The Dutch poet Joop Bersee, has been gifted confidante to me, selfless mentor, and I’ve have come to the beliefs, the norms, the value of the principles of an Africana-poet, who serves as patriot, comrade, and compatriot to the African Diaspora, and the African Commonwealth countries as a poet who self-edits, who doesn’t accept censorship for the sake of censorship, who works at publishing, and self-publishing (I no longer view it from the perspective of the curse of vanity publishing), who works at editing the art, the work, the vision, the craft, the poetry, proofreading, accepting that as poets, as renaissance poets that the voices of this generation, and the artists who are millennials have a responsibility and accountability to the greats who came before, alive and dead, and that we have a cause towards the broader society.
What the poetic life means to an African Renaissance (termed coined by ex-President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki) poet means survival, levelling out the pressures of controversy, moods, an almost disquieting revolutionary-determination to write to an audience, or to no audience at all. To be poet, to have poetic fervour is to have no equal footing with Western and Eastern counterparts. To be poet in South Africa, means that you are an intellectual, a philosopher, educated if you have a degree in African literature, and we all know that there’s no money in the poetry-game of life, simply sacrifice above popularity, and the complexities of the personal space in which these apprentice, emerging, and established renaissance-poets create.
These renaissance-poets create, and live within emerging race relations, the policies of integration, the digital divide, affirmative action in the workplaces, the corporate sector’s managerial positions, in their friendships, their interracial relationships, and marriage, and children, and wifedom, and chiefdom, and elder in the community, deacon in the church, teacher, educator, scholar, academic, publisher, and inter-faith competition, the redemptive powers of salvation, rapturous adulation. As a poet, poetry is my church, and I am a mallrat in a mall when it comes to poetry, feeding, nurturing, caretaking, and protecting my art, my craft, my vision, my self-worth, identity, and abandonment issues, and the helplessness that is sometimes fed into the “artist-neglect” from all walks of our society.
And as artists we live without, we lack financial security, emotional security, we call our country the world, we’re viewed as having a Aaronic-dispensation, an assignment that is tangible, relevant, holy, and pure, angelic, messianic, missionary, visionary, our input, and feedback, nothing subjugated about it, when the poet is subversive, the poet is subversive, when the poet is controversial, he is controversial as artist. Karma and destiny, the primordial soup of the mudslinging-bondage that the renaissance-poets find themselves in, carrying the promotion of government leaders with them, their physical body shielding their emotional strife, their malaise that comes with their intrinsic, and external environment, poetic, and intellectual dispensation.
You read about them, these renaissance-poets, they’re interviewed in the local or national papers, they have an online presence, they launch books, conduct workshops, attend functions where they recite their poetry, take photographs, are lauded, praised, adored for their remarkable acquisition of imagination, and the oral traditions of their creativity, they certainly don’t waste their talent, their immutable gift of the gab, their intellect, their religious affiliation, and their pain. It is that great abyss of pain that weighs heaviest on the mind, and the voices of these renaissance-poets whatever gender they are. There is depression but it is not spoken about as is intellectual-pain, mental, emotional, physical abuse. As part of a living library initiative, a satellite project, my father and I discussed at length how to go inspiring the next generation of renaissance-poets.
I, (well, we, with my father’s blessing) recently donated books from my private library to the Gelvandale library, school prizes for English, private libraries of Professor Shaheed Hendricks, who now lectures at the Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth, in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, (he is also the co-author of the South
End: As We Knew It, South End: The Aftermath, and South End: The Workbook which was introduced into school, as well as university curriculums a few decades ago. I donated books to the South End Museum’s Curio Shop as well. Poets need to be read, especially renaissance poets who don’t “communicate” (see write, see compose) in their mother tongue.
Poets need to be fostered in the communities they find themselves in, in primary, and high school, in poverty, and prosperity, poets need access to a wealth of knowledge, and the process of spiritual change, progress, and transformation. Are writers’ posers, actors, researchers first, and historians second, and educationalists, scholars, and academics a paltry third? Truth be told, because artists come from trauma, incidents of trauma dominate broadly speaking in the wide scope, childhood, adolescent, young adult, and adult. They’re known abroad, but not in their mother-tongue, not in their South African hometown, and they’re certainly not celebrated across Africa, as they most certainly should be. South Africans, Nigerians, Malawians, Abigail George, Athol Williams, Ayanda Billie, Beaton Galafa, Brian Walter, at the end of the day we are all African poets. We are all a part of the African Renaissance. We are all renaissance-poets.
The Nigerian-American Chika Onyenezi, the South Africans Douglas Reid Skinner, Genna Gardini, Joan Hambidge, the Zimbabwean John Eppel, Mishka Hoosen-Lewis, Mzi Mahola, Mxolisi Nyezwa, Nick Mulgrew, the Zimbabweans Tendai Rinos Mwanaka, and rising star Mikateko Mbambo who is on the brink of publishing her first poetry collection, must all see their literary work as a Jurassic World of sorts, a fallen kingdom, that will once again become dynamic. If I have advice to give to the renaissance-poets it is this. Let the breath come to you, let the hunger speak, put your work in a time capsule, and think of this capsule as a time machine. Your mutual admiration club unfortunately is not going to arrive in your lifetime, renaissance-poets, but for the generations to come.
You will feel lonely, and isolated, and rejected, and interlope, you will feel pathetic, and limiting frustration, and anxiety, and fear in the work that you do, but this is what happens to artists who make no money from their art, and artists who make money from their art. It’s good to be modern, to venerate your peers, your contemporaries, but most renaissance poets work will never see the light of day. It is important to question that continually, and we are all children of Africa, and we’ve all lived Alan Paton’s “Cry, the beloved country”, and we’ve all had our hearts resonate with Nelson Mandela’s “Long walk to freedom”. Is the male writer/poet-figure under threat, under fire sinister, or otherwise, and who is judging anyway, who is judging committee politics, the kingpins of the literary establishment ruled by the liberals, and the hypothetical-picture, the self-portrait of the class and justice system.
And where is the modern-day dashing Mr Darcy figure of Richard Rive?
Where is Mongane Serote, Mzi Mahola, Mxolisi Nyezwa, Ayanda Billie, Monde Ngoyama now, and why is the female voice is not as beloved as her male counterpart, uplifted, and empowered, and as positively-inspired as I would like her to be. If you are a poet, you’re educator, and philosopher. Don’t, don’t, don’t waste your pain, instead empty out of all your negativity, and the sorrow that you think that people don’t see. The poetic life is the life of an emergency continued, harsh trauma, all-powerful and a collective.
Poetry is tribal, and ancestral, and poets should be venerated, and uplifted, but they’re not. Reflection, introspection of the renaissance poets should be more than the image of gravitas, more than illusion, more than a mapping out of freshly grounded utopia.
The female renaissance-poet is more mouse-intellectual, than thunder, and the physical chemistry of lightning. She makes take up her place, her mantle now in her-story as visionary-thinker, more than radical feminist she-devil. The renaissance-poets is far from near-decay, instead they are saint, and gloriously in bloom. Cultural, and qualitative intellectual sensibilities, probabilities stem from, are rooted in fear, nausea, consciousness, the superego, identity, and issues of inter-faith that must stand counterpoint to democracy.
And take the suffering nature of humanity that you think that people around you, people in your environment don’t take cognizance of, and be the artist that you were meant to be. And know that you are writer/poet-friend to the world, to millions.
Know that you know how to deal with hundreds of years of trauma if you’re an artist, that as an artist you are a dominant figure in society, in the art-world, and that you are a symbol of both hope, and triumph, equality, democracy, solidarity, if you’re a born free, or millennial, or living in self-imposed exile, or in exile basically.
Poets, talking about the poets of the African Renaissance here, we’re a cosmopolitan bunch in it to win it at all cost to our intrinsic-humanity, the inter-faith of different races also comes into play here, and the realization that we are ancients really, alongside the apparitions, the voices in our heads, threading words, and creating tapestries with our phantom threads. Our African Renaissance is just beginning. Watch this space bloom anthologies in arrows, guardians, smoke, flesh, and bone.
The Lesbian Passion of Virginia Woolf
And so I come to the lady in the water, the sinner (but in the end aren’t we all sinners). Virginia Woolf in the flesh, that death of the drowning visitor. Her brain cells turned into the cemented atonement of dead moths. Deaths that can be accounted for. Physical bodies that can’t be spirited away, mended only souls torn from the material. Absolutely nothing escaped Virginia. The glory of love (she had that white wedding, the gift of love, she knew it, she knew of it, defended it graciously, she was no failure. I am that failure). Nothing escaped her passionate seeing eyes, her liberty, her meditations on nature, her platelets, mitochondria and bilateral symmetry no more. Only the grit, the brick walls, the mysterious interiors of the mansions of her work remained. Left behind. Granite. Diaries left behind for apprentices. Her intuition, breath and vitality has left this damned for an eternity to hell corpse. What does she have to do with the parenting skills of my distant manic depressive father and my elegant and cold mother, my cool mental illness that needed a room of its own to coexist with my brother’s cigarette smoke, his fatherhood, and his triumph where I had failed and then I voyaged inwards. River Ouse captivated me. I am a woman who writes. Virginia Woolf was a woman who was a wife, a lover and woman who wrote. My ordinary madness became a thing of beauty to me. Me an empty vessel who found bright stars in women, in their husbands and children, in flowers in a vase, in the fabric of the universe at night. I am Orlando. I am Lady Lazarus. I have lived vicariously through Hiroshima, Jean Rhys the demimonde and artist’s model and the feminist Sylvia Plath’s cutting-edged authentic words signalling warning, communicating threads of wisdom, and protest poetry. I needed to understand the London scene, Ted Hughes, Assia Wevill, and the child from that union, Shura. I’m afraid of modernism because it’s not modernism that is taking over the world. It’s writing. The interpretations of an inner life, innerness, marriage, creativity and madness.
Vita and Virginia sitting in a tree. K-i-s-s-i-n-g. Don’t ‘look’ at me. Look at ‘me’. Our intimacy is something special. Your skin is a fabric I could drown in. I can do without religion but I cannot do without you. You have given me the highest form of art, and that is inspiration. How can I ever repay you? Come to me you elegant creature with all of the hopes that you have for yourself. Your goals have become mine. Your dreams my own. Beautiful, elegant Vita. My Orlando. When I read your work I am filled with a clarity of vision, astute perfection, and I feel as if I am your sole possession to have, to have, to have. Can I borrow some of your inhibitory nature, your anticipatory nostalgia, your poetic descriptions, your sky, and the sky in your eyes, your flowers, the flowers that you meditate upon in your garden, your compass that navigates you across the passages of London and Europe? And I want to share something else with you if you will let me. I have come to care very deeply about you. Understand this. Understand that I don’t want to own you, claim you for my own as I am sure others have wanted to do in the past, and I do not want to possess you, and enter your world as a lover and leave as an interloper. When we are together like this, you reading my words (because there are parts of me that want to be completely honest with you about how safe I feel with the charming and seductive you). When we sit together there is still a veil of privacy, an idea of privacy on my part. I am sure the same goes for you too.
You’ve become my obsession and I can think of no one else’s company that I want to be in. When I’m with you I can feel electricity.
I find your poetry, your humility, your abandonment, your inhibitory current stunning, Vita. You are the second love of my life. You are all the dimensions of my world. I find you clever, so artistic, your work is electric, so imaginative and dear Vita.
I’ve always been curious of married life. I thought I would be surround by the walls of a prison and then I married, became a wife but did not have those children and I discovered how far from the truth that was. Marriage frees you in a sense in so many wonderful and illuminating ways. I wanted Leonard. I wanted love but not necessarily a husband because I didn’t think that love came with having a husband. Love comes with having a likeminded companion. You, Vita, are that likeminded companion. You come with love, with passion.
Observe the adjustments in my personality carefully whenever I am with you, study, and evaluate my dying in your arms. Learn my half-truths and white lies as I do yours Vita. I only have to hear your voice and I thrive. I achieve a new intelligence, a new acting, a new materialism, and a new language in that dry season. It should be as obvious to you now as it is to me that I am utterly besotted, smitten by you. I am in love with you. Let’s set up house together. Get away together if that’s impossible. And when I am without you I am a winter guest in a cold storm. I want to tell you that there is something luxurious and soothing about your skin. My Vita.
I am at your mercy. Your perfume fills my head. And when I begin to live vicariously through you, self-consciously or consciously my sadness has a complex wavelength. Brutal accomplishments threading my humanity. I have longed for them my whole life. The gratitude I have for you being a part of my life has become educational.
And they did not think of the extraordinary consequences of the gift of their relationship. They did not think. Period. They lived for love like other women did for being regarded as sex objects, parties, men, the London scene and flowers. Instead they are transformed.
The lovers whisper to themselves. They don’t want to part. The grass was a dream. And they were both brides rushing to the end of adolescence, the English summer weather, its immediacy of sustaining both women’s ideas of silence in the complexity of detachment. Here in the countryside, shielded by multitudes of simplistic chores, sharing the routine of waking up to their literary work, neither woman could untangle herself from their ‘marriage’. These elegant English heroines, English novelists whose writings were hypnotic were oblivious to reality, the outside world, and men were rendered insignificant, invisible. Men became others and humanity, the female of the species existed in a time and space that became known as the unknown future.
After the dust, the sexual disclosure, the impulsivity of the lesbian love affair between Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West no sentence could shame the both of them, their writing process, their divine prowess. Woolf gave Sackville-West authority over her physical body, and in return Sackville-West did the same. Gaps, flashbacks, embarrassing regret should come with the territory of an affair that comes to an end. The silence is textured with what is not being said, the acute longing, and the despair of loneliness, of a seductive theory identifying the beginning of this lifelong romance, the mutual admiration committee between these two gifted English women.
I know what it is to suffer. To live with the face of enduring love shining upon my frozen countenance, love realigning my psychological frame, my sexual pace. Your power stifles me, a thing. And a woman alone.
At first it’s a glance framing reality, a sensual anticipation and so the landscape’s feast becomes symbolic of what will come after this inconvenient love.
Photographs survive. Historical events, knowledge, actors but not manic depressives, the mentally ill, people who have an absence of order in their lives. The living do not survive.
In our world morals are made of shrinking ice. Our love is fingered apocalyptic bliss. The detailed built foundations of the sublime. To hurt someone else is an inconvenience. To be hurt in return embroiders negative patterns in your thoughts for an unseen lifetime, it cheapens secrets, weaving, slaughtering the golden, the sensual image of the physical body.
There is nothing that can be a replacement for the latter.
Virginia Woolf. Was she still that molested child? Hurt, confused, yet her mind still cool and pure, cleansed of any illness, elements of fantasy, climate change, global warning, world poverty, trafficking did not coexist in her field of vision yet. She delayed the information. The bridges to the onslaught of mental illness. All she wanted was freedom. And this she found with Vita Sackville-West.
And as an adult did she not want children, a whole screaming tribe of them of her own, a child so that she could mend all the wrongs of the past.
Already she had a plan while writing in her diary Virginia, ‘I know I’ll never love this way again.’ And then the River Ouse was upon her like a lake. And there it was. She wanted to die. She wanted to waste away. Find a wilderness of her own making. She wanted to beg to the gods. The unwritten freedom which had been her church, and like a religion to her had left her angelic perspective. The dead end the shortcut to a hellish parade, the seducer. The hook of injustice was in her heart. She lived (it was but a pale gesture) but in death she lives extraordinarily.
Short fiction by Abigail George
The outbreak of war in Ukraine has left millions displaced. There has been no solid partnership between the West and Ukraine. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelinsky asks for help, addresses governments with a plea, speaks about the turmoil and devastation in his country and the West remains diplomatic about the situation on the ground.
Refugees are now making their way across Europe. So far they are seeking refuge in Poland, Romania and Germany. The West has used a soft approach against Russian president Vladimir Putin and what about the ceasefire? Ukrainians want the Russians to leave. The world wants this war to stop. We all want peace but Putin does not want peace. Putin has an agenda. Zelensky accuses the West of cowardice. The West refuses to stand up to Putin. They have every right, we have every right as humankind to be very afraid of the outcome of this war. We are living with the knowledge of humanity existing on the brink of a “nuclear war”. It has become a daily reality.
The war has conditioned all of us not just Ukrainians to cope, to defend ourselves against the blueprint of depression and anxiety. I have seen Ukrainians in the news living in refugee camps develop survival skills for the conflict situation they find themselves in.
What do you understand about Russia’s invasion in Ukraine? Are you angry, sad, frightened? This may mean the war is affecting your mental health in direct or indirect ways. War does not discriminate unfortunately. In war soldiers need mental strength but what kind of strength do civilians need? Church services have been held to bring communities across the Ukraine together. People are standing together in solidarity across the world.
What does it mean to flee your homeland? What does it mean to pack a few belongings, just what you can carry in two bags and leave your home overnight, making it from the country of your birth to the border of another country and literally walking your way to an unknown future?
In the eyes of the world the West is not protecting the civilians of Ukraine and the country is on the brink of a catastrophe. Daily people are preparing for Russian assault. Conscription age is between 18-60 years of age. The most vulnerable in this war are afraid for their lives and in a state of shock as is the rest of the world. Everyone in Ukraine knows they can die at any moment. Will the Russians get their comeuppance? History will not forget how Russia behaved.
The world accuses Russia of genocide. The country has been ravaged by war for weeks and it is taking its toll on the inhabitants and children of the Ukraine. Supplies of food and water are at an all time low. Time is running out for all of us but for the children of the Ukraine their childhood has come to an end.
What impact has this invasion had on the psychological framework of the citizens of the Ukraine? Tension is at an all time high. Is there hope in the coming months this war will come to an end, that there will be a reconciliation between Putin and Zelensky? Will they at the end of the day be able to see eye to eye at the negotiation table and what will be the next phase of their “complicated” relationship to say the least.
The ongoing crisis has seen the loss of thousands of lives, employment, and places of business. Ukrainian men who can stay and fight have made the ultimate sacrifice by abandoning their families and taking up arms. No vital progress has been made to end Putin’s war since the beginning of the invasion.
The figure of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky as a hero in this struggle will remain with many for a lifetime. The invasion has been life-changing. The mood of a battlefield is still in the air. Amnesty International has accused Russia of war crimes. What will Putin’s tipping point be?
This war will stay with us for a long time. That goes without saying. We must remain cognisant of the lessons we can take from it.
The Humanitarian Problem
While Elon Musk is a man who is in a race to colonise Mars war is playing out in Europe. 850 Mcdonald’s are closing in Russia. We have a refugee problem and psychological incompetence. Nobody was prepared for this war. Nobody was prepared to see dead bodies in the streets and war planes flying overhead in the Ukraine. What is virtually the only interference we are seeing from the West? We are seeing weak and ineffective leadership at all levels of our society in this scenario. Nobody understands the motivation behind the invasion. Gross support to the people of the Ukraine is being denied. The Ukrainians have been denied their freedom as a collective but so have foreign students. Everyone wants to get out. Everyone wants to leave the Ukraine. The only people who are staying behind are men between the ages of 18-60 who are going to fight against the Russian army, tanks, and troops. Does anyone know what they are doing in a crisis and what exactly motivated someone to invade a country, start a war and what motivated someone else to stay and fight against insurmountable odds? In the West the Ukrainian president is being seen as a hero. Ukrainians basic liberties have been taken away from them. This isn’t what we were promised. What were we promised in this century? What the world and Ukraine didn’t sign up for was an invasion and a war.
We as the international community have to be thankful and grateful to the volunteers who are helping the millions of Ukrainian refugees. Giving them a hot meal, tea, helping with small children and finding them a place to live. As outsiders looking in we cannot begin to imagine what is happening on the ground. The elderly are being left behind, what about the disabled, the people who have stayed behind, foreign students at the universities. The situation is terrifying. This is the biggest humanitarian crisis of this century.
Women are giving birth underground. Children are being traumatized. Girlfriends are leaving their boyfriends behind, wives and mothers their husbands and the fathers of their children. The men are going to fight.
With covid the freedom to learn was taken away from us, the freedom to decide what to put into our bodies. The term “lockdown” was coined. Is covid and this war linked somehow? Do they have something in common? Are they related to each other? We have YouTube videos telling us, making it clear that we should stockpile for the eventuality of a nuclear war. The invasion has caused millions to flee the Ukraine, to isolate themselves, to join the Resistance army and the world can only standby and watch on in horror. Everything has come to a complete standstill. The death toll rises steadily. Life in war seems to count for nothing. People are suffering in the Ukraine but what is happening on the other side of the border. Russians are fleeing into Finland unsure of what is happening in their own country and how it is going to affect them.
The world and the Ukrainians wait for the announcements of humanitarian corridors and peaceful talks and negotiations for a ceasefire. I am not alone in praying for this to happen. The world is praying for this to happen.
In other news, discussions at a government level to regulate Artificial Intelligence have not been introduced yet. How will countries use Artificial Intelligence during this war?
There is a humanitarian crisis in the Ukraine and no ceasefire is being brokered to allow for a safe passage to neighbouring European countries Romania, Poland and Germany for Ukrainian refugees. Innocent civilians are locked in a power struggle that two weeks ago before the invasion they weren’t aware of. Do they stay and face imminent danger and certain death from shelling, bombings and Russian troops, or do they go and leave the only home they have ever known? At least now there are countries willing to come to the table to mediate. Is this the beginning of the changing World Order?
We don’t know how long this war is going to last or when it will end. We don’t know if there is a deal on the conference table. Do this and this war will come to an end, is what everyone wants to hear and how will this transition period in the history of Europe impact Africa? This is not a game and every day there is more suffering.
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