Tag Archives: Helen Moffett

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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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.