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African Renaissance

Harper Lee’s sigh towards God and the signature psychology in her writing of To Kill A Mockingbird

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To Kill A Mockingbird, cover

There is blood in our silence, and in our silence the milk and honey, assertion and defiance of language lives and breathes. In our projections from the past, of our cultural background and history, and so, we are transformed by the social and political evolution of the lonely and simple, the mood of innocent and innocence lost and frighteningly dysfunctional country that we live in. I touch on the Mockingbird book for a number of reasons. Why would it inspire a South African poet living in an oblique African narrative, writing in the context of a divided self with emotional vigour. Meditative scenes and the climate of narcissistic visions of the dominant patriarchal landscape, the consumerist environment that we live in now.

Nelle Harper Lee, was she a pioneer stylistically, a visionary writer ahead of her time, or, a one hit wonder who just disappeared from public life never to be seen of or heard from again until her death? What exactly did Harper Lee fall victim too? The voices of her characters inside her head, her craftmanship, the assault of the popularity and critical success of the Mockingbird book. Were all calling to her, speaking in tongues of stigma change and brutal racial discrimination, the inner self, the system of the nuclear family, alienation, self-imposed isolation in a small-town setting? It deals with paranoia (so she was both eminent author, and feminist thinker) as an epidemic, to the freezing response of the strangeness of personal grief.

The nostalgic sentiment of childhood barricaded under the gaze of progress, dissemination of information, and the policies of racial conflict, racial hatred that is still an act of terror at the heart, the root cause of our neurotic behaviour all over the world. Audience and censure interplay in the novel. Any kind of discrimination is a fork in the road, the other side of silence. This other voice of racism perpetuates the struggle of divide and conquer, separate but equal. Hate is night. Gazing into the past. It is very much an absent waking from reconciling falling to the land of the European, being classified as Non-European. Race relations is an emergency continued on the universal horizon.

It is still setting the maladjusted stage in this modern age, in this society. The book also talks about causal issues of objectification, the anxious fear and ‘montage of heck’ subjugation that exists in the paradigm of a small-town community, the racist gender bias leaning towards the traitorous, fearful figure of Boo Radley who rejects the community, and is rejected in turn, giving up a life contributing positively to society. My response to this is to be a parting realist.

The same fears in this book are the fears that I have. The happiness in this book cancelled out the discrimination in my own life. That is why I read female writers so voraciously. The comedian, the exploratory-novelist who dissect the issue of post-coloniality in their literary pursuit, the experimental-novelist, the children’s writer, contemporary female poets, but when it comes to male writers, I only stick my neck out for Updike, Hemingway and Salinger.

Those are the books I grew up with in adolescence. The Music School, A Moveable Feast, and Catcher in the Rye. I didn’t know any brown novelists. Any poets who were of mixed- race descent. There is recognition of Harper Lee’s sign towards God. The sign is a sigh. She is statue-like. The Harper Lee when the Mockingbird book was finished had the finesse of a bird, of a swan. Her features destroyed like blue sky by rain when she disappeared from view. Hidden, shielded from the publicity machine by her editor.  Her sabotage by the roughs of this world. Both men. Mainly women. She plays this game. This game she knows so well. The anxiety and discrimination of anxiety. The undertaker is menopause. Eyes cast down. In the name of extinction, the dodo’s modus operandi, out about her pain, she tells herself to write everything down. She must. She must. In the name of the night watchman (for she is the night watchman), she must. She simply must. And yet light appears. And yet light appears. I am slowly going insane this time because what it comes down to for me is living in a brown South Africa. Not so much elegantly so. Growth via belonging are elegantly slow in those fields. Being a poet in a brown South Africa. Being a novelist in a brown South Africa. Wanting to be a pioneer on the same basic grounds that Harper Lee and Truman Capote were for those times. Politics is politics is politics. People are people. It comes from our childhood. If we grow up to be racist, now, whose fault is that really? Are we too defined by the class regime?

Something distilled now appears to transcend the established automata of To Kill A Mockingbird. All I see is darkness all around me. Now all I hear are the voices from the dark past. I tell myself that they are angels. But sometimes the things they say and tell me are hellish territory and I know then. That I am bound by oath and oar to boat and rope. The hangman’s noose. And everything is a political movement in the book. The father is a lawyer who loses the case of a lifetime, while his children grow up in this autobiographical account of racism in the Midwest. Lest we forget. Time is longer than rope. The gospel truth is that what Harper Lee wrote about then, it is a universal story.The flexibility of stigma and the spinning wheel of discrimination have shaped South African history for the longest time. It is a different kind of war. What in childhood shapes you,it evolves you into adult life.It is both mandate and contract. Other lives have other languages. Racism is central to the story, a muse, ‘the’ muse, a symbol of what has been lost and possessed, the dual images of both. It is a brilliantly sacred account of a complicated transforming wound for these times that we are living in. The light echoes. It is the end of another day. Tomorrow we wake up and the line of disparity continues. We live in denial, denial, denial, as if discrimination and the social system of race, and class, and struggle, and liberation is a falsehood. Believers are like the leafing owl and the flaming bowl of the moon. I just want something simple to believe in, that’s all.

Our norms and values make us who we are as a country, as a society, divide us too as a country, as a society. The religious say it is our duty to pray, and the politicians want our vote. The newspapers print what they think is the gospel truth. It is important what our novelists write, think. It is significant. What a poet’s response is, is this. As advocacy body, outreach, confessional analysis. The poet is fulltime activist. They can write in rhyme, in verse, or, meter.Words count for something, is what Nelle Harper Lee presupposed in the Mockingbird book. Regardless if it was before my time. I listen and I listen and I pay attention because I too want to put my best pioneering effort forward. There is freedom in creative expression.

As writers, novelists, you don’t write for the establishment. You don’t write to make a name for yourself, for glory, for name and fame and to put away money in the bank for your retirement, or, to secure financial security for yourself and your family. You write to impact and change the world around you for the betterment of humanity. You want your voice to create a force for good. Far away, I think of Harper Lee making notes as she made breakfast, or, sitting at her typewriter punching out a manuscript, changing the ribbon as I did when I was a teenager. She never married. Never had children. Never wrote more than two books. I have written ten, and I’m still going. Churning out poetry, novels, short stories, essays, plays.

My motivation will always be just to transform one life, one sociological perspective, one crisis of identity, one vision comparatively at a time, one strategy,one history. One reality.

Therein lay Harper Lee’s profound brilliance. Her triumph was her appeal to reason. To challenge the status quo of every nonconformist thinker.

Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominated shortlisted and longlisted poet Abigail George is a recipient of four writing grants from the National Arts Council, the Centre for Book and ECPACC. She briefly studied film, writes for The Poet, is an editor at MMAP and Contributing Writer at African Writer. She is a blogger, essayist, writer of several short stories, novellas and has ventured out to write for film with two projects in development . She was recently interviewed for Sentinel, and the BBC.

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African Renaissance

Thoughts From the Frontline

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Photo: Keenan Constance/Unsplash

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

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

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

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

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African Renaissance

Slavery and the real life bending sinister

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What is slavery? It is nothing more than poverty of the mind. It is not a school of thought or a philosophy. It is scarcity. It is lack. It is cumbersome. It is heavy. It is a burden.

What does it have to do with politics? Ask what it has to do with genocide.

What does it have to do with the power of having a slave mentality? Just as easily as we rise, we fall. A leaf. Ask yourself this. Does the leaf or gravity have the slave mentality or is it just a path to its consciousness, and if it is a meandering path to its consciousness what does that make of gravity? Gravity is easily the culprit or saboteur. A cup carries water but how does the water break through the physical wellness of the body to sate thirst, how does water flow through the universal meridians and find sanctuary in all the wild places that the ocean cannot contain, in code, in which case what observations come out of these natural and bohemian studies.

A slave is a slave is a slave. My grandfather was a slave. My great-grandfather was a slave. On both the paternal and maternal side they are non-existent for me. I live for my father. My father is not a slave. You see his mind is not enslaved. His psyche, his mental, emotional, physical wellness, intellectual prowess and integrity is intact inasmuch as he is not a slave to the peculiarities and eccentricities of the people he finds himself amongst.

In the stages of my own life I can see that I have been enslaved (my mindset and attitude was) by my body image, my identity of cosmic Africa, the cosmos, my self as an African, what I was entitled to, my basic self esteem. I was a slave to my sister, her dalliances, her whiteness, her renouncing Africa for America then Europe and I understood what loneliness, family, friendship and family finally meant and this frightened me a great deal because I realised I had never really loved myself before. I was a slave to every moment up until I heard James Baldwin speak up. I had truly been a slave to waiting for someone to release me and offer me relief somehow from this kind of suffering and cognitive thinking. I wanted happiness but the price for my freedom was this. Somebody else had to love me before I could.

Ask what slavery has cost us as humanity. Look back at history. When I look back at history, all my life I never felt safe. Whether it was the bogeyman, or a horror film, or apartheid, or reading about apartheid, acknowledging it was the difficult part. How would you even begin that dialogue? What could you partner with those hectic images that left you with an urgency and a sense of betrayal from God? So, I grew up with an unpleasant disdain for middle class families in South Africa. It was easy for me to picture them as racist which they were and still are to a certain degree and yet how could I not be? The thought of slavery and decolonization never left me even as a child as I sought to fight for the betterment of society and to right all the evil wrongs.

Slavery is everything. It is primitive. It is visible if you look hard enough. We haven’t even begun to talk about or discuss in rational terms without venting or becoming agitated or irrational about race relations in South Africa or slavery as a concept or narrative in Africa.

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African Renaissance

On watching David Mamet in an African context

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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