Reconfiguring the Distorted…

Wangechi

When we last spoke I had wings where there were once shoulders; wings borne out of taking flight, soaring, and surfing the winds of itinerancy. My life has been fluid, like water, ebbing and flowing according to the calling of my heart. I obeyed and approached the fires that refined my passions. I have pricked my ears to listen, and I have prised my eyes open; I have been alert in order not to miss the divine appointments, and I have been abundantly rewarded, spirit and soul, with treasures that can never find expression here.

My ears have translated the sounds of all which call me from a place of passion, courage, hope and faith, without which all of this seems illusionary. The very palpable nature of the voices I hear root these otherwise ephemeral experiences. I have heard them. I have seen that which defies logic, that which goes beyond ones and zeros of this world; beyond rational. I have seen magic woven in my everyday existence. I have embraced what my eyes have seen without any doubt, and I have been abundantly nurtured.

My voice now strives to be heard, and I am called to the divine appointment of being an educator, a teacher, and an interlocutor. I heard and saw the calling with my third eye and ear – pricked, prised, sensitive, sensible and most sensuous. I am called to clear my throat chakra and speak in response to my passion. NOW. Poetry—the fluids that quench deserted thoughts; the echo that resounds generations past; the source of unbreakable resolve in my life—is calling me. It spoke through the heroic voice of former South African poet laureate Mazisi Kunene:

I possess a thousand thundering voices

With which I call you from the place of the sinking sun.

I call you form the shaking of branches

Where they dance with the tail of the wind.

You are the endless abundance

Singing with the lips of all generations.

You are like a trunk lush with branches in the lake

Whom the feller of woods felled in vain,

But sprouts with new buds in summer.

When it is loaded with fruit he comes again

And eats to saturation desiring to end its seasons;

But again and again the branches shoot forth with new seasons.

I am in a place of lack, of demoralisation, of defeat, and of hunger and thirst. I am in a place where those who speak to us from the place of the sinking sun are rapidly forgotten. The sun is sinking and setting upon us. We need its light. We need its warmth, its guidance, and its reassurance. I eat to saturation from the abundance left as our legacy.  With that abundance nurturing me as a teacher, educator, and interlocutor, I have accepted the calling and divine appointment to be possessed by those thousand thundering voices that I have heard, seen, and will now speak of.

My work in its entirety in is conversation with the endless abundance which sing with the lips of all generations: Keorapetse Kgositsile, Ilva McKay, Mongane Serote, Mazisi Kunene, Dennis Brutus, Barbara Masekela, Mandla Langa, James Matthew, and many others whose voices echo the politics of Solomon Mahlangu, Bantu Biko, Moses Kotane, Duma Nokwe. This is our history which has not found its rightful place in the post-94 curriculum, and which I have accepted the calling to take to the youth in ways whose nature can only be anointed. The forces of a truth whose time has come cannot be stopped.

I travelled the breadth of the United State of America unearthing and collecting—exhuming—to bring home, the work of our exiled fathers and mothers; the stench of their sweat and the haunting darkness of their blood which they spilled for us to take and respond to in our lifetimes. These voices call us and they must possess us. I am honoured to have had the opportunity to access these resources which I have now brought home, and urged to bring to you. This is a bountiful and anointed abundance, not a reckless one.

Without the clarity of our history we cannot have clarity of vision. However, we can never be defeated as a people, for like a trunk lush with branches in the lake, we will sprout with new buds in summer. No matter how big the sledgehammer it cannot orbit the sky. Our promise of abundance is surely coming. I am now putting forth this message. I want to teach poetry from exile to all youth who are willing to receive it. I call those in care of youth to share this with them; to invite me to share with them their beautiful history which will surely have them thinking differently about themselves. I call all educators and NGO directors to employ my services. For free; by divine appointment.

I am a PhD candidate in Literary Studies at the University of Cape Town, and have, in my ownership and potentially larger ownership of my people, endless books out-of-print and rare, footage of interviews I have conducted with prominent South African and American writers, multi-media resources, and 5 solid years of teaching experience from the University of Witswatersrand and UCT. I am the change I want to see in our teaching curriculums, and the time for it is NOW. Invite me for a chat on uhurumahlodi@gmail.com I await all of your response.

To heal, reconstruct, redefine, and reassert our greatness…

When I was in Oakland, California last year in October, I accepted the invitation to teach young students of the Oakland Art School. I was initially concerned by the age group as my teaching experience is with youth adults of 19 years old or older. However they were very receptive and responsive, fascinated by the histories of black South Africa and black America. This inspired me to engage with the youth from my own country, and open up channels for them to learn the extent of the struggle which our mothers and fathers found themselves broiled in.

When I was in Oakland, California last year in October, I accepted the invitation to teach young students of the Oakland Art School. I was initially concerned by the age group as my teaching experience is with young adults of 19 years old or older. However they were very receptive and responsive, fascinated by the histories and relationships of and between black South Africa and black America. This inspired me to engage with the youth from my own country, and open up channels for them to learn the extent of the struggle which our mothers and fathers found themselves embroiled in.

THRIVE!!

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What the humanities teach you on ground level, 101, is that everything we perceive is informed by our contexts. The way we see everything is determined by where we are positioned in life, our values, principles, and morals; in short our backgrounds. We are born as roaming souls unmediated by fear and prejudice; blank canvasses that seem open to new colours, shapes, textures, smells, borders, tastes, dimensions and meaning. But just how much does society—from familial, to communal, to national, to global—offer that to us, and how successful is the project of socialisation?

I’ll tell you something that I have observed in my short existence here. What we see is perpetually marred by subjectivity. Shall we agree on that? Every human being who has come of age at least, is subjective as a result of the project of socialisation. Our canvass is no longer blank, and we have our peculiarities that make us unique and others that link us through similarities in this human diaspora. For instance society celebrates a kind of ‘special’ breed of people and when you fall within that breed you tend to be marred by subjectivity when engaging with those who don’t fall within your kindred. The opposite also applies.

Consequently, every human is capable, and is indeed in perpetual practice of prejudice. There are of course exceptions to this rule. Subjectivity breeds prejudice, and it is most difficult to be objective; that is, it is difficult to position yourself in a state that does not match or flow seamlessly with your context/background. It is difficult to understand that which you are not accustomed to. It seems impossible to understand that which does not fall within the category of the familiar, safe, comfortable, common, recognizable, and indeed secure. Understanding. The word itself suggests a subscription to an existing blueprint. It suggests a typical categorising of thought patterns which comforts our view of the unlikely, and boxes them in neat patterns that are cohesive with our contexts.

The exception to that rule of prejudice borne out of subjectivity is exercising an enduring overstanding of situations outside our contexts. Yes, it is the acceptance of difference and acknowledgement that difference is only different because of our positionings. From where you are standing, in your entirety, something else is different to you only because it is not standing in your position. Therefore, you are also different to another person. How do you become the exception? By overstanding. To overstand is to usurp a pre-existing blueprint of human behaviour. To overstand is to reject a typical categorisation of our perceptions of how the world should be. To overstand is to cherish the open-endedness and cultural flows of time and space. To overstand is to nourish the unlikely, the fresh and the new; it is a harvesting of self-confidence in knowing that the new in its unfamiliarity is not unsafe, uncomfortable, or dangerous. To overstand is to stand over insecurities and celebrate difference (in its sameness).

If we exercise a positive outlook on this ‘new’ or this ‘different’, we will realise that we all belong to the fine diaspora of humankind, and that our nation states are arbitrary labels to something bigger than just existence. Race, creed or sexual orientation are but secondary to the primal feelings of being alive, belonging, loving, and surviving. Yes, we are perpetually marred by subjectivity, but it is best to exercise a positive outlook so we may overstand the challenges that this perpetually evolving and changing world pose to us. Besides, chasing safety, familiarity, and one kind of truth is so very medieval… Being the same as others notwithstanding!

***We are all prejudiced but we can thrive.