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

My Brother’s Keeper

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Dearest brother

On your birthday: 1 July 2014

I should like to start off by quoting from one of my favourite pieces of fiction, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, by Milan Kundera: “The brain appears to possess a special area which we might call poetic memory and which records everything that charms or touches us, that makes our lives beautiful … Love begins with a metaphor”; and add to that words of wisdom which you imparted onto me: success is not success if it’s not in service of others. On your birthday today I wish to praise the eternal power you have in my poetic memory, coupled with your enduring integrity.

The power that lies in human interaction is a visceral kind of knowing. When two people interact they do so from individual histories whose axis run into the present, informing how they engage and present themselves to their interlocutors. It is a special kind of disposition for me to know that we have shared histories that perpetually cut through the tapestry of time, and perpetually finds entanglement and encounters in poetic memory. You have an enduring presence of love in my memoric archive. You have shaped everything I am, and continue to be a paragon of morality, values, principles, and integrity in my life.

Maya Angelou aptly asserted that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. I should like to deviate from her full assertion and profess that those who share their treasures with us, those who touch us with their rays of light, and those who make our lives beautiful by adding rich layers and vibrant textures to it—those people, such as yourself in my life—your words are never forgotten, your actions are a moral campus, and your presence in my poetic memory and life an unfolding metaphor of love.

You embody love, and are love; love in its purest form as devoid of judgement, measure, reason, ego, spite, and hierarchy. This would be the denotations of selflessness, and that’s what you have been in my life. I cannot speak of my own greatness without anchoring it in your patience, compassion, honour, and integrity. My successes are results of the sweat on your brow and your service. Your life is a motivation to me and others to live full lives of servitude as students of humility and discipline. On this day here, your birthday, I wish to say to you: you have touched my life in a magical way that can only inspire magical outcomes. I am well on my way, and my path shall forever entangle and encounter yours, in servitude and gratitude.

I wish to bestow all the bright stars in your constellation of greatness: may your path be forever illuminated by their sacred light.

Loving you now, and forever,

Your sister

XXXXXXX

Find out what my other favourite novels of all time are here:

https://uhurumahlodi.wordpress.com/2013/12/17/books-food-for-my-mind/

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My Heart doth Overfloweth

My dear reader,

ImageI would like to thank you so wholeheartedly for journeying with me on this healing process. On the 19th of January I decided to start writing a blog for various reasons: I consider myself a writer, which is a label I don’t take lightly and it has taken me over six years of writing to finally, although hesitantly, adopt the label. When I thought about the kind of writing I was doing, it dawned upon me that I only wrote academic essays. It was then that I decided to write creatively, from my heart. I did not suspect that it would have the kind of effect it has had on my general wellbeing and livelihood.

As you may know by now, my best friend passed away tragically in February. Without the support of my husband, family, and close friends, I am not sure I would have survived that primordial pain. They helped shaped a well from which I could draw strength. They were my rock! My blog helped me make sense of my pain, live it, relinquish it from my heart, and survive it. The power of words has helped to redeem me from a jungle of disappointment, hurt, and anger.

Writing this blog has helped me reclaim a lost innocence, rediscover my passions, overcome terrible pain from the past, and smile with my heart again. My innocence was lost yes. I no longer stopped to smell the jasmine, to borrow from a friend Farris’ phrase. I hesitated to celebrate the small victories of my life, I overlooked blessings, I took for granted the very roof on my head, I gobbled up my ice cream too quick, I kissed in a hurry, I bought a lovely pair of shoes and forgot about them the next hour, I ate mindlessly, doing so as duty as opposed to enjoyment. The latter became my mode of existence: duty and not dedication. Writing again has helped me live in moments, eradicate anxiety, celebrate myself, and well-up at the sight of bees dancing with sunflowers.

Writing this blog has led me closer to my true self. I have experienced firsthand the drastic shifts in my outlook, my inlook; I have considered with close attention the smallest of things that make all the difference, like the health benefits of foods, teas, gardening, herbs, whole spices, and meditation. I have learnt a lot in trying to share with you my limited knowledge of Eastern healing through eating medicinal foods geared at balancing one’s chakras; this blog has helped me want to do more research and provide you with accurate information. Writing this blog has developed in me a keen interest in human behaviour, biology, science, and philosophy. I have been happier, healthier, wealthier, and increasingly blessed for having taken a decision to write again on that January afternoon.

However, my dear reader, I would love to extend knowledge that has dawned upon me that without you reading this blog it would have probably generated a different kind of fulfilment in me. I am so grateful for your time—many people don’t have the attention span to read through a newspaper, never mind the ramblings of a free spirit—and your comments, and your feedback. It touches me most when someone writes to me to say anything at all about how my words have resonated with them. I am healed first by writing these words, so I get fulfilment, courage, and strength when I hear that the same healing has occurred elsewhere.

Therefore I would like to thank you so very much. May we continue to journey together; and may you feel encouraged to leave whatever emotions, responses, feedback, or even a ‘hi, how are you’, in the comment box. I promise to engage with your actively. I would love to know who reads my blog (I have a statistics tab that shows me where in the world it is being read, and I am constantly amazed by the disparate regions worldwide)—please just drop me a line, especially if we know each other, and say howdy! Travelling is mostly exciting but can also get lonely. I’d love to hear from you more.

ImageI truly wish you more peace in your head, in your life, and in your heart. I wish you light, as opposed to darkness, and also as opposed to heaviness. I wish forgiveness to envelope your heart. I wish you release from whatever may be imprisoning your heart and soul. Over and above, I wish you love,

Uhuru

X

P.S I encourage you to write, write, write! Time is ephemeral…