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.

Freedom, Not At The Cost Of Others!

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America is a great country, there’s no doubt about that. There’s abundance here, and the feeling of ‘Coming to America’ has not escaped me in my everyday move. Things are advanced—I tried to watch TV the other day, and just gave up on the idea: everything has become smart—smart phone, smart car, smart TV, smart house… But this is at the cost of some of America’s citizens, the rest of the world, and most importantly, our precious earth. I see abundance in the big cities I’m visiting. I am currently sitting at the historical site of Washington DC, between Capitol Hill and the Washington Memorial, and what I see is tourists of course, but also Americans jogging, doing yoga on the capital’s sprawling lawns, and generally living life with reckless abandon. Instead of having feelings of splendour wash over me, I am filled with contempt for the cost at which this ‘paragon of freedom and equality’ comes.

I was so very happy when South Africa introduced the law that plastic bags at supermarkets would be for sale, for a small amount. No matter the amount, people have taken to brining their shopping bags to pick up their groceries. I have no idea—and it escapes me constantly—why in the U.S. they would still give you plastic bags for free, and even double them for even the smallest package. This is one of the most dangerous material to the earth—it is not biodegradable—and to the animals who could eat it, suffocate on it, or get trapped in its handles (think of herbivores accidentally eating plastic; or the ecology of the ocean with plastic in it). I truly am dismayed by the free plastic bags in supermarket, in 2014, in, of all places, the U.S. of A.

It’s not only plastic bags; when you buy a sandwich or these overrated bagels, they come wrapped in foil. Foil?! Of all the material you can use you choose foil. It is even more dangerous than plastic, and mind you most people don’t even reuse it. In our house when we rarely use foil we reuse it until it is in tatters. It is that kind of material. This is also in recognising that it is one of the most toxic material to the earth. While at it, all the fast food joints, from the lower scale McDonalds/KFC/Burger King to the upscale healthy food outlets like Wholefoods/Trader’s Joe dispense unreasonable amounts of serviettes/napkins—no one would use those in one sitting. For most people, instead of returning them or receiving half of the batch dispensed to them for their one salad, they throw them in the bin?! It’s truly unbelievable!

Wangechi_Mutu_1295815950_0I see some of my more health conscious and green friends use jars and bottle jugs as glasses in their homes. I would absolutely do that at the rate everything is bottled in the supermarkets here. We ordered Mexican food and chocolate mousse, and the latter came in a glass bottle with a tin lid; like one of those valuable Consol bottles with metallic ring lids that our mothers kept and reused for decades. I imagine people eat their dessert and throw these away. Such waste! It is at this point that I wish to talk about African people and recycling. As our friend from TV once proclaimed: we’ve been having it! We are not hearing of reusing our plastic bags and bottle jars just today; in fact that was the order of life. These days we make it seems like recycling is for the educated elite with capacity to think critically of the consequences of their consumption to the planet. No ways man, recycling is not a luxury but a necessity. And boy did we know about necessity growing up under apartheid and colonialism.

When I grew up we used plastic bags from supermarkets to carry books to school. They suited and lived up to that function, and when they were worn out my grandmother would collect them and crochet plastic carpets for the house or veranda. In the village I grew up in you would be hard-pressed to find plastic littered on the ground. It was a commodity with many uses, and if found, could be utilised. I remember we used to buy homemade juice and mashwangshwangs—chillies or barbeque flavoured Nik Naks knock-offs—on our way back from school to enjoy on the long road home. The woman who sold these from her house would give you discount if you brought your own plastic or container to put juice or mashwangshwang. This meant if you saw these lying around your neighbourhood, you would pick them up and save them for later. I suppose this explain my high intolerance to littering even today.

We would reuse the tin that all tinned stuff—baked bins, pilchards, cling peaches, cream, condensed milk, etc—came packaged in. We would take the tin and vigorously frisk it over a brick until the tin is hot. This way the rim on top would be released neatly without leaving any sharpness on the top, making it a metal cup. We would then use this tin as storage for toothbrushes, crayons, and other small miscellaneous things around the house. We would also use it to scoop rice, sugar, or mealie-mealie. Tins of refreshments, like soda, would be used to adorn our wire cars as colourful wheels carefully constructed and linked to the steering wheel, turning and swerving with scientific precision.

The parts of America I have been to are living in abundance. A very reckless one that is costing the rest of the world, some of its citizens, and unfortunately the earth. How much does it take to meet the demands of every fast food restaurant’s serviettes, glass jars, plastic bags, foil, and containers for the ever growing pre-packaged foods? How much does it take to fuel the cars of those who have given up on the idea of walking anywhere because they are exercising their right to live their ‘best’ life in the best country in the world? How best is a country when it’s not conscious of its dying members who are hidden from the family album which America displays to the rest of the world? How good is the country when its perceived strength is at the cost of other civilisations bombed for their resources so that Americans can own toilets that flush themselves, subway stations that are lit 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, wifi on public transport, and mary-go-rounds that go round and round even when there’s only one person on their seat?

I’m now talking carbon footprint per person here, in New York, and everywhere in this country. I am appalled by the ratio of excess to consciousness. In the chase to make more money so we can afford bigger, shinier things, and holidays on ‘unspoilt’ islands we tend to forget that we only have one earth, and we will most certainly lose against nature no matter our wits or courage. I’m not saying countries should not have wifi in their public transport for example. I am saying the infrastructure can serve its people, but without knowledge these people will abuse instead of use those resources. America needs more education on consciously thinking of the planet. It needs to humble itself before nature and curb the power mongering. At this rate the infrastructure promises to collapse because the supply cannot meet the demand. What happens next? Another country with oil gets invaded…

I found this image fitting for my experience in the American supermarkets: there's just way too much colour, and my grandmother can't recognise anything on those shelves. Everything promises convenience,; ready in five minutes; just add water; or the best 'tastes just like the real thing'. Um, why not give me the real thing then?

I found this image fitting for my experience in American supermarkets: there’s just way too much colour, and my grandmother can’t recognise anything on those shelves. Everything promises convenience: ready in five minutes; just add water; or the best – ‘tastes just like the real thing’. Um, why not give me the real thing then?

Wangechi end

I got put onto this Brooklyn-based artist from Kenya, Wangechi Mutu, and I am absolutely taken by her art. The opening, middle, and this last piece in this post are by her. Do google her and check more of her work out. I also used her work in the third post down from this one – ‘The Pillars That Rise’.

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.

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.

Apathy is the Hole in our Whole

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There’s a beautiful truth that will save us from the trap of apathy and procrastination that perpetually guzzles our plans into an abyss of a never-coming tomorrow: there is no tomorrow! There is only today. In fact, there is only NOW. Every moment we live and experience is always NOW. The concept of time as a linear continuum that moves from compartments of past, to present, to future; of yesterday, today, and tomorrow, is a Western concept of time that is based on a socially constructed Roman calendar with its attendant trappings.

Time is not linear but cyclic. Apathy is brought on by the belief that tomorrow will be different from today, or next year will be a better year to do something. The truth that glares at us is that, just like seasons of the year, there is no major difference between last year and this year; they are both years that constitute the seasons of our lives that are cyclic. The only way they are different is in relation to our growth (both physical and otherwise), because as we know nature abhors stasis so there will always be evolution of humans, plants, animals, and all living matter; and as long as they exist in nature, their lives will be cyclic.

My biggest lesson of last year and in continuum NOW is that if you are a writer, write! If you are involved in creativity, it is your prerogative to release yourself from the trap of linear time and exist in a space that allows you to create at your most optimum. There’s a particular charged energy that propels us to create, and procrastination can only be birthed from that energy: a wasted energy that has to recede and perish unceremoniously. That energy is the difference between possibility and hopelessness: being and nothingness.

apathy2That energy may never be regained. It is the key to a world where you can be a creator by making something out of nothing. It is a sacred space charged with positively flowing magnetism that ropes all existences together into NOW. The mental image of all possibility framed into a reality within reach is an image tantamount to a miracle, jostling you into action to discover the nexus of your creative being. There, in that hub of possibility, choose creation. Choose NOW, not tomorrow, not later, not next year.

The nectar of the seasons does dry out and crust over what could have been. Where there was once possibility there is now just a bump in the interflow of energies. Apathy and procrastination are the enemies of harmonious creative energy. They create speed bumps in the vitality of thought; they function to block the unending passages of the rituals of creativity. They mute the cantations of a charged vibrant heart—the heart, the seat of passion, should be given free reign, especially in the moment that seeks to meet you halfway and guide your soul to ecstasy. Purposeful action NOW is the path to pure uninhibited happiness.

Let us see your works. Let us share in the creations of your heart. Let’s live in the house of our legacies. NOW!

Innovation is Evolution

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Fantastic statement. To me it just validates what I always suspect, and where my life philosophies stem from; that we are such dupes of custom that it can deter us from being innovative. Innovation presumes moving away from the convention and the customary. It means leaving behind servitude and being a creator of something from nothing. It means revering the new instead of the ancient. It means exercising a certain level of agency in inheriting a past, not just suckling on it uncritically.

Of course our pasts inform where we are right now and where we are going, but often times the most heinous crimes and inhuman injustices are all executed in the name of tradition and custom. What might have been meaningful and relevant in 1870 in my village is certainly not to be embraced without critical thinking. We may find components of those customs meaningful and relevant to our time, but similarly find other components of the same custom to have grave friction with the times we have evolved into.

It is not enough to say “my forefathers did this, so I will follow in their footsteps”; or the rather the contentious “it is my culture”. What is culture without evolution, and what is humans without change? The answer is static. And what do we know about stasis? That nature abhors it. The seasons themselves demonstrate a magnificent sense of embracing change without fear, knowing that there is a time to sow and a time to reap. You cannot sow in the wrong season. In the same manner, we cannot isolate customs from their contexts; they will most certainly elude us.

Our sense of stasis comes from suckling blindly on custom and not being involved in innovation. We consume conspicuously without being involved in production, which means we are in eternal summer, not exposing our minds and dispositions to the right kind of servitude, reverence and observance. We cannot hold the ancient sacred at the detriment of the yielding possibility of the ‘new’. We must strive to remove the cloak of ‘safety’ created by custom and tradition, and adopt the spirit of innovation, critical thinking, and production.

Thank you Ngoako Bosch for inspiring this post. This is my birthday present to you. With love

Happy birthday Lusanda. I love you lots, and wish you many years ahead.

You two girls are the only people I know for sure read this blog almost daily. Thank you. I am inspired by you.

Okay I love this version too: ❤

Sensual Creative Feast

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Nature makes you creative. This is an undisputed fact. Creativity has lost its true meaning over the centuries, when its name was dragged to high-end museums, opera houses, and city halls. Creativity is the simple act of creating. The process itself may not be that simple but it’s the simplicity that makes a creation creative. In nature, with minimal resources, one has to be in constant production. One has to create a way of living. Fires have to be made, fridges have to be improvised under the earth, and modes of entertainment must be constructed.

I very much doubt that the ‘first people’ were dropping like flies from eating the wrong kinds of plants. In fact, I believe because nature makes you shed your skin and rely on instinct and intuition, the first people knew exactly what to eat, and it was no mistake when they went under a trance of hallucinations for days. If you are accustomed to nature, you will know a fruit tree when you see one sans the fruits. The same principle applies to wild spinach, or morogo—when you find it in nature you will know exactly which is edible and which is not.

Nature trains your senses. You are fully awake and livened in nature. You use your sense of sight, before you pick up and smell, then you put in your mouth, but not without applying your sense of feel and touch: what follows is an engagement with your fifth sense of taste. All these senses would’ve been roused by the sixth one which is intuition. You don’t just pick anything in nature. You need to be as balanced as nature is to dwell in it. You must live harmoniously with the flora and fauna.

Artists have to train their senses. Artists function and create from their senses: they’re sensitive, sensible, and sensuous. They will function best in nature I tell you. Right now being in the Drakensburg for what seems timeless has immersed me in a crazy spirit of creativity. My senses are at work: the mist, the greenery, the river, the water lilies, compost, birds, butterflies, nests and age-old trees are all magic to my soul. I am a child, and I see now that we have to return to nature. [It’s gonna take some doing convincing R to move here].

Nature makes you creative. Our great-grands made musical instruments out of wood, skin, twine, seeds, pumpkin shells, and many other organic products that spoke to their sixth sense. They sought a particular sound and feeling, so they improvised and created it. They baked bread without ovens, and they had showers way before the conventional shower was conceived. They lived as creators. Creativity is not elitist or reserved for the trained palettes. Creativity is in our everyday modes of existence. We are all creators; we can make something out of nothing.

This post is inspired by a meal I made last night, pictured below. I just used what we had in the fridge, and stirred it in the one pan we have. It was a marvellous creation. I worked with what I had, used my intuition, and came at this delicious aubergine tartlets. I will definitely be making it again back in the city, even with the many other resources that we would be back to. I think it is a lovely treat for kids too, and works best when you don’t really like meat.

Food

 

You will need:

  • Aubergines
  • Mushrooms
  • Courgettes
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Chillies
  • Ginger
  • Feta cheese
  • Red pepper
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Hummus to serve

I cut the aubergines in circles so they may create a nice base, then grilled them in olive oil with onions, garlic, chillies, and ginger. When soft but not mushy I laid them onto the plate, and sautéed mushrooms and courgettes. When lovely and soft I topped the aubergines with them. Then I put crumbled feta cheese on the tartlets, then for a lovely splash of colour I grilled red peppers and cherry tomatoes, and finished the toppings with them. I served with a lovely hummus and bread if you will. You may also use olive tapenade. I think it will hit the spot.

Obviously the ingredients may vary: I would toss ginger carrots on there, or even top the aubergines with round beetroot. It’s your kitchen. Create…