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African Renaissance

Amherst

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How am I supposed to live without father? He is passed. Gone into the hereafter. He is never to return. While, yes, I am still very much alive. This Emily Dickinson will outlive Amherst. The confines of her childhood home. I will live out the rumour that I was the poet marked for life in her bedroom. Sitting, sitting at her desk from the early afternoon, to the early hours of the morning. They will perhaps, perhaps speak about my voyage as poet into the known and unknown world, over terrain and republic, through familiar ground and unfamiliar territory, but that has now come to an end. My eyesight is poor. Yes, my eyes are weak. I cannot see the wildflowers so clearly anymore. Sometimes I dash my fist in a pathetic fit of frustration at what I have become on the kitchen table. I have over the years withdrawn from public life. I had life once. I had life in me. I had fire and hell and brimstone in me too, but this was at one stage in my life so far away in memory now. Yes, even my memory goes dim as time, dim as the hours in a day that go by. In another time, another place, another Amherst I was operated now. Father thought that perhaps would be best for me. After that, I was not the extrovert anymore. I did not travel. I became more inhibited. Wildflower. I think of the wildflowers of my childhood. I think of my sister, Lavinia, of us picking these wildflowers. Every heartache in this world is my heartache. Cracks are beginning to show in my armour. The helmet of salvation is still in a sturdy position on my head. I did not have any need, or, desire to speak in public anymore at functions. I did not want in particular to declare myself a missionary servant in the church. I stopped going to parties. Was no longer the most popular socialite in the Amherst community. People keep on leaving me in my life. Oh, there are so many kitchen teas, and too many weddings, and then there are the baby showers that I have never got around to ever going too. They are (the Amherst-community, the public, the Christian-folk) doing to me what they did to my father. Either full of praise, or, rubbing him up the wrong way. Spreading rumour after rumour. I am not strong like he was to take it all in, and then exhale. My father was an educated man. My father was an intelligent man with a robust energy for anything political. He was elected to congress because of that. I am just like a woman now (and a woman will always be a woman). A woman is emotional, so they say, whoever they might be. The woman is of course the one with the survival instinct. I am sitting (here as a woman) moaning about her lot in life. I am not educated in the way my brother was. He went to Harvard Law School. All I have had is self-learning. All I have reached is enlightenment. All that I am is lonely. The loneliness awaits me most of all in my bedroom. This, this is all I have. This sword. This pen is my sword.

The terrors and the nightmares visit me at night. Without them, I am nothing. Have nothing but to question my own sanity. What have I done?

I have isolated myself to the point of no return. I have no life. I have no function either than to be nurse and caregiver to the childlike woman who carried me in her womb for nine months. I haven’t become older, nor, wiser gracefully. Of course, I am frightened for the future. I am a woman alone in the world. No husband to offer me sanctuary, certainly there are no more friendships. No more correspondence with male editors. People move on. The girls I knew when I was a girl, they are all women now. I don’t want to be on my own anymore. I don’t want the hours. These hours filled with beasts of terror. The machinations of an insane person’s frame of reference. And I ask myself where is the science in all of us. It is science that keeps my brain in check, set in my ways, my habits, my very schedule that I keep lest I go out of my mind. For what happens to a spinster when she grows old. When men become weary of her. Wary most of all of her moods. Her waking thoughts keep going around in circles. I am going mad again. Do you know what it, what this life means to me now?

I no longer have a purpose. There is no longer meaning in my activities. Even basic things, my temper (because I have one, because I am temperamental), I have to continually check myself. Remove myself from the situation before there is conflict. Before there is terrible pain. Loss of insight into how the conflict arose in the first place.

Before there is even a choice in the matter, I have to leave. I have no father for companion anymore. No more mother to shield from the world. To love. To love is such a treasured thing. I, I am now Lazarus. I just am. I am Hamlet’s Ophelia. I am apostle, saint, sinner, disciple and follower. Life cursed me. It is a terrible thing to say. I take that back. I cursed myself. I am to blame for everything in the end for everything that has ever happened to me. To love is both a curse and a gift. Because eventually you lose the ones you love the most. There are funerals. And all the time there are funerals, there is a funeral in my bones. In this, this wildflower’s bones. Love me, adore me now, praise me, worship me, grant me a divine audience, or, leave me. Let me alone. Let me be. Let me go. Surrender me to the universe as all women are at some stage of their lives, whether they are mothers, or daughters, or orphans. There was always this key struggle in my life. To exist. To exist. I am truly an orphan now. Can’t stand my sister-in-law’s parties any longer. I will need a chaperone. Emily cannot be alone. Emily cannot walk by herself anymore. Emily must be calmed down when she feels the wretched distress of the terrors that come at night. Who am I? Who is this stranger dressed in virginal-white all these years? In mourning for her father. In mourning for a mother possessed with childlike qualities. No children to comfort me when I am elderly, infirm, weak.

Who will look after me? Where will I go? I have flashbacks of the old me. The old life I led when I was young, calmer, more carefree, free in other words to do as I pleased. To love who I wanted to love. But that time has come to an end. There is something sinister about death now. Upon their arrival I prepare the house, I welcome them.  I welcome people who have become strangers to me over the years. They’re here now. Only stay for an hour or two. They take my breath away.

There’s no escape. No room in the house that I can withdraw into. I don’t write anymore, you know. I have completely given that up. My wildflower. I am no wildflower in the full bloom of youth anymore. The people around me are mysteriously silent now. They say nothing. They do nothing for me. They do not speak to me, and if they do it is condescending. It is patronising. They sneer, jeer, mock, stare, glance my way, and say nothing. There is no communication. There is no connection there anymore that drives us together again. Just pain and bondage. More pain. More bondage. I think it all a trick of my mind.

Must be, right? When I was a girl, I was happy. When I was in love, or falling in love I was happy. Now my mind is clouded. My judgements, what about it. I have no judgement on anything, anymore, anymore. No love. Only bitterness. No husband. Only regret. To think that now I am a joke. Well, that is how I feel. This emptiness rolling around with the birds and the butterflies and moths in the abyss of self, what is left of my ego. There is no longer an identity to speak of. No longer a charmed life with suitors in tow. No more marriage, or, even indecent proposals. No joke. Recluse. I’m a recluse. I don’t go out. I don’t socialise. Another break from reality, then another, and another, until no one is laughing anymore. They say prayers. They say prayers instead. They give me tracts. Reading matter for my spiritual progress. Readying me for my spiritual awakening, or, some reckoning made on behalf of the God of all matter and energy. There are variations in my behaviour now. Sometimes it comes on strong like a narcotic. It grows and grows and grows. Sometimes it is subtle, but it is always there. I know nothing of the world, nor do I want to now. It has come too late. Too fast and furious is the end times upon me. The end of my life. Rather the end of my life as I know it. No more father. No more father. No more shelter. No more sanctuary. Who is going to look after me when I am old and tired, and a white-haired lady whose hair is streaked with silver? The show must go on nonetheless. I must endure. The survival instinct kicks in. I must prepare my work for posterity. The legacy is in the writing itself.

The hours I spent in my bedroom. Word after painstaking word. I am given orders. I am told what to do. What not to do. Nobody comes to the house. Soon, soon I will be the only one here. It won’t be a sad affair, I promise you. I have so much to do. I have to prepare an entire lifetime of work. Put it into order. You think I’m someone. I’m a nobody. I’m a real nobody with a nothing life to show for it. All these times I was hoodwinked, you see. I thought I was charismatic. I thought I would always be dear, one day be darling wife and mother.

Now I have nothing but this for the world. This incredible body of work. The work must not be still. Must not be composed as I am. It must go out into the world. People must read it. It will be pushed.

Pushed into the world. But not by me. By critics, and editors. By the working class. By the people who love me unconditionally, and without question. Unlike the non-supportive members of this society. Give me the working classes over the petty middle class any day. They love without expecting anything in return. They are so poverty-stricken, you say, what would they want from a recluse like me. What can they possibly offer a poet who has lived a ruined life? An unmarried life.

A life marked by pain and terror at every turn. I have known what it is to be loved. Now no one can take that euphoria away from me. Not even the love of my life, the work, you see. The work, the writing of the poetry is the most important thing. It is not so important for it to be praised, for the writing life to inspire, for my own life to be admired anything like my grandfather’s life was, or my father’s life, or my brother’s life. Published widely. I know this for a fact now. My plan is my plan. My goal is my goal. My writing is my writing. Yes, I am helped financially. Yes, I am well-off in some ways, but life is getting tired of me, and I sometimes find people in society tiresome.

Their notions are ridiculous. Wishing to turn me into something that I’m not. A Protestant. I was a no-hoper. Not part of the Christian revival scenario that overtook New England in my younger days. I rejected the church. I rejected the indoctrination. The lectures that were supposedly sermons. I never rejected the faith though, although it must have seemed that way to my beloved father. The one man in my life who loved me for me, I guess. Now I am alone. Utterly, utterly alone. I’m old-fashioned in my thinking, in my outlook on life, but not when it comes to spiritual matters, and issues of faith. I just no longer make sweeping statements with regard to Christ. The only people I do make sweeping statements about are those who wax on prosaically on the total annihilation of the human race because of the end times.

Who want to quote the Book of Revelation to me of all people (as if I have never heard of the four horsemen of the apocalypse)? Speak to me of the prophets. Men of integrity. Speak to me of their depth of character. Their spiritual progress in the world. Elijah being taken up to heaven in dazzling chariots of fire. Speak to me of Ezekiel, his protégé. There was one minister who called the world an apocalypse in the making, an experimental dystopia that was a work-in-progress. I just felt that he was attacking the very cultural background of Amherst, and insulting my intelligence. I had just cause to do what I did. To turn my back on that world of the church. A spinster in distress. I am distracted by thoughts of my own mortality. I can hardly see the flowers now. I can hardly see them, but they are the first thing that I think about when I open my eyes in the morning when I wake. The very last thing on my mind when I go to bed at night.

Wildflowers are a sight! A sight to behold. The wildflower is the hero in my life now.

Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominated shortlisted and longlisted poet Abigail George is a recipient of four writing grants from the National Arts Council, the Centre for Book and ECPACC. She briefly studied film, writes for The Poet, is an editor at MMAP and Contributing Writer at African Writer. She is a blogger, essayist, writer of several short stories, novellas and has ventured out to write for film with two projects in development . She was recently interviewed for Sentinel, and the BBC.

African Renaissance

Truth and the third wave of the pandemic: To be vaccinated or not to be vaccinated

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Photo: Atharva Tulsi/Unsplash

I have endured the worst possible case scenario. Being locked up in a mental institution for six months while in my late teens, early twenties. Even though I was of sound body, mind and soul. I am 42 years old now and I haven’t come all the way back from that experience. Everyone wrote me off when I returned home to Port Elizabeth as Gqeberha was known in those days but worse was to follow. Inhumane treatment from those closest to me, rejection from society. I was taught that I had a mental disability and would never be able to work again, hold down a steady job or earn a monthly income. I was told in no uncertain terms that I had to now live on the fringes of society since I would be unable to make a positive contribution to society. For twenty years this continued. I had to all intents and purposes not only given up on myself, my personal success, development of my potential and fulfillment and engagement in a relationship that would lead ultimately to my future happiness. The goal of marriage and having a child, bringing children into the world and raising a family was not only put into the distant past, I thought that it would always be non-existent for me.

I would spend my time listening to sad music, love songs on the radio and wonder why it was not me caught up in the scenario of having a relationship with the opposite sex. I sank even further into the pit of the hell in f despair and hardship. I virtually had lost control over my life, received a disability grant which I did not spend on anything which I personally needed. Family considered me to be the proverbial black sheep of the family. When I got angry at the way I was treated I was certified. My rights were taken away from me. I was verbally, mentally and emotionally abused. I did everything in my power to be loved and accepted by both my maternal and paternal family which is why I believe so strongly today in dismantling the stigma that surrounds issues concerning mental illness and depression mania, euphoria and elation (however mild or all-consuming it might be). At this late stage of my life I have become an advocate for mental wellness. To stop the fight and curb the alienation and isolation of sufferers of mental illness. I want people from all walks of life to realise that people with mental illnesses can enrich our lives and can make a positive contribution to society.

I myself have always sought solace in writing. I have found it to be an instrument for change and therapeutic as well.

I have firsthand knowledge and experience of being called anything from schizophrenic to being diagnosed with bipolar mood disorder and because of the heavy psychotropic medication I have taken over the years I have had a host of illnesses presenting themselves. Chronic fatigue syndrome, insomnia, an underactive thyroid, chronic kidney disease, gout and heart disease. These diseases manifested themselves early on in my life before the onset of middle age when they would be more prevalent in someone who would be prone to these sorts of illnesses because of not living a healthy lifestyle.

I take each day as it comes now and live in the moment. I have my good days. I have my bad days. I have a mean temper and constantly have to watch what I eat, watch what I say and how I react to people who treat me as him I am a second class citizen because of everything I have been through in my life. Truth be told I always knew I was different. The depression started in childhood for me. I was always an overachiever. I would come home in the afternoons after school but no one ever helped me with my homework, told me either that they were proud of me or believed in me or loved me for that matter.

Everyday I am a work in progress. It is tough dealing with moodswing but that is the currency I deal in and the territory that borders my sense of self-control.

I have been called many names. None of them pretty or lovely. I have had zero support from my immediate family and my estranged family has complete written me off and washed their hands off of me thinking there is nothing they can do for me. This has been very hurtful and even has made made me feel quite suicidal over the years and in my hour if need, my hours of silence, pain and collective trauma I turned to God, prayer and meditation in my hour of need. At the time of the outbreak of the pandemic I got corona and was admitted to the psych ward at Provincial Hospital here in Gqeberha. I had no medical aid and was once again at the mercy of the system but I survived hell and that harrowing experience again to live to tell the tale of how to overcome the impossible, to live and to learn, to remain humble and kind even in the face of adversity and cruelty.

Loneliness, abject poverty, homelessness can either kill you or make you realise that you are powerful beyond measure and I have realised that I am powerful beyond measure.

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African Renaissance

Thoughts From the Frontline

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Photo: Keenan Constance/Unsplash

“Hip/Hop, Trap. I would describe my music as different, unique, compared to what I hear in the music industry in South Africa. It is a different sound of genre based on hip hop. In my downtime I listen to artists like Mexikodro, Playboi Carti, Diego Money, Pyrex Whippa, Lil Gotit and Sahbabii. In my life my family has been and still is a major influence, I just want to see them happy and stress free. I want to be successful so that they can spend the rest of lives living comfortably. I chose music because I believe that it is something I’m good at. I wouldn’t call myself a musical genius, or say that I’m talented musically because I’m not but, I have taken the time to learn everything that I know today, I started as a rapper, but now I am a producer as well, a very good one if I should say, I mix and master vocals, well I try to. It is still something I am learning on a daily basis and I believe that one day if not soon, I will understand that aspect of music. The guys who I record with are so gifted at what they do, we really inspire each other to take it to the next level. I would be lying if I said that I inspire myself, well maybe I do, I don’t know, however what I do know is that we can go to the next level together because nowadays you rarely see a duo or a group of rappers in the South African music industry, there are 4 of us in our group including others who aren’t full time as yet, I think that makes the odds better for us to take it to the next level as opposed to being a solo” SUPREME ZEE, CEO OF Holidae Don’t Stop!

“What inspires me to take it to the next level is basically my daughter, Family and my everyday experiences growing up and living in Westbury losing friends and family to gang violence had a huge effect on me since a young age I’ve been through hell and back if I may describe in short and I’ve realized, to make it out you really need to dig deep. This is also one of the main reasons why I started writing music. I love Music, it is my passion that is mainly why I chose to make music, ever since a young age I’ve just been through the worst writing music and articulating every word I write is therapeutic. Manifesting and having faith in God has carried me through. Major influences in my life remains God, my baby girl, my family and obviously my Team Holidae Dont Stop! We always encourage one another to do our best we definitely do bring out the best in each other and I’d say the beats that supreme Zee creates brings out the best in me personally and it’s also one of the major influences in my music career it’s only elevated since the moment we started. In my down time I listen to All types of music mostly Gospel & HDS. I would describe my music as being one in a million very versatile, real and unusually different from the usual and it has an unorthodox flow and style to it so you can literally expect only the best” TheGR8ACE, CEO and co-founder of Holidae Dont Stop!

My inspiration comes from knowing that I have a God given talent and my friends (HDS) and family that motivates me day to day to do better. I chose music because as a hobby it is something I love doing which started out in high school where I had friends that used to rap over beats and I’d just stand within the circle and listen to their rhymes and it became to amuse me when I found out that there are people in my community creating their own music, whereas in 2019, I linked with the crew Holidae Dont Stop! and it has been a wonderful journey ever since! Learning and growing at the same time. My mother has played a role as one of my biggest inspirations including friends (HDS) have been a major Influence in my life, for they always pushed me to be a better me. Not giving up on me and providing not bad advice but love and positivity. I’ve been in difficult situation in the past and I am just trying to make a better standard of living for my family, my friends as well as my community (Westbury). In my down time I listen to various genres like Rock, Rnb, Hip/Hop, Rap, Emo Rap. I would describe our music as Western Plug for it derives from Hip-hop with an offbeat including 808s and guitar and piano samples that Supreme Zee (Producer) recreates and when hearing the beat, I can automatically put my heart on it.” Bando -recording Artist at Holidae Dont Stop!

 To conclude this, we are all from Johannesburg South Africa as one of our members spread across as far as Cape Town, temporarily. Our member who are not full time are – Leiph Camp (Splaash66) Stock broker, Razaak Benjamin (Glock) Salesman and Marion Reyners (Marion The Great) Facilitator. “Our music is Bold, Iconic and timeless” TheGr8ce. Our crew is based in Jozi (Johannesburg) although we do not have a manager as yet. Our follow up record will sound similar to the “Western Plug tape” that we have recently released, followed by 3 singles. Plug is a genre that derives itself from Hip-Hop and our next single will drop in 2 weeks. The link to our music is on all platforms and the Love and support would be much appreciated. We literally wont stop! –

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African Renaissance

Slavery and the real life bending sinister

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What is slavery? It is nothing more than poverty of the mind. It is not a school of thought or a philosophy. It is scarcity. It is lack. It is cumbersome. It is heavy. It is a burden.

What does it have to do with politics? Ask what it has to do with genocide.

What does it have to do with the power of having a slave mentality? Just as easily as we rise, we fall. A leaf. Ask yourself this. Does the leaf or gravity have the slave mentality or is it just a path to its consciousness, and if it is a meandering path to its consciousness what does that make of gravity? Gravity is easily the culprit or saboteur. A cup carries water but how does the water break through the physical wellness of the body to sate thirst, how does water flow through the universal meridians and find sanctuary in all the wild places that the ocean cannot contain, in code, in which case what observations come out of these natural and bohemian studies.

A slave is a slave is a slave. My grandfather was a slave. My great-grandfather was a slave. On both the paternal and maternal side they are non-existent for me. I live for my father. My father is not a slave. You see his mind is not enslaved. His psyche, his mental, emotional, physical wellness, intellectual prowess and integrity is intact inasmuch as he is not a slave to the peculiarities and eccentricities of the people he finds himself amongst.

In the stages of my own life I can see that I have been enslaved (my mindset and attitude was) by my body image, my identity of cosmic Africa, the cosmos, my self as an African, what I was entitled to, my basic self esteem. I was a slave to my sister, her dalliances, her whiteness, her renouncing Africa for America then Europe and I understood what loneliness, family, friendship and family finally meant and this frightened me a great deal because I realised I had never really loved myself before. I was a slave to every moment up until I heard James Baldwin speak up. I had truly been a slave to waiting for someone to release me and offer me relief somehow from this kind of suffering and cognitive thinking. I wanted happiness but the price for my freedom was this. Somebody else had to love me before I could.

Ask what slavery has cost us as humanity. Look back at history. When I look back at history, all my life I never felt safe. Whether it was the bogeyman, or a horror film, or apartheid, or reading about apartheid, acknowledging it was the difficult part. How would you even begin that dialogue? What could you partner with those hectic images that left you with an urgency and a sense of betrayal from God? So, I grew up with an unpleasant disdain for middle class families in South Africa. It was easy for me to picture them as racist which they were and still are to a certain degree and yet how could I not be? The thought of slavery and decolonization never left me even as a child as I sought to fight for the betterment of society and to right all the evil wrongs.

Slavery is everything. It is primitive. It is visible if you look hard enough. We haven’t even begun to talk about or discuss in rational terms without venting or becoming agitated or irrational about race relations in South Africa or slavery as a concept or narrative in Africa.

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