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 ) 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


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


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


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


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


…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


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 🙂


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


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


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


The student becomes the teacher. The interviewee becomes the interviewer


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…


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Ipeleng Aneb Kgositsile


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.


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


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


My lens caught this wonderful child


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…


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


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


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.


Le Inspiration

My definition of living a full life is living in service of others. Let’s not mistake servitude with subservience—those are the exploitations of today’s capitalist world bent on constructing a pecking-ordered society instead of a communal and symbiotic one—servitude is a humble disposition that finds its source in those of light, discipline, humility, faith, and courage. Living a full life is using self as inspiration to others; it is sharing your inner light with fellow sentient; it is the perpetual resort to the third eye that connects our higher beings: respect for every fellow human, not only listening to them but hearing them, not only seeing them but acknowledging them; it is the virtue of honouring everyone’s right to freedom and integrity; a strength to expand and accept in your heart others’ differences; and an open heart that can offer a sanctuary to the downtrodden. A full life is that of servitude: in service of your body-temple, in service of your Qi and chakras—this brings about lightness, as opposed to both darkness and heaviness; in service of the god in others—this bring about discipline to honour your words and actions; in service of your dreams/vision with ultimate recognition of their service to others—this is the seat of humility and courage, for without fear we are propelled by faith, in whose company we are but humble and guided by our higher selves; and in service of the triumphant DNA of our ancestry, in whose wisdom we shall be guided and protected, in our dreams, our consciousness, and our divine paths…

And finally, don’t let the destructive behaviour of others destroy your inner peace!

Le inspiration1

Le inspiration2

No Creativity Without Inspiration

When you do what you love, a world of possibilities opens, and the universe strings together messages and signs to imbue you with a sense of validation. If you have been reading this blog you will know that I live by the philosophy of creating: I believe that we are all creators; we all have the ability to create something from nothing; to pick up a tool and breathe life into it, creating works that will function to synchronise with evolution and progress. It is the nature of humans; it is human nature, and we are nature—therefore, just like nature we need to sprout, blossom, grow, give birth to growth, and surrender to the cyclic nature of time. We need to blend in the solar systems, animals, plants, and water until we reach a consistent emulsification.

How do we submit to the cyclic nature of time? By knowing that we are but a sand particle in the larger beach front of life; by investing our time in collapsing the various arrogances that perpetuate difference in society; by breaking down our own barriers and prejudices and realising that in the larger scheme of things, we are all human and all humans must be afforded dignity and self-worth. Surrendering is the first step of threading a significant and pertinent chain that connects us all and makes us realise that inasmuch as we are all capable of creating, there is no creation without inspiration. The cyclic nature of time allows us to have a clearer vision of self without the pomp and grandiose of superiority: we may be blossoming now, but the winds of change shed the petals, “rough winds do shake the darling buds of summer”, and we shall be forced to rely on the basic tenets of humanism in winter.

I have digressed majorly, however, these words are my philosophies and religion, and they are precisely the key that opens the many worlds I find myself inhabiting. My creative world has gravitated significantly, and is orbited by serendipitous acts of formidable humans—they anchor me and sustain my dream and drive with voracious nourishment. There is a charged sacred space where everything seems synchronised and choreographed: out of your hands and in the rhythms of life; you a subject and object of your own desires, surrendering to the pulse of your own creation. That space is sacred, and it takes work on the self to be able to access this space. It is an equally challenging and validating space that promises rewards if you invest. I am in that space. So let it be.



I cried and cried when I watched Lupita Nyong’o receive her gold statue of the highest accolade. Why? Because my life work is research anchored in black history, from colonialism, apartheid, and slavery. I’m still flabbergasted when I think that Africa has been thought of as a dark continent without any kind of value to global development; that explorers like Hegel concluded that there is no culture or beauty from this strange continent riddled with mysticism and the supernatural; that black people at some stage, and perhaps even today, were/are thought of as commodities and bodies of labour; that no worthy thought patterns were/is associated with black people; that oppressing and dehumanizing black people was once institutionalised; and that the apartheid education system taught me Home Economics (cooking, sewing, baking) so that one day I may be an inglorious maid in a white suburb!

Watching ’12 Years a Slave’ take the Oscar for Best Picture and stunning Lupita snatch the Best Supporting Actress award in L.A. taught me that everyone has the freedom to dream, no matter our circumstance. As Lupita said in closing her acceptance speech, “no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid”. Growing up as a second class citizen, only allowed to timidly enjoy the city during certain stringently-controlled hours, receiving inferior education, walking for seemingly unending kilometres to get to Primary School, and watching our fathers be emasculated by the brutal system; I sure as hell did not wither nor fail to dream. It’s been a grave injustice having the colour of your skin cast you in cages of incompetence, primitive, ugly, backwards, unkempt, uncivilised, and many other undesirables. But I’m happy to report, we are history-makers! Our stories will not wither at the  back of Pleasure Avenue; we will always find a voice through our unbreakable resolve. We will seize every opportunity to thrive, precisely because the world once proclaimed that we are unworthy of success…

I will stop there. Congratulations to Steve McQueen (the first movie by a black director to win the prize in 86 years of the Oscars) and team: everyone deserves not just to survive, but to live!




Obey Your Calling


When you do what you love a world of possibilities reveals itself to you. When you make decisions about your life from looking inside—from learning what kind of spirit steers the body you are in—and obeying that tiny whirl of desire you have, expanding it and making it a resource and source of passion, all will be revealed in measured pace.

When you make life decisions by looking outwardly first you tend to obey current trends and somebody else’s idea of who you are, and what you can be. It is possible to find a world of possibilities on this path, but it is ultimately your exclusive voice, passion, desires, and resolve that will fuel you to give it your all, and make a sound contribution to what you do.

I come from a generation where most of us did not have the fortune of options and choice. Given our recent history, most of us had to study and work in industries that were not necessarily our passion, but a way to celebrate a new-found freedom by seizing new opportunities. Most had to, and still have to, support their families and alleviate their impoverished backgrounds.

I was most fortunate to spend valuable time looking inside of myself, and learning the nitty-gritties of who I am, and where I want to be (mostly because my parents could not afford to take me to university). The former was more important. Once I figured out who I am, despite all the failures and shortcoming in my school years, I realised that I had dreams, and I had talent. I started working from inside out. I exerted who I am to the world…

Studying literature was my calling, but I didn’t know what on earth I was going to do with such a mostly-leisurely subject. I followed my heart and listened to my own voice with a keen ear. I allowed my spirit to steer my thought and my movements. The world started revealing itself to me. It continues to do so. This week a world of possibilities opened, and I am rejuvenated and drunk with enthusiasm.

The work that I do is ordained. It is a true calling that birthed who I am. There was no walking away from this passion. The more I walk closer to it, the more it gives to me. I have no kind of ego in place that blinds me from seeing what is being revealed to me. I am obeying this journey—it is my master, and I am an obedient learner.

There is no greater joy and fulfilment in my life than feeling, sensually—hearing, touching, tasting, smelling, and seeing—the textures, contours, colours and depths of my capabilities; and constantly being pleasantly surprised at who I can be and what I can do. It is a matter of passion, hard work, faith, and courage.

I testify to you now: if you heed the calling of your voice, if you obey your talents, if you sow the seeds of your desires, if you look inside and not outside to find out who you can be, then you will harvest a world of possibilities. Prepare to be in a constant process of ‘being and becoming’, and make peace with not knowing where you are going, but instead trusting the coordinates of your exclusive life journey. It is not about the destination but the journey itself.

Contrary to popular belief, life is long and hard at times. You want to be living a life that fulfils you and creates a well from you to drink replenishing waters from…


It’s in your Hands…


Define your own path in life. The jewels and treasures of your own destiny lie in your hands. There is no pre-determined path, there is no fate, and there is no “meant to be” or coincidences. One of the core pillars of enlightenment and civilisation is the realisation that there is no one mapping out your life for you. You are the sole bearer of your life pole.

In defining you own path, you open up possibilities of miracles. Miracles are not magnanimous occasions where the clouds part and you read a message from heaven. No, miracles are defined in the precise moment when you recognise your power to create something out of nothing; when you are an ingredient in the alchemy of evolution and progress, when you start with an idea to create prospects of growth tomorrow.

It all starts with using what you have to change the direction of your life. Make a decision to make that call. NOW. Often times we create strong walls that stand between us and our dreams: we imagine that if we want to do that photojournalism course we would have to save R100 000 because it means we must quit our jobs to sustain ourselves while focusing on the task at hand.

How about reconfiguring your mind and using that same keen sense of foresight to project different possibilities and outcomes to your perceived shortcomings? How about rerouting the same energy to build a wall between you and your dreams, and using it to building an unbreakable resolve and aptitude to face the task at hand NOW, with passion, faith, and courage; and getting to R100 000 one day at a time?

Sense and sensibility tells us there is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow (is there a rainbow?), there is no millionaire waiting to fund our dreams. The difference between finding your true voice and trusting to follow it, and deciding to lie dormant in the shroud of fear, lies solely in our hands. As an adult there should be no one commanding you; you are the captain of your own ship.

ImageDefine your own path:

  • Make that call. You will be surprised by the number of people who listen intently when you speak with a clear voice. They are readily willing to hear you, and help you.
  • Look around you. Don’t find yourself under-utilising your resources. When you have friends or people who are where you wish to see yourself, approach them and ask for mentorship. Nobody is going to awaken you to your own capabilities except yourself.
  • Take leaps of faith. It is better to have tried and failed than to live in the regret of knowing you never gave yourself a chance.
  • Don’t act big: always assume that what you know is but a sand particle in the larger beach front of life. Open yourself to learning, NOW, and all the time. Research about where you want to be, and set yourself reasonable goals.
  • If you have a dream, write a proposal. Write about what is it you want to do, how, when, where, and why. This exercise should be primarily for self—to lay out a clear and terse project in your mind before you make it manifest in the world.
  • Always research funding for what you want to do. I speak from personal experience when I say there is funding for almost everything. If you need help, ask for it. We are beyond ego at this stage. I hope.
  • Make that call. You never know. I am where I am today because I just decided to make that call. I got over projecting how the call would end, and just got on the real task of putting myself out there.
  • And finally, dream big but start small. If you want a restaurant, start with a sandwich bar.

I really love the above short documentary about reclaiming your life (even though it’s a Guinness ad). By any means necessary… It’s in your hands