Tag Archives: femminist

I am Woman, hear me love.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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This Story Should Be Told

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About a month ago, I was Off The Wall at A Touch of madness in Observatory.  Off the wall is one of Cape Town’s longest running poetry platforms and needless to say I jumped at the chance when the current organizer Michael Rolfe informed me that he needed a stand-in as the poet scheduled to read that evening had postponed.

Stand-in or not, I wasgrateful  for the opportunity. The waiting list to have a slot t at Off The Wall is rather long, so if it is offered you grab it.

I had an entire 30 minutes (very long in poetry time) to share my poetry,divulging this much poetry was something I had never done before. The reading went well though, the audience was receptive and God/the universe pulled out the stops by blacking out and lighitng up the room during my poem called Black, the best stage direction ever!

What affected me more than sharing a vast body of my work, was the actual concept of Off The Wall . After my reading the audience had an opportunity to share any poems they had either written or found. It occurred to me that these were one of the few spaces where poetry in any form is still appreciated. Many of the audience members are regulars and are known by name, and Michael who plays master of ceremonies as well, know many of them by name.  Off the wall is a rare and beautiful gem.

After the show, I stuck around for a bit and encountered an oldish gentleman from Scotland who had attended the reading. Matter-of-factly he informed me that my subject matter was rather gloomy and suggested that I should not recite poems like Black as everyone is over skin colour and that I should have left my feminist agenda at the door too. Alternatively he suggested that I use humour in my poetry and let go of these dark, gloomy topics. “Comedy always triumphs” he confidently stated.

I agreed with him to a certain extent, skin colour to me was just skin colour, so perhaps I should have left Black in the dark, but the reality of the situation is that the content of that poem is still relevant. Many people with darker skin pigmentation still harbourl  an inferiority complex. In South Africa, regardless of the fact that the majority of the population is black, the likelihood that feelings of fear and distrust toward black people exist is a reality.

As for the feminist agenda, what I said was “Sir, if a brutal rape of a young teenage girl had not occurred in the week prior to this, perhaps comedy would have been an appropriate subject matter for my poems, but the reality is, that it is not the case, so these stories should be told”

These stories should be told, it s as simple as that. If they are not, the same horrors will occur over and over again. We will not understand the plight of others and our empathy for our neighbours will gradually evaporate if we do not hear each others stories. It is necessary. These stories Shouldbetold.