World Cup was being hosted in South Africa, and as a soccer lover—and I don’t mean soccer for the purposes of watching hot men chase a ball around; I can tell you the offside rule in my sleep—I felt immediate regret that I would not be able to partake in the merriment of what came to be known, in true character of our beautifully whimsical country, as Phillip: “Feel it, it is here”. I boarded a flight to Amsterdam to be reunited with my love.

I seem to remember that during my stay every television station was building up to the World Cup, which meant they broadcasted all kinds of documentaries on the state of South Africa; from its best features—“there’s all kinds of landscapes here: from the beautiful mountains of Cape Town, to jungle, desert, coastlines, wine farms, and tropical”—to the scars on the face of our promising economy—“Sandton, where the Dutch team will be living, is a stone throw away from the poorest slum in South Africa, Alexandra”.

WC4Being from South Africa in 2010 in Amsterdam caused much intrigue and interest. I immediately felt warm and welcomed, and realised that the Dutch are as crazy about soccer. The national colour, orange, and totem, the lion, were to be the motif of our summer. As you might already know, the Dutch team did extremely well in that world cup. I watched with wonder as van Persie, Robin, Kuyt, Snyder—man of the tournament—and the orange team strolled through their group clusters with much agility and dexterity.

The day ‘we’ beat Brazil the city of Amsterdam came to a standstill. Trams and cars were blocked by orange human traffic, and cops were only there to spur our celebrations on, as we danced with fever pitch excitement. It was exhilarating! Vuvuzelas pierced the air, much beer was flowing, and the country was united. There is also a big community of Ghanaians here, so there were celebrations all around. But time was distinguishing the best from the rest, and when ‘we’ qualified for the finals I really had new-found respect for ‘the boys’.

I remember the day of the final as clear as daylight: it was the 11th of July, and I was due to start teaching at University of the Witwatersrand on the 13th of July. We were on our way to the airport, me dressed in orange from head to toe, with sparkles in my eyes, and my heart dipping in despair: I was separating with my love and joy, and I was missing the world cup final—the first of which I had visceral investment in. My flight was connecting in Paris. In Paris I watched the game at the airport, and saw something new. The orange team were passengers on a Spanish flight. They were not going to win this time around! Why did I leave with Netherlands’ luck?

What was not coincidence was that I happened to miss, entirely, a once in a lifetime opportunity: the world cup being hosted in my country. These kinds of things always happen to me. You would have to live in South Africa to know that we are incredulously ridiculously and gluttonously fun- and soccer-loving. One had to be there to constantly feel the hair on their neck rising and the goose bumps. It must have been exhilarating. Even when South Africa was knocked out at early stages, we continued to celebrate our opening goal of the world cup.

What made my experience extra special is that I followed my heart for love, and ended up rewarded by spending the world cup duration in a country that made it to the finals. I left South Africa that took a deep refreshing breath of excitement in May, and returned during the exhale. I landed on the morning after the night before, and disappeared into the national hangover to teach starry-eyed 18 year olds. It was as if the world cup didn’t happen.

Now that was a special year…

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We say GOOD LUCK to Holland once more! Pity South Africa is not participating…

I also met my wonderful in laws during this visit. It was memorable...

I also met my wonderful in laws during this visit. It was memorable…

This song seems appropriate to kick start the 2014 world cup:

Purposeful Action

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Habits are born out of actions we do for at least five days in a row. That’s what I believe. Moreover, when your actions are purposeful, then you catch onto that habit holistically. If you have serious desires to find a job of your deepest wishes, eat healthier, exercise more, drink water, write a blog/thesis/book, or whatever else; you have to firstly concretise your reasons for wanting it so badly, which will give you purpose for going out there and getting it. You have to have hope, faith and courage to forsake most things and focus your energy on those wishes, and you have to come back to your own centre to be able to receive a clear voice that will guide you and propel you forward.

Once you want to change your life for the better, that’s exactly what it means, change! If you want to visit the gym regularly, you have to see what you can forsake in order to create time for that. If you want to lose weight you have to look at your eating patterns and see what to forsake. If you want to write you have to start with one sentence. How bad do you want it? What’s at stake? What is in the way of you getting it? And how much do you stand to equally lose and gain? Those are motivating questions to get you started. Growing up essentially means depletion: you will inevitably choose this over that—contrary to popular belief, there are enough hours in the day. We must focus on purposeful action.

I would like to take this opportunity to inspire you as much as you have inspired me to change my life. I have moved, in four weeks, from a lethargic, surly, and dull me to the best me I’ve ever known. I have allowed myself, in the past, to be swallowed by negative energy to a point where I thought I was melancholic (if you’ve ever watched Lars von Trier’s melancholia then you get it). This was a result of waking up tired, having a fuzzy cloud in my head, my body sore from sleeping for too long, and being generally dissatisfied with the course of my life. This led to bad eating habits and being a basket case to my husband.

One morning in January I woke up and knew exactly what to do (considering that my life was otherwise great, and actually quite privileged). I joined the gym and took up yoga lessons, stopped drinking and smoking, and started juicing and opting for healthier food choices. I am so dedicated to gym, and I cycle 17km’s in 40 minutes right now, and am going for glory; I have made that choice, I wanted it badly so I gave it my all for five days in a row, and now I cannot imagine spending a day without spinning and yoga. Yoga has been essential in unblocking my energies and helping me appreciate and celebrate my vision to write a sound thesis that will make a tremendous contribution to my field of study.

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Oatmeal with roasted sunflower seeds, topped with sliced nectarine, pecan nuts, blueberries, cinnamon, goji berries, and a dollop of plain yoghurt

I have always made good eating choices, but when you’re unhappy with yourself you have those days you scoff a rack of ribs unconsciously, not even paying attention to their taste or portion. Comfort eating it is called. But now I have found comfort in climbing mountains and hiking with friends, which allows for true meaningful connections that don’t involve alcohol. I have been inspired to eat more grains and seed, which all contribute to a fibre rich diet, which means rapid digestion, feeling regular, having high metabolism, and being energetic all day.

I’d like to share with you the best way to eat seeds, legumes, and fruits/vegetables every day (this was central to our ancestor’s diet). This is also great for your children; to start them from an early age so they can also pick up good habits of eating healthy and feeling energetic all day. My husband brought this habit into our home: have a salad with every evening meal. I would add to that and say, roast some seeds (pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, linseeds) and sprinkle them on your salad. Alternatively, you may roast those seeds and put them in your oatmeal for breakfast. Kids will love it too. Breakfast is the most important meal, that’s why mine looks this way. I also put pecan nuts, goji berries, blueberries, cinnamon, and seasonal fruit in my oatmeal. This is just full of bursts of creative energy. You want that wonderful energy will take you through the day.

Purposeful action <> Hope <> Faith <> Courage <> Resourcefulness <> Good Habits

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