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African Renaissance

What Emily Dickinson can teach us

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The sun is a laughing, talking, walking miracle today. If it shines, it shines only for me and Lavinia. What perfection, because it shines with an otherworldliness. It is a forceful warrior, (and I’ve known prayer warriors in our community here in Amherst). The sun is like a woman who is a siren, in the company of other men. The sun is fire, means fire, is powerful, a powerful commodity. It grows during the day, ablaze with heat, eddies of dust rising up from the floors of the homestead as I walk, as I wander from the downstairs to the upstairs.

It is much like me, much like I was in my early twenties, popular and admired at dances. It is a dazzling sun. It dances in shadow. It plays with leaf, another omniscient miracle. Leaf, and leaves, tree, and trees, those most ancient, like the instrument of change, like a symphony orchestra, a violin being plucked at repeatedly with expertise, a composer being, again, plucked from obscurity into fame, and fortune. The wildflowers found in nature, the most natural feeling in the world is to feel as if I am like that wildflower. Built temporarily to sustain the hidden energies of beauty, wonder. Am I wise? But am I wise? Am I courageous whenever I’m articulate? Austin, my brother, does not belong body and soul to me any longer. I can only imagine what his life is like now, shielded from the view of sometimes perplexing me, intense me, playing with ideas, bringing life to words, awakening a truth in them. No man has ever said to me that he loved me. Taken me in his arms, but understand this. I am a token soldier. I can see. I can hear. I have this powerful knowledge within my bones, planted there, and it resonates through the entire marrow of my being, season after season of this terrible war that they call the American Civil War. Men are dying. Boys are dying. Can I trust in the knowledge that I have the personality of a wildflower? I like the expression. I can guess at its hidden meanings. I can trust myself in the daylight.

I don’t cower away from the light, from the life, from the wakefulness that it gives me. The sun is divine. On it lives fire. On it burns a volcano. I only want the freedom to be an individual. I dare not call my writing art, for art’s sake. My vision is my own, and, yet, it is not my own. It has something to with divinity, those strongholds, those realms, and my own intuition. The process is for me to make as much progress as I can in the afternoon, work in the evenings with the lamp at my side guiding this process, navigating the trajectory of the moonlight. Yes, yes, I am fond of working my nimble fingers to the bone until the early hours of the morning. Until daylight breaks into a kind of passive resistance against the night sky, the unfolding and putting away of the stars under the jurisdiction of God’s grace, and His supreme mercy. I need clarity and vision when I write. There’s a brightness lit in my brain, every living, breathing cell. I worship every crack in this system, watch every nerve tick like a clock chiming in on every hour into homestead life, into Amherst, and with writing comes despair. There is hardship. I don’t want to fool you about my preoccupation. Perhaps one day my childhood home will be a museum that people will all come to explore. They will see my life for what it really is. Loneliness personified. They will say I lived like a recluse. I don’t want anything to be published while I am still alive. That is strange. Stranger than fiction. For all poets want is an audience to tell them how wonderful they are. How wonderful it is to be published. I often ask myself, Emily, Miss Dickinson, where does this gift of poetry, of writing about minor flora, the wolf begging, knocking at the backdoor come from. My soul begs my spirit to answer.

I live in a just world. I am robust. I have health on my side. I am neither superstitious or sentimental. Why do you call it both terror, and Master? Deceit, well, it never rises to meet me when I wake n the morning. Yes, I am a difficult person, don’t ask me to transform my personality. This is bone season, feast season, meat country, the communing of the brethren meeting on every Sunday morning without fail. I have to wear a hat, that’s how hot it is now outdoors. I want to say remember me, or, do my words, does my poetry frighten you. Give you cause to think that because of my output of sometimes three poems a day, that perhaps I am touched with madness, or playing with madness. Making it ally, instead of foe. Oh look, how crestfallen the tomato plants look in their green finery. As if they are all dressed up with nowhere to go. As if they are living in a dream. I keep waiting to hear the words said, told to me in secret, or, conspiratorial whisper, or, confidence that I am special, (yes, that I Emily Dickinson is special, is beloved, is a saint after the outcomes, and aftermath of this mad war, young men dying like flies, maggots in their wounds, ) nobody has ever said that to me, or, that I’m shy, miserable at holding a conversation when meeting a stranger for the first time. The work, the passion that I have for it, I fall under its spell. Never to forget, always to be quick to forgive, to be cunning, and witty in my letters to male friends, male counterparts. I share my life’s work with my sister-in-law. Love. What is love anyway? It can strike you infirm. Its possibilities are endless. The limits of the work are totally up to you to a point as poet. It is exhausting. The hours that keep. I see no one now. Nobody comes to the house. Nobody visits. My close friends are my family members. It sometimes feels as if I have a dune to climb. It is giant. The sand is so hot I have to wear my walking shoes in this pretend reality. Everything I do, which concerns the family, I do out of love. It is a spectacular giving, and forgiving love. I study it from afar first. The first line of the verse and so on, and so forth. I am small in stature, but my words make up for that fact. I take it by the hand, kiss it ever so delightfully, remembering the church doctrine, the minister, the sermons delivered as lectures to the congregation that I adhered to as child. Summarily, I would adjust my behaviour accordingly. And sometimes at the end of the day I feel tired-happy, or, mentally exhausted, physically drained, and please, please don’t tell me that they are only words, for they are my life, they are my very breath, every inhale, every exhale. The words are lovely. They are truly perfection. Meanwhile it is I who is imperfect. It is I who is the sea, and the words are like a mountain stream in the dead of the wild.

You’re something else, you’re the love of my life, I say to my children, the poems because they are. I birthed them, gave life to the words, before abandoning them in a bureau drawer. I become someone else when I write. It’s completely absurd to me to even to be thinking of another life. I cannot say I have been persecuted. By whom? Nobody in my family has ill-treated me badly in any way, shape, or, form. And then I think of how courteous and professional spring is, the wildflowers, the lavender, everything in the natural. Am I behaving these days? Sometimes I have my bad moments, but my family is good when it comes to forgiving me, forgiving the words spoken in the heat of the moment in a fit of anger. I am a flame. I am a flame. The snow will fall and I will still freeze out the winter, the layers of soppy time, and I, the poetess of Amherst will still be a flame. Star bright in the paradise of the homestead. I sometimes will look at what I have written, weep a little, be overcome with emotion, or stare in awe at this feverish creation on paper that will stay alive forever in my heart, and nature, and life. I think of the rain sometimes (when witnessing a downpour that seems to eclipse everything in my brain, like for instance the language of blood, the comfort of strangers).

How wise, and thoughtful, and knowledgeable blood is. I think of this spitting rain in a half-condescending way, in an itinerant fashion, in the manner of a non-believer, because I cannot work for the very life of me outside, or go exploring Amherst with my sister, Lavinia, or work in the garden, toil the land, survey the landscape that was built by my grandfather.  I do not often think about my lucky circumstances, and I try not to think, but it does come to my mind from time to time, I do think often that I am wealthy, or rather the word that I’m looking for is, ‘prosperous’, because of my family name. It is the work, the love of my life, the master of my life that yields those results. The reward at the end of the day is my angelic tongue, which is connected to my brain, which is connected to my thought patterns, and every living soul in my world. Even the wildflowers that Lavinia and I pick have souls. She declared this to me one day in passing, and I thought what intelligence you have for someone so young. I can’t imagine a day without the sun. And after I have put in a day’s work, I think to myself that this has been a remarkable progress, an enchanting journey from beginning to end. I think to myself, what direction will tomorrow bring. For if I had a compass, which direction would it face, to the west, or, the east yonder, and how to navigate the unknown without a foe in the world. When I write, it seems my mind is as ancient, as darling, as fetching, as beguiling, as fertile as Eden. It is evergreen there, and for the rest of the day I am not stuck in a rut, I am inside a valley. Just adding life to the joyful activity of writing, scratching out that which does not please me. On the inhale the sun hits my desk. The heat of the day seems to warm everything up. Joyfully, I start a new page, give my all, give my everything. I am a woman on a mission. There’s a peace of mind that comes over me, and everything about life that has somehow altered me for the good, all of my sheltered intentions, and protected me humbles me, stares me in the face, hunting me down. Where am I to go? I only have this desk. I only have my older brother. I have Lavinia. The page, the page. I see the dune again. It splits my brain into intelligence and stupor. I freeze suddenly, helpless, I feel I am not alone in the room. I turn around but no one is there. I am alone, sitting at my small desk, polishing what I did the day before, or settling own to work on the latest poem. I think of botany and nature, geography, time, and place, fire spilling over from a volcano, geology, the face of a rock, and the mountains of my imagination are breath-taking. Nothing can break that spell, transform my mood when I am working, when I am writing. The world is a beautiful, sensuous-filled place. But I am alone. I am quite alone. I am in my palace, sitting on my throne, king and queen, and my words are my loyal subjects. The terror of before passes, creativity comes upon me once again. I begin.  Begin to write until I am sated. Until I am quite thrilled, quite elated with what I have in front of me, what I own. I am both (speaking here of my mood) is high and low, mad and sane, ruthless and determined in the composed hush of the silence in my bedroom. The air smelling like damp and rust, the heat of the day and citrus, a forest deep-deep in the Amazon. I am in a rainforest.

Then I am in a jungle. Then I am standing next to a volcano breathing fire. Then I am in nature, the place where I most want to be. Then I am in a small room in Amherst, that is all mine. Then I am explorer.

Then I am scholar deep in the frame of my textbooks. I am Keats studying medicine. Then I am Keats the poet. Of course, I relish all of this. This world has nurtured me since birth. Father and I, we have our discussions about church and the larger than life Christ-figure.

There are times when I myself don’t understand why I don’t go to church anymore. Father doesn’t understand me, I don’t understand him.

He is a law-man involved in politics, carrying on his father’s legacy, in the same way my brother will one day in the not too distant future.

I want to be great friends with his wife. I now we will be. Already she has expressed an interest in the poems, but she doesn’t understand why I don’t publish them. The sun is romantic to me. I want every bite of it. Look, it is a new day that has come upon all of us. I can feel it. I can feel it. The sun, as it plays upon my hair, every silken thread of it. I think of the nocturnal. I think of all the sights in the moonlight that is so charismatic. I think to myself what would feel like to be an owl, or a bird. What would it feel like to flit like a bat, to stare death (open and wise and vulnerable) in the face, celebrate the verbosity of life, to acknowledge that women have it differently in the world than men do when they write? I am life. I am life. There are no other words to describe this beginning, or this end. In another place, perhaps not this lifetime, but the next one, I will find love, and truly captivate a man. A man, a love, a master even greater than the poetry itself, than that heavy burden of suffering, and all the sorrows that I feel I must accept if I am to pursue this course of life. The writing life. I must always take this swift action when it comes to the demanding work of the writing of the poetry, and not the other. The writing of the poetry is my shield, and master now. The sun, this bewildering sun. The strange thing is, is how it makes me feel inside of myself. That today of all days it gives me such satisfaction, such closure, and even such mirth in the face of the loneliness I must tolerate, and understand, and live with on a daily basis. Don’t think that I’m tragic for one minute. Don’t, please, make a fuss over the writing of the poetry. It is mine. It is all mine. It is my gift to either want to share it with the world if I want too, or to not share with the world. The sun, this bewitching sun in my room that hovers, that hovers over there nearby my desk. Look at me. Look at this feast of the day in front of me. In this place in time, there is wonderment, childlike wonderment at the world around me, at the worlds and realms and empires found in Amherst, the worlds of the homestead. In my writing, the world opens itself up to me, offers itself to me on a silver platter. I make myself open to it. I must. For there is simply no other way to get the work of the day done, the chores, the kitchen, reading the newspaper to Lavinia, going out on the town. I remember in my twenties how I was a socialite. When I am writing it feels as if wave, after wave is breaking inside of me.

Vibration after vibration. The sun is a miracle. I am ethereal. I am emotional. I am sensitive. Does, can the world understand that, can, does the world see me as special, as a wonder. Some days I am high on life. Other days I am as low as the branch that can bough down to major earth meeting minor sky. Distance meeting the remote. Sky meeting brides. Earth meeting grooms. Sky meeting the wolves of the earth. Amherst is my country. Perhaps, perhaps one day the world will be my country. Perhaps, perhaps one day I will be loved by that world, that country. It feels as if I am pulsating with a kind of natural rhythm. As if I am almost being pulled and pushed in all directions.

In life, I must go several ways. In the writing-life, the world of my poetry, that pulls me down another rabbit-hole (a kind of black hole) trajectory. My course is set. My voice is stone. My voice belongs to the wilderness, overshadowed by absolutely nothing that I can possibly think of. My voice is like the wind. My voice will one day reign supreme, but all of these are just thoughts processing themselves repeatedly. I think of seduction too. How words can evolve. How words can seduce vision into art. They are beautiful, aren’t they? They are magnificent, remarkable even. For sometimes it feels as if I am standing too close to the edge. That this precipice, or whatever it is will mark me for life. Oh, how I want to glorify the page. Perfect it.

How I want to be cleansed of that vision of what comes after winter.

Master, master, the writing of the poetry, my correspondence too, are the greatest loves of my life. My eternity come close, come even closer to me. Let me kiss thy cheek, and do thy will. Amherst, you are muse. I am a visionary in your hands.

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.

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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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African Renaissance

On watching David Mamet in an African context

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His boots made a squelching sound. In the whorl of her ear a squelching noise on the welcome home mat. The man was quick. The girl was slow. The woman was slow to speak. She was slow to communicate what she was thinking and feeling. The secret part of the actor was valid. Her fear, anxiety and chemistry becoming like the flapping wings of a Bach woman. After the interview came the hurricane. Late morning the man realizes his mistake. The woman remembers her parents’ relationship from childhood. The man remembers how the young woman looked the day he married her. He remembers their courtship and the day they got married. How he squinted at her through the sunlight that fell upon her hair that day at the beach. He had gone fishing. Caught nothing.

He had left her alone to read a magazine on the beach. The town was near decay. It was a tourist destination for the mega rich.  She will think one day (the girl inside of her) that she married the wrong one.  The apparitions come at night. The snow in winter. David Mamet is a mega rich American writer and Republican intellectual. He has made it. Millions won’t. Millions idolize him. Thousands want to be him. They want to live his life for him. They admire him for living so well. There is driftwood on the beach. The chips of wood are like a magnet almost as if they are chipping away something of life at the root heart of humanity. There is always a story to be told from life, from everything. Everyone has a story to tell. The girl sighs with a thousand other girls. Her soul is bitter. She has lost something. She feels she has lost everything because the guy has up and left her stranded with the baby. What is she thinking, what is she feeling? David Mamet is a well-known playwright. In a shining circle the bleak ones live in this world feeling nothing. Existing on the fringes of this life world. They wait in unison for the hereafter. I realize my mistake now. The young girl fell for the wrong guy. The twig sucks me in. The man walks in beauty. Wild geese are calling with a purpose. Music in Africa has its own language.

We are conditioned to think that nothing lasts forever in politics. The only thing that really lasts is a story. It has prophecy and legacy combined. Which one lasts longer? What of our playwrights and our songwriters? It is a summer evening. People are dancing in the street. The smell of barbecue is smoky. She looks at her face as she passes a shop window that is brightly lit up and doesn’t recognize her own face. The wretched and forlorn look upon her face. The young girl smells of bloom ad smoke. She thought she would give it up for Lent. David Mamet is a world-famous director and writer who understands the nature of art and truth when it comes to telling and writing original stories. He started his own theatre company. He married an actress. Conquerors know of miracles. The house has a room that has been standing empty for years. The naming of parts comes with having a range of intelligence, scrutiny, wearing a sorrowful mask, understanding suffering. The woman has a slender body. The actress has a stunning face. The woman has a confession. There is a sharp intake of breath as the man’s fist comes crashing down on the table. You cut your finger with a kitchen knife. Remember, the day you cut your finger with the kitchen knife. Or was it really your fingernail?

The director goes back and forth, back and forth cutting between the tension and the dialogue of the actors. He walks them through their paces. The actors take a well-deserved break. They talk and interact with each other. They smoke and laugh. The girl throughs her head back and sounds silly when she tries to put everyone else at ease when she is not with her own performance. There is some insecurity there. Some self-doubt. They run lines. The gravity of the thing comes into view. We all struggle. Don’t we all, someone in the group says. There are confessions. Then there are more confessions with a trimmed and a manicured nail. I am getting old. I can feel it in my bones. The flesh of my flesh was very tender that day I cut my finger with the kitchen knife. I sliced it like a pear. Prizes make you happy and sad. Here is the ballad of a growing intimacy, a camaraderie amongst the actors in this theatre company. They mill around. No one wants to end the flow of the conversation. They want to work. They don’t want to go home yet. It means sitting at home alone for some. It means a lonely night. The beauty of the dahlias is complicated. Will there be real flowers or plastic fruit on opening night on the table? My sister doesn’t phone to talk to me.

When she does telephone, she speaks to my mother. I wish I was more real than having this kind of a fake personality.  The actress is deciding whether to paint her toenails a fire engine red to stay in character. Pain helps you to grow. If you forsake pain, you also forsake growth. All of us should conquer something in life. Let us go into the wild that is calling. My life has always been on this path.

On the edge of uncertainty. My soul is gone to tell you the truth. It has lost a bit of its own mystery.

When I speak of David Mamet, I think that in the context of Africa that there is the worker Mamet in all of us. Whether it comes to the tradition of oral storytelling or not, the linear arrangement of the goal of the storyline or in the sheltered pose of the actor reading their lines from a script. The past slips out of its calling. Its shell of water. It passes away into nothingness. That means absolutely nothing and everything to me.

I feel it coming. I feel it coming on. Turning me around. This lonely night. Beyond the trees I feel the thaw.

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