water (part 2): “…we have come to be baptised here…”

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Koleka Putuma. Photo: Andy Mkosi

 

I often wonder why I feel as if I am drowning every time I look out into the sea

This and feeling incredibly small 

[…]

Every time our skin goes under

The reeds remember that they were once chains

And the water, restless, wishes it could spew all of the slaves and ships onto shore

Whole as they had boarded, sailed and sunk

Their tears are what have turned the ocean salty

This is why our irises burn every time we go under

Every December sixteenth, December 24th and December 31st

Our skin traumatises the sea

They mock us

For not being able to throw ourselves into something that was instrumental in trying to execute our extinction

For you, the ocean  is for surf boards, boats and tans

And all the cool stuff you do under there in your suits and goggles

But we, we come to be baptised here

We have come to stir the other world here

We have come to cleanse ourselves here

We have come to connect our living to the dead here

Our respect for water is what you have termed fear

The audacity to trade and murder us over water

Then mock us for being scared of it

Koleka Putuma, Water

I’ve been thinking about Koleka Putuma’s “Water” (seriously, do we walk the same earth as her? Her poetry is out of this world) and the line, “We have come to be baptised here” is playing on repeat in my mind, and I feel my body and soul craving a baptismal of sorts. A watering. A watering to halt the withering.

Yours,

DustySoul

“Take me to the water/ To be baptized […] I’m going back home, going back home/
To be baptized.” ~ Nina Simone, Take Me to the Water

 

 

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Summertime livin’ (AKA Avoid facebook during the holidays because MEH)

December-time can be nightmarish.

“What have you done this year?”

“What are your plans for next year?”

“When do you plan to get married?”

All fielded by aunts and uncles with their face too close to yours, getting into your personal space about things they didn’t have figured out at 25 either.

Sigh.

You try your best to answer their questions without sounding like a loser, flexing your best PR muscles so that jobless becomes time to reflect and improve or some such flowery sounding thing, and then proceed to chop vegetables by the pot-loads so that you can quell the “She’s gotten lazy” whispers they don’t even bother to say behind your back anymore.

chris breezy

Then you sit down for a moment, behind the garage where no one can see you cry, and take stock of the year. My goodness, it’s been such a crap one! You’re tired of crying, so you wipe your hands and fish your phone out of your apron’s pocket. Facebook is full of disgustingly happy people. Three people are engaged. Thulani got his PhD. Salome got accepted for Masters at Yale. Must be nice! Jane is off to the Seychelles on a baecation. Mmm! Must. Be. Nice. And then you’re like WTF?! because there are like, five people either pregnant or giving birth. Gahtdamb! Where have the years gone? We’re getting old.

Summertime, and the livin’ is heavy.

Pause. Lemme tell ya what I know for sure: rest is a lifestyle. If I am constantly looking to “get there”, to “arrive”, to “make it”, then I will always be agitated and restless and peace will elude me. Hey man, don’t get me wrong, progress is a good thing. I have ambitions too. But I can’t keep looking at my life and thinking that everything in it is wrong. You know, something about the day of humble beginnings and all that. You’re not where you used to be. You lived through your worst and you’re still here. You’re stronger than you know. You did the best you could wethu.

I never want to feel like I have arrived. Never be complacent. Despair says, “Circumstances = stuck”. Hope says, “This is just a delay”. My faith must continuously be active.

You put your phone back in your apron, stretch your back and smile. This isn’t the end for you because you see it now. You see the most delicious thing about life and it’s this – it goes on.

Merry Christmas,

Dusty

“We were sad of getting old, it made us restless/ Oh, I’m so mad I’m getting old it makes me reckless!” ~ Adele, When We Were Young

When Women Stand Up

To the women of the revolution
Who don lipstick like war paint
Headwraps like armour
Defying the sky defying the patriarchy
You are magic.
As we took to the streets
There was thunder in the sky
And thunder in our hearts
And the most curious thing
Is that it rained
But did not dampen our spirits.
Watch how iimbokodo march the streets
And trample white supremacist capitalist heterosexist patriarchy
In the same breadth
As we trample racism.
Because this revolution will be intersectional
Or it will be bollocks.

See how we march with grace, with fierceness, with violent spirits
With a roar
And such beauty!
How are we not magic?
Mbokodo, lead.

Yours in power,
The Black Feather (AKA Relebone Rirhandzu eAfrika AKA Dusty Soul)

**This post was first published on black on white’s blog here.

“How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!” ~ Maya Angelou

The Day South Africa Broke My Heart

I have never felt South African, not completely. You see, I am that curious thing in South Africa I call a ‘middle child’, not Tswana enough for Tswana people, not Tsonga enough for Tsonga people. I live somewhere in the grey, in the middle where most things are, anyway. Because of that people don’t know what to do with me. They say, because my dad is a moTsonga, I am by right and tradition Tsonga. But my experience is that I have never been accepted as truly being part of any of my parent’s cultures. That’s a story for another day. Let me talk about my Tsonga heritage for a minute.

Being Tsonga, or Shangaan, is to be rejected in South Africa. We never talk about it. We never talk about how, when we’re in the city eJoni, we’re clumped together with people who are considered makwerekwere. How we must learn other languages if we ever want to be spoken to and understood. I’ve found myself being apologetic about it. “I’m half Tsonga” and “My mother is Tswana” I’ll say, quicker than melting butter. Because I’ve always just wanted to be accepted as South African. She’s all I know, but she doesn’t know me. She doesn’t care to.

What I’ve heard many times? “You’re not dark enough to be Tsonga”, “You’re too pretty to be Tsonga”, “You’re half Tswana, that explains your beauty” and many more messed up things.

I’m conflicted half the time. Most of the time.

Yesterday I saw the words, “Singa makwerekwere sonke” spray-painted onto a wall. The taxi drove past but I kept seeing them in my head. It’s true, you know. Everyone is a foreigner somewhere, but more than that, who can claim to truly belong to a place? What is it to be? What is it to belong? Who gets to belong?

We’ve been here before. 2008. We’ve been hating on our brothers and sisters from other countries for a long time. We laugh about stereotypes and agree that, “that’s how they are”. We let colonialism’s arbitrary drawing of lines tell us that we’re not from the same bloodline. They drew a map, they drew lines, and scrambled for owenership.

Africa is a country. Africa is a state of mind. Africa is you and me.

My paternal grandfather was a soldier in Mozambique. I never hear much about him, except that he was a soldier and he came to this country, married my grandmother, and years later I am here. I always speculate that he must have been part of Frelimo. I speculate that he was a man of honour. I quip that one day, I’ll take a journey to his home to find out who I am. Because I long for that part of me that he was. I am not truly South African. But what is it, to be South African?

You broke my heart a million times before, Mzansi, when you told me that I don’t fit the bill. That I don’t qualify as being part of you. But I can handle your rejection. What I can’t take is the murder. The beatings. The fire. Why do you hate our brothers and sisters so much? Why do you hate yourself so much?

Source: Al Jazeera http://bit.ly/1GWUxBx

There’s a video doing the rounds on facebook made by Dr Nomalanga Mkhize. It’s not in my language but I understand it because for Tsonga people everywhere, we must know other languages, as a matter of survival. But other people don’t know our tongue, they will never know it, because they can’t see past their blinders. Like the survivors we are we shoulder the responsibility for crossing lines and move on. We move like burdens through the world.

Dr Mkhize said in the video, “Ziyafana inkanga zethu”. So why you frontin’ Mzansi? Who made you God?

Put down the fire.

Broken,

DustySoul

Shit, ain’t hard to choose me there’s only one me, man
(So hard to choose)
That’s why I chose to be that
Because where I’m from it ain’t cool to be wack
And I’m so pro-black
Though they don’t choose me back and that’s some choosy shit

~ Rapsody, “Hard to Choose”

“To the same degree that your understanding of and attitude towards Afrika becomes more positive, your understanding of and attitude towards yourself will also becomes more positive…” ~ Malcom X

The Beauty of Sunsets

The end of a thing is more painful than its beginning, for you have experienced the best of times, and even the worst of times which had within them a certain level of sweetness, and yet you must now let go of these…
 
It is rather like watching the sun retreat behind the horizon: you realise that with its departure there goes the warmth you were accustomed to feeling on your skin, and you sort of despair. But I write this to remind myself, to remind you, that night-time is not all darkness and things that go “bump”. With night there is the promise of the stars, the promise of the sun’s reflection on the moon exuding light. It is sufficient to light your path.
 
The sun cannot retreat forever, the world keeps turning, and eventually we see it rise again. The end of another academic year is like watching that sunset. The day has come and must now go, but I look forward to a new day.
 
I thank all my dear friends, who have been rather like family, for all they have done for me. For sticking around, for loving me. You know who you are. From the depths of my heart, know that I carry you with me, that I love you. ♥
 
Warmth and sunshine,
Dusty Soul
 
“Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.” – Hosea 6:3 (ESV)
 

Lessons from my hair (Part 2): The revenge of the Afro

Tlotlo and Tsepo

“Men who have long hair are a disgrace. Women with long hair are beautiful. Long hair is a woman’s crown of glory…” So go the words of the Apostle Paul in a letter to a church in Corinth.

Some theologians have argued that Paul’s words were said not to marginalise women, but to encourage them to separate themselves from being identified along with the prostitutes of the city. Others have dismissed his statement as chauvinist advice meant to advance the standing of men in the Christian church.

Either way, Paul’s letter reveals some attitudes that people have towards certain hairstyles.

Tlotlo Daly

You see, some hairdos are associated with certain behaviour because in many social groups, a specific hairstyle is required in order to be considered a part of the group, or to create a sense of solidarity amongst members.

For some people, such as my good friend Mathabo Tlali, hair is a way of making sure they are not considered part of a certain group.

“I was debating with myself about how I feel enslaved by societies view of ‘beauty’, and began to question why I’m not confident when I have natural hair as opposed to having a weave or anything that’s not ‘naturally me’,” Tlali says.

Mathabo Tlali (Photo by Ettione Ferreira)

Growing up, her mother was the sole chooser of her hairstyles, but with age she began to realise that for her, beauty did not have to just be a weave or relaxed hair.

“I began loathing that superficial notion,” she explains. Tlali has a natural crop and maintains that for her, changing her hairstyle was a freeing process.

My afro is an expression of the decision that I’ve made to embrace a different kind of beauty. To stand outside of people’s expectations and look to God for my mandate. Being different often scares us because stepping out of the norm is risky. But we must step out, we must be true to who we are.

 

 

 

Left to right: Matsie (beautiful), Dusty Soul, Sbosh (http://sboshlestar.tumblr.com/)

Some days I am that girl on campus with the lopsided afro, walking around looking like Frumpy Fred, and I’m still happier than ever. At that moment I smile because I’ve chosen to embrace who I am, flaws and all.

And so to add to the lessons that my hair has taught me, I must say: I am dark.  I stand out. I am not always accepted. I am an Afro, and I am beautiful, either way.

Yours,

Dusty Soul

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:30 (King James Version)