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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 Cemetery Of The Mind

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This is me. The voices are inside my head. Calling me. Speaking in ancient tongues. They talk and talk and talk. The damage is done. The damage is done. I wanted a child while I was still young. They think of science in masculine terms. The humanities and creative writing in feminine terms. There’s a gap for you. There’s an excursion into the remembering mind. The shaking woman’s interesting double life. I think of the anatomy of my loneliness. How everything in life is a mystery. I am waiting for sleep to take control of my aching limbs, my physical form. I invest the past into insomnia, for no fight is worth it. What are we fighting for anyway? He’s not here, they’re not here. No one can hurt me now. Marilyn, the hunter. Diana, the hunted. I want to live before planting love. Your fingers feel like ice slipping to the bones of me. They thread my bones to my being. Give hope to my flesh. Now I just want to live, but there are days when I am tired of wanting to live. The washing flutters in the breeze, men and women have been kind to me, and I have a lust for the gulf between us, how I’ve imagined you my entire life. Country of Adam’s rib, country of blood, stone and wine. Her teeth bite into my pose. There’s my unbearable sadness. Watching you satisfies me. I go all cold sometimes. The tiredness, the energy. In a perfect world you would have been free. You would have set me free. Your womb fashioned me. So, I write for the passionate outsider. The woman was displaced. The female dispossessed who lives from one day to the next in psychological extremes. I am that woman displaced like Jean Rhys. I am the dispossessed female. And the woman that I love, whose womb fashioned me is my mother’s.

I think of all the time we have wasted sibling. All the love that is gone. My loneliness grows like plant sap. Like water in wild places. All the fight has left me as I chase the sea. I wake, I chase the sea. Rabbit is gone. Don’t tell me about your secrets. Don’t tell me about your love, sibling. Leave me like you have always left me. Leave me standing here by the bright lights of this city by the sea. I always wanted your love. You were always high on life. The extrovert with friends. You erased me from your life so effortlessly. From your kingdom. I think we have said it all. The love is gone. Gone from your world. Gone from my life. They say I have a death wish. I’m hungry for it. The ghost of my spirit is hungry for it. It is cold here. Winter is coming on strong on this radar. This illusion sticks around like the Seine. I wish I was a ghost dropping off this radar. I feel sick. You make me sick. I lost the proof. I think of all that I have sacrificed. Think of myself as a crime and a victim. Sibling, you’ve found love. We’re passed the object of forgiveness. Nothing I can do about it. You’re the daughter of the Czech Republic. Let me take you to the low of the city. I am wearing my glasses. Keeping my attitude. I think of your German boyfriend with his artistic fingers, sensitive face. How again someone else replaces me in your life. Bipolar takes all. Bipolar thinks that love is evil, that love means war. My mother never brought me sanitary napkins in the hospital. Never brought me clothing to wear. I walked around like a zombie. When she came, she spoke to the other patients there at the hospital. Looking for a friend in a stranger. She left me alone. Standing there. I was her mirror image.So bulimia and anorexia nervosa found me.

She holds all the power, all the cards. The woman who ate everything. I never had your heart. This takes some time to explain. Let me understand you. Let me understand this. Out of reach, you’re always keeping busy. I’ll always be the same. When I was in love, I was in love with my own shadow. My heart’s bruised. I think all the time of how close to death I was. The renal unit at the Livingstone Hospital. My life is the diary of a volunteer. On the imagined wings of a bird in flight, I come to you. This message comes to you. This love letter comes to you, my mother. Theories have long since disappeared. The image of the soul. The twin image of our soul has vanished. Nothing gets better here on this side of the world. I don’t see myself in the mirror anymore. It is only my pride, your ego that lends itself to a new philosophy of the advanced world. I’d like to leave the world random. But I no longer want to examine the past, aftermath, aftershock, shielding the echo of the shadow, my bruised shadow. We have nothing to say to each other anymore. Only the visions remain. The words are all gone now. You grow out of it. No, not bipolar. The vision you had of yourself in high school. Where you would be five years down the line, a decade. It is just me giving up my consciousness for another. You grow out of the authentic. It is coming back to me. The collect calls I made home from the hospital. Abandoned there. Younger, I was arrogant. Life was so easy, comfortable, and happy. Not anymore. I wish I could say I have achieved my personal goals, fulfilled all my wildest dreams. What am I holding onto? The self that is a soulless misanthrope. The universe is amplified. Birdsong in the air. The leaf falls. It is just gravity.

And because of the violence against me, I have zero tolerance for violence. And because of the mental cruelty against me, I have zero tolerance for mental cruelty. They have defeated me. The family, the cousins, the aunts and the uncles. I am done looking for love in a home that puts me up against the wall. I am lethargic now. Not wanting to talk. Not wanting to talk to anyone. I am on my own now. Alone. All I have is loneliness. That’s the kind I am. The voices say, Petya Dubarova, to stop talking so much and to become a good listener, an effective listener, an efficient communicator. Revealing the purpose and value of others as God sees fit, as I connect with the universe. To transcend the negative, the voice tells me Petya, I also have to transcend the pain of the universe, the loneliness of the universe. I have to remember birth, rebirth, saturation. I have to move on from one phase of personal growth to the next level. From maturity and the confidence of maturity, to death. But it is difficult and tiring to be forgiving of myself, to be grounded in self-love and the world around me dearly, or, for life. And then there’s this nourishing sense of spirituality that strengthens me daily. I am a stranger waiting for the train worshiping sharp objects eating eggs, chicken and soup. I live in a dark house born of green figs in September on a Sunday afternoon. A dark house born of a writer in a cage sheltered and protected by the light from all the activities of harm. While watching the first snow of a June winter, with the falling snow the road inside finds bipolar me again. High on life. Low on life. Numb on life. Dead to life. And then I realise I am never going to see uncle Rabbit again.

Ever. He died on a Thursday evening of a heart attack in a hospital room while I exhaled a pose. While I overcame my evolution at home typing out my third novel. I have the fear of love, of falling in love on my side, of sexual intimacy, of being made to feel vulnerable in front of another person. I am crashing. I am crashing into the waves chasing the sea of Petya Dubarova, and there will always be those who lecture me. I think the world, and my siblings have made me toxic. And I remember the day my sibling’s girlfriend showed me her tattoo. He must have a thing for a girl with tattoos. I don’t know. We aren’t close anymore. What happened in my own father’s life is happening now in my own. The estrangement from the middle earth of the inner family, of the immediate family. I make cinnamon toast or eat peanut butter straight from the jar with a butter knife, and I try not to think of writing confessional poetry, or, the fact that I’m not loved by siblings, or, cousin, or, aunt, or, uncle, or, distant relative. I show them my rewards like arrows. Only I see the columns of light in my arrows. Yes, I’m done. I’m done. I’m going nowhere. I’m going everywhere. Jagged little pill in my mouth. Rush of water down my elated throat. I really wanted to see her tattoo. Why, oh, why am I so surprised that she gladly showed it to me. Bipolar has made me frightened of everything. Of landing on the ash heap like other people’s sorrows. I think of my own sorrows. I’m left thinking of how important it is to keep correspondence, journals and copies of your work. I think of my own father and mother living out this kind of perfect life.

My mother had a spacious house, they had two cars, and she had to raise three children. Two daughters and a son. She didn’t teach me to have that. To invest my life in children. To invest my life in sons and daughters. I know my roots and they go deep like a ninja-warrior. Now I find myself living vicariously through Dorothy Parker, and Maya Angelou. I think of the mute wind. I think of the constant rain at my window. I think of what I see when I see wildflowers. Cemeteries, ghosts, the apparitions, the voices in my head, hallucinations. There are days when I am just writing to get by. I keep telling myself it is not hopeless. All is not hopeless. That this life is what I have been given. My siblings think they know it all about bipolar. Even more than me. I can’t understand a word that they possess about mental illness. They give it to me, not as a gift, but as something to control. I think of the difficulties of my father. The difficulties of a young mother having to accept a manic-depressive husband. Nobody caught me when I fell. Contradictions keep me busy for a while. I try too hard in relationships. I was a teenage runaway falling away to the waterfront of hospitalisation. The perspective was clear. The view of my life settled. I had the beauty of language. It gave me interconnectedness. The relationship I wanted. I was on a sailing boat that caught the wind. On my way. On my way. Then the mania would come, or, the clinical depression, or, the attempt to take my own life, or, the suicidal thought, and I would be derailed again from the perfect life that I had lived before. I would be abandoned and forgotten by my mother.

I would be abandoned and forgotten by my siblings, by relatives who told me that they wished they could be of more assistance, but they had their own problems, or, uncles and aunts would just ignore me. With the onset of mental illness in adolescence, my life became more complicated over the years. I became a hunting and gathering woman of current trends forecasting for a blog that I wrote, ephemera from my paternal grandfather’s life, and phenomenology. I became this rather complex vessel (never studied further, never had the sunny road of the marrying life, or, those sons and daughters, and strange, I had always been madly in love with children my entire life), and in the end it was language that accepted me, not family, not siblings that had looked up to me once when I had the normal life, the kind of life accepted by family. There would be all this ignorance and sham surrounding my mental illness. I became known as the storyteller, I would make up stories, and this would do the rounds. So, I am threatened and cajoled, told in no uncertain terms by my sister that I am not living. She never phones home to speak to our father, elderly and infirm now. Weak and limiting and limited, and I tell myself that what matters most is recovery. Coming out of that despair and hardship and release of relapse. Now I think back to the early days of the initial treatment of my bipolar, the hospitalisation of my bipolar when I became something of a pill popping zombie, then an insomniac, and then there was this return to normality, to home-life, but also terrifying ignorance in the family, also terrifying ignorance around the sufferer, and stigma.

The discrimination of living with the bloom and smoke of mental illness. I keep telling myself pain births creativity. That it is the motivation for pursuing God. Must be more Eckhart Tolle, or Gary Zukav than me I suppose. In the hospital people may want to be your friend. But outside, you become like strangers again. You return to a kind of semblance of your previous life. You find people don’t want to know you anymore. Release from hospital always brings me back to writing, to my childhood. To the swimming pool in Gelvandale where I was baptised, to a picnic in Port Alfred. Yes, I found baptism and God. And sometimes, just sometimes, the writing annoys me, or, I get annoyed with myself, and sad, as if my work is almost incomplete. Almost as if I am not living up to my own expectations. And every time upon my release from the hospital after my meds have been adjusted, I have to open a new door, learn to live a new life again. It’s difficult, but I have endured this. I have survived. I remember that I have strategies, goals and actions. As my father did before me. I hate it that I blame him. I hate it when I say something that hurts him, and I see him wince as if I have slapped him very hard across the face. I mean, I am used to embarrassment, and humiliation, and people unfriending me with a kind of energetic efficiency. I have to work on self-love daily. I pray daily. I try to be kind but it is like making an anonymous donation. And every year I promise myself more self-love, more personal growth, more prayer and meditation, more reading, and I make an action plan out of it for the next six months. To the lighthouse.

To the lighthouse I go. There are days when I talk and talk and talk. There are also days when I cannot meet your gaze. When people’s faces look different to me in the morning light. When I’m afraid of Virginia Woolf. Society allows many things to happen to you when you are mentally ill. I’m always putting my trust in people, and being let down badly. Balance is everything. All I can think of is that I am a novelist now studying the craft of writing with every narrative that I write. That I am a poet. And a bipolar life can be as healing as rain with a savage kind of violence. At least that’s the way that I see it. Bipolar itself, there’s still so much that we don’t know. What I hear most often from other people who live with bipolar, is this. That I wasn’t always bipolar. I wasn’t always like this. I didn’t need to take a sleeping pill to sleep. Maybe there was a traumatic incident in your childhood, or, long term abuse, or, you were never loved by a parental figure, or, there was a kind of stress or burnout that you couldn’t deal with. I’ve been there. Uncle Rabbit is gone. I’m still here. I still get to live life with purpose and meaning and truth on my own terms, and there are days when I feel like a tragic figure caught in a storm. There are days when I want the world to see me. There are days when I don’t want the world to see me, because I don’t think that they’d understand me, but there are also days when life is infinitely more beautiful. There is an image that I manufacture every so often in my mind whenever I feel like it. I see the picture of a little girl, and she is loved. Bipolar is not on the scene yet. Her life is not derailed yet. She is eating watermelon on the beach. The sun is going down. She is laughing with her boy cousins. Smiling for the camera. Smiling for all the world to see.

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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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