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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I’m an Artist

Frida Khalo

For the longest of time I had difficulty accepting that the label ‘writer’ could ever apply to me. What with all the worlds people such as Sello Duiker, Chimamanda Adichie, and Biyi Bandele have opened up for me. Worlds that I had a deep desire to immerse myself in, and have a drink with the characters as they share with me their deeper philosophies. Worlds of one individual’s creation, creating something out of nothing. Worlds that travel and open in their readers forgotten layers. Worlds that have been created in response to a buzz, an image, a sound, a smell, a touch, an outstanding sensuality, sensibility, and obedience. Worlds created out of sheer raw creativity.

I don’t struggle with using the label ‘artist’ to signify who I am. Being an artist is a sacred state of mind and state of being. I often hear writers talk about how they can only write when they are going through difficulty, and I can relate. When there is an immense depth of feeling, that is, when you delve into the darker corners of who you are, when darkness seems to threaten the lightness of your soul, you are called upon to explore that slice of life, for being a writer is exactly that: you cannot function without the lucidity of events, characters, context, and position. Every depth of feeling must be afforded a deep plunge, an acknowledgement, and articulation.

When you explore a depth of feeling, a most primal and raw emotion, it comes unaccompanied by language or reason; it is as it is, like a dream it presents itself as nonlinear and delineated from worldly order of events. It is an image a writer must trust and obey. Obedience is forsaking the ego and accessing a child-like state in the face of exploring that depth of feeling. This is how you can (re)create a world from a prelingual state—a piece of music can give way to the first words; an image, a painting, photograph, or poster can lend its grammars to your world; the silent beauty of nature can envelop you with sensuality that overwhelms you with vocabularies of creation.

However you must not only hear but listen. You must not only see but practice vision. Summon the third eye. You must employ the third eye to extrapolate from everyday life the nuances of what we have deemed normative. You must, in a most unassuming way, position yourself as a diviner—prick your ear to listen to the raw sounds that will respond to your raw feeling, align yourself with worlds that can burst open and broaden your own, and prise your heart open to levels of fluidity, constant motion and evolutions. Nature abhors stasis, as does art.

You must immerse yourself in art in order to be a creator of worlds. You must be sensitive and sensible to the pulse of creation. You must surrender to the rawness of drums, paint, light, saxophone, words, movement, clay, performance, marble, wood, charcoal, voice, feathers, and so forth; keeping in mind that for anything of value to come out, you must deplete and deconstruct. You must free these commodities from their conventional use and create a world for them to find another use that responds to your depth of feeling. The same goes for self. You must strip yourself to the most bare as to invite the royal robe of creativity to enshroud your naked senses. You must create!

My name is Uhuru, and I am a creator. I create art using wor(l)ds borne out of images, sounds, nature, movement, performance, piano, feelings, smells, motion, tastes, water, alphabets, light, … In this video below, Chimamanda invite us to create worlds of our own making, multi-dimensional worlds that are not as flat as the conventional everyday life depict. There are so many layers to who we are, and we must endeavour to plunge into those layers to recreate satisfactory images of who we are. If you don’t write your own story, someone else will draw misconceived conclusions about who you are. Writing your story can happen in various ways. Find your medium. Find a fitting interface between you and who you are. Create your world, create yourself.

Creation, Memory, and Desire

Image

You’ve heard me on numerous occasions stating that memory is not always fixed in the past, that memory is time entangled, that it does not follow any linear pattern, that it is enmeshed with futures and presents alike. Our bodies are trapped in a time-space continuum but our minds can perceive things that we cannot touch in real life, our minds are able to construct in detail the desires of our hearts. Our minds are free to roam any space and time: we can see ourselves in distant geographical areas unseen by our eye (but seen by our third eye), and we can perceive a moment that is still to come, in our minds.

The mind is a powerful thing. The conscious mind works with the body; controlled by that space-time continuum that I spoke about. The conscious mind is related to logic and rationale, therefore you may not dare to defy nature and to go against the norm of everyday functioning. The mind however, is linked to the subconscious, or the higher self—the mind is linked to that part of you that can fly (in dreams); that harddrive of your existence where the power you were born with is still saved, where the limitations of the body are secondary.

In my everyday life I strive to let that higher self dictate the course of my passions and desires. How? I use my conscious mind as a recipient of input from my subconscious mind, so that the output or results may take place in real life. You have heard this before, somewhere, hidden beneath clichés. The mind, at least the conscious one, takes instructions from you in the form of your thoughts: if you choose to feel self-pity, your mind takes it as an order and makes it happen, you even start welling up; if you choose to go into a meeting and kick ass, the conscious mind takes that instruction and you go in there charged by positivity, you even notice others being infected by your energy. We give our conscious mind instructions every living breath; it is up to us to keyboard in some positivity.

ImageWhen I was writing my Masters I was full of confidence; I was writing on an issue I loved, I had great command of my subject, I had full financial support from the university, and I had the capacity to do it. I was left to my own devices to write it in two years and hand it in. I was very confident but I had moments when I whimpered with fear and sat in a corner. In those moments I would imagine failing and having so much money and time to pay back to the university. We all have that, our moments of doubts. In those times, and many more, I changed the narrative in my mind, I keyboarded to my subconscious mind a very clear picture of my graduation day, where the Dean would say once again (said during my Honours graduation), “With distinction, Uhuru Mahlodi Phalafala”; I would feel the emotions of walking the planks proud of my achievements; I would feel the intensity of that moment so much that I would cry each time (and I re-lived this moment a lot in my mind).

I used my subconscious mind to access a future, I freed my mind to function outside of a time-space continuum. I released my mind to go secure the future for me. I arranged to detail the ongoings of that day. I saw that graduation gown, I saw the eyeliner causing a callous mess on my face; it was real. In my future memory I am finished with my PhD and am Dr. Phalafala-Smit; I just have to get through writing it in physical time and space. This is my life. A life lived without fear, a life of courage. A life of faith. With faith and the power of my mind (which I was born with and which in inherent in every one of us), with my higher self I managed rope into being and existence an otherwise abstract thought. I brought it onto my lap, within reach—when the letter arrived to say I would indeed graduate with distinction, I wept because I nurtured that vision like a child, I treated it as delicate as it was, and moulded it into a strong physical existence. I was in charge.

This is my life belief system: I believe in myself before anything else; I believe in the higher self that has consistently shown itself to me; I believe in the power of my mind; I believe! That is the first hurdle, to believe. Once you believe, you can conceive, and consequently achieve. Start forming a different narrative in your head; send detailed and real life images to your subconscious mind and let it take care of the rest, through faith. Live a life without fear or doubt, and use the treasures and magic of your higher self to conclude meetings before they even happen. Take control of your magic, own your treasures, and set your mind free…