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.

NOW

Run-Faster-ComradeI am a full stop

I stop when I’m full

Pregnant for birth

Brimming at the rim

Empty as fulfilling

Pulse of life thriving

The end and beginning

Full stop stops the fool

Who feels with eyes

And listens with fingers

Dis-ordained heart

In the wrong place

Feeling but denying

The cycle, the moment

The now that is endless

Living in the fullness

Of the full stop

Perpetually changing

The exact sameness

Immersed in nature

Bounty without taste

Is pleasure without feeling

Numbed by consistence

Sleepful awekeness

Motion, motion, motion

Cyclic—lucid, eluding

Eyes unperceptive

Enlightened third eye

Witness generation

Crystal clear

Hands up

Whose crystals are for sale?

Lacking clarity while conscious

Handing your treasures to swine

To be trampled

You’re not a tramp

You’re the ink on the stamp

That officiates your worth

The broken seal of light

The forgotten window seal

In the gutted bedroom

Of your bludgeoned soul

Keorapetse Kgositsile is a living legend and literary giant.
Did you know this song is based on his poem ‘Red Song’?
I am privileged to have/be chosen to record his legacy
I am awakened daily to the impact he has made here in the U.S.
His name energises people and make them open their hearts
The journey he has walked has culminated in the NOW
Past, present, and future all cyclic and coming together
I humbly bask in his wisdom and gyrate in the gyre

Staying True to My Heart

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Greetings from Amsterdam on this fantastic sunny day. I’m in a fabulous mood. First I must apologise for being so quiet over the last week. I have been brewing something exciting for the past three months, and last week it reached its execution period, where I had to wait until this morning to find out if the plan is green-lighted. So without wasting any time, here it goes: I’m going to be living in the United States for three months from the 1st of August!! These are most fulfilling and exciting news to me and my work. It has been a trying time for me emotionally, so a quest into the unknown is the exact literal, literary and symbolic journey I need.

I can confidently and safely tell you now that my PhD research on South African poet laureate Keorapetse Kgositsile has been approved by my department of literature at the University of Cape Town to take the form of a literary biography. For my own creative exploration and indulgence, I am also shooting a documentary that will accompany the final book project. He lived in New York for 15 years between 1960 and 1975, and I am going to live in New York for 2 months from the 1st August to chart his literary journey, interview his contemporaries—I’m looking for one particular Pharoah Sanders; universe please align—and talk to members of his family and friends in the 3rd month.

New York SubwayThis work is at the very centre of my heart, and anchors me day and night when all seems to be destabilised. Planning for this trip has been a most sacred journey as everything I have sought has been met with a resounding YES! everyone I have spoken to has been so open-minded as to see the value of this project, and even though I have never been to the U.S., I have seen New York, Chicago, San Francisco—places I will visit over the 3 months there—with my third eye. The kindness and generosity of my American interlocutors has left me feeling at ease about entering this new phase of my research and life journey.

I believe in more work and less talk, I believe in letting my work speak for itself, and I believe that plans for great work are like an intricate process of birth. I will only speak about the birth once the baby is strong, stealthy, and able to take their position in the world. So for now I’m content to share these plans with you. There are very exciting things and people I’m meeting with, but I would not want to talk about them before I have in fact met with them and engaged with their wonderful minds. Work first, then enjoyment of its fruits later. The power of the mind will now function to create something out of nothing, and this will find its time to be shared here.

As you might or might not know, whilst interviewing Kgositsile and his contemporaries—I’ve thus far interviewed Mongane Serote, Lefifi Tladi, Muxe Nkondo, Tsitsi Jaji, Stephane Roboolin—I have been shooting a documentary. This has been a true blessing in my life, and I’d like to thank my best friend Mafadi Mpuru who has been so generous as to donate a full professional television crew for these purposes. I will continue with the work of shooting a documentary in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco, and once again this is made possible by the generous spirit of a friend who owns an Amsterdam production rental company.

So those are my news. New York here I come in 15 days. I received my visa this morning, for a whopping 10 years!! The Americans are generous for such a paranoid country. Well good for me because this will be my first time there, but certainly not my last. This is my life work, and I will continue to invest my time here in (re)writing our beautiful literary history. If I don’t thank my husband for his gentleness and generosity then I will be doing a great injustice unto self first. Reinier has been, and continues to be a rock. All his connections are making this come true, and without him I would be found wanting. My family’s support has let me know: a pride of lions without a leader can be defeated by a limping buffalo (directly translated from Sepedi proverb).

I will say, last but not least, when you do what you love a world of possibilities opens up and the essential things of your heart’s desire become attainable. If your dreams do not scare you it means you have not fully explored your true potential and thrust. Nothing of value can come out of comfort; we must leave, as we have left our parents’ house, that which makes our growth graph stagnant, and pursue that which makes our hearts race, guided by faith, courage, hope, and passion. There is no greater fulfilment than to create something from nothing, to live with a clear vision that propels you forward in your everyday life. Productivity equals growth, and vision equals purpose. Without productivity, vision, and purpose, our growth is stifled…

KK

Our very first meeting in 2012. I was not nervous. But I spoke a lot, which probably means I was nervous 🙂

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Ntate Lefifi Tladi has been most inspiring to engage with. He was part of Medu Arts Ensemble in the 1980s in Botswana, together with Keorapetse Kgositsile, Thami Mnyele, and Dumile Feni. His house is a living and breathing music, literary, and visual arts library. He is a writer, musician, visual artist (he made a Sistine chapel-like ceiling in his house), and performer.

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Prof. Muxe Nkondo lifted the veil off this whole research. He is a literary scholar par excellence, and helped me reveal the core intentions of this study. I am forever indebted to him.

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Ntate Mongane Serote is a living literary legend. He is also the CEO of both Jo’burg theatre and Freedom Park. He was Keorapetse Kgositsile’s student of Creative Writing in the U.S. in the early 1970s, and they lived together like gypsies, travelling to jazz concerts all over the country (U.S.)

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This man is full of humility and brilliance. Dynamites do indeed come in small packages…

Creating Light Out of Darkness

Yesterday I had the great pleasure of speaking to one Kgafela oa Magogodi, a poet extraordinaire, and artist in the making. We delved into great reflections on art, and agreed that all disciplines of arts are interconnected, and that we may feel veraciously suspicious of an artist who does not appreciate all forms of art. As you might have noticed, I am greatly inspired by visual arts; my blog has been punctuated by paintings and great photography, together with jazz performances, all in celebration of the fact that in recent times visuals arts have spoken to an aboriginal feeling within me as strongly as Pharoah Sanders’ or Bheki Mseleku’s riff have been able to tap into. There is something about images that constitute totality of human experience.

I spoke to Kgafela about this, and he opened a new world for me. He divulged his hobby of watching painters paint. When you watch a painter paint you are involved in creation; you partake in the process of creating something from nothing. The silences become as important as the sound of the strokes that brush against the canvass, and one stroke can give birth to possibility. When paint drops on the surface of the floor, the splatters also contribute to the signification process; it becomes a charged space where the painter is moving to the rhythms of orbiting semiotics, prompted into the action of notating them on the canvass, trusting the depth of feeling and surrendering to the desire-object and object-desire. It is a sacred space of creation.

Have you seen Moses Molelekwa, Coltrane, Ngqawana or Bokani Dyer in that sacred space of creation? There is a world in them that also begs to be engaged with and inhibited. The sacred caressing of the piano or saxophone is the act of appeasing that world; it functions to bring that world closer; it is an act of surrender in breaking down one’s own boundaries to get closer to that world. That world is desired and you have to fine-tune your approach to the sanctity which it promises. In the world of creation, when Molelekwa or Dyer lapse into that primal space, the floodgates burst and the true purpose of life is comprehended. There is a purity that is experienced. Nirvana. The joy that we as audience feel emanates from experiencing the rays of light the musician is immersing himself in. Ah, that is perhaps the value of watching a painter paint, and witnessing a sublime performance: basking in the light that is commanded into being by the artist: let there be light!

All art forms work with images and numbers. It is a perfect and symmetrical image that orbits around your world of ordained creativity. When you write you mangle images and strive to notate them with language. This can be limiting given the various linguistic backgrounds and the ‘civil’ pretences of language. That orbiting image of desire must find an outlet, so we make do with language the best way we can. The rhythms of our lines are dancing to a tune in our heads—we start to move to the pulse of the orbiting image. Writing hence becomes a perfect number informed by the tapping foot of music; particularly poetry. Iambic pentameter and jazz poetry is precisely the ordered rhythms of the perfect image.

Musicians and performers however—or any artistic form that eliminates the civilised pretences of language—function from raw feeling without the limitations of linguistic baggage. Writers deal with object-desire-sense (unless they are Dadaists), whilst performers deal with object-desire without having to make prescribed sense. As Keorapetse Kgositsile proclaims, “poetry at its best becomes frustrated music”. Ahum. That is why most writers finely align themselves to jazz and other forms of music: it is the perfect symmetry between number and image; music has capacity to communicate an aboriginal feeling; music transcends the constructs of humans, such as language, to draw and signify this that I call aboriginal. In the beginning was the word, but the word is derivative of sound…