Tomorrow’s Daughter’s are Today

Nelson Mandela- Photographs by David Turnley

In celebrating the big global movement and the shift in consciousness where womyn are putting our bodies on the line and frontiers of patriarchy that has pitted gender wars as well as calamity against the black female body, I now declare that the beautyful ones are here. We are here marching with the dance and song of generations of womyn who have had mind-bending and spirit-altering war meted against our bodies and psyches, who have been programmed to hate our wombs and battle against white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. Womyn who have been shamed through adages such as “slut”, “nymphomaniac”, “ugly duckling”, “whore”, “witch”, and relegated to the margins of society where our image of ‘who we should be’ trapped us in schizophrenic identities that further alienated ourselves from who we are. The deep and internalised alienation wrecked and butchered our wombs, our divinity, our femininity, and left our gentleness foreign to us. We are now here, tomorrow’s daughters, today, using those very denigrated bodies to confront and expose the male whoredom of anti-female ideology in the brothel of history.

I speak in wake of students at Rhodes and Wits Universities; with the voice of Dr Stella Nyanzi at Makerere University whose “unethical” antics against an unethical system was articulated through her black naked body; I speak with the suffocating voice of Sarah Baartman who could not breathe under a colonial gaze informed by perverse white patriarchal fetishes; I speak in the wake of Beyoncé’s Lemonade (the visual masterpiece) where she puts her own body on the line crusading against a violent structure that advocates womyn not being enough; with the voice of Pumla Gqola whose embodied life work preaches the baptism of fire suffered by the black female body scorched by sexual violence over the centuries; in the voice of our mothers who built houses of pain with a fierce love that finds its reverberations today. I sing with Thandiswa Mazwai whose generational voice strives to challenge history’s lopsided narrative that villainized womyn and launched a witch hunt on any of us who strived to be tomorrow’s daughter in the hollowed womb of yesterday’s violations. I recite with Lebogang Mashile in her poem ‘Tomorrow’s Daughters’, that strives to bring the voice of “pretty black girls” from the margins to the centre of discourse:

I want to write a poem                                                   Pumla-GqolaAbout pretty black girls
Who don’t relax and lie their dreams away
Voices that curl
The straight edges of history
Hair thin slices of a movement
Turning the world kinky
I respect the disciplines silent screamers
Who expose the holes

I revere people to my own detriment
Perhaps you did too
But when I enter your hallowed hearth
Please don’t turn me away
I want to show pretty black girls
How to look at their hearts
With eyes blaring full blast
The way you did
Together we can build a bridge
To the promise in their faces
And pull them towards poems
By pretty black girls
Wearing crowns of change

Mashile and our mothers’ daughters of tomorrow are here, retrieving a wholesome past poked with holes and lies about forbidden fruits in the garden, to make it whole again. We are reasserting the enduring unchained spirits of our foremothers; redefining a life of our own making that does not cross-reference patriarchy’s rules; and rewriting a history that repudiates adherence to the straight edges of a singular story by celebrating homogenous histories and dynamic genders through intersectionality. Pretty black girls have suffered more negligence, violence, dehumanization, rape, and marginalization than any other group throughout history; and we are here, refusing to “relax and lie our dreams away”. We are doing anything but relaxing. We are bushy, unkempt, sooty, fierce, animalistic and fighting for visibility. You cannot look away. The lie and the lye of maleness and whiteness corroded the fabrics of our being and aborted our dreams for centuries that break our backs. We are here with sjamboks, and we are loud, emerging from centuries of ravage and ruin, celebrating and wearing crowns of change.

I am reminded of Wanelisa Xaba’s pondering of schizophrenic traps set for womyn, in which she laments, “You shame us when we love sex. You shame us when we’re not interested in sex. You shame us when we want to use contraceptives. You shame us when we don’t use protection. … You shame us when we’re virgins. You shame us when we need access to abortions. You shame us when we choose adoption. You shame us when we’re single mothers. You shame us when we wear too much makeup. You shame us when we don’t wear any makeup. You shame us when we don’t fight back. You shame us for throwing a punch. You shame us when we’re too thin. You shame us when we’re too fat. You shame us when we’re sad. You shame us when we’re happy”. And the list goes on and on: trusted hotep brothers and Fanon-quoting ‘brothers’ peddling a brand of unattainable female goddess which most certainly always relegates any outspoken and sexual black female to whoredom.

That has been the life of a black womyn under the constant and unnerving gaze of the cis het men in the inner circle of ‘safety’, from our fathers, uncles, and male cousins to our boyfriends, and the entitled cat-callers whose derision is always a threat more than a compliment. Even the phrase “cat-calling”, most certainly a discursive practice cloaked in generations of inequality and normalised sexual possession of the black female body, is a perverse allusion to ‘calling the pussy’. Nobody is indignant of that ongoing abuse! We are enmeshed in centuries of oppression as black womyn, that even the language is gendered to perpetuate our subjugation (hence ‘womyn’ instead of ‘woman’ or ‘women’). Our subjectivity over the centuries has been engendered by the male gaze, rendering us commodities to be consumed by any Tom, Dick and Dickie, subject to discipline and punish, just like slaves—misogyny is surely meted out if we do not live up to those unattainable standard mentioned above of what constitutes the ideal female. Who is the quintessential female if even Jesus’ own mother was shamed, violenced and silenced?

The male gaze over the centuries has been one of the most powerful strategies of oppression and domination over the black female body, and we still witness the force of its power today. One who has the power to look, particularly in this power play where the one looked at cannot look back, has the power to objectify, classify, and subject the observed. The observed’s hypervisibility (owing to the fact that we constitute half of the population) renders us powerless because they are firstly subject to identification, and secondly cannot speak back against being labelled “sefebe” (whore), “lefetwa” (womyn who is not married by a certain age, literally translates to ‘not picked’), “letekatse” (prostitute, even though there is no name for men who essentially make us prostitutes through transactions), or “moopa” (barren womyn, where it was always assumed that the couple is childless because the womyn is infertile), because commodities do not speak. This ambivalence of ‘othering’ the black female body whilst simultaneously desiring to consume it is mostly what underpins male sexual violence against the black womyn, which is essentially male violence against itself.

The frailty of that brand of masculinity exposes itself through rampant contradictions: men-made laws against breast-feeding in public are riddling at best and evoke memories of how we were told to close our legs and wear long skirts as not to wreck patriarchy’s ship. This is all to protect male desire that simultaneously presents itself as disgust. It is the same nipple you proudly and haughtily reference when you claim to be a “tits guy”. This is also found in the disgusted reactions against menstruations and the advertising of them with blue blood. It seems patriarchy is frail indeed, and cannot stomach the inherent complexity of humans, where desire and disgust can be carried with grace: the duality of birth/death. Their colonial brothers also desired and were disgusted by the black female body, treating it with contempt while consuming it. This leads me to conclude that maleness cannot stand milk/blood of creation, but are very happy with blood of destruction as they continue to spill blood over the centuries.

Warsan Shire/Beyoncé puts it like so, “I tried to change, closed my mouth more … tried to be softer, prettier, less awake”; and those are the silencing, disabling, disfiguring, and debilitating effects of the male gaze upon the black female body. There is no winning in that hallowed hearth of hate they have created because the rules of their power games elude even them. Black womyn are done downplaying our inherent ‘wokeness’. We will never know the extent of our mothers and their mothers’ power; the textures, colours, breadths, and depths of their strength. But their strength is our strength and it comes back once more in hundred-folds in an unstoppable wrath, seeking to dismantle this unconscious consciousness and resurrect the womb from the tomb of patriarchy’s morgue. We are here, we are not going anywhere, and we speak with a timeless voice of generations.

RUR nude protest

UCT RMF

Audrey Lorde

 

(Tough) Love in the Age of Aquarius

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I’m starting to understand people with issues. I mostly hang around women so I’ll even say I understand complexities and dynamics that affect our adult lives. The thing to be stated here is you can’t have it all. There is no one out there who does not have a persistent poke, with varying intensities of course, from their past. For example I always had father issues, on a scale that most would undermine, but they are father issues nonetheless, and they were only resolved this year when I got married.

Issues. We all have them. However, the unspoken and unwritten rule of life is that we sort them out and not perform them with vigour in social spaces. We all should have that person—whether sister, neighbour counsellor, friend—whom we can speak uninhibitedly to and illuminate the dark corners of our hearts around. This person/people/friend helps us purge our issues and analyse them from a distanced perspective. That level of introspection is good. You should not keep your issues to yourself and allow them to be your personal cross.

Having said that, one should also be a keen observer and be discerning with oneself. What good does it do to display machismo when with others, only to crumble and perish under the weight of your personal cross? Or even worse, what good is it to keep your issues at bay and present to us a facade of prosperity only to consistently have meltdowns after a few drinks? I think I’m in a place in my life where I don’t have to call my friends to order. We should all know ourselves and be the ones to reprimand our own demons.

Granted, the journey of knowing self is a long one and continues unfolding, but the buffer that can afford our restless souls a haven can be attained through the power of friendship and spoken words. I’m a listener. And I want to surround myself with listeners precisely for that reason. If you have a problem, speak; but furthermore, speak when the time is right. That is a discerning character. Don’t hold the time we consider valuable and sacred, hostage with drunken ramblings that only function to put us off.

I’m certainly not being harsh. All I wish to emphasise is that our lives are saturated with information, images, digital devices, social networks, and other personal vices. With so much noise going around, some of us seek peace and harmony. There is good timing for everything. I have the broadest shoulders and largest ears, I have food and wine to indulge you, and I have music to settle your soul; but I also am human, and need inner peace, balance, and solace. If we’re gonna be friends please set your heart free by divulging your issues with reckless abandon so we may also find ourselves celebrating the small treasures of being alive.

It all boils down to purposeful action. And being discerning. You should prioritise your insecurities and unhappiness. Make them your personal urgent project. When your headspace is clear and you have your demons in check, you can start securing your landscape. Life presents us with difficulties along the way, make sure you function from a base camp you have assembled, strengthened, and illuminated. You are a base camp. You are ultimately responsible for where you set it up, who can come in and out, and how it can weather the storms.

My Guidelines for a New Decade

ImageWith the advent of the big 3-0 I share with you my oysters of knowledge on what I think every wo/man should take into their thirties:

  1. Have a solid friend or group of solid friends. There’s nothing as rejuvenating as spending time with great friends who know exactly who and what you are; where you can be yourself, and even learn more about yourself. I have just been visited by my Johannesburg friends (Nkele and Mags), and Cape Town friend (Lusanda), here in Amsterdam, and I now feel alive and ready to conquer. Friends are family we get to choose.
  2. Shown your true self to your family, without fear or apology. This also reverberates with the spirit of the above lesson. Your siblings and family have served you, and you have served them in more ways than one. We have seen each other’s nakedness and share a history that stems from way before your birth. Show them who you are; allow them to be present figures in your journey; and stop thinking they will judge you just because you judge yourself. Your family is your first line of defence.
  3. Forgive yourself! The 20s are so hectic. You’ve surely let someone walk all over you; you’ve allowed yourself to be treated way less than you’re worth; you’ve only given and given without receiving; your mistakes have cost you a happier/better/innocent/brighter life… It is done. There’s no turning back. Forgive yourself and reclaim the reigns of your life…
  4. Apologise to those you’ve hurt in the course of your life. This is so important for the hurt we’ve caused others during our self-obsessed and pubescent narcissistic stage of our lives. We’ve now grown and can reflect on the kindness of others, the flaws of others, and their hurt. If you happened to have caused hurt, intentionally or unintentionally, be that person who changes the course of those who are affected’s lives. Apologise.
  5. Tell those you love and appreciate that you love and appreciate them. We are not afraid of death and we’re happy for those who move to another cities/countries/or into themselves; but while they are still with us, let us tell them how much they mean to us. It is a healing power for both the parties involved.
  6. Have a pair of leather shoes/boots, and a leather handbag: this is the literal handbag and shoes, but also figurative. Have leather boots that are quality and waterproof for those rainy days, for that unexpected deployment or trip to Europe, for that unexpected wetness. Figuratively too; have a quality and water/fireproof insurance against unexpected accidents in life.
  7. Have a health routine! By now you should understand your body. If you’ve seen yourself get bloated by beer, or have debilitating period pains, you should have found your remedy or routine to overcome that by now. I am affected by both examples, and have stopped drinking beer, eat muesli with linseeds every morning, and drink as much as 5 litres of water a day. I have also been taking Evening Primrose Oil for my monthly monsters.
  8. Have a hobby. A hobby may be a passion, but you may not be able to live your passion because of a 9 to 5; but you should still keep your passion as a pastime. It is important that we find and do what we love, lest we end up doing what we don’t like or love! Easy as that.
  9. A philosophy to life: what do you know for sure? After this turbulent decade, what do you know for sure? You should be able to have philosophies that anchor your wandering spirit and shape your ideologies. It makes you transparent and approachable when people know what you stand for. For those who don’t know my (ongoing) philosophies, they are recorded here https://uhurumahlodi.wordpress.com/2013/03/14/what-i-know-for-sure/
  10. Know the joy of giving. By 30 you should’ve been well experienced in the joys of giving. There is no greater joy than giving things that are not of monetary worth. We are better off giving time to our loved ones, making that call that will bring joy to someone’s life, going the extra mile to show the least unfortunate that they are not alone, and cooking a meal for someone who could really use a home cooked meal. At some point giving stops being about exuberant gifts in shiny wraps, but is more rooted in time—we grow older and life takes over, but within the madness we must find sanity in giving the gift of time…

Feel free to add your own and share them with me. From the top of my mind I think “Find time to play; playing is not only for children” should have made it in there. We must not subdue our excitement incited by things like glitter, confetti, and bubbles. They revive youth and bring out of us the innocence of children…

Paean to Youth

Night 100
I’m sitting in an absolutely nostalgic coffee shop in Berlin, one of a kind called Suicide Sue, and I’m reminded firstly of Cape Town; which hosts scores of beautiful coffee breakfast spots with freshly baked, warm bread, freshly pressed orange juice, and aromatic arabica coffee. There’s nothing like the smell of freshly brewed coffee to get the nostalgia flowing… I am called to reflect, I’m sitting in a room of mirrors, watching myself walk from Bochum to Seshego, from Seshego to Polokwane, to Johannesburg, to Cape Town, to Amsterdam, to all corners of the world…

Today is my last day in Berlin, my last day of this very epic trip that I took as a leap of faith, as a symbolic journey to bid farewell to what seems to me like a fully-lived decade of my 20s. I feel stronger than ever that the winds of change are upon us, and I’m so ready to surf that wave, enthusiastically. I have been fortunate enough to have all that I have needed in my life thus far, I have been fortunate to have had the means to see other lands far and wide, have travelled and experienced ‘The life of others’, journeyed into the lengths and breadths of my heart, fully explored my soul, and satisfactorily captured my imagination. I continue to grow, and I give thanks and praises…

I have been most fortunate to be borne into a pride of women who walk with wolves, as sisters, as friends, and as sources of inspiration everyday. I can fully say my decision to move to Johannesburg in 2003 was anointed, purely based on the friendships I formed with these amazing women. My 20s are a myriad of depth, colour, and song, all forming a prism through which my path will be illuminated. I can fully conclude that I have lived; this is not the end, but is the beginning of a new cycle. My friends who have now become sisters, and I have given each other a joyful celebration of our youth. We shared spaces and laughed with reckless abandon at life’s follies. We were soul-jahs, and continue to soldier on: we are soldiers of love, of pain, of laughter, of tears; we are soldiers of courage, of faith, of hope, of freedom. We are now scattered in different parts of life’s expansive canvass, where we are now mothers, wives, daughter-in-laws, and aunts, and through the abundance of life’s waters, our thirst for life is quenched….

So I say to you all right now: live your most honest life; do not fear to trod on less travelled roads; find your true voice; release your inner fearless warrior; find light in self and proceed to share it with others; turn your life into an event; find magic in the everyday; celebrate your own strength; share it with others; find peace and quiet; write your own narrative; celebrate your self with song; sing your song; sing it with your own voice; sing it with the voice of your people; sing it with a communal voice so you may never forget that you are NEVER alone! To my 20 year old self I say, “look at you now, 95% of the things you worried about never happened; I validate you, I acknowledge you, and I respect your unbreakable resolve. Go forth and give your best to the world. Share your magic with them, and create something from nothing…”
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I went with friends to this exhibition titled WallOnWall about walls that separate people around the world. I was moved by this quote: “if we demolish the walls in our minds, these physical walls are sure to crumble” – something to that affect. Let’s practice tolerance, love, unity, and more tolerance! Here are some of the murals (in all these pics we are standing in front of murals; the backgrounds are painted…):

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