bloodletting.

i.
Post-its on the wall.
I belong deeply to myself. ~ Warsan Shire
The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself. ~ Michel de Montaigne
My alone feels so good, I’ll only have you if you’re sweeter than my solitude. ~ Warsan Shire

ii.
Cape Town.
You flew in and out so that you could catch Laura Mvula and bask in her sweet melancholy. Something about her makes you want to hold up a board that reads, “It’s going to be okay, you’re going to be okay”; so she can see it and know that she will, indeed, make it through. But you realise how superficial fan girl love is and maybe that message is for you, a note to self? So you don’t do it, but you do bask in her sad glow, and phew, she takes you to church. How glorious, she sings, this light in us – (the crowd raises their firsts in the power salute) – we are a wonder. And the congregation of natural haired girls with pretty eyes and bold lip colours said, Amen!

iii.
Solo.
You cut your hair. You’ve done it before, but all your friends say it’s because you’ve just had your heart broken. But I’ve been wanting this for a while, you reply. Yes, they say in response, but grief makes us do stupid things, makes things urgent.
You hate that they make sense. Damn them and their righteous attitudes.

iv.
Melancholy.
You swirl it around in your mouth and spit it out like a wine you didn’t like the taste of.

v.
Grief.
Days and days of agony. And opinions on how you should grieve. What is the right way to mourn? This bit is the worst.

vi.
Lemonade.
You were served lemons, and you cut your hair and danced in your underwear, wore a colourful shirt with clashing hues, felt the prettiest you have in a while, and beat your face. Your face. You’d forgotten about this beautiful chubby fat gorgeous FACE. And it’s yours. And you see now, again, because being bald (something about not having the distraction of hair and society’s beauty standards on your head leads you to confront your visage, I mean really look at it and examine every perfecter flaw and surface of flesh) always makes you remember that you are beautiful. My God you’re beautiful! Do you believe it? Believe it.

vii.

Intimacy.
There’s just me.
And all the thoughts screaming into the silence.
But there’s me. I found me, again. Or am trying.
And the taste of it is like smooth sweetness sultry silky
on my mouth.

-ends-

yours,

Dusty

“We’re writers – we bleed on the page.” – a character from BET’s “Rebel”

bloodletting
/ˈblʌdlɛtɪŋ/
noun
1
historical
the surgical removal of some of a patient’s blood for therapeutic purposes.
2
the violent killing and wounding of people during a war or conflict.
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the goodbye letters (#4)

the goodbye letters

self-sabotage

/sɛlf/ and /ˈsabətɑːʒ/

noun

  • the act of undermining a personal cause
  • any underhanded interference with personal productivity and work
  • the act or process of hampering or hurting ourselves
  • the act of deliberately stopping ourselves from achieving success

Dear Self-Sabotage,

I’m a perfectionist. It’s a strength, and it’s a weakness. It’s a strength because it pushes me to excel, but it’s a weakness because if I weigh the chances of success, and decide that they are low, I tend to get stuck; or worse, I don’t even try.

You’re that inner voice that keeps telling me I should be working harder, and if I’m not, I’m already doomed. You’ve chained me to a work ethic that’s rooted in believing that I’m not doing enough because I myself am not enough. And so my efforts feel like I’m punching a wall.

I know some of your other lies, too: “No one will care about what you have to say!” and “It’s already been done – except better!” and the most severe, “You’re running out of time – your window of opportunity has already passed!” It’s the most defeating one because it kills hope; and well, “hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life”.

I can barely think for all the lies you scream at me. And that’s your whole point isn’t it? To stop me from thinking, and therefore doing, and being.

I’m enormously talented. Yep – I said it! The opposite has been so ingrained in me for so long that it even feels like a lie to say this – but it’s true. And it’s for that reason –my talent, my drive, my opportunity to give to a world so in need of love and beauty – that I am parting ways with you.

The enemy within, making way for the strength to fight the enemy without.

I will not doubt my success, anymore.

I will not expect to fall as I rise, just because rising feels so far from the ground.

I’m going to touch the sky!

This is farewell, and I’ve sealed it with a prayer and a mustard seed.

So then, goodbye, old friend.

And good riddance!

More than a conqueror,

Dusty

“Unless we learn to know ourselves, we run the danger of destroying ourselves.” 
― Ja A. Jahannes, WordSong Poets

“So I forgive what was taken from me/ I will be free from the picture you paint you see / Tell them ‘these troubles are out of your hands’/ Tell them ‘you’re free to use them to clap and dance.’” – Seinabo Sey, Pretend

the goodbye letters (#3)

the goodbye letters

control

/kənˈtrəʊl/

noun

  • a means of limiting or regulating something
  • the power to influence or direct people’s behaviour or the course of events

Dear Control,

The funny thing is that my struggle to let you go is part of the problem, isn’t it?

On Sundays when I lie in bed and think of the week ahead, I like to know that I’ve already sorted out what’s coming ahead. But sometimes life doesn’t work out the way we plan for it to.

Sometimes life is the maybe, the what if, the in the event that. Sometimes life is full to the brim with variables, and all we can do is let it be.

That drives me crazy. I like for things to go according to Plan A, to be set, to be certain. To complete the sentence with a full stop, not a question mark. Finality.

I lowkey think I wasn’t built for the variable, but I know that’s not the case, hard as it is to accept this truth.

So I’m breaking up with you. I’m letting you go because I know that if I do, I open myself up to a life of adventure.

I know that if I do, there is an endless world of surprises waiting for me. Some are good, some are bad, and that’s okay. Both these will make me better, if I learn from them. If I l view surprises as art, then I can appreciate the creativity of life.

I know that that a hand that is closed cannot receive.

I know that a mind that is bogged down with details and blueprints cannot expand.

It’s not me, it’s you.

This is farewell, and I’ve sealed it with a prayer and a mustard seed.

So then, goodbye, old friend.

And good riddance!

Forever free,

Dusty

“For now he knew what Shalimar knew: if you surrendered to the air, you could ride it.” -Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon

the goodbye letters (#2)

shame

/ʃeɪm/

noun

  • a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour
  • dishonor or disgrace

Dear Shame,

I’m ashamed of you, how about that?!

I’ve carried you because it’s easier to sink into you than to fight you off. Then I have to imagine an existence that isn’t dependent on me fading away, and that takes a certain kind of creativity and courage I’m yet to master. I cannot master it, though, if I don’t try. Masters are merely students who kept trying. And didn’t stop learning.

You’re slick, you know that? Your biggest trick is that you make me feel embarrassed about not being able to fulfill obligations that were never mine to fulfill. Who said I had to be perfect?

You blow everything out of proportion. Damn it! Why didn’t I see it sooner? You’re just trying to make me miserable, because you’re miserable too.

Oh, dear Shame – you rob me of intimacy. I can’t be in community and covered in shame, too. You’re a leech like that (“Shame is a soul eating emotion,” CG Jung said. Gosh it’s true!). You take wellness as your sacrifice like the spiteful witch that you are.

I deserve to laugh without feeling like I’m cheating.

I deserve to hope without remembering how I failed in the past.

I deserve to dream without fear that I don’t have what it takes.

I deserve to be me without being disappointed that I’m not someone else.

I deserve better.

This is farewell, and I’ve sealed it with a prayer and a mustard seed.

So then, goodbye, old friend.

And good riddance!

Living in love,

Dusty

“If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.” – Brene Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

 “Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.” – Brene Brown, I Thought It Was Just Me: Women Reclaiming Power and Courage in a Culture of Shame

I am coming home to myself

Let me tell you a story.

Once upon a time, there was a girl who met a boy, suave, tall, dark, handsome. And she fell in love with his afro moon and the way he commanded attention with his charisma. He would write letters, and draw pictures for her, and the moTswana girl would see stars and galaxies when he spoke, shyly flashing the smile she would pass on to her first child, who would be fathered, as it turned out, by this very smooth operator who was the reason she was thinking wedding gowns and cattle already. He looked at her and saw a world beginning, a new world that they would build together and they became, one. This one, gave birth to another one, at the most random time. It was a normal day, and would have been extremely boring had her water not broken in the middle of an isle at Pick n Pay (true story), amongst the soap bars and toothpaste perhaps, with the suggestion of two-for-one specials and 20% off house brand cosmetics beaming at her as she groaned with contractions. I mean, the sky did not move, it was a normal day, when I came, and yet I was here, I too had arrived to this Life that God had made.

As children we read stories that began with “Once upon a time”. It is a decidedly English phrase, very ambitious, I think. It claims a greatness it does not live up to. Once upon a time? Time? Really? Its aim is lofty. But I guess we all have our own ways of storytelling. My once upon a time begins in 1991. It really should have been a “Giringan wa giringan”, or a “Keleketla!”, a “Kwasuka sukela”, or a “Kwath kwathi ngantsomi”. Which are the ways that the vaTsonga, baTswana, amaZulu and amaXhosa respectively, begin their tales.

“Once upon a time”, you see, is not the African way of doing things. In a gathering of say, children and adults, usually women and children, “Giringan wa giringan” is a call to attention. “Gather together”, it beckons, “because a story is about to be told”. The speaker will make the call, and those gathering will respond with “Giringan!”, or “Cozi!”

At different pauses in the story, the listeners will encourage the storyteller with repeated shouts of “Giringan!”, “Keleketla!” or “Cozi!”

So the story would go, for instance:

Storyteller: “Giringan wa giringan”

Listeners: “Giringan”

Storyteller: “Akuri na ntombi yo saseka”

Listeners: “Giringan”

Storyteller: “Leyi a yi tsutsuma ku tlula na vafana va le xikolweni”

Listeners: “Giringan”

And so forth, until such a time as the story is concluded to the teller’s satisfaction. During this interaction, because African folktales are always more dialogue than monologue, the listeners can interject with questions, comments, or even alternate scenes. So it would not be foreign for a listener to say, “Ayi tsutsuma ku va tlula? Njani?” or perhaps, “Jhee!” accompanied by a side eye or some other form of shade. Random story, I know, but my point is that the teller has the prerogative to shape the endings to the audiences’ context, so that the story about how the leopard got its spots ends up with five different variations, because in each context the teller-listener-relationship results in collaboration that presents alternate endings. No two storytellers tell the same story. But at the same time, the listener is implicated in the process; unlike in the tyranny of the text, where a reader is all but held hostage by the fixed nature of the print. In this instance, they are not just listening, they are called on to create as well.

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Photo: Dennis Ngango

Now, just a moment: I am most certainly a writer, and I love and believe in the power of the written word. But I do not think that it can exist without oral literature, or as I prefer to call it, orature. In the beginning was the word, and the word begat a story, and the story begat a rhythm, and the rhythm begat a revolution. That rhythm is not limited to written words, though there is value in that. Every important thing must be said in a story. Academia is nice, it is necessary, but if we want to measure the zeitgeist, or define it, or influence conversation, one of the places which we must first look, is stories. Stories do all the important work, really, and they are most effective because they are so unassuming. We do not know it, but when we encounter stories, we are in the classroom.

The moTsonga man with the afro moon and the moTswana woman with the everlasting smile welcomed their little girl into the world with enthusiasm, and vowed to send her into the world a moTsonga girl. This is what is right, this is what culture said they needed to do. You marry, if you are his wife, and are born into, if you are his seed, a man’s culture. In addition, they would send her to a Model C school, they would raise her in a township that was predominantly xiTsonga speaking, and they would speak to her in his language. The little girl’s mother would learn the moTsonga man with the afro moon’s language, though she stumbled through it, she soldiered on. They drew neat lines and built their lives within those boundaries, squashing their daughter’s complex identities into a single way of being. She was never Tsonga enough for the xiTsonga speaking people, and never Tswana enough for the seTswana speakers, and yet, here she was, an inconvenient truth. Everything she knew about culture and identity was one thing, but her life repeatedly presented her with contradictions to the ideals of family and culture. She was a deviant, she was other.

I am ‘other’ – a position of not belonging. Because I am a woman, a Black woman, in a world that hates Black women but demands from them constantly. To create, to hold things together, to not break. I am other because I love God in a world that either blames Him for its injustice, or uses Him to cause it. I am other because I am Black – basically, plankton in the food chain of human life. I am other because my father is a moTsonga in a country that reduces us to stereotypes: loud, what they say is ‘unbearably dark’, ugly, smelly, badly dressed, kwerekwere, and the list continues. I am other because I am both a moTsonga and a moTswana, and despite what society dictates, I embrace all parts of my heritage. I am not either/or, I am both.

I am other because I have lived a life in which as a young girl, my white friends wanted me to be myself, but not too much, lest any part of my Blackness disrupt the serenity of their cushioned realities. White people have the privilege of being themselves without consequence for their race. As Ta Nehisi Coates says about “the invention of racecraft”: “they [meaning white supremacists] made us into a race. We made ourselves into a people.”  It is a miracle how we are able to carry on, in spite of… and yet the moment that we ‘show’ ourselves, in a way that is perceived as either negative or positive, we are sanctioned. I understood this as a child, that my place in the world came with the burden of my race, and my womanhood.

Only black people are raced. We could build clubhouses together at the back of the school, but when it came down to it, they would get picked up from school by their mothers, and I would take the bus home, get off at the bus stop, walk home, and open the door to an existence that was as different from theirs as the colour of our skins. And to my Black friends, I was a coconut, the snob who spent too much time with white people, stayed in the house all day, and did not have friends in her own neighbourhood. Always struck me as odd that there were clear lines drawn in the sand for lives that are, very clearly, messy and unpredictable. As though much of our ways of being are not learned and reproduced subconsciously. As though we are not always becoming, shifting and navigating the spaces in which we move and have our being.

We exist in the push and pull. In the tension. Author Ben Okri says of it, “We lead fragmented lives, fragmented identities”. And so the middle, not between two lines but where boundaries touch, exactly at the line that joins two different realities, that is where we live our messy lives.

It is a complicated thing, with a complicated history, but it is not my ending.

12672112_10208615385800402_2212840079539526456_o

Photo: Puno Selesho

Toni Morrison described it best when she said, “We are the subjects of our own narrative, witnesses to and participants in our own experience, and, in no way coincidentally, in the experience of those with whom we have come in contact. We are not, in fact, “other”. We are choices.”

I thought that was so powerful, and it’s a mantra that I live by – “We are choices.” We are crafting a new story each day. We can push back. Despite oppression, despite the fact that my name is not shouted from the rooftops. I slither in silence like a snake, not quite as menacing but twice as deliberate, certain, and present. You will know it when I strike, and I intend to strike.

In every story there is a villain, and mine is a many headed monster: heterosexist patriarchy, is written across the first head. Capitalism, on another. White supremacy, on the next. This is the monster against which I intend to strike.

My country beckons me – it beckons you. Maybe God gave us fragility, our Achilles heel, to remind us that we are only as great as others have allowed us to be. Our greatness is not a solitary project.

In the BBC documentary How My Country Speaks, Lebo Mashile shares what she thinks being a South African means, it is quite lengthy, bear with me:

“South Africa feels like a social experiment with 50 million people trying to figure out where we all fit in. If you are white, you are the descendants of settlers, you don’t fit in. If you are Black you’ve been dispossessed so you don’t fit in. If you are coloured then you’re too complicated, you’re mixed race, you don’t fit in. Everybody can find ten different reasons why they don’t belong to this thing called South African-ness, and that quintessentially is kind of what makes us South African.”

She then goes on to recite a poem. Part of it goes:

“South Africa is a fractured mirror, a paradox of schizophrenic selves who don’t talk to one another, who co-exist together but don’t live with each other. Who fear each other. Who revere each other. Who loathe, and pretend, and try to blend in with each other. And this is the time when you can become the greatest substance of your dreams unless you live in a shack, and don’t speak English and don’t know what this poem means.”

Could it be then, that another head on the monster which is the villain of our South African story, is our wounded-ness? We are haunted by the ghosts of our past, by our pain. Our nostalgic leanings, our desires for an untouched past, to return to a pristine and untouched Africa, are a longing for our wholeness. Coates refers to it as a “return to ourselves”. I think he is talking about healing. He is talking about coming home to ourselves.

I am not talking about the model that the truth and reconciliation commission set forth at the dawn of democracy. It was with noble intentions that they did that, but what it did, was suppress Black pain, and let unrepentant murderers go scot free. The TRC and Rainbow Nation-ism, are part of why I am skeptical when I hear white people, and even some Black people, use the word ‘ubuntu’, or ‘botho’. What they should be meaning is justice. Instead what they mean, more often than not, is absolution from crimes they did not intend to pay for, and the chance to not think about their privilege too much. Think Chris Hani and the wounds his family still carries. Think Nokuthula Simelane and her family’s search for truth for over thirty years. Their blood still cries out. Do you hear it? Or are you more concerned, with living a comfortable life?

We want desperately to know, who is African? Who is not ‘othered’ here? Who gets to ‘belong’, here?

Personally I think that anyone may belong here, whatever race they are, for as long as they get with the program, so to speak. Africa is a state of mind. What drives you? Shared responsibility, common justice and equity? Africa is a commitment. For whom do we build our futures? How do we build? Are we willing to decolonise, so that we can build something new?

Sonia Sanchez said it so beautifully when she said, and I live by this mantra, “I will become, I will become a collector of me, and put meat on my soul.”

And so I would like to start my story again, because mind you, my story is always starting and ending and starting and that is its greatest continuity, the birth and death that is always happening. So yes, let me start again, Giringan wa giringan?

**This essay was presented as a talk at The Park Exchange’s first speaker edition. The theme was “Race, Identity, and what it means to be an African”. It has been edited for brevity and clarity. Look out for the next speaker edition, happening in Pretoria this Saturday.

Power, strength, healing, and happy Africa Day.

Dusty

No one is original. Everyone is derivative. ~ Sonny Rollins

For the ones who refuse to stifle their roar

“This ability to hold on, even in very simple ways, is work black women have done for a very long time.” ~ Alice Walker, In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens

For you,

I would do anything. This is my note of love and light to you. I have tried to write you a letter, but the words keep getting stuck in my throat. All I have for you is  solidarity, is a thought, is a prayer.

So many of us need healing. Seek yours with a stubbornness only heaven can shake. Don’t hang around in the hurt, no matter how seductive that may be. You are not what you have been through.

Strength and power,

Dusty

“Do not go gentle into that good night. / Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” ~ Dylan Thomas, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

“The Secret Castle” by Ben Okri (audio book)

Ben Okri’s short story as narrated by theDustySoul.

Lunch-with-Ben-Okri-011

An illustration of Ben Okri. Source: here

Love,

DustySoul

You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honour. Aristotle

water (part 3): Zaneliza – How the Water Moves

22

I remember the year the Tsunami hit. It was the early 2000s, and we were in primary school. Suddenly we all had to discuss what a Tsunami is, why and how it happens, and how many people had died versus how many had survived. We were astounded at the determination of that tide, and the powerlessness of those running from it, weak in the face of such a frightening and mighty moving body of water.

But destruction is not water’s only expression. In thinking about Msaki’s latest offering, Zaneliza – How the Water Moves, I had this – the strength of water, and how it can take on a life of its own, and even (joy!) give you life – foremost in my mind.

So I called her up and we had a young chat about “loss, hope and the wave-like rhythms in between those two states of being”.

Dusty: Cool! How are you?

Msaki: I’m good. I’m (pauses) hectic. I’m trying to leave for Cape Town so I’m trying to wrap up things today. And I need a PA, so I’m tryna put out an ad.

Dusty: I was actually wondering, how do you survive? I hate admin, personally, and I’m like ‘How does she survive, how does she raise a baby, be a wife, be an artist –’

[Msaki is an independent artist and does all her own management and bookings through her company, One Shushu Day  Artistry. She’s basically superwoman. Jokes. But close 😉 She has also been featured on popular house tracks.]

Msaki: Am I surviving?

Dusty: (laughs)

Msaki: I’m up between 3 [AM] and 5 [AM], doing my stuff, like I said.

Dusty: Ja you can’t get me up at that hour for anything, except if the house is burning.

Msaki: (laughs) Ja that’s my time. I actually wrote a song this morning because I was just like uh-uh, need to block off all the nonsense of the admin that’s creeping up and I just had to sing.

Dusty: Yeah. (pause) Okay well the last time I wrote about you, I wrote about the EP [Nal’ithemba], this was when it had just come out –

Msaki: I love that blog post!

Dusty: (laughs)

Msaki: Ja, EP indala mfondini, what was it – like 2013?

Dusty: Yeah it was 2013, I remember because I was listening to it a lot in my last year at Rhodes.

[The EP sold over 3000 copies – all independently. Msaki plays for mostly smaller audiences, and prefers to connect with listeners this way. Her latest project was crowd-funded largely in part by her network of supporters, people she has met and connected with over the years, musicians and music-lovers alike, her “Golden Circle”.]

Msaki: For some reason when you’re playing to smaller crowds, it’s easier for people to want to buy at the end of the show, ‘cos they really get to connect, you know? Like I’ll do shows in someone’s lounge for 60 people, and almost everyone will walk out with the EP. Stuff like that happens, because it’s difficult to hide your soul, it’s difficult to hide the message [in that atmosphere]. The proximity physically also lends itself to a proximity spiritually because people are examining you from up close and the energy is right there. It almost beckons you to share the essence of the music more. I find that in small gigs I’ve got less disclaimers, I’m less stressed about what people think, you know? But in the festival gigs I’m always like, ‘Oh my gosh – are people bored? Am I playing enough upbeat songs?’ and I’m wondering if they’re not twiddling their toes waiting for Zahara.

Dusty: (laughs) So the message of the EP [the first offering] was hope and love – what’s the message of this [album]?Is it resistance, water …?

Msaki: Oh man (pause). I didn’t realise how much loss I was processing through this album, and trying to figure out how you express or share that without it being full of despair. Just thinking of the waves coming in and the lapses in between and the ebb and the flow – there’s something about the water, cleansing, that made the loss bearable. So the theme of hope is always there, it seems like it will be a central theme to all my work. At the same time this album…it kinda like leaves you in the middle of the sea there bobbing wondering if a rescue mission is coming or not, you’ve gotta sorta figure it out for yourself. (laughs)

Dusty: Ja.

Msaki: It’s more real life. There is a song full of hope but it’s also like, ‘What next? Where do we go from here? And what do I do with all the stuff that’s sore? It’s asking more questions, and I guess I’m imperfectly processing some of the things that make me sad about being young, about being in this country, about the reality of losing people and the reality of losing dreams and having to pick yourself up and do another day when things aren’t working out.

Dusty: The line “Living water for the war over your heart/ Waterfall” [from Weight (for the war] stuck out to me, and it gave me a sense of watering in your life, watering the dry spaces, watering the dryness.

Msaki: If you listen to the pressing of a waterfall when you’re right there against it, you can’t mistake the power that’s there. Continuing from the EP; even using the water metaphor, I spoke about how You are not my strength/ You rock the cliff, the edge, the drop, my landing of love, I almost pictured myself jumping into a waterfall, like free falling into a waterfall, when I wrote that. If you think you’re jumping from the cliff into water (and the water is meant to be a metaphor for love), you’re mistaken because you’re standing on love, the rock is love, the cliff is love, the water is love, the great force around you when you’re in the water…that was when I decided to become a musician full-time because I realized that grace had been covering me the whole way and it will continue to do so, and that love is ready to meet me if I take the leap. So that water theme extends itself into this album, but now it’s looking at the different qualities of water and also what that speaks to my heart. Waterfall, nyani – you realise that God is fighting for you. There are clues that are telling you this all the time. You’ve got your own inner turmoil but there’s an outer fight that also manifests itself on the inside. But there are so many clues on the outside saying ‘Look around, keep going’. That whole line, that’s kind of where it’s from. The waterfall was a very obvious sign that love is fighting for me. The power, the rushing noise, and…thing of a war cry. Hence that line that you’re talking about.

[Weight (for the war) is the first single off of the new album. It begins with Msaki chanting the words “FRIEND FIRE FREEDOM FEEL/ WISDOM WONDER WORRY WISH/ BLESSING BURDEN BROTHER BREATHE/ WAIT WAIT WAIT WEIGHT” acapella. In later verses, she changes the last line to the refrain, “WADE WADE WADE WADE”. The pause after the acapella intro is followed by a guitar playing a note suspended over a bar as she sings about the blues. Enter the drum, which together with the chorus, creates a marching sound that increases the urgency of the song. As it progresses, more instruments are layered in, until the point when the song reaches its dramatic turn, ushered in by a stripping back of all the instruments save for the urgent drum, and the subsequent introduction of a soaring orchestration. By the time my favourite line, “LIVING WATER FOR THE WAR OVER YOUR HEART/ WATERFALL” is sung; the battle has raged, and the war –punctuated by the rousing, rallying cries “ZIYADILIKA IZINDONGA!” and “MAKULIWE!” – is steady on the way to victory. An earnest ‘call to arms’ that’ll rouse the faith of even the most doubtful Thomas. If you haven’t already, listen to it below.]

Msaki: Can you hear Kwanda? She’s trying to pull off my ears, can you hear her in the background?

Dusty: (laughs) Yes I can hear her with her little sounds every now and then.

Kwanda: *indistinguishable baby talk*

Dusty: (laughs) She’s so cute.

Msaki: Hayi sana ubusy ubusy ubusy.

Dusty: (laughs) I have one more question. You were saying [elsewhere] that it is hard in the music industry, to keep the message central, to not get distracted by the machine. What are the things that you do to remind yourself that the message is important, and to keep the message intact inside of you?

Msaki: First thing is to surround yourself with a community that isn’t afraid to point out your blind spots to you. I’m in an industry where ego is king, and depending on who you’re working with, that kind of stuff can become more apparent than the inner journey. If I spend my time with like-minded people that know what music is for, and have a heart for artistry and creativity, and community, then I think I’m in a safe space to go explore, to go to different places and come back and know ba kukhona abantu that are gonna be able to tell me that I’m going astray. That’s sort of the outer section. But now…Like this morning I had to wake up at three and fight for my own union, you know? Because that’s what music started as for me – it started as a way of communion, a way of communing with myself and with God. It’s a space where I can also listen for what song is being played to me. It’s so easy to stumble into every day and completely be absorbed by your To Do List and everything that you’re chasing as well, and things like trying to organize an event for a friend. All those things can still be good and you’re busying yourself with things that are good, but it still might mean that you’re distracted and you’re missing out. Sometimes I need to reset, to listen to God even more than myself. And sometimes these songs are not even to be shared, they are just for me to get something, the things that I need to meditate on and think about and acknowledge as truth for myself. Especially with so many messages that are telling us that we’re worthless, that we’re unlovable – that’s pretty much a very strong message out there. ‘You’re only good as your next this…’ There’s so many things, and I have to fight for a space that’s more real, and that’s where I’m writing from. Uhm, I don’t really think there’s anything wrong with writing from a point of confusion, or from a point of being hurt, or processing the stuff that’s out there, I think it’s really important; but my reality, wholeheartedly, should come from the secret place, or the place where I’m quiet. (laughs) I don’t know how to say some of these things, because even that, I’m exploring it through my music.

Dusty: (laughs) It makes sense. Thank you.

*This conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity.

*Zaneliza – How the Water Moves, will be available in stores April 16th, 2016. If you struggle to find a copy, email oneshushuday@gmail.com to inquire.

Love and warm waves,

DustySoul

“The tides are in our veins.” ― Robinson Jeffers

“Though I walk through the valley low, I’ll fear no evil. By the water, fill my soul, no matter where I go.” ― SUTRA, The Water

“For whatever we lose (like a you or a me),
It’s always our self we find in the sea.”
― E.E. Cummings, 100 Selected Poems

 

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

 

 

water (part 1): on getting wet

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This drought situation has really been stressing me out. December at home was rather trying because our water was rationed (there was a day we went two days without it!). This on top of the frequent electricity cuts. I wasn’t coping fam.

There’s nothing like a drought to remind us that we are fragile. Human. And incredibly dependent on Something Other than ourselves. As cows die, plants struggle to bear fruit, and the fish in the water perish with the drying dam, we cannot help but be confronted with our mortality.

We go through life like tumbleweeds, hurtling forward at breakneck speed, but even then, there is wind that propels us that makes that movement possible. We are not as independent as we thought we were.

I am sitting at happy.me popping bubbles and balled fruit through my straw. The tea is delicious. I’ve made a mental note to remember my combination so that I can have it again, perhaps bring a friend so that we can try it together. I am typing away at the screen, busying my mind and time with admin because, well, it’s what I came to do, but also because if I stop, I will certainly begin to cry again. It’s been an emotional month, you see, and I have cried many rivers of tears in the past few weeks. I turned 25 exactly 8 days ago. Leading up to my birthday I had anxiety, a feeling of pulled-down-ness, an inertia, a blues. It was apprehension at growing old and feeling like my life is a helpless with little chance of rain. I felt dry.

When the birth-day eventually came I was calmer than I had been leading up to its arrival, but I felt very faux-adult. And lonely. Like maybe if I had a boyfriend to take me out on a date that day I would feel better about how crappy my life turned out to be at this point. But thinking that made me frustrated at the thought that even if I did, I’d have nothing to offer him.

A few weeks later and I have just knocked off, made my way to Bree, and am in line waiting for a taxi home. Half an hour later, I am still waiting. It is not pleasant, but it’s not the worst case scenario. An hour passes. Okay, this is not ideal but maybe a taxi will arrive now. By the time I’ve been in line for two hours I can barely think straight for frustration: the last taxi to my destination left thirty minutes ago with people sitting four-four and some on top of those four. As people were rushing to get into it, we were pushing and jostling and still some of us did not make it in. My anxiety levels were through the roof. “This is what we have been reduced to,” I think. “Fighting for space in a taxi that shakes unsteadily as it moves, offering no certainty that it will reach it destination in one piece, and neither, for that matter, could we. We’ve worked long days, we are weary, we live in squalor, we work tirelessly, and yet we still can’t get out.”

Black life is cheap.

Bree has now closed so we are all outside, and in true dramatic fashion, it begins to rain. Now I am without transport and I am getting wet and cold. It is the last thing I need, but I embrace it, because we need rain. Aren’t I the one stressed out about the drought? Funny that, to be mad at the thing I have been wanting just because it came at a time that made me uncomfortable.

Makes me think, you know, of Langston Hughes’ April Rain Song :

Let the rain kiss you
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops
Let the rain sing you a lullaby
The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk
The rain makes running pools in the gutter
The rain plays a little sleep song on our roof at night
And I love the rain. 

Who can stop the rain? Who can make it stay its course or sway it to another direction? All we can do is embrace the shower. To embrace the journey that we are on, to be like children, who welcome getting wet with innocent abandon. To actually feel, not escape, the rain. And when we are through, because we have been watered, to grow.

Yours,

Dusty

“Two mountains can never meet but perhaps you and I can meet again. I am coming to your waterfall.”
― Edwidge Danticat, The Farming of Bones