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African Renaissance

Pushcart Nominated Wash Away My Sins

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We never did get around to building the swimming pool in our backyard that my wife and I often spoke about. We said it would be for the children. Instead, the swimming pool could never be built because there were pipes underneath running under the ground where we wanted it to go.

So ideas for swimming lessons were planted inside my wife’s head. Mine too. Romance! What a harsh experience. Love, the interlude between two acts. Oh how it changes everything about the world experience, materialism, values, spiritual poverty, and that prime commodity of all commodities, spirituality. When I became a writer, I didn’t really know how I was going to go about it. Didn’t know really what I was getting myself into. But my wife stood by me. Saw me through that manic phase as well. I need her. I still need her by my side. Her elegance, her humour, and her beauty is what gets me through the day.

I need her like grit. The strange thing is she will always be good enough for me, but will I be good enough for her? What can get this bleak pose out of me, this dogged depression, this fierce, fatal memory? I will remember my wife always as the exotic Gerda that I brought home to my mother, my father, sisters, and my brothers.

How I will remember that this romance will live long, and will go on, and on, and on. She will remain beautiful to me now and forever more, even in old age. Careful not so spill your warm soda, handling plates carefully on your knees, surrounded by your family, faces of love, your children, your wife. So this is my story. This is it. This is where it all began seventy years ago. I am an old man now. I am a man who is in the autumn of his years. I’m a father who is looking at his son’s proud, and handsome face. He is embracing his namesake, my grandchild, my grandson, our legacy. Standing by his side is the beautiful, high-spirited young woman he has decided to take as his life-partner. He has the wisdom I did not have at his age. All I feel now is infirmity humming in my bones like never before. A chronic fatigue that descends upon me in the mornings like never before. The years that I was a young, virile man are gone. Have I left too much to fate in my own children’s lives? Should I have protected them more when I had the chance? I am left to wonder. They have all surpassed the dreams I have had for them. Abigail has surrendered everything to the universe. She is a poet and a writer. Amber has made a success of her life. In everything she has set out to do.

She works in a bank as a research strategist. Ambrose is a businessman involved in playing at local politics the same position I found myself decades ago as a young man at the Bush University. Well, all three of them didn’t have the longing I did to have a London experience. Nora, has travelled a great deal. India, Thailand, North America. My pilgrimage came with running with scissors, impressions on student life at Western Cape, surveying the landscape that was London, winter trees in London, the long road to spirituality, and so I made gods out of my education at Bush University, UNISA, Rhodes, and London University. I worshiped the buildings behind those tall gates, and cathedral-like inspired spires. I found myself in London. Escaping from the wuthering heights of apartheid South Africa. Steve Biko’s Azania. I would look at White people in their perfumed European world, their airs and graces, the fat of the land on their lips. Fruit, olive oil, pasta, and tomatoes in their trolleys in the shiny aisles their supermarkets. Of course it wasn’t home to me. This new strange land.

And standing next to me was my friend, Mr. Jones. He became, in that year, my brother and anchor that cemented me, planted me in this foreign land’s soil.

And what still resides to this day in my heart besides our friendship, were the walls of those gardens made of stone, and everything that was healing. It was stick fighting days for me all over again. The hell of childhood trauma (the bullying on the playground, those playing fields). Selling peanuts. Selling newspapers for peanuts. A forest of pain tearing into me, through me on fire as I felt my father’s belt.

Black is not ugly. It is something quite quietly, and remarkably beautiful inside and out. It’s a river running through all of us.

Through this life force of a nation. Hemingway had Europe. Ambrose Cato George had London, had half of the world at his feet, and beside him he had Mceke Jones, the best friend, the best man that anybody could ask for. A comrade. He had a face as dark as an orchard at night, as night land, a postcard of war, the blurred lines on the gravestones in a cemetery through tears of suffering or rain, an oceans’ tides and currents rising up to meet a physical body of sea mist. And every dress that I saw in a shop’s window in London I pictured Gerda in it, when we’d be reconciled. Together again in each other’s company I convinced myself that would give me renewed strength, and vigour, and the depression would no longer dog me, terrify me.

Mceke Jones pictured my suffering although I can imagine that in his own way he did not have the words for it. But something inside of him made him feel empathy for the condition he sometimes found me in in the mornings. When I was beside myself, could not make it to breakfast in the canteen, it was Mr. Jones who saw to it that I had something to eat. He was a lovely man. I have never met anyone quite like him again in my life. He must have had a wonderful mother. Well, we never spoke much about our childhood dreams. I had just seen the advertisement in the newspaper by chance for scholarships to study abroad. I don’t even think we got around to asking each other how on earth we met under the circumstances we did. It’s lovely to dream. I would literally be in bed under the covers, and think hours away much to the consternation of the Portuguese cleaning lady who made the rooms in the dormitory tidy. I was in her way. She was in my personal space. I didn’t want to return to Gerda like that. A broken man. Wherever Mceke Jones is, I think he must be safely tucked away in a high position in government, or in retirement surrounded by his children and grandchildren.

Adored, highly inspiring his sons and daughters, his grandchildren to follow in his footsteps, to have that London experience. And I wonder to myself did he have that sunny road? Did he have rain on his wedding day? Did he swim in the sea with his wife, ever take his wife to the moveable feast of Paris, Hemingway’s Paris? Still I wonder about all of my dreams, all of the goals I’ve had. I’ve achieved much. Plenty.

I’ve achieved my potential, and then some. And other men, and women?

Are they happy? Are they fulfilled when they look around themselves?

Are they sated? Or are they sad, do they feel frustrated, downcast, or do they cast aspersions on other people? People well I see them every day. They walk past me with smiles on their faces or a downcast look in their eyes and I tell myself secretly that there’s a story there.

There’s a love story, or that person is haunted by something (perhaps by some of the same things that I was haunted by). And I look at my daughters, a young poet, and a young woman who works in a bank. I produced that. They’re walking around with my genes in them. Their offspring will have (there’s a good chance that it will happen) my genes in them.

This makes me happy, but it also makes me sad. And here is where my story begins to unfold. I saved the best of me till last. For my grandson Ethan. The heir to the throne. For my children, my beautiful wife, my daughter-in-law. This, this book is for you. Always remember that there is loveliness in the world around you, that the genius’s behaviour can exist for long periods in loneliness, and solitude, their vulnerability sometimes aches for company, that there is an internal struggle in both the introvert and the extrovert. Both can become the hypomanic leader, entrepreneur, and even the educationalist (as I once was), and particularly the actor. And so I come to my swan song. We live in a traumatic society. The fabric of the universe is changing as fast as the advances we are making in technology. Someday perhaps that technology will surpass humanity (although I pray that it doesn’t). Geniuses are always on a journey. People journey all the time. Some find themselves in self-imposed exile. Some travel to India, far off places where they can find themselves, journey within, discover themselves through meditation, self-discovery, self-actualisation, through that phenomena, that reality.

And that nature. But the fact of the matter is we are all born geniuses. What we do with that gift, that potential isn’t always up to us though as I discovered in my own life. I hope you will come to realise that like the genius you are always on a journey from spiritual poverty to a journey of self-discovery. This is my story. A memory of madness. Of suffering in silence. One man’s fable is another man’s parable is another man’s perspective in the flesh across a wilderness history carrying a survival guide with him. He hasn’t got his whole future ahead of him mapped out just yet. He can’t believe yet that he’s just met the woman he’s going to spend the rest of his life with. That they will be excited on their wedding day, but that their marriage will have its highs, and lows. This diary of madness is in praise of my mother. Her wisdom. There’s an insanity that borders on modern day humanity’s unquiet mind. An insanity that is never spoken of. When I grew up, some might say how that it was an idyllic childhood, but there was also an insanity that bordered on the Cheshire cat in Alice in wonderland. And so what was happening on the rest of the African continent became either a dream or a nightmare.

But it made no sense to me. It never reached my understanding, my sensibility, and the fragments of human bodies in war, reconciliation, and peace in the African Renaissance, the duplicity of the promulgation of the Group Areas Act, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The revolution (if ever there was one taking place at the height of White South Africa, at those wuthering heights of apartheid South Africa, was a revolution that was more of an unseen movement at the least. A revolution from within (like its counterpart in the West, feminism). Although women at the time of apartheid weren’t as liberated as their counterparts in the West. In life there are always choices. Sometimes you make the right life choices, and this brings you pleasure, but sometimes they bring you pain. And sometimes from lonely, humiliating experiences there will come a dream that you will never completely wake up from. Like marriage, a good woman who doesn’t believe in wearing sensible shoes. Goals can become as stale as a loaf of bread, that stuck record, leaving one eternally morally bankrupt, and sounds which were once familiar to each other like a man and woman embracing each other in front of their children, their muffled ‘I love you,’ hidden from view.

And you will begin to realise that love it changing everything once again in its path. Always hidden from view it is working from the outside, its private domain. There’s creativity in everything around you, particularly in sufferers of mental illness. At the end of the day whether you have a mental illness, experience a profound measure of loss, of longing to belong, we are all volcano dreamers. We have a bright faith that we transfer onto our children. I knew when and where I was not welcome, although it was difficult for me to realise it at the time in my most lucid moments. There was always the ballad of life to keep me company into the early hours of the morning, and so I became a man who became the curator of his children’s dreams. I think of my childhood friends. I think of them often. I miss them. You don’t get to travel light in this world if you have a mental illness. Flight from the illumined glare pharmaceuticals. Flight from the illumination of pain. Flight, flight, flight, is all that you can think of when illness descends.

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

The YCCC and How It Changed the Future of South Africa

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This was the pre-apartheid education that we received when we were still at school. I was 13, 14 years of age at the time of the promulgation of the Group Areas Act in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, which then led to the forced removals and people literally being ‘dumped’ in the Northern Areas of Port Elizabeth. Dr Neville Alexander came to Port Elizabeth on two occasions. The YCCC-organisation (Yu Chi Chan Club) was primarily based on guerrilla warfare as is expounded by the leader of the Chinese Communist Party Mao Se Tung. It elucidates in his long walk to freedom, as well as his account in the new democracy as is expounded by his books and writings. These ideologies played a key role in formulating policy in the fight of guerrilla warfare against the Nationalist Party government. It is imperative to mention that the textbook for the organisation was Guerrilla Warfare by Che Guevara which was slavishly followed by discussions in the organisation. Other books included Partisan Warfare by Lenin, as well as Das Kapital by Karl Marx.

This took a lot of preparation and in-depth discussion groups took place based on these classic writers. It was imperative that these books were simplified and applied to the unique situation in South Africa. Dr Alexander and Ali Fataar, the then banned member of the executive of the NUM (New Unity Movement) came to Port Elizabeth to do exploratory work in creating fertile political groundwork for establishing the NEUM (Non-European Unity Movement) groupings. They visited areas like Korsten, Schauderville at night where they held underground discussion groups on the non-collaboration and the ‘Ten-Point Programme’ which at that early stage were very important and relevant documents. These were lengthy discussion groups which took place throughout the night. However, it crystallised into a solid branch of the NEUM (Non-European Unity Movement), Korsten branch. Further exploratory work was conducted in the area before these two stalwarts could return to Cape Town.

As a young student (16 years of age) we had the opportunity of meeting with people of the calibre of Dr Alexander at a very early stage in our political careers. This took place while we attended the CPSU (Cape Peninsula Students Union) group at our residence in Lloyd Street, Cape Town. This group grew rapidly as more and more progressive students became interested in the finer progressive political ideologies of the CPSU. We met regularly every fortnight and the discussions took place until the early hours of the morning. The topics included Bantu Education, Coloured Education, Bush University, Students Representative Council issues and the like. We also organised regular meetings on camping trips on Table Mountain where extensive politicisation took place on advanced political ideologies such as capitalism, imperialism and world ideologies of the day. We became acutely aware that our home got the attention of the security police. However, this did not deter us from becoming acutely aware of the intrusion of capitalism and imperialism and the like. It was at a very young age that I became involved in student politics which has its origin in political activity.

The forced removals, the Group Areas Act, the political upheaval caused havoc amongst particularly the young who were influenced by teachers who belonged to the Anti-CAD (Anti-Coloured Affairs Department) and the TLSA (Teachers League of South Africa). The city was ablaze with political activity which in a short space of time demonstrated deep into the youth. This needless to say was influenced by political youth in the Western Cape. What was affecting the students in the Western Cape was, alas, also affecting the students in the Cape, particularly Gqeberha. At times, the situation became extremely volatile and out of control. Organisations like the NUM (National Unity Movement), Anti-CAD (Anti-Coloured Affairs Department), TLSA (Teachers League of South Africa) reigned supreme. It was also apparent that the ratepayer’s organisations which were formed to fight against the rapid erosion of management committees.

Many public meetings were held with F.A. Landman and Dennis Brutus (vice-chairman), who were at pains to point out the disadvantages of the Group Areas Act. Many groups were formed which included the ANC, the PAC, the Unity Movement and allied groups were mobilised. It became apparent that the Group Areas Act was not going to go through a very easy passage. The organisations were not unified in their actions and this gave the opposition deep inroads into progressive thinkers. As a student group at the University College of the Western Cape we were invited to SOYA (Society of Young Africa) meetings in the Mowbray Minor Hall on a Sunday afternoon. For the first time we witnessed serious altercations among the members of the NEUM (Non-European Unity Movement), and this included Dr Neville Alexander and Dr Kenny Abrahams.

The topic of discussion was on Angola and the chairlady of the meeting Miss Wilcox clearly did not understand her mandate. Dr Neville Alexander and Dr Kenny Abrahams tackled her on the political aspects of FRELIMO Liberation Front of Mozambique). It appeared that two factions had now developed in the meeting. It was really a fisticuffs kind of thing. It appeared as if Dr Alexander and Dr Abrahams were at loggerheads with the present discussion leaders of the main group. The matter came to a head when the chairperson asked Dr Alexander and Dr Abrahams to leave the meeting. However, before that could take place Dr Abrahams announced to the meeting that all those who believed in democracy would leave the meeting. I was one of the Western Cape students who felt urged to leave the meeting with Alexander and Abrahams, which we did and met again at No. 2 Swiss Road in Lansdowne for a follow-up meeting. Officially, at this meeting there was information about the YCCC (Yu Chi Chan Club). Dr Alexander and Dr Abrahams felt no animosity which the meeting gave them as they left.

Dr Alexander was described as a dark horse by my father. As with all leaders, the maverick visionaries and profound thinkers, brilliant intellectuals, and having the primitive wonders of both wisdom and intelligence, for these men ahead of their time their faith was shared only by their comrades in the struggle. These stalwarts have taught me that it is the tendency of every man, woman and child of every race, of every faith to embrace every other man, woman and child of every race, and of every other faith. Indeed, it is rare. Indeed, it is exceptional when it happens. Language is a bridge. The language is not of love, but of respect. It is the flesh and blood of mother tongue language that divides us. It is respect that conquers self-pity, arrogance and narcissism. There is no one identity. Yet there is one moral code. Multiculturalism has changed the order of history, moral ambiguity, cast a spell on the doctrines and phenomena of religion. In humanity, in this human world, these leaders have taught us purpose on earth, the awareness of self, lack of ego and the finding of our identity in existential relativism, pedagogical and counterfeit phenomenology. Multiply achievement and you get the candy shop of the poetic horrors of over-abundance, the romantic weariness of decay and the complex strength of popularity.

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African Renaissance

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

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Photo: Atharva Tulsi/Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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African Renaissance

Thoughts From the Frontline

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Photo: Keenan Constance/Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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