I’ll leave the pain for tomorrow. Won’t even think about it until tomorrow. That is, if tomorrow ever comes. So, I walk in the present, barefoot, sometimes struggling to survive. I’m going to make myself some cocoa. My new best friend swears by it. That, and colouring books for adults, journaling for five minutes daily. I breathe in, out. In, out. He’s gone. He’s out of my life. This powerful figure that I dreamed about loving me, sheltering me, protecting me. He’s gone and married someone else. She had the daughter I could never give him. Someone else gave him the son I never could have. He’s gone. I’m looking for something to read. But I’m not in the mood for J.D. Salinger’s war stories. I’m too old for him now. He married girls. The kind of girl who wins a scholarship to an Ivy League University, and leaves her postgraduate studies because she thinks that Jerome David is the man for her. She’s got it all made now, because Jerome David is in love with her, and wants her to have his baby. Stupid girl! Sing it Cranberries. Zombie! Zombie! My nephew is obsessed with zombies. A zombie called Benjamin Sylvester. Updike married the love of his life. All these women. Giving up their studies to follow the man of their dreams just so they could have children. Must soak in bath salts. It helps me sleep. That and my melatonin. Melatonin gives me gorgeous sleep. I don’t need sleep. I don’t need to eat. I don’t need a man. I don’t need pleasure. I just go through the motions of smiling, laughing, becoming angry, becoming Geisha. No one ever stays long enough. I didn’t tell you that before. I’m telling you that now. They don’t stay long. Perhaps my behaviour is absurd.
Once I was too young. The love of my life tells me now over lunch that I look like his daughter. He is only ten years older than me, but this is his train of thought. I must submit. Never did. Never will. I believe in family values. All this time I could have been happy, but I’m old now. I look back at all those men. Gorgeous, impossible men and I never knew that they were in love with me. I only know that I’m fragile, you see. It would have destroyed me. Love makes staggering beauties out of the other women. What did it do to me? It would have destroyed me. First things first, what is this love? My parents neglected me. Dad was a writer. Mother was a fulltime knockout beauty. That business, that kind of beauty requires maintenance, maintenance, and more maintenance. So, I learned how to read by myself at the age of four. Or three. I don’t know. I forget. A man understands this fragility in girls. I am a woman now. Surrounded by money. Money won’t make you happy. Won’t do anything for you, but make life perhaps more comfortable for you in ways you couldn’t have even imagined when you had no money.
My sister, my beautifully put together sister has left me forever. How to deal with this. I write about Jean Rhys’ sexual transaction,she had a Mr Mackenzie who didn’t love her enough to make an honest woman out of her. I had my own tragic Mr Mackenzie (how I adored him, he never adored me back). I write about all of the non-existent love affairs now in my life. Now I literally have a throne. My beloved, my beloved, my sister gave me a throne. Gave me this nouveau rich life. I don’t want any of it. I want her back. I want her here with me, beside me, but we’re not tweens anymore. She refuses to worship me. Nobody knows how to deal with me. Least of all me. I tell myself to behave. Do I behave? My mother says shut up! You!Intellectual fool, there are no more such things as nuns anymore. Maybe I’m a closet-homophobic personality. Lots of heterosexual men are. Even though I say I’m sorry, even though they pretended to forgive me for not sleeping with them, they didn’t. I know that now. Because I’m not a girl anymore, I’m a woman. I’m not beautiful. I want to die sometimes. I’m so embarrassed about the state of me.
My emotional state. I don’t eat. I hide food away in my bedroom. There were maggots in the meat. On the plate. I had to dispose of that. I had to do that. Nobody must come into my inner sanctum. All I want to be is to be loved. Jimmy never let me meet his kid. A boy. The most beautiful boy that I have ever seen. Sometimes he would tell me who he really was in love with. Just for kicks, I guess. Just to watch all the love he had with me drain out of his exquisitely handsome face. It hurt. It hurt. It hurt. He was seeing a student doctor who was doing her practical. She was like me. Of mixed-race descent. Half non-European. Half-European. She was beautiful. I could see just how much of everything she was to him. They watched television together with her younger brother who was in primary school. He had other sports in mind for me, when the two of us were together. It was attention. It was attention that I wanted. All I ever wanted. Now I’m old. The men have moved on. Except I haven’t. I’m reading my Gwyneth Paltrow newsletter.It is telling me that a mulatto is not a thing. The mulatto is not an inanimate object to wear on your arm like an accessory. She is life, she takes life, she gives life, beauty to the world around her.
In the bathroom, I look into the mirror at every conceivable angle. I don’t like what I see. He isn’t here anymore. The man is gone. Never to return. Isn’t it because of the way I look? I‘m still bone-thin. The wretched mood swings are still here. Wouldn’t it have been enough for me to beautiful, charmed the pants off, as they say, and married, but the men knew what they would be in for from the start with my funny face. The temper, the tantrums. It would have been a never-ending story. Women, some women are also attracted to me. This I do not want. Not ever. All I want is the gone man. One-night, endless nights of passion with the gone man. But lovers turn into mothers as John Mayer so eloquently put it. I could not, do not have that impulse within me. To be mother. My writer father was both dad and mum to me. He washed the dishes, was a terrible cook, terrible driver. But my father was very good at remembering when to pick me up from someplace. I’d come out, he’d be waiting. Waiting, waiting, waiting for me. Everybody loves my sister more. She’s vulnerable, and open to interpretation at the same time. Now what did that remark mean, I think to myself. What did her smile mean, I think to myself? She’s off to Prague. She can’t speak a word of Czech to save her life though. She will always be a foreigner.
A stranger in a strange country. Guess that’s what she gets. For changing her mind about loving me. Nobody loves me. I am impossible to love. If I choose someone. They walk away. Leave me on the sidewalk, jump into their getaway car to go to a girl. And I stand there, plot and plan revenge, revenge, sweet revenge. Or, I’m in a parking lot. Done with me, they race away into the waiting arms of a fiancé. Men have everything. Men have it all. J.M. Coetzee outlived his son. Yes, yes. In the end they are just as insecure as I am. In the end, they have secrets too. They don’t like growing older. But their looks increase. They are blessed manifold. They are blessed with children. And wives. Women who will adore them for the rest of their lives. I’m a natural born depressive. They want sexy and cute and vulnerable. I cannot be twenty-years-old forever, however much they want me to be. Howevermuch I want that. They just want me to sit on their lap. I would have done that in a heartbeat if anyone had asked. Nobody asked. Nobody did anything. Nobody said anything. Nobody is taking my phone calls anymore. I’m old. I’m old. I’m haggard-looking. I still want someone to love me for me. Nobody wants to love me. I’m impossible to love. I’m too hectic. I’m too intense. Sorry. Apologies that I can’t be happy all the time. I still want someone to take me in their arms and tell me that everything, everything, everything is going to be alright. It isn’t. It would be nice if there was someone just to say that once in a while. You will find me in a locked room every year. For a week. I take brand new medication. I become a novel person.
My personality gets a makeover. The pills are fresh from clinical run trials in Europe and America. Now I listen to Carly Simon. Have conversations with her inside my head. She wasn’t a happy woman either. She was the most desirable woman in the room. She wasn’t happy either. Like me. Like me. She didn’t, couldn’t have the one man she did want. He was more in love with himself at the time, than he was with her. There is always a period in an actor’s life where the man is more in love with himself, that is his whole genetic makeup, his ego is his personality, his personality is his ego. His identity is caught in the crossfire. This other man, he actively, consciously makes conversation with me, all I can think of is Mr Columbia University. All I want is the men. Not this guy who talks like a woman. A woman who is an insane gossip. To me, he is more woman, than man. The way he talks, the way he touches all of my things like he wants to inhabit me. I know what he’s thinking. I know what he says to my mother. She can’t stop smiling she thinks that she’s finally got me off her hands. She’ll finally going to marry me off. Then I will be somebody else’s problem. Not hers. Not hers. It hurts. It hurts me badly. Everything she tells her friends about me. I have so much insight into Vivien Leigh now. Marlon Brando. Laurence Olivier.
You have to first be in love with the role that you are playing. Be conscious of how you look, you must dress the part, how you walk, how you talk. Then you must be in love with yourself. Then the director’s vision, and the screenwriter’s vision. I’m an insecure personality. M. knows this. He knows I am mentally ill. Do they care how they treat me, how (in other words) they enable me, how they speak to me, they must hate me, or, or he is doing it out of love. For we have always been in love. I know that now. The thing is that the truth has come too late for both of us. This man looks at me with possession in his eyes. He wants like them all, to possess me. He wants to destroy me. Are you feeling sore, you wanted to make me whore, mistress, my love? I would have cared for you with my entire being for my lifetime. Dedicated everything to you.
You chose her to be your wife. On that particular day you couldn’t wait to get her into bed. You said your vows in front of family, and friends. A television actress. You gave her what she wanted. A child. She gave you what you wanted. Thought you were too old to have children. She gave you a daughter. The daughter we should have had together. Sometimes I pretend she’s ours. And when you sleep with your women, the girls I mean in all the ways that I did not, could not, would not, will not, or drink alone in a bar, think of me, think of me D., because my heart will be filled with despair, and all the time thinking of you. It is my turn now. It is my life that is complicated. The game is over. The love, D., I mean should be gone like you, but it isn’t. I loved you. We fight. I know you like that. But it degrades me. You want me to talk dirty. You know of course I would do it for you in a heartbeat. You don’t expect it from your wife, but your lovers. I can only be mistress and whore. You made that very clear to me. Understand. You say stay away from me. But in reality, you are saying stay away from my family. If you go near them, I will kill you. Now we don’t talk. I remember your face in mid-orgasm. How you would hold me afterwards, how we’d talk and laugh like old friends, not boyfriend and girlfriend. Not husband and wife. We were, in Carrie Bradshaw’s own words ‘fuck-buddies’. It is lonely here in utopia. You’re not the man standing in my kitchen, even though I very badly want to. She is the hostess at all of your parties. She is the hostess with the mostest. Well, I could never even come out of the bedroom, to see you in your element like that. You’re not my mission anymore. I’ve stopped searching. Given up the ghost as it were. If it feels like I’m alone, it means I’m really alone now. Will I ever become accustomed to the loneliness?
I have nothing to offer but wine and my womanhood. What man wants an old woman with cellulite and stretch marks and surgical scars, when they can be adored by girls. You have your manhood, gone man, (if Julianne Moore can say that in a Paul Thomas Anderson film, then so can I, and I don’t need my father’s permission to do anything anymore, he wants me gone, out of the house like yesterday. I don’t need a guru, or Dr Phil, or a self-help book written by Vishen Lakhiani). You’re man but also woman half-formed by the glory of the electric poles of the sea. You want me to submit to vertigo, you innocent. You want me to submit as any hot-buttered stripper squishing your insides together down below in the hummingbird of your gut. Your tongue is a compact disc holding onto a music school. John Updike’s music school. You unearth Pompeii. Unravel the fine threads of Rilke’s letters to a young poet at the military academy he attended as a boy. Porn stars seem to have it all figured out. I sit and waitat the doctor’s empty chairs all around me and think of a time when I was free. When my bones did not hurt, when my blood was not high. I’m ghost. Ghost with juicy memory. You’re still my Hemingway (my darkness visible). My KurtCobain. My James Dean. I listen to the holy Lana Del Rey on repeat. Madonna is a rose-eating-peach. I compound death. You shuffle when you walk now, stranger to wilderness. There is no getting around this. This death, this life, this costume drama fake, fake, fake. I think of the life of Frida Kahlo, Jenny Zhang, Dorothy Lasky, Joop Bersee. I think of Elsa Lasker-Schuler. I have this image ofyou. I was obsessed with you, you said in life. You are a geisha. You are a Lady Gaga. You area minx in leather pants and leather jacket. Red lipstick. I have nothing to offer but joint, and street gang, the poor gene pool that I come from andthe bipolar as tight as a noose around my neck. Bipolar singing carols in June. In those early daysthe bipolar was both judge and executioner. I eat the psychiatrist in flashes of flame, watching her descend as ash. It’s my job to eat her soft flesh, her thighs. Her hair tastes like snow. It melts away like a suicide. Of course, I know that it’s not good for me. Then I begin on the psychological, next the phobia, the fear, anxiety eating away at my sexy-thin heart.I am sick, sick, sick then well, well, well, then productive, productive, productive and then when I’m like that, I write, write, and write. That is my reality. That is where I live. People have even diagnosed me schizophrenic, schizoid-affective. It makes me gag. I try and do normal things around the house but only normal people can do normal things.
Now I read disability literature to pass the time. Pamphlets on mental wellness. Sane means health, vigour, vitality. Enough about boring me. Are you as boring as I am? What’s in your head? Is there a fire waiting to burn inside your head as well? Eating makes me fat. Eating anything makes me fat. Can you smell that? Mum has burnt the rosemary chicken again. That’s the smell of my childhood sea. It’s gorgeous out there. I don’t want to see gorgeous anymore. The gone man loved me once. Now he has responsibilities. I must stay out of the way. I am in the way. Now, I am in the way. I remember how he said goodbye. Take that memory away from me. Take it from me now, please. It hurt. It hurt. It hurt. It still hurts. He doesn’t care that he hurt me. He doesn’t care that we can’t be together anymore. The more I tell him I don’t care that he is old enough to be my father, the more he turns his head, and refuses to even look at me.
On watching David Mamet in an African context
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.
Covid-19 and recovering from the first wave of the pandemic
I always wanted to be an African writer living and working in Paris. Eating onion soup and fresh bread rolls at a café for lunch but mostly I am a woman reading, translating work through editing, writing and working in the macrocosm of the narrative that is modern day Africa. I am a woman who feels compelled to tell stories. It is a fundamental part of my day and one of the basics of my life. I want to be honest, but it hasn’t brought me happiness all the way. I go outside and loneliness meets me there. It is too authentic for its own good. It smells like spirit and behaves like wild horses. I admit that I am like water. I am tired of braving hospital life after braving hospital life again. Swimming against the tide of the kindness of strangers. Those nurses and caregivers. Covid-19 there, there, there everywhere and then manifesting inside of me.
What to do with illness? The aberrations of mental illness and physical illness. What to speak of it and to whom? I drink coffee. Too much coffee. Underneath all that coffee is a field. A field of illness. Health is wealth. But I have realized this much too late. The pills glow at night and during the day I take them with gulps of water. My mind palace is awaiting harvest. Too divine. Every day is a day of hope and recovery and renewal. There was a man in the picture, but he is gone now. I thought a man was going to save me. But he didn’t. Now he sits in a house, occupied with thought and calling. All I have ownership of is purpose. It is capable of many beauties. Many things. Once I was in love. Now I find territories to conquer and one of them happens to be life itself. I am a warrior with intent. I am happy, content and satisfied to be a puppet again engineered by the ways of a materialistic society. A puppet named outsider. I don’t pay attention to my mother as often as I should have. I chide myself. I should have been more on her side, placated her more, laughed more with her then I wouldn’t have been rejected by her I tell myself. Now that I am older, I don’t know what truth is anymore. Most of the time life perplexes me. In all my life Rilke has been in my hands like summer. I dance towards battle.
There is certain kind of darkness visible in my nerves. I have known and lived alongside suffering emphasized by psychological insight. It has been majestic in the way that only inconsolable sorrow can be. I am too primitive for this world. I have known love but not enough of it to marry and be happy. My brother says there are married people who feel deeply unloved and who are unhappy. There began to be patterns in my life that marked me, and the world seemed to reject the sunlight inside of me, inside the ancestral worship, Christian psychiatrist of my head. On returning home I began to step out in faith. I watched Joyce Meyer. I wanted to be worthy. Even comets have the air of having a complex about them. Time has a refrain. It is leaving me and with its return come all the stars of the universe. I wanted to know more, do more, I wanted to know what my inheritance was. I remembered myself as a bone thin girl in my twenties wanting to be ambitious but already jaded of the people around me, in their spiritually diminishing crowds. Their mystery attracted me. Their personalities seemed to reject the introvert that I was. I always viewed it as a rejection of me. Rejection of self I suppose.
My mother’s destructive self-sabotaging behavior milking my father’s manic-depressive personality. My own dark struggle with mental illness defined who I was for much of my adult life. My middle sister made her escape to Europe, my paternal family into the church, establishing the bonds of close-knit nuclear family, religion and my maternal family into wealth and privilege. The quiet honey of money. Rich and thick. I found a spiritual habitat in writing poetry, cognitive behavioral therapy and stream of consciousness writing was unleashed. I found there that life shimmers in both joy and solace. I found the edge of the impossible in reasoning, balancing and prayer. We tend to find the human being in the minority, the lesser being in the outsider and locate glory in the majority. In the pages of my diary I find the destruction of the earth there, moral being. For as long as the man was in my life, he was wondrous, and I felt tethered and I discovered that the empirical nature of childhood functions as the creative’s unweaving. When I wrote I felt bird flight in my veins, bird flight in Provincial Hospital, bird flight in my brainwaves, in the cavernous vibrations of my body and something was manifested.
It felt as if I was manifesting the exposed. The spiritual embodiment of the plains of the journeys we mature in confidence in, the districts of human nature, the rooftops of the birds and while society paints the iris, we contemplate the beauty in the world. On the wings of the unpeeled, the astonishing, the extraordinary the capable scientists flutter in the medical fraternity, on the cusp of innovation in pharma. I am left to glitter. Like an octopus I wade into the supreme self-correcting depths. There was an otherworldly renewal to my limbs when I recovered from the first wave of Covid-19 and life felt supernatural to me. Everything was faster, faster, faster and I began to live in a magical reality. Millions live life like this. On this precarious edge of the device of breathing with this kind of survival mechanism built into them. When you descend into illness you also descend into a kind of sustained despair that never leaves. That seems to float like the leaves, that has the hardy vertebrae of branches, the activity found in furious churning of the gulping mouth of a shaking fish. I never contemplated my own death in the hospital.
I never contemplated that life would go on, that I would recover, that I would write again. The day was filled with silence and longing in the ward filled with young women. Psychotic. Aggressive were words that were used. I had my period when I was admitted to the hospital. The depression I had when I got out of the hospital had the body length of an elephant. It curled up inside of me like a snake connected to my bones in the fetal position. My mother had a kind of tender fragility leaning towards sainthood when I came home. My father was sad. My brother did not pick up the phone when the hospital telephoned him to come and fetch me. I had been discharged. My mother told me he had feared the worst. I had to stay an extra day in the hospital. My mother explained they were not ready for me to come home yet. What did that mean, I wondered? I still don’t know how I made it through that passage of time, fought my way through. All I know is I still need to heal. I still need to heal and that takes practice and getting used to, engaging, involving yourself in the pursuit of daily activities, not words.
Things are returning to normal. My brother wants to get away to Canada now. Even the holy is visible here in my childhood home. Incarnated here if it is possible to use a word like that. It feels as if some days there is an anointing on everything that I touch. The day is golden and bright with promise. You don’t come all the way back from the experience of near death. I want you to remember that.
Mining and apartheid in South Africa are unfinished business
Corruption doesn’t discriminate. No one is immune to it. Everyone is fair game whether you’re connected to a high-ranking politician or a powerful family or working in local government or even an individual. Miners working under deplorable conditions is nothing new. Alan Paton wrote about that in, ‘Cry the Beloved Country’ and this engrossing book has now been around for decades. It is now part of school curriculums.
The mines in South Africa have been part of the fabric of the consciousness, the landscape of this country since the inner workings of apartheid were put into motion. Nothing has changed and yet it seems on the surface that everything has. You hear about these stories every day and you become so desensitised to it and at the end of the day you realise that there is nothing really that you can do constructively, except keep the faith that things will gradually move off by itself in the direction from the worst of conditions to the better.
Of course, my heart bleeds for them, those miners. They’re only human. They have families, wives and children. But that’s not the first thing people see when they open a newspaper in the morning with their coffee. To them, the miners, employment is employment is employment (they see it as nothing else) and that is why education is so important. Conditioning shouldn’t be addressed or implemented as a ‘just cause’.
The sensitive and emotionally mature amongst us will not shy away from issues of the day that have to be addressed, not just for the sake of addressing them. To change anything today is a revolutionary mission but it is one that begins with clarity of vision, equality, respect and recognition of communities at the grass roots level slipping into being. (I hope I have answered your question to the best of my ability. Please feel free to continue with this line of discussion).
No and I must say this with huge emphasis. Service delivery in the rural areas, the townships where unemployment is high, skills development is low, is non-existent and so nothing is forthcoming from the government of the day except it seems empty promises when local government elections roll around. There is crime, criminal syndicates operating in the major cities. Clean, running tap water, sanitation, waste removal and electricity should be high on the priority list because it concerns the poorest of the poor; the majority of the population is living in squalor, slums, raising their children, families literally on bread and water. What kind of society treats its most vulnerable citizens in such an unjust way? Children are raising children. Sisters and brothers are playing the role of the absent parent in their younger siblings’ lives and that is the travesty, the legacy of HIV/AIDS has left behind in its wake.
Xenophobia is a large-scale diabolical injustice in South Africa. It is pure evil what humanity is capable of doing physically, emotionally and mentally to one another. It is unnatural and disturbing to see this level of poverty, crime and death in the aftermath of the ‘Rainbow Nation’ and ‘African Renaissance’. People are selfish, self-absorbed and self-indulgent but what they don’t realise is that the world doesn’t owe them anything. We are so consumed by money, cars, employment, visions of glory and wealth and personal success. You must make your own way in this world even though mountains like punishment and stage fright are staring you down, at every turn, every corner with snake eyes.
The world we are living in today is a world filled with madness, wide-open despair and it is like a fire tugging at your heartstrings, the pathways of nerves that connect to your consciousness; the effects, the torment of depression and mental illness are everywhere to see. Its existence can no longer be furiously hidden away from view and denied. On the outside everything glitters but inside there is still urgency for freedom and a living, breathing self-awareness. I feel, for this nation.
I didn’t deliberately set out to leave apartheid out or not write about it. In the end, it just happened that way. It wasn’t a conscious decision. Only when I began this conversation with you, did I realise just how much of a role I played as a ‘witness’ to this/these heinous crime’s committed, in the name of the law of the land of this country, at the time when apartheid was what people were thinking was triumphing over the weak, the infirm and the destitute at its peak.
Apartheid deserves a book all its own. One subject under the sun that I feel I will take on as I mature more and more as a writer. It will be challenging. There is so much rage, sorrow, a visceral disconnect between people who were the ‘privileged minority’ during apartheid and then there were the ‘shamed majority’ living stuck in the trenches of poverty and death. There are a lot of things, themes of the South Africa that I knew as a child that I left out of it (the poetry book Africa Where Art Thou), when I look back on the book in retrospect. Yes, you’re right. So much more could have been said. Perhaps I should have spoken about it; the life experience of a majority living in a case of perpetual state of feeling anxious, humiliated to the core, self-conscious and apartheid closed in on me, every facet, aspect and abstract of my childhood, adolescence and youth. Not just me but an entire country. On the one hand it was flourishing and on the other it was a complete paradigm shift; in other words, infinite good on the one side versus resident evil. I did not want to state the negative, the negative, the negative repeatedly because it was omnipresent in every sphere, realm, empire, castle wall, ivory tower that apartheid was built on. If I had a book of hellish negatives (as a writer you can’t work in that oppressive and claustrophobic realm, I mean, I can’t deliver what I feel to be my very best work) how would people be drawn to it, was what I asked myself over and over again?
Thinking about it I am glad I did not pay any sort of ‘homage’ to apartheid in my first book. The market here (South Africa) is saturated with books on that subject. No one talks about Africa, the continent, the people, the inhabitants in a way that I feel I do in my first book. I’m happy with the book but can any writer or poet really say that they’re completely happy or that they feel it’s finished-ish? You always want to go back and change something and there is always something you’re not happy with in the end, but in a way, it is also liberating to feel, speak, act, react towards the cause of justice and emancipation.
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