Category Archives: Life\

June 16th

A few years ago, at the height  of my artistry and my failure I was presented with another means to grow, to expand. A good friend of mine had a connection to stage a play, I think in Worcester, the theme being June 16th.

At that time, I had failed at varsity and  was adamant to prove to my parents that I was still  worthy. Worthy of their love? Worthy of their respect? Perhaps both? And so emerged the journey of “Lest we forget”.

Lest we forget was a play created in remembrance of the struggle of June 16th 1976,now dubbed youth day in South Africa. It marks when youth conspired amoung themselves to stand up  against the presiding government, for their decision to administer education  in Afrikaans. Afrikaans then  being foreign, not innate to the majority  of South Africa’s means of communication and an oppressive language.

The youth centralised themselves to fight, on that day against this atrocity. Lives were lost, humans were wiped out with force because of their opposition to a language and furthermore a system.

“Lest we forget” therefore proved a difficult task to create. How could we relate 30 years later to the struggle of youth – younger, more vulnerable and less protected than us?

We had to tap into the hurt, the so-called empathetic imagination and put ourselves right there. It was tough. We had vigorous rehearsals where one would sit on a chair and the other would interrogate their motives in a dim-lit room devoid of help. We created a past, present  and future so scenarios of how freedom is experienced. This play would have brought me to tears, alas, it  was never staged.

The marches, the hurt and passion of the day never leaves me. I cannot create a better social milieu, you cannot, lest we forget.

I wrote a poem for the day. Read it, and dare not forget:

Lest we forget

this land is  blood soiled

scarlet hugged and pain bound

echoing memories of lives gone

in throbbing chests of women

who will never be grandmothers.

Lest we forget

Teas gas, no longer visible

olfactory organs pick up no scent

of blinded comrades penetrated by rubber bullets

running by bodies who have struggled and are now spent.

Lest we forget

mass funerals, communities in turmoil

hearts pain stricken

oblivious to recovery

after mother , father sister and brother

are buried for issued passes as lesser beings.

Lest we forget

songs of freedom,

marches to Union buildings,

boycotts of inferior schooling,

imprisonment for twenty-seven years,

noble rebellion of minority rules.

Lest we forget

the belief we are similar

mirror images

reflecting Gods,

souls of furnace ,connected in likeness-

no dilution will incur

perpetuating rivers of the hurt

that run rapidly

repetitively, cognitively and inwardly.

Lest we forget

we will regret current times

where censorship of truth is contracted by law

without our permission,

remaining reminiscent

of our blood soiled land

scarlet hugged bound by pain,

lest we forget.


Lekker smet

I’ve been known to return home rather late in the evenings.Perhaps this is due to the modern ailment coined FOMO(Fear of missing out)or perhaps it’s because I’m exceptionally social or perhaps because where I reside,in a suburb situated at the end of Cape Town,not too much goes on.

I like the action,the lights and the vibe of the city.It has always been an aspiration to live and work in the city centre,and though this may be hard for people in other provinces to fathom,Cape Town city remains a hub of activity where people flock to. More so the city is maintained and is aesthetically attractive,unlike the city centre of the other major city centres in South Africa.

One evening after watching a show,I left town and returned to the faraway suburb of Kraaifontein. Having exhausted all my cigarettes,the best option seemed to be to visit the local bar called Uncle Stan’s pizza pub-the only place open after hours that retains the R22.50 as opposed to R35 at filling stations.

What you have to understand is that this place is smet.You may not be familiar with this term smet,but it is a slang term for something grungy,filthy and even common.You’ll find the most interesting characters in smet places but you will also be ogled shamelessly if you are a female.It’s the type of place that you’re not going to “check in” on,on Facebook.More so I doubt if any selfies have proudly been posted on Instagram with has tags such as #Inniekraaibak#Unclestans#mannesonder tanne (trans.#InnieKraaifontein#unclestans#menwithoutteeth).

I suppose the appeal of a place like Uncle Stan’s is that it is close to home for its usual patrons.It becomes a matter of convenience if you’re really in the mood to drink. A local watering hole where you build a community of drinkers and kak praaters(trans.bullshitters) also has its appeal since people are by nature gregarious. This might not appeal to many,but in Stan’s there exists slot machines,which draws it’s own brand of hopefuls.

As I entered Stan’s,I immediately become self-conscious.All eyes are fixed on me and I receive slight nods,wry grins and blatant stares.I ask the barman for my brand and just as I pay and about to leave,a poster catches my eye.Could it be?Perhaps it’s true?I refer to the poster and ask the barman “Hey mister,is that for real?” and a patron to the left of me answers “it’s on the poster,it must be real”.He then proceeds to ask me if I thought that things like this are impossible here in Stan’s.He then went further to say that I should know that Stan’s bar is famous.

The poster relayed that on 15 May,Mel Jones would be performing comedy in Stan’s at 20:00.I couldn’t believe it.Was Stan’s famous after all?Had I been missing out on a cultural hub on my doorstep because of my preconceptions?This had to be remedied,so as I left I fixed the date and time in my head,because yes, I would be there to see Mel Jones for free comedy in my neighbourhood.

Granted,I’ve never seen Mel perform before,but she has become one of the comedians whose name is recognisable and respected.When attending Nomad Artiste Colony’s Spoken Word Showdown,the culture of comedy and comedians as an entity has lured my interest.It would seem that comedians run in packs.They attend an array of events to network,check out the competition and gain information as to where and how they can get stage time.I suppose they are much like any other artists,but there is definitely a group-like-camaraderie amoung them and it seems everyone knows everyone.I knew that watching Mel meant I got to see a established comedian in a rather unusual venue and naturally it had to be done.

The night of the show I begged and pleaded with my sister to come to Stan’s with me.Her immediate reaction was “why would I ever go to that place”, but with the promise of a few drinks I managed to convince her.As soon as we sat down we realised we were two of four females at the bar.We chatted and waited until we spotted Mel.It was then that I realised Stan’s bar was in fact not famous,but the reasons for Mel’s presence was an initiative by Grand slots,who organised entertainment at various bars where their slot machines were installed.

Kagiso D Mokgadi,a comedian from Pretoria, acted as MC and opened the gig for Mel.He had a hard time of it.The crowd was disrespectful,rowdy and somewhat aloof,as if they were used to having comedians of Kagiso’s reputation in Stan’s bar.The man has performed at the Baxter for goodness sakes,for money!Here however,in this cove in Kraaifontein,he was disregarded by folk who did not concede a cent.I felt for him.

Kagiso D Mokgadi

Kagiso D Mokgadi

 

When Mel stepped to the stage,it was a different story.She took control,moved chairs around,told people to sit and persisted that this was a show and she’d like to be heard.Mel is what I’d call a no-nonsense-lady.Assertive,fearless and confident.She handled that room of men with such tenacity that immediately they were hooked.Best of all-she was exceptionally funny.Her brand of comedy is rooted in her Mitchells Plain neighbourhood and contains anecdotes of childhood stories,hair,names,old boyfriends and even karaoke.

Kagiso D Mokgadi and Mel Jones

Kagiso D Mokgadi and Mel Jones

Her comedy was aimed at a “coloured” audience and a mixture of English and Afrikaans persisted through her set.She was funny without being insulting and without being pretentious.She was quintessentially comfortable in her skin and felt no hesitation to reprimand anyone who disrupted her set.

Mel Jones

Mel Jones

Despite her initial hesitation in going with me,my sister sang Mel’s praises and laughed her head off.She later admitted that she was so glad we went.

I think it was admirable the way Mel handled herself considering the crowd was initially unruly,but it’s also a very brave thing to perform in a venue that does not necessarily avail itself to artworks such as planned and organised comedic sets.

I suppose the lesson here is:
-not to be too proud to take the less glamorous jobs as an artist.
-to be comfortable in your art,you know you are talented,the crowd just has to be eased into realising that too.

-I’m hooked on comedy.

-And of course:Smet can also be lekker.


Mandela: The sentiment lives on

freedomI am of the school of thought of the sentimental. I cry easily and feel deeply and I struggle to find words and cognize external stimuli when in shock.

Thursday night saw me standing in a two-hour line to go to a party I just “had” to be at and someone randomly mentioned; they are saying Mandela has died. I went on with my life, still waiting in line. How many times in the last few months have I not heard those same words, those same debates and even in July I was not brave enough to say how I felt, that I was of the sentiment that in 2013 someone, anyone should say “Free Nelson Mandela”.

Once in the club, an announcement came from the DJ. “Can I please ask everyone to raise peace signs to the sky, we’ve just received news that Nelson Mandela has died”. I stood there and watched how everyone raised their peace signs, but my arm remained stuck to my side”. The D J then played That’s what friends are for and life continued.

When I got home, I spent two hours over a toilet bowel, puking out who knows what feeling (this was not due to alcohol intake, I had picked up a bug from my little brother) and woke the next day feeling terrible. While driving all talk was about Mandela on the radio, his death his life, his struggle. In between feeling physically sick and overwhelmed, I had not shed a tear.

At work, it was all the buzz. One everyone’s lips was Mandela  and all I could do was throw-up and battle to feel human. Eventually I threw in the towel and asked to leave work. I came home and slept.

So yes my life went on, and now I am here, still woozy and silent. I can’t explain why I am too deeply saddened to verbalize what I feel. A month ago when asked in an interview who my icon was  I said “ The most obvious answer would be Nelson Mandela, but I think that Mandela is a representative of a sentiment that we aspire to, so I think it’s fair to say that the sentiment he represents is my icon”.

The face of freedom is what he has become to South Africans, but there are many faces of freedom in South Africa, who have died, are not mentioned or scarcely documented.  I’ve always felt that in this land, the struggle is not so much for freedom, but in actuality it is between what we choose to embrace as ideals. Are we the Nelson Mandela figure, the one aspiring for peace, the one with the sense of humour, a sense of interconnectedness, a wisdom that permeates to an understanding that we should not fight each other, but rather embrace .  Are we the opposite? The image of the system that is apartheid, filled with hatred, fear and greed. Judging rather than understanding , oppressing rather that uplifting one another?

What are we really as South Africans? Who are we? These are the questions I grapple with every day when I encounter personalities on either side of these spectrums. The death of Mandela does not mark the end of what he represents. Perhaps with his death, it may feel as it has, a sense of what he represents has left us, but that is not true, perhaps that is why I am in a limbo state of mourning. I feel that those ideals will live on if we choose it, matter of fact it was present before a face was ascribed to it.

My father says when Mandela was released from prison he was present and I was hoisted on his shoulders amoung the crowd at the Grand Parade in Cape Town. That’s the closest I got to meeting him/ seeing him and knowing him and that is actually okay with me. I know that his legacy and sentiments are present in me regardless, because it’s in me, it lies at the core of my soul and who I am. My hope is that South African’s don’t forget that freedom and equality  was bred because it was part of the collective conscience, that is was every soul populating our land wanted. That is what won, freedom won because we chose it, and may it continue to be that way. May equality soon follow.

RIP Nelson Mandela, long live South Africa.


Lingua Franca: Sold out

Lingua

Saturday passed,saw the first anniversary of the spoken word movement Lingua Franca, the brainchild of Delft artist’s Mawande Manez Sobethwa, Ncedisa Jargon Mpemnyama, Lwanda Sindaphi and Mbongeni Nomkonwana.

The term Lingua Franca can be defined as: a medium of communication between people’s of different languages. That said, I’m of the opinion that this spoken word movement has done just that, it has managed to create a community where poetry and music became the Lingua Franca of everyone involved.

The Lingua Franca shows usually take place at the Masambe theatre, a quaint annexure of the  Baxter theatre. When it just started out, Mbongeni Nomkomwana, 2012 regional winner and 2013 coordinator of the DFL Lover+Another competition, asked if I would come share a poem on the open mic, in retrospect, I’m so glad I went.

My first impression of the event was that the soul’s that inhibited that theatre were sincere. The audience was attentive, engaged and appreciative of every poet and artist who graced the stage.

Thereafter word spread, and the numbers grew up to the point that spectators were quite satisfied to sit on the floor just to be part of the magic that is Lingua Franca. In demand, the movement upped the ante and regulated the door by selling tickets which surprisingly still pulled a huge crowd.

The most recent format of the Lingua Franca shows provides a marriage of poets and musicians. The talented Lingua Franca band consists of Babalwa Makwethu and Bongeka Qhanga on vocals, Mcebisi Tshambula , Zama Qambi and Lwando Bam on percussion and the talented Lumanyano “Unity” Mzi on guitar and keyboard. The band feels out the poet and their piece and usually create original accompanying music on the spot during rehearsals.
liingu
To celebrate their first anniversary, a show had to be had in true Lingua Franca style.

The line up was amazing which featured Lingua Franca’s resident poets : Anele Kose, Koleka Putuma, Mfundo Ntobongwana, Lwanda and Mbongeni. Other poets included myself, Kgothatso Motshele, Lerato Mokobe, Kyle Louw, Ingonyama Yamagama , Khanyiso Mabhodla, Javier Perez , Thabiso Nkoana and Naledi Rabi.

Right before the show commenced a friend of mine, and a regular to the show, alerted me that the tickets were sold out. I panicked since I knew that she and her mother had come especially to see me. I tried to pull some strings, but I was told that rules were rules and that my only spectators would have to go without. Also in the foyer, ticket-less, was Michael Rolfe one of the coordinators of the longstanding Off the wall poetry sessions.

As luck and poetry would have it, my friend and Michael did manage to get into the show as the tall, gregarious, Loerie award-winning MC Manez Sobethwa pleaded with the audience to “act as in a Cape Town taxi and scoot up for your neighbour”.His plea worked. Also in the audience was coordinator of the InZync Poetry sessions , Adrian van Wyk. If two of the coordinators of the most sought after poetry platforms in Cape Town attend your show, you must be doing something right.

Overall the show was fantastic with the band and the poets receiving a standing ovation from the audience. My personal favourites of the evening  were the angelic Kgothatso Motshele who delivered a matter of fact poem about the grey area with regard to rape and sexualization of females within society. Koleka Putuma, who delivered an intimate portrayal of an individuals’ struggle with organised religion and the appreciation of a pious mother. Kyle Louw with his beautiful extended metaphor on drugs and love and Naledi Rabi, who has the type of voice that can make even a girl question her sexuality.

It was beautiful and it was indeed a celebration of poetry, art and life. It goes to show that the popularity of poetry in Cape Town has increased immensely and that people are flocking to hear, share and feel in these artistic truths.

A huge congratulations to Lingua France for their persistence, belief and love of this art form. What they have managed to a achieve is more than just a platform, they have built a community in art that manages to elevate the collective conscience of society and that is definitely noteworthy.

As a treat, here is the poem that I performed at the show.


Let the poet speak

Shhhhht! Quiet!
Listen,
and let the poet speak
lend your ears ,
just let the poet speak
and ease your fears
please!

Let the poet speak
and enlighten your mind
let the poet speak
and watch your soul rise
effortlessly
as it was always meant to do.

Armed with nothing but words
the poet navigates this world
with sounds and rhythm
stomping metaphors and similes
unearthing sacred verses
you never dreamed to exist.

Resist if you must
there in the crowd
in that dimmed room
your only wish is entertainment
but if you open yourself instead
an arrangement
of what you already know
prose now becoming poems
replanting seeds already sown
constructed for you
by the poet
to help your spirit grow.

Let the poet speak
and as each beat of your heart
mimics the content,
pulses the history,
merges with your energy,
envelopes your being,
praise the poet
for their work and their meaning
like the ancient soothsayers of yesteryear
where crowds gathered to decipher
uncode and denote
the wisdom imparted from their lips.

Let the poet speak
but not in vain,
as your mind wraps around their words
respect ,reflect and understand their pain
their hope, their dreams
their need to stand nakedly in front of you
reciting to you things
they just have to say
all the paths that came their way
hurts dealt with
that bleed and lay
internally
until they are staged
for you.

Le t the poet speak
let them know you agree or disagree
indicate that you’ve cognized their concept,
their rhyme,
their verse, their time
their art
their belief in a better world
their battle against injustice,
their sweat , their hustle
in solitary crafting
drafting and second guessing
each sentence
to share with you a poem
that’s just too pressing ,
if left inside it would fester
and the poet
would surely die.

Let the poet speak and see nations rise to their feet
an army clad in harmony
interconnectedness the mission
protesters upholding banners that read
“down with hatred and divison”.

Let the poet speak ,
remind you of what it was like to be in love
providing those soft nuances
delicate images,
blissful ideologies,
the belief in
second possibilities.

Hear the poet out
when you’re dealing with loss
that private place that only you, god and the poet knows.

Let the poet reassure you
I will be alright
that when your world plummets and falls
just hold yourself tight to make it right ,
let the poet write that wrong
and perhaps not presently
but as time suspends, your hurt will too
replaying continuously , repetitively
the poets words to you.

Let the poets words dance in your joy ,
lift your spirit
elevate your consciousness,
celebrate your present,
arch the corners of your mouth ,
recounting the preciousness of your life.

Just let the poet speak.
But dear poet
when they let you speak,
and tweak their minds,
pierce their souls,
be weary
that your words can destroy and build
ignite or spite
heal or deride
with every sound your recite.

If you’re a poet and they let you speak
honour the privilege
the platform the hour,
devour
each passing minute they let you speak
eating their time like your last meal,
intend to let them feel
the best way you can
for you are the poet
and though they may not know it
they were always waiting for you to speak.

In peace and poetry: Roché


I am Woman, hear me love.

powa3

Hear me roar is the better known statement, thanks to the opening line of Helen Reddy’s song I am Woman (1971), but after this weekend I thought that love would be more apt.

Last year I decided to submit a short story to POWA’s women’s writing project and lo and behold, my story ,Girl Power was published in the 2012 anthology titled Breaking the Silence : Sisterhood. An array of emotions come to the fore upon knowing that you will be published. In my case, it can be explained as the following:

Utter joy and disbelief when you are first informed that your writing will be put in an actual book. This was followed by excitement and pure euphoria. Then the anticipation of waiting for the physical copy ensues. When you finally receive the book and your name is printed in black and white you are kind of shell-shocked and content. After the contentment wanes, you are faced with the “Well what now?”, the excitement passes and you come to terms with the fact that  you are still you, the only actual difference is that you get to add a book to your collection that now contains your name and your writing.

Being published is a lifelong dream for many people. I worked in a bookshop for many years and at the time it seemed so unattainable, but I knew I wanted it. Writing does however take time, and although you should make time to write (everyday they say), I have only submitted a few places and have had the luck (and perhaps the skill) to have been published thrice in my 25 short years on this planet. I have thus endured the crazy process of a complete high to a feeling of wanting thrice, and I will admit that I’ll endure it as many times as necessary.

The beauty of the POWA anthology was that after published the action of submitting my story obtained its own life and story. A year later, having forgotten I was published and all that, just minding my own business the editor of the POWA anthology asked if I was willing to mentor the potential writers in Cape Town for the 2013 anthology. How could I possibly refuse? In a myriad of submissions from Cape Town, they had asked me. Little old me. They actually thought I could teach people how to write. I had to say yes, there would be no adventure if I declined.

About two months ago I was flown to Johannesburg, put up in a guest house and attended a workshop on how to mentor other writers. The other participants in the workshop were all women who had been previously published in POWA’s anthologies and being there was an affirmation that you were indeed some type of writer or that you did something special enough to have utter strangers dig into their pockets to finance what you deemed only to dream. Mind blowing stuff right?

For my readership who may not know about POWA (People Opposing Women Abuse), they are essentially a South African feminist women rights organisation that provides an array of necessary services to survivors of abuse and are also focused on empowerment of women in various sectors of society. It goes without saying that there is a certain pessimism attached to what the acronym POWA stands for ( as well as the existence of services like the Rape Crisis Centre)  considering that women shouldn’t ever be  abused, raped or violated, but the reality of our society dictates that it is necessary and the fact stands that organizations like POWA have the potential to  save people’s lives.

powa1

The Women’s Writing Project is one of the branches in which POWA allows everyday women’s voices to be heard.
Now that I’ve become a somewhat “chosen” voice, it was my responsibility to source females for the writing workshop in Cape Town. I spammed almost every group on Facebook I thought may be interested and also forwarded the information to all of the artist networks I could think of. Then the replies came in. Women answered the call via email and all responded with a resounding yes, “I’ll be there”, “Count me in” and my excitement grew. I knew perhaps three of the women personally but the rest were all brought in by the net I had cast out into the universe, and what a group it was.

In total seventeen women were present at the workshop over the course of this weekend. Women of various ages, cultures and upbringing and what transpired when we gathered together can only be described as magic. I’ve always said this, but now I am a firm believer when I say that there is something sacred about a group of women gathering together.

We deconstructed gender, had talks about everything from hair, to clothes and our relation to men. We celebrated the power of being female; we cried, laughed and shared poetry and stories. We were open, accepting and receptive. Within 48 hours we had developed a bond through our love for writing and the fact that we were women. It was a beautiful, a natural sisterhood, a kinship and an air of reverence and respect lay in all the spaces and avenues we uncovered. We helped each other improve our writing. We ignited the possibility of the dream; we gave each other strength and confidence where it may have lacked before. You could hear us love. We were women and you could hear us love.

After the workshop I realised that I had committed a terrible offence in my last blog post titled Helen Moffett and the rest who say : Fuck Women’s day. With all that I  claim to be, I had judged the actions of another woman so harshly and had become part of the masses that dictate how women should be or how they should act or what they should wear. This is a public apology to the woman I so blatantly judged in my previous post and to all those to who I may have offended by thinking , having had tunnel vision on what it should entail by being  women. We are all different, have different ambitions, beliefs and aspirations and I have to acknowledge that my own prejudices and my then warped sense of morality intervened in my last blog post.

The women I encountered in the workshop managed to remove my blinkers in such a short period of time.

Submissions to the anthology are open to all women across South Africa. To submit electronically you can visit the following website: http://womenswriting.org.za/pages/home.php or alternatively email me at roche.kester@gmail.com to receive the submission form. The deadline has been extended to 30 September.

powa1-570x486

The website provides guidelines for submissions for poetry, short stories and personal essays. E-books of previous anthologies are also available on the website. I encourage every aspiring women writer to submit their writing. POWA’s Women’s Writing Project is an open arena for all women’s voices. And who knows you may just be published and your published work may take on a life that adds an additional, meaningful and beautiful story as the one I have to tell by taking that first step of self belief. So, dear women let them hear you love.


Helen Moffett and the rest who say: Fuck Women’s Day

Jam That Session :Roché Kester

Jam That Session :Roché Kester

There have only been two instances in my life where I have had stage fright, or completely could not recall the words to a poem. The first instance occurred when I entered a poetry competition when at University. The prize was monetary, but also offered an opportunity to record some of your poetry which at that time was a very exciting prospect.

I auditioned and got through to the next round. Then there was the performance in the cafeteria, in front of students eating lunch and playing dominoes, granted not the most conducive environment to do poetry. In addition, I was ill prepared, but instead of sensibly taking my page on stage , I chose to humiliate myself by not acknowledging my shortcoming and choking on the lines of my very magnificent poem.

The last time something like that happened to me was, well, Sunday. I got the call from Mbongeni Nomkonwana one evening. He is one of the founding members of Lingua Franca Spoken Word movement. He informed me that Jam That Session we interested in hosting a women’s day performance and since I was such a huge fan of the platform I agreed.

Legitimately I only have two poems centering on things female and thought I could write something inspirational/awe inspiring, but with time constraints it was not possible. Additionally I had mixed feelings about women’s day. Helen Moffett posted the following blog post, the day prior to Women’s Day , and every word of it stemmed true. Most of the female poets/musicians and writers I befriended on Facebook reposted her blog. She was right though. What was there to celebrate when in South Africa it has become part of the countries rhetoric that women are assaulted, abused, raped and sexualized on a daily basis and the seriousness of it all is lost on everybody?

I could not write. But would I deny myself the celebration of being a woman, I couldn’t. From my perspective women are royalty and should be treated that way. In Elizabeth Gilbert’s book titled Committed, she mentions a time when men stood each time a women entered the room, heaven knows why that social norm is now somehow non-existent. Women are so complex and simple at times, and mostly they are beautiful.

There are so many aspects of women that are just breathtaking and even though it is hard being a women in South Africa, since you always so aware that something terrible may happen to you ( and some really terrible things have happened to me), I do love being a woman. I love chatting, women do this, I love doing my hair, and I love getting dressed up and looking fabulous on a night out on the town with my girlfriends. I love that women nurture, raise nations and teach manners. I love that mothers, sisters, daughters and wives of every colour and creed were brave enough to march to the Union building in 1956 taking a stand for human rights. I’m even a fan of Eve! Good on her for giving Adam the apple ensuring that human beings have to be clothed and that men would have to work a little harder. I will also make no secret of it that I am of the opinion that female protagonists are always more interesting in literature, films and life. Women are phenomenal.

What better poem to recite than Maya Angelou’s Phenomenal Woman? So that was my choice alongside the other poems I had. I was die-hard nervous, as if it was my first performance and perhaps it was because it was a huge task take on, I mean, its Maya Angelou for goodness sakes! Perhaps I was ill-rehearsed, perhaps it was all that, but as the wonderful Lingua Franca band played and I swayed to the music as I started reciting, the words just left me. If you’ve ever met me, you’d know that my poetry and basically my life is visible on my face. I cannot feign comfortably, but somehow I managed to push through, repeating lines and well resigning myself to the fact that I had blundered Phenomenal Woman in front of a huge crowd. Somehow I made it through, and luckily I had the band to save me.

The other two poems went off much better and I was comforted by the fact that the crowd was supportive and of course that I had fantastic friends who helped me to nurse my wounds. The best advice I can give to any performer that this happens too, is just to breathe. I forgot to do that and I could not center myself. Despite what I deemed a disaster, the audience would have been oblivious had I not said “Oh shit” slap bam in the middle of the poem. Keep composure, start again and if all else fails crack a joke about it, the audience always appreciates the fact that you are after all just a human being.

The show proved fantastic, some great poets, fantastic bands and it was indeed a celebration of consciousness, of different perspectives of women and of talent. Dejavu Tafari was set to perform at the gig too, and I would never miss the opportunity to see this ball of wisdom on stage, so I stayed while waiting patiently for her to recite her wisdom. Then something happened that through major zap signs at Women’s Day and used the most vulgar language as an attack on it.

A female rapper/singer, I don’t know her name (I’m not in the business of shaming people either, but this shouldbetold), pranced on stage wearing next to nothing. I get it, stage persona and all that, but what offended me was the fact that stereotypes were being perpetuated in front of my eyes. Miss rapper was on stage bouncing around in her tiny outfit in the most distasteful fashion. Additionally she had a sidekick who came onto stage and started twerking. I’ve heard the term twerk, but honest to God, I was just to lazy to Google this latest dance/internet craze even though the term sparked interest as the two male journalists from FHM got canned when they used the term in their racist/ sexist remarks on Facebook. When I however saw I live, while little miss back up dancer grinded on the floor of the stage for no good reason I just sat there in shock.

I was too sober for all of it. The singer was actually good and the production of her music was really good, but what she brought on stage just offended me. I have a poem titled Premium Poes, about the sanctity of women’s bodies and choices and the need for respect for those things, but those two ladies on stage negated everything I had delivered earlier in the day by sexualizing females in the way they had. At an event under the banner Women in Art, it just put a damper on everything.

I’m not even a prude. I will admit that when I go dancing with my girlfriends a tangible amount of bumping and grinding happens. I am not the virgin Mary either, and sexual guilt has been nullified in my book, but what I witnessed on stage yesterday was too much. I shouldn’t judge women, but some of those dancers in the accompanying sexist rap videos just irk me to the core. It’s hard to draw the line on what should be deemed acceptable, because one might argue that women are in control of their own bodies and what they choose to do with it. But what happened yesterday happened at the wrong place and at the wrong time.

I’m in agreement with Helen though. Fuck Women’s Day if we are unable to learn how to make things better.


Something is not right in the Republic of South Africa.

Reversing the legacy exibition

Reversing the Legacy Exhibition 2013

This is obvious. I’m sure if all South African’s were given free range to complain, there would be no end to the array of what exactly is wrong with our country. Seldom concrete solutions are implemented to remedy our issues. What the Reversing the Legacy exhibition at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) tries to illuminate that although progress takes time, it is possible .
Upon arrival at the exhibition, you are issued with a pass, or a dompas as it was referred to during Apartheid. Then you are met with a security guard, who scrutinizes you as if you are a terrorist and after a substantial silence asks you what your name is and where you reside.

Thereafter you are greeted by a man, who looks like he could have run the ABW and who coincidently had the old South African flag looming proudly above his head. Accompanying Mr ABW were his too sidekicks, one dressed in uniform and the other in a suit. The male in uniform, asked for my pass and then sized me up just as suspiciously as the initial security guard. He then asked the same questions: “What is your name”, “Where do you live” and I answered him earnestly. When he asked “Why are you here” and I replied innocently with a “To see the exhibition”, I knew I had crossed some line when he asked “What is an exhibition”. Immediately I had to change my story and said I was visiting a friend (which was in fact true), he seemed quite satisfied with this answer and eventually I encountered Mr AWB.

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The same questions followed, my name , place of residence, what I did for a living. I wondered if it would help if I said that I worked for an Afrikaans Publishing company, instead of just a publishing company, to perhaps win some favour with this guy, in retrospect , I’m glad I didn’t. He then asked if I was planning to visit the shebeen. Given the seriousness of the situation, I replied with a cheeky “maybe”. Yes, this was to be reflection of Apartheid, and yes I was supposed to be made to feel that I was doing something wrong by existing, and yes, these actors were REALLY good, but I am a free woman. This is 2013 and I would not dehumanize myself by complying with his every whim and intention of making me feel sub-human. Plus, I really like beer so chances are if there was a shebeen, I would definitely visit it.

All the dramatics aside, after being warned that I would be incarcerated for six months if I was found without my pass, I engaged with the exhibition. There were illuminate fixtures all around the room relating historical information, The first one specifically being about the 1913 Native land act, which was cause for the exhibition as this year herald the centenary since the law was instituted.

To be honest, I had no idea that laws as harsh as these were into place as far back as 1913, so for my fellow ignorant readers ,the 1913 Natives land act ensured that natives, or what we would refer to as people of colour, were only allowed a 7% ownership of designated land in South Africa, and furthermore that they were not allowed to regulate livestock and it also regulated who could live on “white farms” and who could stay on white farms, thereby lessening any “natives” ability to be fully empowered themselves and to be self-sufficient.

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The Natives Land Act , 1913

This happened as far back as 1913? It almost shocked the native out of me! I then snapped a shot with my camera with Mr AWB and his sidekicks and was told that they were watching me. The man in uniform uttered that I looked like a trouble maker.

Turning the corner is what really tore this native’s heart to pieces. There we pillars, almost ceiling high, all displaying the laws that were instated after 1913: The Group Areas Act, The Population registration Act, The Separate Amenities Act. You’d wonder why this moved me to tears. But seeing these laws suspended against that concrete was too much to bear. To me, those laws fixed on those concrete pillars, represented the permanency of its effects on our country.  Imbedded, irreversible and done, now elevated, almost boastfully.

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After I composed myself, I encountered a group of marching protesters holding up signs objecting these unjust laws. The marched in unison, singing songs of freedom, and I was almost trampled as they marched in full force as I approached with my camera.

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Then there was the shebeen ( unfortunately there was no beer), and  people were playing cards , dominoes , empty bottle’s positioned on the table, the occupants all dressed in  attire from the fifties, sixties and seventies.

What caught my attention was a white woman sitting on her stoep and behind her the sign read:

“A resident in Triomf, the white working class suburb, built on the ruins of Sophia Town” .

Positioned directly across her were two black women, who appeared to be impoverished and desolate. At point the two parties argued to and from their respective “areas”.

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Further along the exhibition a casper is seen and various posters heralding historical events in South Africa. There were also television screens which streamed videos of marches, protests, burning townships and Apartheid leaders spewing their well constructed rhetoric of injustice.

Jethro Louw

Jethro Louw

As you turn the corner you approach the poetry corner. I had the pleasure of catching the end of Jethro Louw’s set and I finally got to see the friend I told the security about, Ms Dejavu Tafari. It took me some time to find the section designated for the posts/storytellers to perform and eventually when I was directed to it, Dejavu informed me that she had already performed about three times to be exact. I opted for a picture instead and then she hopped onto stage to get a picture behind the mic and the onlookers were now intrigued an edged her on. She performed a poem I had requested and I was thrilled.

Dejavu Tafari

Dejavu Tafari

Dejavu is a ball of fire, wit and wisdom. She has the type of stage presence that makes it impossible to fix your eyes anywhere else. She is the real deal and if you ever see that she’ll be participating in a show, do yourself a favour and go. You won’t be disappointed.

Being as crazy as she is, she announced to the audience, which was very small, that I had written a poem the previous evening and I was going to grace the stage. I had no choice I had to get up there. After that we spoke a bit about poetry the workings of it in Cape Town. We both were in agreement that poetry in Cape Town seemed rather fragile at this point in time.

A few weeks prior to the exhibition, I saw the call for twenty poets who were to perform for twenty minutes, each day of the exhibition. I considered responding to the call, but I was not in a “stage” space at the time. I was exceptionally happy that poets were invited to the event, but let’s get it right people. Dejavu let me know she had performed at least thrice throughout the day, even though she was only scheduled for twenty-minutes. The whole affair seemed to be rather disorganised.

Additionally a jazz band played through the duration of the exhibition beyond the partition where the poetry was staged. Don’t get me wrong, I love jazz and it was a good idea to place the musician at the space designated for the shebeen, to add to the ambience of that setting, but what about the poets who had to compete with that distraction throughout the day? This injustice was quite fitting with the rest of the exhibition. During our conversation we did manage to psyche ourselves up and came to the conclusion that if things were to change, well as Gandhi put it, we had to be that change.

After parting from Dejavu, a woman asked if I wanted to sign the pledge. I read this pledge carefully before I put my name on it. It read as follows:

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Quite a hefty promise to make, but I do believe in what it said and was glad to sign it. My hope would be that whomever else signed the pledge would understand the responsibly of what it meant.

Overall the exhibition was a rather emotional experience and I was taxed when I left. The aim of the exhibition was to show how since Apartheid, steps have been taken to combat the wrongs of the past. On most of the pillars relaying the horrendous legislation of the past, a sort of disclaimer was posted about how steps had been taken by the current administration to reverse the effects of these laws, which I respect. Progress takes time but the hard truth is, is that in terms of land in this country, it will never be equal. Too much damage was done. The trauma of this land lies in its geography. Perhaps the percentage of black owned land will increase, perhaps more people will receive housing, but the townships and the Capeflats will always exist. People of colour will always be living there, that won’t change.

Was the aim of the exhibition met? I don’t know, but I’m glad that it is on display. It provides a minute view of what it was like and perhaps it will help people realise what kind of trauma this land experienced. Perhaps it will spark patience for the healing process, or perhaps the visitors to the exhibition will realise that there will always be a struggle to combat our past and perhaps they will join that struggle?

The exhibition has been extended to June 29th. It is free and I is a must see, for many reasons.

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